Thursday, February 21, 2013

Every Seed Must Die

So here I am again, facing another challenge in my health.  I found a new lump and so next week, after getting my regular eight week CT, my doctor and I will decide how to proceed.  People have expressed their sympathy and asked how I am.  I reply that I am perfectly at peace about this.  Really, I am.  I am more at peace about this than anything else in my life.  I put up a stink about all the petty inconveniences of this life and the many vagaries of everyday living, but about this I am perfectly at peace.  Why you ask?  The Almighty Father still sits on his throne and I relinquish my life to his most capable hands.

How have I gotten to this point?  Kicking and screaming, I must confess.  You see, every struggle is an opportunity to die to self, which is a necessary prerequisite to growth.  It is one of life’s many ironies that life requires death, but then life in Christ means accepting the greatest ironies of all time—that an ugly instrument of death, the cross, brings abundant life. 

Christ makes this truth perfectly clear in John 12:24–25, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”    Before a plant can grow, the seed gives its life, breaking apart to bring forth life.   Our self must die, that is we must give up our self-will, before God can bring forth life.  

What makes a struggle a struggle is that our will is desperately pulling in one direction in opposition to what God wants.  If it weren’t, then it wouldn’t be called a struggle.  The more we try to assert self will, the more struggle there is.  Which is not to say that even if we totally surrender, there isn’t pain.  No, one of the most basic of all truths is that dying hurts.

Sometimes that growth takes a long time.  It is at this time that we must trust that God is faithful to our sacrifices and growth will happen in his due time.  Scientists have found long dormant seeds that are capable of growth if given the right environment, some as old as 10,000 years.*   Those favorable conditions, of course, are abiding in Christ’s love (the sun) and the Word (water).  Then in his timing (Ah, there is the rub) growth will happen. 

It is very difficult, however, to wait on the Lord.  But his timing is not ours.  He has all of eternity as his battlefield.  (I know I am mixing metaphors here).  Whereas we would go for the quickest route to victory, God knows that quick doesn’t always bring success.  It may gain us some ground in the short run, but doesn’t always bring victory in the end.  Victory involves our maturity into people that resemble Jesus Christ and this takes time.   And make no mistake; it is only through God that victory is achieved.  Psalm 44:3 says:

It was not by their sword that they won the land,
    nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
    and the light of your face, for you loved them.

What is our reward for victory (besides growth into maturity)?  Besides the peace and comfort that comes from the father throughout the struggle, which I have written of at great length, there is the victory we will experience in heaven when he says to us “Good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21) and we get our jewels in our crowns. (Ps 149:4).

We will also experience rest.  Mathew 11: 28 says: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  The yoke here is the Cross (Luke 9:23).   The cross is where Christ denied his will for the sake of the Father’s will unto death.  We too are asked to deny ourselves and take up our cross.  That cross is different for everybody, but ultimately it is the point where our will clashes the most with God’s will for our lives.  Mine happens to be Cancer.  I have had my own garden of Gethsemane where I prayed for this cup to be taken from me. Still, I know it will also be my greatest source of victory!  When you come to this realization it is such a place of freedom and joy that you get to experience victory even in the midst of your struggle.  This is truly blooming where you are planted!

So every struggle, no matter how small or large, is on opportunity to die to self.  We should ask,  “What is God’s will in this?” and “What do I need to learn from this?” and trust that, in the long run, the Lord will use every opportunity to bring Good to us. 

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

The perfect picture of this is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I like the account in Luke because it highlights his anguish so well:

Luke 22:41-43

41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was in so much anguish that he sweated blood!  Dying to self doesn’t come naturally and is not without struggle.  We must give ourselves some slack if we don’t at first react with gentle submission. 

But there are some things to remember in this passage.  First, an angel from heaven appeared to him to strengthen him.  In the same way, God will provide us strength to endure the struggle and to relinquish our will.  It is, again, irony that it takes great strength to give up, but here it is.

Second, the struggle caused Jesus to pray more earnestly.  When we experience struggle, we must step up the prayers in a fierce way.   It is on our knees that we are closest to the altar.   It is on our knees that we are strongest.   Dear friends, join me in praying:

I am the seed, oh Lord,
In Love, Press me to you
so that I may die,
That in that dance
 my shell of a heart may break,
to be born again
in the green growing of life in you.

Ephesians 3: 16-19

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 *Taylor, Joanne. Seeds for success, Pt. 2: A seed must die before it grows.”  13 April 2010.