Where We’re Sown

Maybe we silently lament in our heart of hearts why the Lord planted us in hard places where we think we cannot grow, flourish, and bear fruit as much as we need to. Difficult marriages, divided families, noisy or hostile neighborhood, unsafe community, hypocritical workplace, are just some of the “soils” in which we may find ourselves sown. We believe that had we been sown in a more conducive, nurturing environment, we would be taking up healthy roots, springing out new green shoots, and growing up sturdy limbs and lush foliage until we blossom and mature, bearing fruits that are beneficial to others.

where we're sown

David wrote of the blessedness of such a man:

He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. (Ps. 1:3)

We long for our marriages to be rich soils wherein our souls thrive, our minds expand, and our hearts heal and are transformed. We dream of conversations that flow smoothly like a stream of fresh water in an unsullied forest, bridging the hearts, mending the broken places, lifting up the weary soul, encouraging the weak and fearful mind. To hear words that minister grace to our teetering courage and disposition. Or receive warm appreciation for our own sincere efforts, the embrace of it expands our chests and makes us bolder to run more purposefully. In this way, we have grown.

But what if the soil wherein we were planted erodes little by little because of the dry and harsh environment? What if our roots cannot grow deeper and wider because the soil tends to be barren, rocky, hostile? What strong limbs, lush foliage, beautiful blooms, and abundant fruits can develop and grow from them?

This scenario can be compared to the terrain of our hearts, minds, and souls. Are our minds shrinking in virtues and expanding in sensuality, like harboring bitter envying and strife in [our] hearts (see James 3:14-16)? Are frequent strifes [vigorous or bitter conflicts and discordswhat reside in our hearts more than the fullness of the Holy Spirit and His works, just because it is what our environment provides for us?

We think of others’ lives and situations and believe that their marriages are blissful, their families are next to perfect, their jobs are their dream jobs, their communities are peaceful and safe. How excellent it would be if spouses are worshiping and praying together, resolving problems peacefully without creating more strifes, forbearing [patient and self-controlled when subject to annoyance or provocation] one another, not desiring to have the last word or win a fight!

But a harsh or hostile environment could work for us three ways: quit and flee, stay and be stagnant, or stay and grow despite of.

Quitting and fleeing are not easy things to do. You cannot just walk out of a marriage or family just because you believe you cannot grow therein. For a Christian man or woman, that could be the hardest and most painful thing. Not to count the fact that we might be disobeying and displeasing God with our (selfish) decision. When we quit and flee, we are saying to God that we reject what He has planned and purposed for us.

When we choose to stay but succumb to the devil’s work, we will become spiritually stagnant. We will not grow and have no fruits to show of our faith. We will be desiring to walk worthy of God’s calling one moment, then weak enough to be pulled down by a spouse’s (or a family member’s, a co-worker’s, a neighbor’s) unkindness the next. Weak in that, instead of falling on our knees in prayer and forgiveness, we seethe in repressed resentment. We become bitter instead of better. Our souls shrink instead of grow and soar. And the more we think about our pitiful plight, the more we become resentful and bitter. What a vicious cycle!

But that is not the kind of life God has called us to. For the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – those are the first fruits of our life in the Spirit. How can we have them in the hard places where we were sown? AND how can we not not have them?  Are the power and work of the Holy Spirit constrained by our environment? That can only be so if we let it. Greater is he that is in [us], than he that is in the world (see 1 John 4:4).

Could it be that God sowed us in this very same place we are at so we can grow deeper and wider and higher, because of the very same things that we thought retarded our growth and fruition? Could it be that the seeming harshness and barrenness of the terrain are the very things that plunge us closer and deeper to God and our knowledge of Him?

For we are called not only to grow and bear fruit, but live to help others grow and bear fruit, too! If we flee the hard places – the people who challenge our faith, peace, and joy, who hurt and try to pull us down – how can we minister to them and help them establish a deeper relationship with Christ? Maybe God is teaching us to be humble, obedient, long-suffering, courageous, and steadfast, so that we can teach the difficult people in our lives by our good example, when they see our respectful and pure conduct (1 Pet. 3:2). Maybe God put us here, the very place we lament and want to flee from, so that together we can grow, by our show of humility, love, and sacrifice. By putting on Christ.

Wherever we are sown, we can grow and thrive when we make God’s Word fuelled by the Holy Spirit the rich soil that will nurture us each and every day. God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness that we may be partakers of His divine nature.

I invite you to read the following passage, digesting each powerful phrase and letting it settle into our heart, mind, and soul and find its home there. May this good, precious advice from the apostle Peter empower us to live fruitful lives even in a tundra (cold) or a desert (dry) environment and be a salt and light in that place.

For it is not our environment that will dictate the quality of our spiritual life, but our intimate relationship with God.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5 …For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

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Spiritual Soil (Things to Ponder)

Everyday, I wonder and worry if the “soil” of our family and home is cultivated and watered enough for every member to grow and bear fruit. I often find myself asking, “Are my husband and I doing the best we can to nourish the soil of our family? Are we being shining lights to each other and to our children and are we setting good example for them to follow?” I believe that if we say we follow Jesus, it should be manifested in our words and actions, in our relationships and the very lives we live.

spiritual soil

During those moments of deep pondering and self-examination, I know that we’re not intentional and punctilious enough in nurturing our soil and this brings sighing and heaviness to my heart. Such problems usually come up when the spouses have varying magnitudes of faith and differing principles, attitudes, and practices. But then again, many times in the Bible, we are admonished to be of one mind.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  (Phil. 2:1-2, emphasis mine)

Fruitfulness in the Spirit is what the Lord desires for all of His followers.

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

So, we go to church every Sunday (for most of our Church, it’s even three times a week), the children sing in the choir, the family doesn’t watch trashy TV shows or movies or listen to secular music. But how about the moments and hours that make up the day? What does our family and home life look like?

There were times that I have broken down in tears because of the children’s gross misbehaviors and my failure to tackle them as the Bible’s teachings would have me do. We have this great desire to be nurturing parents, endeavoring to train our children in the love and admonition of the Lord, but when we see them disrespectful, disobedient, ungrateful, and lazy in all things except to waste hours on gadgets, we feel the weight of failure on our shoulders and it’s heartbreaking. We ask ourselves, “What more should be done?”

We bathe our family with prayers so that in one accord, we will all be obedient and pleasing in God’s sight, fervently following Him and His will, so that we will be living out Apostle Peter’s teaching:

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” (1 Pet. 3:8)

But sometimes, even our prayers seem not enough and we can’t seem to see much fruit.

People in our church, especially the choir leaders, praise our children’s quiet behavior in Sunday school and choir practices. I thank God for working on them to behave properly outside our home. They are not rowdy as other children. No, ma’am. They are shy, especially Hannah, to a fault.

But I see in our children things that the world does not see. And what I see breaks my heart. I know that families and homes differ from one another. But even Christian homes have their problems. I can see the huge difference between our life in the old days and our children’s life now. I grew up in a small, slumbrous town in a faraway province where life was as simple as you could get. Frivolity was out, for life, generally, bordered on poverty.

In that uncomplicated way of life, people were industrious. Young girls could help around the house: clean, cook, wash dirty dishes and laundry, and care for baby siblings, or around the farm (for those who lived in the barrios). Young people were respectful, obedient, responsible. They looked up and listened to older people. And they had a deep sense of gratitude.

I lament that this generation of young people displays an entirely different attitude. It’s kind of bratty, selfish, self-indulgent, insolent, indolent, ungrateful, prideful. We see them on TV and the Internet. And when we see traces of these on our children, oh, how it rips our hearts!

I’m not saying that our children, Hannah and Tim, are completely all that. No, they are fairly good kids who generally bring us joy. Hannah, by God’s grace, is now “under observation” for the Youth Choir and she’s assigned church chores like maintaining cleanliness in the toilets during services, etc. As for Tim, he sings in the Children’s Choir, attends Sunday School diligently and I can see that he is developing an awareness of the Bible’s teachings.

But it is evident that they still lack in the more important things: love and kindness toward one another, humility, gratefulness, respect, and also industriousness. It only takes a small act of unkindness or indifference to see what is utterly wrong, like seeing a child pick up her own used glass to bring to the sink and intentionally leave the other beside it just because it’s her brother’s. Or when they are often rude to one another, speaking biting or cold remarks. What does that mean?!

If we’re sensitive parents who see beneath such subtle acts, we would not dismiss and consider them as not worthy of our attention. We would discern at once that there’s an underlying reason to them. The children could be cold and uncaring and those are serious things that need to be addressed.

When I see our children displaying a lack in any of the things mentioned above, I feel really sad and frustrated and this compels me to strive harder: to be a more effective “life coach” to them who leads by example. And I pray the more, pleadingly and unrelentingly.

I always try to examine myself when failures happen. I strive to be better: a better wife, mom, person,  leader, friend. A better role model. More Christlike. That’s the heart of my prayers lately.

I’ve been asking myself, “Do our marriage, family, and home provide rich soil for spiritual growth for each and everyone of us? Does our relationship (my husband’s and mine) set a good example about relationships, honor, respect, love, and kindness? Do we intentionally live a life that exemplifies the Bible’s teachings which our children can observe and learn?”

Do we seek to cultivate the ground, the soil in which their minds, hearts, and souls will develop, grow, flourish, and bear much fruit?

Is each one of us a rich soil in which others could grow well and thrive?

Do we build up others or bring them down? Do we heal or do we inflict wound? Do we speak words that minister grace to others or do we speak to incite contentions, discouragements, strifes, resentments, or bitterness? Do we intentionally bring hope and encouragement for a soul to grow and thrive or do we unmindfully bring out the worst in others? Do we strive to coax out goodness and beauty in others or do we live indifferently, minding only our own welfare and growth?

Well, is there real growth when we think and work only for ourselves? Isn’t growth happens when we live outside of ourselves and reach out to others also? There is no growth when there is no expansion.

But not everyone thinks and desires the same things as we do. Others may not want to be in and if it is a spouse, that would be difficult. If the parents are not of one mind and desire or of varying degree of commitment in leading the family into rich, verdant pastures of spiritual growth, that can be a problem. It will be too taxing to be hauling the burden on your own or on unequal or opposing forces. The ship cannot sail smoothly if the winds are contrary.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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The Pattern for Rich Faith: Lessons from the Beginning

Again, we go back to the days of creation. On the day that God commanded the earth to bring forth plants and trees, we see the pattern of faith that will be spoken of by the Savior many generations later.

(image from Google)

“Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind.” (Gen. 1: 11-12)

I read this passage and I can’t help but be amazed by the excellent wisdom of God. Truly, I am in awe as I assimilate this information and get just a little glimpse of how God’s mind operates. These words stand out to me —-

Whose seed is in itself.
That yields fruit.

On the days of creation, God had thought out the continuing cycle of life. From the beginning, He saw through to the other end, how our present lives would come to be. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. Isn’t it a great comfort to know that He covers all? But then, I digress.

So, I mull over the passage above and the Holy Spirit brings me to the teachings of Jesus on faith and I see the pattern that was established from the foundation of the world:

 

He sows the seed of faith and God blesses it for it to grow and yield fruit. There is no other way for faith to live on and flourish,  except it yields fruit.

And God blessed them… (Gen. 1:22)

God blessed them with His rain and sunshine.

Rain and sunshine. Together.

20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred. (Mark 4:20, emphasis mine)

Accept it with all its appurtenances: difficult trials, life-giving lessons, purifications. Drink of it. Embrace it.

I have been through a lot of rainfall in my life and I have learned that radical growth in faith happens in the hard seasons. And I am still learning and yielding myself to the “falling to the ground and dying” process as the Lord had spoken of, to be able to sprout and grow and bear much fruit.

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)

Of course, to fall and die is always hard and painful. We do our best to resist it. But I have come to know that the longer and fiercer we resist it, the more we find ourselves in tangles and more difficulties. And the less fulfilled we feel in our service to God and the sadder we become.

So, we pray for grace, abundant grace, for us to be able to humble, bend, yield, and surrender ourselves to this falling to the ground and dying. Dying to everything we have fiercely held on and fought for [pride of life, worldly pleasures, addictions, success and fame, comfort, lusts, and such like] which God wants to strip us off, so we will sprout and grow into the ones He has purposed us to be.

For His glory. And for our life and peace.

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Journey with Jesus,