Any homeowner in the Denver area who has tried to plant grass seed in our stubborn clay soil knows that patience, persistence and purpose are necessary. Of course fertilizer, sun and water play their part, but perseverance will eventually produce the desired results. Once one has a beautiful green lawn, the battle is not over. The proud gardener must then protect his investment from heat, weeds, drought and varmints.
A Christian also has to sow good seed into often stubborn soil. Most of the untaught world is at least as resistant and hostile to God’s word (Lk 8:11) as was the clay to the grass seed. Our seed is generously provided and ever increasing from God (2 Cor 9:10). We are to sow bountifully not sparingly so that we will also reap generously (2 Cor 9:6). In Jesus’ parable of the sower, He explains that much of the seed that is scattered will not grow to maturity and reproduce (Mt 13:3-23). Much like the physical seed, the spiritual seed will meet harsh resistance.
Some never reaches the heart of the listeners because of their calloused hearts (Mt 13:15). Some seem to understand but trouble and persecution quickly choke it out (v 21). Worries and the deceitfulness of wealth destroy other seed (v 22). But if we plant with patience, persistence and purpose, a good crop of faithful followers of Christ can be the result (v 23). We don’t have to do all the hard labor by ourselves, as the apostle Paul explains, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1 Cor 3:6)
As with our hard-earned green lawn, we can take great satisfaction upon seeing a new crop of faithful Christians sowing more seed for the kingdom. But as with the adversaries of our physical lawn, there are many enemies of the kingdom of Christ (Mt 10:22) (Lk 6:22). Our task as we march on to our heavenly home is to plant, water and reap (Mt 28:19-20).
The brilliant engineers who conceive, design and build watches, machines, buildings and computers, know and understand intimately their work. They know it so well that they could write instruction manuals that explain the smallest details of their operation and then give lectures about the implementation of it all. The homeowner who has lived in the same residence for 50 years could probably tell us about every room, nook and corner of the house plus describe every object in each place. The mother who has given birth to a child and raised him or her to adulthood could no doubt tell us of every idiosyncrasy down to the smallest birthmark of that child. All of these people know their topic or person extremely well.
Our God far surpasses any of this because He created humans rather than just designing and manipulating materials which already existed (Gen 1:27) (Gen 2:7) (Gen 2:18). Thereafter He formed us each and knit us together in our mother’s womb (Ps 139:13-16). Everyone of the billions of people who have lived on this earth is unique in DNA as well as behavior and attitude. He knows us so well that He has numbered the hairs on our head (Mat 10:30) and knows our thoughts before we say a word (Ps 139:1-4).
God loves His creation so much that He gave us an operations manual (Bible) so that we could grow towards reciprocating that love (2 Sam 22:31) (Heb 4:12). To further prove His love He sent the living word (Jesus Christ) to demonstrate the way mankind was to live and serve (Jo 3:16) (Jo 1:1) (Jo 1:14).
God so loved humanity that He gave us free will knowing full well that we would often abuse and reject that blessing (Rom 3: 10-12) (Rom 3:23). Nevertheless, He is, “…patient with us because He doesn’t want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pe 3:9) We are told to humble ourselves and be imitators of God (Eph 5:1). Once we humble ourselves and are immersed into Christ (Acts 2:38) (Act 22:16), we can begin to have our minds renewed (Rom 12:2) and acquire the servant attitude of Jesus (Php 2:3-8). God knows us completely and yet He not only tolerates us, He loves us and is willing to make us fellow heirs with Christ! (Rom 8:17) (Gal 3:29)
Nearly all of us have experienced being laughed at or criticized at one time. This may have been because of something ridiculous, mistaken or awkward we said or simply because of a stumble or pratfall. However, this is far from the level of scorn, which involves undisguised contempt and disdain. The one being scorned is made to feel worthless and disrespected. It often carries a disapproving and derisive attitude.
King David had to endure such shame for his loyalty to the Lord (Ps 69: 7-12 & 19-20). He felt brokenhearted, helpless and without comforters. Others have written similar sentiments (Ps 89:41)
(Ps 119:22-23). David, in fact, prophesied about the scorn that Jesus Christ would someday endure on the cross, “scorned by men and despised by the people.” “mocked and insulted…” (Ps 22:6-8)
Amazingly Jesus scorned the shame of the cross as an example to His followers so that they would not grow weary and lose heart
(Heb 12:1-3). On one occasion when He raised a ruler’s daughter from the dead, He surely confounded the very ones who moments before had, “laughed Him to scorn.” (Mt 9: 23-26 KJV)
As 21st Century Christians we cannot expect to avoid scorn and derision for the sake of Christ (Mt 10:22-24). Surely the persecutions predicted by inspired New Testament writers were not only for 1stCentury Christians (2 Tim 3:12) (1 Thes 3:3-4) (Mt 5:11) (Mk 10:30). The question is, what will be our reaction to such abuse? We could fight scorn from our accusers with scorn of our own, but we are told to pray for them instead (Mt 5:44). Perhaps we might say that we can scorn scorn but not the scorners. We should also thank God that we, “have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Heb 12:4)
Rebates, coupons and discounts are some of the many incentives and forms of rewards that can accrue to the savvy consumer nowadays. Rewards come in several forms for those who participate in contests of skill, whether physical or mental. Medals, trophies, plaques and even cash are awarded to the winners, but often everyone who participates gets some memento. Rewards work much better than fear and punishment with young children. To set goals and accomplish them surely does merit some form of reward.
Why then do we find Jesus Christ admonishing the Pharisees and teachers of the law during His Sermon on the Mount? (Mt 6:1-24) He lists 4 acts of righteousness by which one can gain a reward—Giving, Prayer, Fasting and Forgiveness. These leaders wanted to get honor, respect, a recognition, and privilege from the crowds. This seems valid and perhaps desirable. Then Jesus divides rewards into 2 categories—one temporary and short-sighted, the other wise and eternal.
Jesus warns that if one desires a reward from the Father for these acts of righteousness, one must not announce with fanfare in public to be seen and honored by men. In doing this they have earned the only reward they’ll ever receive. What a person does in secret with a humble attitude will be rewarded by the Father.
Self-glorification may garner a brief reward of fame and acclaim, but the true everlasting reward will be, “treasures in heaven.” (Mt 6:20) The misguided religious leaders of that time were called hypocrites because of their fake piety and ostentation (v5). The 4 acts of righteousness will not impress God if they are done by, “play actors” “making a big show” of them. Our devotion to the Godhead is a private act of worship and obedience.
Most of us have heard the adage, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Standing firm implies having a core set of truths and values and being willing to support them when they are under attack. Standing firm means remaining faithful to one’s commitments during difficult trials such as financial crisis, marital problems and all other of life’s constant stresses. It has been said that, “You can tell a lot about where a person stands when you see him on his knees.”
Christians have an even greater pledge to stand firm in addition to the secular one. Many New Testament scriptures stress this need to keep on keeping on. “Resist him (the devil), standing firm in the faith…” (1 Pe 5:9) Jesus said, “By standing firm you will gain life.” (Lk 21:19) “You too, be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.” (Jas 5:8) “…but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22) See also (2 Th 2:15) (Gal 5:1) (Eph 6:14) (1 Cor 16:13). These and other verses express not only the command, but also the reasons and rewards for it.
Implicit in all these admonitions is the concept of resolve. The devil knows that we are flesh and weak and susceptible to his constant attacks (1 Pe 5:8-9). Just as some children are susceptible to the common cold, God’s children are subject to the mental, emotional and moral temptations that Satan uses. In fact, even when we think we have stood firm, there is reason to beware (1 Cor 10:12). We would not be able to resist without divine assistance.
Thus, we need the spiritual weapons of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the gospel of peace (Eph 6:13-18). In addition, we have the avenue of prayer (1 Pe 3:12) (Mk 11:24) (Mt 21:22) and the strength and power of the Holy Spirit (Eph 3:16-20) to really STAND FIRM.