Why bumpy roads and seed planting are good

Some roads are deceptive. When you first start walking, the path is relatively straight and even, but the longer you walk that path, the more difficult it becomes.

When I was down in Guatemala the last time, we did a lot of driving, some highway but the rest was on these crazy back roads in the middle of nowhere. We’re talking rough roads with bumps and rocks and steep hills and sharp turns. When we left El Chal that morning, the road looked easy, but getting to where we were going took effort and patience and no small amount of discomfort.

Rough road to San Miguel - Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

What is it about people that makes us think life is supposed to be easy? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who has this weird idea that life should be easier than it is. And if that’s the case, I should probably just stop talking. But I don’t think I’m alone.

Something inside us tells us that we’re not supposed to have to struggle like this. Or if we struggle, we’re supposed to be guaranteed a reward. But life has no guarantees. Even if you work your butt off, even if you do your very best, you aren’t guaranteed a job. You aren’t guaranteed success. You aren’t guaranteed advancement.

So why do we put ourselves through it?

On that trip in Guatemala, we killed ourselves getting to these remote Kekchi villages, and the goal was introduce people to Jesus. Not to convert anyone. If a conversion happened, that was awesome, but we weren’t exactly expecting it. The Kekchi culture rarely makes spontaneous decisions.

So if you think about it from a normal “evangelistic” mindset, we were busting our buns for no return on our investment. We were walking, hiking, driving, forging through jungle and back roads to get to these villages–one of which had never seen a white person before–and we weren’t going to see anyone come to faith in Jesus.

We were planting seeds.

Planting seeds is just a fancy Christian phrase for introducing people to Jesus or shedding light on who Jesus really is.

That’s the part of following Jesus I think we skip over sometimes. You can do everything you’re supposed to do for God and never see anyone choose to follow Jesus, at least not in your lifetime. Sometimes it takes multiple lifetimes, multiple generations for someone to realize their need for Christ.

And that works the same way in other circumstances too. Just because you don’t get instant results doesn’t mean your work and your sacrifice has been in vain. It just means you’ve planted a seed, and someone else will get to harvest it.

To be honest, that kind of sucks. Because when I plant something, I want to be around to watch it grow and reach the point where it can be harvested. But that’s for my own pride. That has nothing to do with honoring God.

And how many times have I harvested something planted by someone else? That’s how this process works. We plant seeds in people’s lives, and then we step back and let them grow–often without our supervision–and someone else gets to harvest the results.

The village we were going to in this photograph had no church. We wore ourselves out getting there and giving our presentation. And the village packed the tiny little building we were in. There were people hanging from the rafters. We did our thing, and we left.

A few months later, that village started a church. Many people have come to know Christ, and they’re still growing.

What’s the point?

Roads have bumps. Some bumps are bigger than others. Some bumps can be so large you have to slow down to get over them. Sometimes you have to stop and go around them. And even when you get to the end of that road, when you reach your destination, you aren’t guaranteed success.

But that doesn’t mean you haven’t been successful. And that doesn’t mean God won’t still do something fantastic with what you accomplished. Granted, you might never see it. But you don’t have to. Once you do something for God, it never fades. The people you affect for Christ are eternal. The tasks you accomplish for Christ will withstand the greatest storm. And once you plant a seed, nobody can unplant it.

And don’t think it’s just about leading people to Christ. We’re supposed to do all things to God’s glory, and that means our relationships, our jobs, everything.

A lot of the Christian life is planting seeds and praying for the harvesters who come after you. So when you get the chance to finish something for Christ, take a moment to be thankful for the people who planted the seeds before you. Because you didn’t get where you are by yourself.

So if your road is turning out a little bumpier than you expected and you aren’t getting to see results from everything you’ve sacrificed, don’t be discouraged. You’re leaving behind a legacy that other people can use to achieve great things for God. And if you ask me, that’s awesome.

Thistles at Hadrian's Wall, Northern England, United Kingdom

Trusting God with your plans

It’s easy to say that I trust God with my future, but it’s more difficult to live like I do. I like to plan. I like to know what’s coming, so I know how to respond, how to react, how to prepare. But I don’t always get that luxury. Half the time what I plan doesn’t even happen, rendering all my careful planning null and void. The rest of the time, what I expect happens but it’s so fast it’s all I can do to just keep hanging on.

 

Thistles at Hadrian's Wall, Northern England, United Kingdom

Thistles at Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England, United Kingdom

Today’s verse is Proverbs 16:3.

Commit your actions to the Lord,
    and your plans will succeed.

I was thinking about plans this morning. I have a lot of them. I have things I want to accomplish. I have things I want God to do. Most of the time I say I’m trusting God to take care of it, but I think deep inside I really don’t. Deep inside I’ve still got my plans on my schedule on my shoulders. No wonder I never get anything done.

I checked this verse in the Amplified Version of the Bible just to see if there were any specific word usages that I missed. I’m glad I did because simply saying to “commit your actions to the Lord” doesn’t really capture the concept behind this verse.

The Amplified Version says this: Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.

Wow. What a picture. Can you just imagine rolling your works on God? Have you ever had to move something heavy? So heavy you had to put it on wheels? Andy and I once helped one of my drama kids move, and it was quite an ordeal to get all of his things into the truck. Some of them were really heavy, and we had to use the ramp to get the heaviest things into the truck. Being able to roll those heavy things into the truck and let them go was a relief.

That’s what we’re supposed to do with our plans. If you have plans like I do at all, they’re heavy. They’re big. And that’s great. We all need to have dreams. We all need to have aspirations. But most of the time they weigh too much for us to support on our own, and we’re reduced to rolling them around like boulders over uneven paths. What this verse is saying, written by King Solomon so many thousands of years ago, is that we need to roll those dreams and plans on God and leave them. Whatever they are, we need to give them to God.

I don’t know what your dreams or plans are, but I know God gave me mine. My dream is a gift that He gave me, and the only way I will see it accomplished is to give it back to Him. That means letting go and leaving it in His hands, trusting Him to do what He wants with it. It’s harder than it sounds. But if we can do it, if we trust Him so completely, if we can learn to see life and living from His perspective, if we can allow Him to transform our minds and our thinking, God will use our plans to do more than we ever planned to begin with.

That sounds pretty cool to me.

Are your dreams weighing you down? Are your plans too much for you today? Roll them up the ramp and leave them with God. Our lives are too short to spend toiling under the heavy weight of self-inflicted deadlines. Trust God to do what only He can, and move forward with confidence because of who He is.