As many of you know, I have just returned from vacation and a week of continuing education. Vacation is a time for me to do more than rest. It is a time of reflection. I use the time to pray and look back on the year just completed and think about all of the challenges and joys. I also look forward to the year ahead and start making plans about what I want to accomplish, things that I need to adjust and ways that I can grow as a disciple. These reflections are invaluable and I treasure the opportunity to think through these things at a deep level.
If it sounds like I find a tall mountain and climb to the top to get a special, super secret word from God, I apologize. I do not get a gnostic vision of what I should do and where we should be heading. It is simpler than that. Spending the time away from the daily pressures of church life allow me to relax, take a deep breath and simply seek the small still voice of God.
There were several things that I felt God impress on me during my time away. Instead of enumerating them here on this blog, suffice it to say that it was very meaningful to me. Perhaps the most important thing I reflected on was Jesus parable of the four soil or you might know it as the Parable of the Sower. I thought more about the soils than the sower. The disciples were unclear (as was often the case) and ask Jesus to explain what he meant. Luke records the conversation as such:
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:11-15 English Standard Version (ESV)
I have read and reflected on this for many years but this year, God spoke to me directly. The question He asked was “Darrel, what kind of soil are you?” Of course, my immediate answer was “the good soil, Lord!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am not always the good soil. I can see this in the way anxiety, worry and fear can easily enter my heart. How easy it is to receive the word with joy but when the time of testing comes the temptation to think that God has left me enters in. That is not the way God deals with His children. The antidote is simple, even when challenges come our way we are to hold fast to the word with an honest, open, authentic and good heart. When we do this, we will bear fruit.
So I reentered my life at COTHA with a new commitment to enter each day with an expectation that I will be that good soil, holding fast, with a good and humble heart the word of God. Knowing that God is good, all the time!