I cant think of an area of life in which ones ability to persevere through hardship is not a critical factor for success. Think about it. Whether it be in relationships with family or friends; job or career directions; schooling, raising of children; recreation, hobbies, sports, health; and certainly in all areas of spiritual growth and fruitfulness our commitment to continue steadfast in our decisions greatly influences the outcome. Weve all heard tales of heroes who have endured insurmountable odds or refused to give up in the face of apparent defeat. Their examples always inspire us, but when it comes our turn to walk through a valley its surprising how powerful the desire to quit can be. Its one thing to admire those who endure hardship, its another to do it. Yet, if we never learn to overcome well miss out on so much God has planned for us.
In todays lesson Jesus issues a powerful warning to all who wish to become His disciples. He says those who cant endure hardship will be completely ineffective at doing Gods work. So every one of us who intends to fulfill Gods plan for our life must learn to persevere. The desire is not enough. There are too many forces set against us. Only when that desire is reinforced with wisdom will we be able to succeed.
A. The Encounters (vs 57-61)
- (Note: v 9:51) Jesus knows His time is short now. The days are approaching for His lifting up and He (firmly fixed) set His face to go to Jerusalem. These encounters take place about six months before the cross. Hes on His way to the Feast of Tabernacles.
- (Note: v 10:1) He is also about to initiate discipleship training in earnest. Seventy will be selected and sent out in pairs. There isnt time to go home and come back later.
B. The Illustration (v 62)
1. Q: What does it mean to be fit (well-placed, suitable, usable) for the Kingdom of God?
A: Serviceable, useful in doing Gods work.
2. Q: What does putting his hand to the plow mean?
A: Stepping out and doing what God has asked me to do.
3. Q: What does it mean to look back?
A: Wanting to quit and return to the things I left behind.
God allows people to reflect and prepare themselves, but moments arrive when a decision must be made, and it must be made with the understanding there is no turning back.
- Gods word to me: Youre a son, not a slave so I wont force your decisions. But be careful what you choose because what you start you must finish
- How long do I plow? Until the field is complete (Gods victory is obvious and you dont want to leave anymore).
Restatement: So in order to serve God effectively I must fully commit to the things He asks me to do, and refuse to quit until the assignment is complete.
C. The Problem: He asks us to do things that require superhuman strength.
I face a field full of:
- Spiritual opposition
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Family opposition
- Frustratingly long seasons of waiting
- Temptation to envy those who are living self-indulgent lives
- Unexpected changes (unforeseen circumstances)
God doesnt ask us to do things that are hard. He asks us to do things that are impossible.
- If you look at yourself and say, I cant do that! you would be correct.
- The Kingdom of God is not built by us doing what we can for God. Its built by God doing what He can through us (He always plans to do a miracle).
D. The Pillars
Q: How is it possible for me to persevere until the field is plowed when there is so much set against me?
A: By ensuring that these three pillars of wisdom are in place to support my decision:
Gods call: The inner conviction that God has asked me to serve Him in a certain way, in a certain place, at a certain time.
- The power of call is the knowledge that God initiated what I am doing not me.
- When troubles come the doubt arises, Maybe I should never have started this
- The importance of call applies to many areas including:
- Job, career
- Children (do we want kids?)
Gods community: We are not meant to serve alone. I must have standing beside me those who know me at a heart level, support me in prayer and believe in my call. (see: 10:1)
Contact between me and the Vine (Jn 15:4). I must have a genuine communicative relationship with Jesus through worship and prayer.
I need to hear His call over and over again. I need His strength, comfort, guidance, love, peace, protection, provision over and over again.
E. The Harvest
You dont plow a field just to plow it. You break up the soil so it can be planted and grow a crop. If we refuse to quit the assignments God gives us we can always expect a harvest. Our perseverance buys God time to work.
Remember: He changes things organically, not magically. He parents us into change, not alters our brains. This is often why His work takes so long.
- He respects our free-will but works with us until we see the truth (removes the demonic deception, grants revelation, arranges events)
- Old Avocado Tree
- 1Co 13:7 - love suffers long (v 4) because it covers
1. Describe a situation where you agreed to do something and then found the circumstances were very different then you first thought. How did you feel when you first discovered this?
2. Its important to distinguish between things God calls us to do, and messes we get ourselves into. Describe a mess you got yourself into. How did you get out? (Lets leave the topic of painful marriages out of this answer.)
3. Describe something you know God has called you to do (if youre aware of one).
4. Identify someone who is part of your community (see: pillar #2).