A boy from the first church we pastored shared this story with me. He is now grown to manhood and is a husband and father. When he was in High School he developed a desire to pursue a vocation which would require math skills in Algebra and beyond. Math was not a subject in which he excelled.
He spoke to his guidance counselor and was discouraged from pursuing this desire. He was told that he didn't have what it would take to succeed. However, this young man had an algebra teacher who believed in him. A teacher who spent extra time working with him and sowing seed in the soil of his eager mind. The harvest day came. The young man graduated from High School with "B's" in his math courses, went on to college, and graduated with a 3.96 grade point average.
Quite an accomplishment for a person who supposedly "didn't have what it would take" to reach his goal.
This is a secular illustration of the spiritual truth set before us in these verses. The math teacher sowed time, caring, interest, and belief into a young man's life. The seed was watered over the years by repetition of this teacher's efforts. The soil of the young man's heart was receiving and responding to all that was planted and nurtured in his life. Then came a harvest: High School graduation and then college graduation. I am sure the teacher would have been disappointed if the efforts had not brought forth a harvest. This harvest continues as he pursues a vocation which began as a heart desire.
So it is with God. He has sown good seed into our lives. He has watered and cared for this spiritual planting. So He has every right to expect there to be a harvest.
In our "rights" oriented society, maybe you have never looked at it quite like this: GOD HAS RIGHTS TOO!!!
God has the right to expect something to grow in the life of a person who has been born again by the Holy Spirit and who has been nurtured by the grace and love of God.
There are two things true about land that produces a good crop:
1. It is land that is cared for, loved, nurtured, and valued. It is land in which hard work has been invested. Land for which sacrifices have been made.
2. It is also land that responds to all the time, energy, and resources poured into it. It is land that receives and responds. It grows something of value to the planter.
Do you see the spiritual applications? Does God then have the right to expect that our lives produce something of value to Him?
There are two things true about land that produces a bad crop:
1. It also is land that is cared for, loved, nurtured, and valued. It too is land in which hard work has been invested. Land for which sacrifices have been made.
2. But, it is land that DOES NOT respond to all the time, energy, and resources poured into it by producing something of value to the planter. The land rejects, ignores, and devalues what it has been given. Proof is in what it produces: thorns and thistles.
Result: The land that rejects the good given...is itself also rejected as good only to be burned, because God has rights too! He will not allow His grace to be trifled with over and over again without the judgment of consequences.
As a good and faithful Farmer, God expects the lives of His children to produce.
Lest we begin to feel that the Holy Spirit only knows how to correct us, we see in verse nine a great confidence expressed in what God's work will produce in our lives.
There is a firm conviction of the Holy Spirit that better things will accompany salvation in our lives. It's almost as if God is saying: "When I see how much I have given to my people, when I see the sacrifices I have made for them, when I know that I have held nothing back from them...then I just have to believe that good things, better things than thorns and thistles will come forth from their lives. I have confidence that the things that accompany salvation will come forth.
What accompanys salvation as an evidence?
James 2:26 "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead."
The Holy Spirit has confidence that we will not have to face judgment because of fruitlessness, but that our lives will be producing good works.
READ VERSE 10
AMPLIFIED BIBLE- "For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name's sake in ministering to the needs of the saints..."
What does God see?
1. He sees the work we do for Him. He sees it not just as work, but as a labor of love.
2. Secondly, He sees the motive.
Not done from compulsion or in reluctance. Not done so people will notice me and I will make a name for myself. But done out of love for the Lord and for His Name's sake.
Note: We reveal our motives when we get offended because we aren't given recogntion for what we do.
True ministry (no matter what: sweeping someone's walk, Sunday School, God's Gang, cooking a meal, etc.) begins in attitude...in the heart and mind of the one who ministers. True ministry is not in the greatness of the performance, but in the motives of the heart. The labor of love for His name's sake is not a performance, but rather servanthood. It is people loved, helped, equipped, taught, prayed for, etc.
This proves the genuineness of our faith. The more we love God, the more we will want to do His will.
And notice something else in the verb tense.
"You have ministered (past) and still do (present and on-going). Nowhere in Scriptures is retirement from ministry taught!
If it is true that we can retire from working for the Lord...then it can only be because we have retired from loving and obeying the Lord because the one always produces the other!
An unbroken ministry flows from an unbroken love relationship with Jesus!
God sees the work we do and God sees the motivation and God knows how to reward!
This Word is meant to encourage us to not give up, to encourage us to believe that our lives will produce something of value.
God sees the effort!
God sees your effort!
Sunday School teacher, God sees the effort you put forth in preparing for that class each week. God's Gang Minister, God sees the Saturdays you give up for His name's sake for a labor of love to the children of our city.
Missionettes, Royal Rangers, Love Food, Musicians, Singers, Ushers, Deacons, Maintanance Workers, Youth, Intercessors, Evangelists, etc. Anyone in any ministry; God sees your effort!
The enemy is an accusor and he would want you to believe the worst about your efforts and their value and as a result to give up. Satan would want you to believe that your ministry is unimportant, that you will not be missed, and that someone else can do it better, etc. He is the source of such suggestions. He wants you to believe such lies so that you will grow discouraged and give up. Thus he weakens the ministry of the Body of Christ.
The enemy is a depreciator, a belittler of God's people.
Have you ever seen a parent or a coach who belittles children, makes fun of their efforts, ridicules their weak attempts to do something right?
Those are the devil's tactics!
People who do this think that they are going to increase determination, or build toughness...but all they do is reinforce the work of the enemy causing a child to believe the worst about themselves, causing a person to believe they are incapable or stupid. Or causing them to believe that this important person in their life has given up on them....maybe believe that God will do the same. People who try to use belittling and depreciation to get good results lose the affection and motivation of those they are ministering to.
The result is resentment. I am probably talking to many adults who were mistreated in this way as children. You still have painful memories. You still believe that no matter how hard you try it will never be good enough.
ILLUSTRATION-- When I was nine years old, I took swimming lessons. Included in the lessons was instruction on diving. I really wanted to learn how to dive, but I had fears. My Swim Instructor, in order to help me overcome my fear of diving, made fun of me in front of the whole swim class. The result?: I was humiliated and I quit and never did learn how to do something I really wanted to do.
Folks, don't embrace the world's methods, the devil's methods in trying to motivate right behavior.
You might ask, "BUT, what about all the warnings we have been reading in these chapters? The warnings don't sound very encouraging?" Can a warning motivate?
Oh yes, I have been motivated by warnings. Warning a person by speaking the truth in love into their lives is quite different from making fun of a person or calling them a name. Warnings are meant to make us stop. To proceed no further without being aware of the consequences.
The warning is telling us: Proceed no further without being aware of the consequences. I love you enough to tell you the truth. Stop and make changes now before it is too late.
You see, the Holy Spirit uses warning and encouragement to motivate us...but never ridicule, mocking, name calling, or making fun.
I want to say to people in ministry to children, teens....learn God's ways of motivating. Don't say: "I survived it, it didn't hurt me, it made me tough". Don't justify ungodly ways. Rather, let the Lord teach you His ways. Forsake your own ways. Be a partner with God in ministry...not a partner with the Devil!
God wants to encourage you in your labor of love and God wants to use you to be an encourager of others! Take heart; God will not forget your good works; they will not escape His notice!
READ VERSES 11-12
The works they have done are good. God has taken notice. Now the encouragement is to puruse growing in your faith in the same way you have pursued doing good works.
Let spiritual progress be a driving passion in your life.
How is this evidenced? By not quitting! "...to the very end..." Start the race and finish the race!
The prayers of people who want to make spiritual progress sound like this:
"Lord, I want to be a man of God/woman of God. Lord, I want to keep growing in my marriage. Lord, I want to know you better. Lord, I want you to teach me how to raise my children. I submit to your Word in this."
In other words, "I am going forward. I am still in the race. I am making spiritual progress. I am not where I was last year, nor am I the same person as I was last year. I have grown and am growing, I have changed and am changing."
The "full assurance of hope" or "making your hope sure" goes all the way back to chapter two and the word "design". The Holy Spirit is encouraging us to HOLD ON (don't quit) and MOVE ON (make progress) till the design and purpose of God for our lives is sure. HOLD ON AND MOVE ON!!!
Do you know that God has a hope for your life? His hope is for the fulfillment of His design and purpose for you. He knows that you can be a spiritually productive person. So, He encourages: "hold on and move on". (don't quit- don't let spiritual fatigue take you down; and make progress- don't let spiritual laziness put you in the armchair.)
Don't grow lazy in the things that count?
AMPLIFIED BIBLE: "Do not grow disinterested or spiritually sluggish."
Can we grow disinterested in spiritual things? Can we become spiritually lazy or sluggish?
What are the things that count in keeping us growing spiritually?
How do we learn about these things that count; these things that are vitally important? From the Word of God and from those who we see not quitting and see moving on in their spiritual growth.
What is required to run this race to the finish?
Faith and patience!
Truth: God's promises have a trust element in them which is to be grasped by faith, and a time element in them which is to be grasped by patience.
We are encouraged to imitate, mimic, follow or model our lives after the example of those who continue to show this kind of faith and patience in their lives. Look for spiritual models. People who are still growing, still learning, still obeying, still ministering, still pressing on to fulfill God's purposes for thier lives.
Learn from them and let them be a spiritual model for you. Follow their example. Become like them in spiritual character and conduct.
This is one of the reasons we are warned in scripture not to be imitators of the world we live in.
We become like, in character, those we imitate.
Too many Christians are busy copying the world and teaching their children to copy the world.
See verse 12. Imitate who?
(those who thru faith and patience inherit what God has planned for them...God's promise for them)
When our children were little we sang with them the song: "I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise, with a capital P, and I can be anything, anything God wants me to be."
We need to point our children toward the Godly role models that we want them to imitate.
The world says: Imitate and be like...Sports figures, politicians, rock stars, movie stars, racketeers, male & female models, financier, the famous, TV sit-coms, etc.
This is how lives are destroyed and led astray from God's purposes. Our world plants these seeds of desire in young hearts. Then they want to grow up to be like their heroes.
The enemy uses this principle of modeling. In many inner city areas we have children playing at being a drug pusher or a gang member. These are their heroes and models.
However, it isn't just in the inner city that this happens. All through our culture, the enemy is at work to destroy by presenting wrong examples and models for people to follow. This is how ungodliness gets a hold in families, communities, and nations.
Modeling and the imitation of those models is a dynamic that the Holy Spirit uses and that Satan uses. This is one of the ways that patterns of either godliness or ungodliness are established in people's lives.
This is important for parents to understand. For, if faithfulness and consistency in spiritual values is not present in a parents attitude and conduct, what model will the children follow? Whether it is in church attendance, worship, stewardship, prayer, Bible reading, etc.; we are saying something to those who follow us by what we do or don't do. We are demonstrating what is really important to us, (no matter what we say) by what we do.
The Christian family and the body of Christ are meant by God to provide the role models for you to imitate, for your children to imitate. People who are strong in the faith. People who don't quit. People with hope. People with growing marriages. People overcoming the damage sin has caused. People moving on to be men and women of God. People giving their lives for purposes that count for more than just this life. People giving their time, energy, and money to that which is eternal. People who are following Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. People who are passing on patterns of godliness. The family and the church is where these models are found!
Folks, this is part of the harvest of your life and my life that God has every right to expect!
We are encouraged to press on to inherit all that God has designed us to be.
Other sermons by Pastor John.