Once again, I promise that this is not intentional, we have reached the end of another five-part series. I have really enjoyed putting this together and am incredibly grateful to God for giving me the words to express these thoughts tangibly, as opposed to just being lost scribblings in my highly unorganized mind. I am also thankful for those of you that had the opportunity to read it. Over these past several weeks, I have had several people approach me to tell me that they really enjoyed what I had to say which served as an incredible encouragement to me and as an answer to prayer. It has given me the drive to continue writing whenever I possibly can. So thank you.
Before I dive into this last portion, I would like to take just a moment to ask for some short feedback if you would have the time. It is a one-word, yes-or-no question that should not take much thought. So far I have only been posting these entries on Facebook and Twitter, but I was wondering if anyone felt like they might prefer to have each day’s message delivered to their inbox. I was considering putting together a mailing list and would love to know if that would be something you were interested in. Please just take a moment to follow the link below and then continue your way on down to the post. Thank you once again for reading and I hope you enjoy!
Poll Link: http://poll.fm/5na4w (Don’t worry. It will open in a new tab.)
Fruitless Endeavors and Fruitful Encounters
When I was significantly younger, probably no older than six or seven, I first heard about the Ogalala Aquifer, and even though it may not seem all that interesting to most people, to six-year-old me, the concept of having a gigantic underground lake directly beneath my feet was amazing. And from that point on I was determined to get to it. I was spending the week with my cousin who had explained to me what the Aquifer was, and, as our information was limited, we drastically underestimated how far down the Aquifer actually was, assuming it couldn’t be more than a couple of feet. So, with our curiosities peaked and with the desire to go swimming, we headed out into the backyard with a shovel. Fortunately for my uncle’s yard, we were too small to get enough leverage to really dig so our plans never came to fruition. Which brings us to our good soil:
“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
Matthew 13:8 NASB
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Matthew 13:23 ESV
The one that is uninhibited by rocks, thorns, and paths, but instead free to flourish as it receives the word of the kingdom. It is vital to remember at this point that we are nothing more than the dust of the earth, worthless without the breath of life. We have all fallen short of the perfect standard of God (Romans 3:23) and are all equally incapable of doing any good by His standard (Romans 7:18). It is proximity to and length of time with the Gardner that makes the soil good. Not from any inherent goodness in it. Anything other than that is outright heretical and diminishes the greatness of God’s grace. The only way we come to the Father is through Christ, and the only way we come to Christ is if He calls us to Himself by the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 15:16, John 16:8-11). That is how the hardened dirt is plowed, the thorns are torn up by the root, and the rocks are removed from the ground, by the power of Christ’s work in our lives. Apart from Christ, we are just as hopless as my cousin and I were in our attempts to dig down to the Aquifer.
The discussion that actually served as the catalyst for this topic took place in a Life Group on Sunday morning several months ago, and it was there that I was first struck by one fact that had never been presented to me before. Today, even with modern irrigation, advanced fertilizers, and all sorts of complex machinery, a return of thirtyfold on a crop is phenomenal, one of sixtyfold is unheard of, and one of a hundredfold is outright impossible, and here Jesus was talking to people who were still planting, tending, and harvesting everything by hand! God takes what only He can make and does what He alone can do: a miracle.
Take a moment to listen to this short story aired on Alistair Begg’s radio program Truth for Life. It is a perfect example of how little we really have to do with ‘winning souls to Christ.’ Yes, God uses us as holy and anointed instruments to do His work, and we should always be prepared to give a defense of the faith, but, ultimately, it is not deeply moving testimonies, persuasive arguments, or hitting someone over the head with a Bible that saves them. It is Jesus Christ. He is the only name in the saving business.
That is why Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 NIV) That is the context that this site’s main verse is nestled in, “For I have determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” It boldly exclaims that Christ is sufficient to bring everyone to Himself. We need nothing more than that—to know who He is and what He has done—and to let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
But that leaves us with a question. If it is totally in the hands of God to produce good soil, what can we do? What, if anything, is worth doing if it is all just up to God to act? The answer is simple. We pray. We pray constantly. We pray incessantly. We put ourselves in situations where God can use us, which is best done in prayer. The key is always prayer. Constant and committed prayer for the lost all around us, for one another, and for ourselves. We should pray that God would transform us into better soil, removing our rocks, thorns, and hardness, so that we could produce an even better crop. The verse says, “in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty…” (Matthew 13:23 ESV) Not everyone, even if they have accepted the seed and are growing, will produce the same amount. It is a case by case basis, and those that are the most willing to be worked with are the ones who will produce the most.
We need a humble spirit like Moses, who was said to be, “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Number 12:3 NIV) And like David who “went in and sat before the Lord and said: ‘Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?'” (2 Samuel 7:18 NIV) That will ensure that we trust God wholeheartedly and will be available when He calls, because we understand that the only things worthwhile in our lives have come by His hand of instruction. Once again, that can only come about through prayer. Striving for humility is self-defeating. Humility can only come through God’s external work in our lives.
The greater fruitfulness of our lives, brought about by God’s work in us, will then pour over into increased fruitfulness in the lives of others, and, together, we will flourish as a field white and ready for the coming harvest of our Lord. And so, the greatest work that can be done for saving souls is not done from the pulpit or from the streets, but on our knees. Remember that when you encounter all types of soil, that it can all be overcome by the power of God working through prayer.
As always, rest in the sufficiency of God and be a willing instrument when He calls. Remember the words of Mordecai to Esther:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14 NIV
If you choose not to be a willing servant when God calls, He will certainly raise up help to send from elsewhere, as His will is always done, but you will have missed out on the beautiful opportunity to take part in the glorious plan of redemption in the life of some previously condemned soul. Always take the opportunity to be part of the story. You will never forget it.
With the love and strength that is our through Christ,
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20 NIV