Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-9
The analogy of the agricultural activity of sowing and reaping is found over 20 times in the Bible. I recently was blessed by joining an organisation that uses a derivative of “sow” in its name. This devotional is not a promotion of this organisation, but the company was founded by a Christian, was championed for a long time by a Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit, and is sponsored financially and spiritually by Christians and non-believers. It fulfils the Lord’s command to love our neighbour through serving the underprivileged.
My new position stimulated a review of the sowing and reaping paradigm found in Holy Scriptures. Interestingly, this paradigm is found in many contexts and this well-known verse captures a number of points: while very important, giving goes beyond donating money that the Lord has entrusted to us as stewards. Rather, it is essential that the seeds we spread be of grace and love, and for which we, in due course, will gain the Lord’s abundance of grace and love.
I ask you to think of two issues:
Let us sow generously by:
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you; surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10 NASB
For all those who have tried to push against the current and make a difference in the world, they know the road can be a lonely one. Indeed, that loneliness may be the reason why many people choose to stay in the crowd and do as the world does—just to be safe.
Yet, in the history of our faith, so many have travelled down lonely roads. From the pioneering missionaries who dared venture to Hong Kong and Asia, to the likes of Mother Teresa who reached her hand out to the poorest of the poor in India, and William Wilberforce who began the campaign to end human slavery. Pushing against the conventions of culture is always hard because the path ahead is yet uncharted and there is no guarantee of safe passage. So why do it?
The origins of the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” brings into focus how lonely the journey could feel, but there are so many insights to draw from knowing it. Many today know the hymn’s words as the bridge portion of Hillsong’s popular song, “Christ is Enough.” However, the song originally came from India and its lyrics were based on the last words of a man named Nokseng, whose family had found faith in Christ.
As the story is told: upon learning of what happened to Nokseng’s family, the village chief called for an assembly where his family would renounce their newfound beliefs at the threat of execution. Imagine that. Imagine how lonely his family must have felt as the entire village—all the people they had ever known and grown up with—watched as they chose: deny Christ and live… or deny their own tribe and die.
Despite how forsaken they must have felt, Nokseng already knew his family’s answer and declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus… Though none go with me, still I will follow.” Those words sealed his family’s fate and as the executioner loomed over Nokseng himself, he is said to have uttered: “The cross before me, the world behind me.”
From that selfless act of faith, the tribe began to investigate its own beliefs after the execution and the chief himself eventually came to faith. Today, the once-headhunting Garo tribe where Nokseng’s family were from is predominantly Christian; but the tribe got there because one family decided to walk the lonely road to Calvary.
Our stories may not be as dramatic, but it highlights for us that, in the end, all roads to stand up for what is right and make a difference are almost always lonely because they demand from us the things we cherish: our reputation, job security, lucrative opportunities, and relationships, to name a few.
Yet, as Christians, we are called to walk those lonely paths. In this, my encouragement to keep taking the lonely road is to remember this: it’s a lonely road but I am not alone. On these empty roads, I see more clearly how He goes before me and walks with me because those faint footprints of His presence are ever more apparent. On these quiet roads, I hear more clearly His tender and affirming whispers. On these lonely roads, I lean harder and more often into Him, and see His glory more consistently.
Let us consider the roads we have travelled and the roads ahead of us by:
As a person who highly values working hard and completing tasks, the Labour Day holiday is one I embrace. I appreciate that around the world, societies recognise the importance of labour – it is the backbone of so much in our world. I also appreciate a good day off for complete rest from my labour.
On this May 1 holiday, I made a special effort to work at not working. I shifted my brain to neutral and spent the day with my wife and colleagues from church relaxing on a junk boat trip.
The day could not have been better. I found myself literally encircled by a gorgeous ocean, a deep blue sky, island vistas, magnificent rocky cliffs interspersed with caves, jade-green clear water, and perfect weather. As I lounged on the deck, snacks and drinks were at my fingertips. I was surrounded by good friends who provided engaging conversations and families with children delighting in time with their parents and friends. I loved watching the kids run around the junk and holler and splash in the water. I took just enough time in the refreshing water to re-energise my tired body from a long month of work in April. At times, I found myself relaxing alone comfortably in the wonderful surroundings of that time, place and people. I was blessed.
At some point I realised, “My soul is resting!” I relaxed and experienced afresh God’s presence. I sensed fully that God is good, all the time and right now! I appreciated my Labour Day break to leave the rushed urban existence behind for a while… to slow down… to treasure relationships… to engage and be engaged… to laugh… to take in the beauty of God’s creation… to soak up revitalising water and sunshine… to simply breathe.
We all need such times!
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake… Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:2-3,6
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
I recently went on a “Stillness” Retreat organised by a good friend of mine. She had the thought to bless a group of her female friends by gathering them on one dedicated afternoon at her house. It was a way to spend quiet time with God alone, but together.
Ironically, I came away from the afternoon feeling troubled. Finally still before God, I was convicted about my laziness and my lack of action. The fire I once had to carry out what I thought was God’s plans had subsided. I had taken a back seat, conveniently hiding behind a “go with the flow because I trust God” attitude. A toxic mixture of uncertainty, laziness, procrastination, apprehension, and escapism had stalled me to inaction. My delayed plans led to my deferred hopes.
I’m thankful that God, in His mercy, gently jolted me out of this state, introducing some discomfort into my comfort zone. He reminded me to stay on course, to “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Part of fighting the good fight of faith is to pursue good works, which is what we were made for – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). If we choose to sit back, the longing within us will never be fulfilled, leading to languor and, eventually, despondence.
When things get just a little bit difficult, I tend to doubt whether it was really God’s plan or just my own plan. I might then conclude it was the latter, and I use it as an excuse to stall or give up. However, this is precisely the moment when I need to press into prayer. Our hearts will be sick as long as we continue to delay vigorous acts of faith and defer hope. And that is a state that we must not allow ourselves to stay in.
Let us not let hope be deferred by:
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
It’s no novel idea that many people in our city wear busyness as a badge of honour. We may not admit it but as much as we complain about our packed full schedules, when there is an opening, we naturally want to fill it. I am one of those people.
In all of the busyness, or what we might label “productivity,” I am often left feeling unfulfilled, like there is a deeper thirst within me unsatisfied. In serving God as a father, as a worker, as a church leader, I can still feel restless and distant from God.
The Chinese character of “busy” is made up of two components, a “heart” and “death.”
It is a simple ideogram that sums up the profound notion that busyness kills the heart. It may sound a bit too dramatic, but I think we can all agree that busyness takes a toll on us. It affects us physically and, beyond that, emotionally. I often find myself lethargic, less engaged, more irritable, and usually not the best person to be around.
But most important, busyness deeply affects us spiritually. When we are too busy and not finding proper rest in God, distance comes between us and Him and we start to care less about the things He cares about.
In a recent sermon, Pastor Brett said maintaining a proper size in relation to God is a lifelong adjustment. And when our schedules and minds are overwhelmed, it is easy for us to lose proper perspective. The greater danger is that we start to see ourselves as too important, as irreplaceable, as the one in total control. God fades to the back and we start to take centre stage.
In Psalm 46, the author is writing from a place of distress. He starts by declaring that “God is our refuge and strength,” and the only one who can help him. He is faced with the fear and uncertainty of war yet he finds the space away from the chaos to be still before God and to acknowledge and declare His sovereignty.
You might be stuck in a period of uncertainty or distress, or like most in our city, you might just be too busy and distracted from seeing who God really is. Our faith requires us to rest in God.
Psalm 62:5 says “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” It is a commandment for us to rest on the seventh day as God himself rested. However, the Sabbath is not just about not working and going to church on Sundays. It is as much a cycle as it is also an attitude. And this practice of regularly stopping and acknowledging who God is takes discipline.
Sabbath unlike sleep, doesn’t feel like a must. If we don’t sleep for a long time, our body tells us that we need it or forces us to stop. But Sabbath doesn’t do the same, it backs away and we usually continue to function as usual, or so it seems, but our position and understanding in Christ takes a great toll.
Rest in God is vital to our faith, and is necessary for a healthy relationship with Christ and a rightful perspective of Him. Don’t let busyness deplete your heart, but let your soul be filled when you find true rest in Him.
Let us not let busyness rob our hearts by: