Tags: Biblical evangelism, Biblical hope, Biblical patience, Biblical waiting, evangelism, farming, Isaiah 40, Lamentations 3, soulwinning
In a comparison between the principles of farming and the principle of Biblical evangelism, we have noted the importance of planting, watering, weeding, and watching, all of which are necessary if we are to see an agricultural harvest OR a spiritual harvest of souls brought to Christ. Now we will deal with possibly the most difficult task for a farmer who is zealous and anxious to reap the fruit of his time and labor: the waiting.
For a farmer, obviously, every day is not harvest day. And, although harvest day is a day of great rejoicing and satisfaction, the experienced farmer will learn the principle of patience while he is waiting for it to arrive. In the same way, those who wait upon the Lord’s salvation, rather than getting frustrated, must learn to adopt an attitude of expectancy tempered by contentment. It is also important to remember that Biblical “waiting” is often “active waiting,” as paradoxical as that might sound. Waiting upon the Lord is more like the waiting done by a waiter in a busy restaurant than the waiting done by an exasperated patient in the waiting room of a medical office three hours after the appointment time while the doctor finishes a round of golf.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
“Waiting” upon the Lord involves walking, running, and even soaring, as we look forward with Biblical hope (a knowledge-based AND faith-based assurance that He will keep His promises in His perfect timing).
The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
Tags: Biblical evangelism, Biblical farming, Ephesians 6, evangelism, farming, Jesus Christ, Luke 12, night watchmen, parable of the wise steward, watchfulness
Usually when we see the word “watching” in the Bible it refers to something more than just idly looking at something. It typically has the connotation that we think of in connection with a night “watchman,” someone who is actively trying to stay alert, awake, and on guard, keeping a lookout for some sign that could mean either trouble or glad tidings.
Because the Bible sometimes uses the metaphor of farming in connection with Biblical evangelism, we have already noted that good farmers are concerned with planting, watering, and weeding. It would be nearly unthinkable to imagine a farmer, whose livelihood depended on a successful harvest, planting with care, watering diligently, pulling up weeds with zealous regularity, but failing to keep an eye on his crop, being oblivious to harmful insects, marauders, bad weather on the horizon, or sundry other forms of trouble that might befall his fields of produce. Therefore, we might apply the same principle to evangelism.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Luke 12:35-40 (emphasis added)
No one likes to get caught loafing. Because the Lord has given us a serious responsibility, and because we know the time to accomplish it is limited, and because we know that the day of accounting could come unexpectedly, we need to be serving Him faithfully, diligently, actively, obediently, and warily.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Ephesians 6:18 (emphasis added)
We do well to pray, but our custom of praying with our eyes closed must not be a hindrance to our engagement in the reality of spiritual warfare.
Faithful farmers hope that God sends rain, protection, and favorable conditions, but they also know that He expects them to be on guard, prepared to spring into action at the first signs of infestation, unexpected trouble, or the ripeness that means it’s time to harvest.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, church planting, commentary on Matthew, evangelism, Hebrews 12, Matthew 13, soulwinning, soulwinning training, Sunday School lessons on Matthew, tips for soulwinning
One aspect that tends to be overlooked, though, is the principle of “weeding.” Sometimes the seed of the Gospel can be planted, but thorny weeds tend to choke out growth before strong and true roots can be established.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
Jesus warned us not to treat professing brothers and sisters in the faith as though they need to be pulled up and thrown out like weeds masquerading as fruitful plants, even if we suspect they may be false professors, although certainly God knows those who are truly His and will sort them out at the proper time.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
When it comes to pulling things up by the roots, we need to be mainly focused on our own hearts, because the weed of bitterness can easily spring up before we realize it, and it will serve not only as a an obstacle across our own path, but it will cause others to stumble and fall, as well.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
So, while we need to exercise great care with those who have heard, and may be considering, the Good News about Jesus and His salvation, there might indeed be a need, along with the need for planting, watering, and harvesting, to do a little weed-pulling in our evangelistic efforts. A diligent farmer checks his field regularly for unwanted weeds which steal nutrients, sunlight, and room to grow from the crop he has planted and watered. In our soulwinning ministry, we need preaching planters, wise waterers, and holy harvesters, but we also need winsome weeders. Be a good friend to those who have heard the Gospel but have not yet believed. Invite them to investigate the Truth of the Bible more closely, answer their questions, and do what the Lord allows you to do to eliminate worldly, sinful, and Satanic distractions while the Holy Spirit does His work.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, Biblical gardening, commentary on 1 Corinthians, commentary on Psalms, farming, gardening, Jeremiah 17, Psalm 1, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
You may have heard the term “church planting.” We tend to describe the work that goes into the establishment of a local Christian church assembly in a new location with this agrarian terminology because this was how the Holy Spirit taught Paul and the first Apostles to think of it.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
I Corinthians 3:5-6
It makes sense that, in doing the work of ministry – in winning new converts to Christ and in establishing local churches – that the planting comes first, and then the watering. Anyone who knows anything about farming or gardening would know that it makes little sense to water a seed, and then bury it in parched earth. That does not mean, however, that the watering is less important than the planting. Both are vital to the laying-down of foundational roots and new growth.
The word translated as “watered” in I Corinthians 3 is potizo, and it does not mean to simply pour water on something for the purpose of getting it wet. It has the idea of “watering” in the sense that a herdsman “waters” cattle. It is the pouring of water as an offering, invitation, or encouragement to DRINK.
When we are “watering” new converts, we don’t want to blast them with a fire hose in the hopes of getting them clean, and we don’t want to dunk them merely for the purpose of a spiritual bath. We should water them with the Word of God, with kindness, love, fellowship, camaraderie, and encouragement.
Our desire is to grow strong trees, drawing their hydration from the life-giving water of Christ Himself, not fleetingly-damp tumbleweeds, who sipped in enough moisture to barely count as vegetation, only to be blown away, out of sight and out of mind.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, carnal Christians, childishness, Christian maturity, church, commentary on 1 Corinthians, factions, Jesus Christ, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
The Knows sometimes behave like Know-Nots. This was another one of the chief problems in the church of Corinth. In I Corinthians Chapter 2 Paul had defended his method of preaching and the message he preached. In Chapter 3 he once again takes up the problem of factions and fighting among the church members. He ties the ideas together by addressing the accusation that his message (the Gospel) and his method (simple preaching) were too simple.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ.
I Corinthians 3:1
Paul said that he had spoken to them very simply with a very elementary version of the message because they were obviously babies. You may have heard the term “carnal Christians” or maybe not. It was very much in vogue for a while, but in more recent times it has come under attack. On one side are those who say every professing Christian who lives carnally must still be considered a true Christian because of his profession. On the other side are those who say that the profession of those who live carnally must be false. I Corinthians Chapter 3 has nothing kind to say about carnal Christians, but it certainly proves that there is such a thing (“brethren” who are “carnal”).
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.
I Corinthians 3:2
Milk is good for babies, but, whether good or not, it is necessary because it is all babies can handle. Basic Christian doctrine can be both milk (for baby Christians) and meat (for mature Christians), but there is also a sense in which it can be seen as needing to be controlled by the givers of the milk rather than offered freely and received according to maturity level by the receivers of milk. The Roman Catholic church grew apostate partly over this doctrine, known as the Disciplina Arcani, the doctrine of the “hidden essence.” Lay people shouldn’t be trusted, they say, with the unadulterated Word of God. God says otherwise.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
I Corinthians 3:3
Verse 3 sounds as if was written as a scolding – albeit a scolding-in-love. “Divisions” especially speaks of a spirit of “side-choosing” – factions or “parties.” Such divisions are not only troublesome among the church, and not only irritating and time-consuming for the leadership and those caught in the middle, but they ruin the testimony of the Church of Christ. Why would an outsider seeking an earthly representation of the Kingdom of Christ want to join your local church assembly if the members “walked like men,” meaning they lived just like every other worldly, non-Christian person? The distinction here is not a literal distinction between immature children and mature adults, but between regenerated spiritual believers who should be united around sound doctrine, and ungodly pagans who squabble childishly over personal recognition and preferences.
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
I Corinthians 3:4
Can you hear the sing-song connotation of childishness in Verse 4 as each petty party-member calls out his or her favorite church leader by name? Paul tries to put a stop to it in Verse 5.
Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
I Corinthians 3:5
Paul, who, among all his virtues, really stands out for his humility, is not being falsely modest when he denigrates his own personality as being completely unworthy of any party allegiance, and he illustrates this with a familiar Bible example: a vineyard or a farmer’s field.
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
I Corinthians 3:6-7
Planting and watering are menial tasks compared with the power of God, Who actually gives the increase. Charles Hodge, in his commentary on I Corinthians, wrote that the Holy Spirit’s point here is, “Ministers are nothing.”
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
I Corinthians 3:8
Not only is the work of Christian ministers remedial and replaceable from God’s perspective, but their personalities are in a sense consumed corporately into the same goal: the fulfillment of the Owner’s plans and desires.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.
I Corinthians 3:9
We are both the tools and the building. We are what God uses, and we are supposed to be the habitation in which He is pleased to dwell and show His glory. Remember, the Knows have only received their “know-how” purely as a gift.
Growth requires different types of workers (diversity), but diversity requires unity (working toward the same goal). Unity requires humility.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
I Corinthians 3:10
We can be “wise masterbuilders,” but we must build on the foundation already laid, and we have to “take heed” to be careful how we build. We can put our “wisdom” to use in building relationships or even just gaining an audience, but we can’t deviate from the foundation of Christ or the foundation of His Person and work in the Gospel any more than a door framer can frame the door 30 feet from the slab, or than the cabinetry workers can build cabinets in mid-air above the slab.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11
The beauty of God’s building is a byproduct of its strength. Its foundation is Christ and the Truth about Himself. This is the “rock” upon which He builds His church.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The building must have the right foundation, and only the right doctrine (precious jewels and materials) must be used to build it.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
I Corinthians 3:12
Gold, silver, and precious stones like granite and marble were used in temples, but wood for the doors and posts, hay for the walls, and stubble or straw for the roof were used in common houses.
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
I Corinthians 3:13
The day of the Lord will be revealed by Jesus appearing in fire. It will be a time of harsh testing, and then the wood, hay, and stubble will burn, and the gold and silver and precious stones will be purified. False teaching will be revealed. False doctrine will be exposed. There will be no disputing or confusion in that day of fiery judgment.
I. Knowers (I Corinthians 3:1-4)
A. New believers feed on Bible facts.
B. Mature believers feed on Bible doctrine.
II. Growers (I Corinthians 3:5-9)
A. Growth requires diversity.
B. Diversity requires unity.
C. Unity requires humility.
III. Showers (I Corinthians 3:10-13)
A. The beauty of God’s building is a by-product of its strength.
B. It must have the right foundation, and it must be built with the right materials.
C. False teaching will be revealed and false doctrine will be exposed in a future judgment.
Tags: commentary on Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes 11, investing, James 1, old age, senior citizens, Sunday School lessons on Ecclesiastes, the elderly, youth
The Book of Ecclesiastes takes a hard look at life “under the sun:” life from a mortal, earthly, finite perspective. This viewpoint may be contrasted with life “over the sun:” life from an eternal, Heavenly, infinite perspective.
Under the sun, life is monotonous; over the sun, it’s adventurous. Under the sun, wisdom is vain; over the sun, wisdom is extremely useful. Under the sun, wealth is futile; over the sun, wealth opens up great opportunities. Under the sun, death is certain; over the sun, death provides great motivation. The Christian life can be compared to a puzzle, a battle, a challenge, a race, a treasure hunt, or a pilgrimage. None of these are monotonous or boring. They are the stuff of true adventure.
In Ecclesiastes Chapter 11 Solomon sees life as an investment.
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
Specifically, he compares it to a business or farming venture.
If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
Farming is a noble vocation. Farmers can take satisfaction in hard work and just trust God for the results. But being a shipping merchant and a farmer both require risk, faith in God, and patience.
Then Solomon goes on to recognize that “youth” is a special time in life.
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
God could create each new person fully grown, the way He did with Adam and Eve, but He has chosen to make life a progression, and that progression is one of His special gifts.
Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
Youth is for enjoyment, but it also for preparation for adulthood. I don’t like the term “teenager,” because it is a modern marketing invention based upon a false evolutionary model of “adolescence.” In the Bible there are “children,” then there are “men” and “women.” There is no special “in-between” category. However, as we think about the pre-adult years, we recognize that they can be a time of joy or a time of misery. If you are a young adult, enjoy the energy and the freedom you have before your body begins to deteriorate and the responsibilities of life begin to drain you. The Christian life is not geared toward earthly retirement. Our “retirement” will be in Heaven, and even that will be full of activity. The unique thing about “youth” is that it is a time of life that, once past, does not come back again.
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
The “keepers of the house” are your arms and legs. The “bowing” is indicative of bent knees and stooped shoulders. “Grinders” are teeth. “Windows” are eyes.
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
“The doors shall be shut” means that you keep your mouth closed because you’ve lost your teeth. “The sound of grinding is low” because you can no longer chew your food. “Rising up at the voice of the bird” is in recognition of the trouble that elderly people have sleeping. “The daughters of music brought low” means that your voice has started to quaver.
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
The fear “of that which is high” means the fear that elderly people have of falling down. The “flourishing almond tree” is white hair. The burdened “grasshopper” is a picture of dragging yourself along at the end of summer. The “desire” which shall fail is the loss of some of the concupiscible desires (sex and appetite). The “long home” is eternity.
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Several images are given of things which are as fragile as an elderly person’s life.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
James 1:19-21 (emphasis added)
Tags: blood from a stone, blood from a turnip, blood of Jesus, Cain and Abel, common expressions, common expressions from the Bible, Genesis 4, The Rifleman
If you are trying to convince someone to give you something that he simply does not have, or does not have access to, the person you are entreating might respond, “You can’t get blood from a stone.” It’s a way of saying, “No matter how hard you ‘squeeze’ me, it won’t do any good.” It is unclear whether this expression came before or after the expression, “You can’t get blood from a turnip,” which means the same thing.
If the “turnip” expression came first, it might have originally been a reference to the Bible’s account of Cain and Abel.
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
Abel’s offering was a “blood” offering. This is probably significant as a type or foreshadowing of the kind of sacrifice that God required for sin. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. The price of our redemption was the precious blood of Christ.
We may infer that Abel’s offering was a more “obedient” offering than Cain’s. Surely Cain and Abel would have been aware that God had slain animals in order to cover the sin of Adam and Eve. Abel’s offering was a “faith” offering.
I know that the typical teaching concerning the offerings is that Cain’s offering was a “works” offering, contrasted with Abel’s “faith” offering, but it seems to me that “the fruit of the ground” (which might have included a turnip or two for all we know) was no more a product of Cain’s “work” than Abel’s care of the sheep from which he obtained his offering. I can “grow” turnips or “raise” sheep, but neither one of them really prosper by my own power. God is the one who makes things grow and reproduce. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that Abel and Cain had different “jobs.” Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the ground. If you grew up watching the television show, “The Rifleman,” then you might consider Abel to be a “rancher” and Cain to be a “farmer.” Lucas McCain, the main character of “The Rifleman,” used to take his fair share of grief from ranchers, who resented him for his perceived meekness and possibly for fencing off the land around his property.
Invariably one of these “tough” cowboys would call McCain a “sodbuster” and McCain would fill him full of lead with his modified repeating rifle. In the Biblical narrative Cain was the “sodbuster” but he is the villain rather than the hero of Genesis 4.
I would argue that what made Abel’s faith offering more righteous than Cain’s had more to do with the fact that Abel did it “God’s way” and Cain did it “Cain’s way.” Cain got his hands “dirty,” while Abel got his hands “bloody.”
Let us beware of trying to please God our “own way.” God is not impressed with our self-generated ideas. To try to achieve righteousness before God in any way other than the Way He has specifically ordained is like trying to get blood from a turnip: absolutely useless. The only place to find the blood that’s acceptable to God is from the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – Whose blood has been shed for the remission of our sins.
Tags: Biblical encouragement, Christian maturity, encouragement, Hebrews 6, new Christians, Proverbs 20, Proverbs 24, pulling weeds, Romans 2, spiritual growth
Hebrews Chapter 6 is a good reminder to Christians to “grow up.” It’s natural to start off life as a child, and it’s natural for new believers to start off their Christian life as spiritual children. But there should come a point in time when every believer begins to mature. And, even beyond that, there should come a time when mature believers are actually aiding immature believers in the growth process.
Proper growth comes about from:
1. Feeding (on the Word of God)
2. Exercise (getting involved in Christian ministry or service)
3. Instruction (heeding warnings to stay away from what is dangerous)
I believe God is pleased when we show love and encouragement to new believers. First of all, it is the right thing to do. Second, it stimulates growth.
In order to encourage others to grow, we need to make sure we’re growing ourselves.
Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
If the people you are ministering to start to outgrow you spiritually, that is not the ideal situation. One solution for this is staying grounded in the Word of God. When you encourage someone, encourage them from the Word. Experiences can be good, but the standard by which we judge our experiences is the Bible. Study your Bible.
When you minister to immature believers it is also important to find out where their interests lie. If possible, find out what’s going on at their homes. This is especially true with children.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
God gave us eyes and ears not just to entertain ourselves, but so we can observe who needs to be encouraged, and then do it.
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
The “slothful” is like a farmer who is too lazy to work the field God has given him. He is purposely ignorant, willfully ignoring the vineyard.
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
The vines are not growing like they are supposed to because of all the useless weeds that have come up and stolen the nutrients that should be causing good fruit to grow. The wall around the vineyard is no longer in a condition to stop wild animals or vandals from coming in and destroying the crop.
Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
The farmer says that he will get around to it after he’s a little more rested – after his schedule clears up.
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
The lazy farmer will be robbed of his opportunity.
If you have been a Christian for a while, God has put you in a position to encourage someone. You have an opportunity to build someone up – to keep the fences of protection mended, to stimulate growth in someone, to feed someone, to pull out the weeds and thorns, to get in on the job of raising up mature Christians.
We’re not going to be able to do that if we don’t encourage them. And we won’t be able to do it by just checking in with them for one hour on Sundays. We’re going to have to call, to send cards, to invite them to activities, to visit them when they’re sick. Immature Christians tend to, for good or ill, base what they think about the Lord on what they think about other Christians. If I’m always late for church, I’m sending a message to someone that church is just not all that important to me. If I don’t know some basic truths from the Bible, I’m sending a message that preparing to live out God’s Word is not that important to me. If I only speak to my Christian friends on Sunday morning at church, I’m sending the message that I am only pretending to care about them.
Let’s strive to encourage other Christians, especially new ones.
Tags: Acts 9, cattle prods, Ezekiel 36, Hebrews 10, Hebrews 12, Jeremiah 4, Judges 3, Judges 5, Luke 9, paroxysm, Shamgar, spiritual warfare
Last time we looked at the background information on Shamgar and his ox-goad (or cattle prod), which you can read about in Judges 3:31 and 5:6. Here are three comparisons between Shamgar’s prod, which he used as a weapon, and the weapons of our spiritual warfare today:
1. A prod is used in provoking.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Before the Apostle Paul became the Apostle Paul he was the dreaded Saul of Tarsus, the scourge of the early Christian church, and one day he was charging down the road to Damascus like an angry bull. Suddenly, he felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been prodded by the Holy Spirit?
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added
The Greek word which is translated as “provoke” in Hebrews 10:24 is paroxysmos, from which we get the word “paroxysm,” and which means “a violent fit.” This shows how serious and earnest and even urgent we are to be as we provoke each other to love and to good works. The Holy Spirit prodded Saul as he was traveling to attack Christians, but we, as Christians today, are supposed to prod each other and exhort each other to get into the battle and fight our enemy, Satan.
2. A prod is used in plowing.
For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
Jeremiah 4:3, emphasis added
If you’ve ever done any farming or gardening, you know that ground must be broken up before seeds can be planted.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
In addition to breaking up the ground before planting, there are usually stones which must be removed from the earth before the ground is soft and useful.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Plowing is not a one-time-only event for a farmer. Plowing is continuous work in the life of a farmer. Allowing the Holy Spirit to use us to break up hard hearts, to remove stony obstacles, and to stay busy moving forward in the Christian life are all important parts of our spiritual warfare.
3. A prod is used in purifying.
Remember that part of Shamgar’s prod (ox-goad) was used for cleaning off dirt. There was a sharp point on the front end and a small spade on the back end. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s role in cleaning out the sin in our lives so that we can be pure and used of God. The part of the prod that cleans the plow also makes the plow lighter, thereby making it work better and more efficiently. As a Christian I certainly want to be free from sin, but there are many things which may not necessarily be sinful in and of themselves. These things become a problem when they consume my attention and energy, and take me out of the battle that Christ wants me to be fighting.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
The Holy Spirit may be speaking to us right now and telling us to lay aside every weight that would keep us from finishing the work in our assigned field.
CONCLUSION AND REVIEW
A prod is a strange weapon, but Shamgar lived in a time when the Philistines had taken away all the Israelites’ conventional weapons (I Samuel 13:19). I am afraid that the world and the devil are stripping Christians of our weapons today. The world may take away public prayer, Bible study in the schools, the right to speak out at work, but, if and when that happens, will you take your “prod” and use it for the Lord? Our warfare and our weapons are not conventional because we are in a spiritual, not a physical, war. Does your automobile become a strange weapon when you use it to drive to someone’s house to tell them about Jesus or to the hospital to pray for a sick person? Do your shoes become strange weapons when you wear them to walk up and down the streets of your neighborhood, inviting folks to church and sharing the Gospel? Is a pecan pie a spiritual weapon when you bake it and take it to your neighbor who needs a friend in times of trouble? Is your telephone a strange weapon when you use it to call someone who hasn’t been to Sunday School in a while and invite them to come back? Will you take whatever is at hand to provoke, to plough, to purify?
Tags: cattle prods, Judges 17, Judges 21, Judges 3, Judges 5, ox goads, Shamgar, Shamgar's ox-goad, spiritual warfare, weapons of spiritual warfare
Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher
Lesson One: The Prod
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND HISTORICAL SETTING
And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.
This verse interrupts the suspenseful tale of Ehud and Eglon the way a breaking news story will sometimes interrupt a television program. The breaking news story that day was about a man named Shamgar. The Bible does not tell us a great deal about him. Judges 3:31 and Judges 5:6 are the only Verses in the Bible about him.
In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.
Shamgar was apparently honored, because the Bible refers to “the days of Shamgar” in the same way that our secular history books speak of “the Roosevelt years” or “the Reagan years” or “Victorian England.”
Because of the honor afforded to Shamgar and because his account is given in the Book of Judges, it is possible that Shamgar was a judge, although he is not called a “judge” in the Bible.
Judges 5:6 also tells how dangerous the land of Canaan was in those days. It says that “the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways.” In other words, travelers had to sneak around the country to avoid the perils that came with being out in the open or away from inhabited areas in a lawless land.
This is a good place to pause and review this important lesson from the days when these events took place. In the days which are recorded in the Book of Judges, every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25 say almost the same thing, and that is one of the main themes in the Book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” In that respect, it reminds us of America today. We do not live in a society where there are no laws, and for that we may be thankful, but certainly today the most common barometer for a person’s behavior when it comes to moral matters is “what is right in his own eyes.”
When Shamgar appeared on the scene, the Philistines were seriously oppressing God’s people. The reason for this is that God’s people were not acting like God’s people. In fact, the name “Shamgar” isn’t a Hebrew name. Shamgar is called the son of Anath, and Anath was a Canaanite goddess. She was the goddess of sex and war, and she was worshiped as the wife and sister of the false god, Baal. Therefore, it is possible that Shamgar was from a very worldly family. Being raised in a worldly household is certainly not a positive thing, but the fact that God used Shamgar in a great way should be an encouragement to those today who are Christians, but who did not have the advantage of being raised in a godly family. God can choose you and God can use you regardless of your background or upbringing.
Shamgar was probably a simple farmer, not noble or wealthy, but one day something caused Shamgar to rise up on behalf of God and kill 600 Philistines with a very strange weapon. This weapon was his ox-goad – what we would call a cattle prod. It was a tool that was probably between five and ten feet long. It would have had a sharp iron point on one end and a small shovel or spade on the other end. The sharp point was used to keep the oxen moving while plowing and the spade was used for cleaning the plow which the oxen pulled.
This prod was a useful tool, but it made a strange weapon. Keeping this background information in mind, next time I will make three comparisons between Shamgar’s prod, which he used as a weapon, and the weapons of our spiritual warfare today. The prod was a strange weapon, and the weapons which God will use in our lives today as we wage spiritual warfare may seem just as strange.