In yet another misadventure amongst the cornstalks, we have perhaps learned a broader (and maybe a deeper) perspective of some kingdom principles.
It had come to our attention a few weeks ago that the number of tomatoes among the vines in our garden were not what we had expected. At first, it was simply a vague feeling that something was amiss, but it got to the point of being fairly obvious when a tomato vine on one evening would have multiple clusters of tomatoes and then suddenly be stripped bare by the next morning. Cucumber plants also were being plundered although squash plants were only mildly disturbed: I guess that squash was not someone’s favorite vegetable. The bean plants did not appear to be disturbed suggesting that the task of picking beans was simply too time consuming or too much work to bother with for our neighborhood vegetable picker.
We considered the various culprits that possibly could be responsible and had to rule out animals (even raccoons). The plants were not pulled down but were simply plucked of their vegetables. What planted the realization beyond the reach of doubt, however, was our discovery of our storage building’s doors having been forced open, the latch bent almost beyond repair (with a few items missing from our building). Our backyard is completely surrounded by a chain link fence with gates that are locked but a spry person (or persons) can hop over the fence and back again without too much trouble.
The aggravation came to a head (or maybe I should say that it came to an “ear”) when we realized that someone was carrying off the corn. In spite of the hard work of preparing the soil (we had the help of a small rototiller for some of it but did most of it just with a shovel), the ongoing work of weeding (a never ending battle), and the struggle with falling cornstalks (don’t worry, I won’t go into THAT again), someone had carried off twice as much corn as we were able to pick for ourselves.
Needless to say, the Lord has been using the experience to develop our character in the realm of anger. And really, if someone wanted some of it we would have liked to have shared it with him… or her… or them.
But in our discussing the whole matter, my wife, Diane, and I have actually been reminded of Jesus’ parable of the sower, the seed, and the soils in Matthew 13.
“Then Jesus told them many things in parables, saying, ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.’… ‘When anyone hears the message about the Kingdom (of God) and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path’” (Matthew 13:3-4, 19 NIV).
There is a “seed” called the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is being sown along the path of life today and there are “birds” out and about scavenging that seed. A little bit like those that have snuck into our backyard to help themselves, there are causes and philosophies and false religions that steal from God the harvest that He desires in His people. What complicates this is that much of this is happening, in a sense, in His backyard. Causes that compete with the proclamation of God’s Truth and ideas that have their origins in worldly philosophy have a way of infiltrating the lives of Christians and consequently steer them away from the harvest of Godly fruits that the soil of their lives would yield for Christ.
Instead of the fruits of worship, thanksgiving, love, joy, peace, holiness, and glory to God, folks are too often giving themselves to thieves. As a result they leave behind legacies of selfishness, resentment, strife, brokenness, anger, immorality, and dishonor to God’s name. Frankly, if your life is not wholly surrendered to God for His glory and purposes, and obeying Him and experiencing His love in your life is not your top priority, then someone has been plundering the garden of God and you are an accomplice.
What makes this worse is that many Christians are “okay” with this mediocre and lukewarm spirituality. But the Lord isn’t okay with it. Not only is He being robbed of the devotion of His people, He is also being robbed of the effect that such devotion has on unbelievers: the salvation of souls. And if you can imagine Diane and myself being somewhat disturbed and frustrated by someone coming into our yard to snatch a few vegetables, then you’ll probably realize that the spiritual crime of robbing God is far more serious and deadly.
So what do we do? How do we NOT rob God of His harvest? The Bible puts forward this plan of action.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:12-17 NIV).
So take care to not let spiritual thieves into the corner of God’s garden that is your life. Focus your devotion upon the Lord Jesus and let His Holy Spirit nurture the soil of your heart with His Word. As He brings conviction to your spirit from the revealing of His truth, yield to His leading and follow His lead. Our family has taken some steps to discourage future thefts, and God is taking steps to protect a future harvest in your life. Let Him have His way in your heart and let Him reap the fruits of grace that He desires to produce for you.