Persevering to Breakthrough

Living in a northern climate, we are in winter already. Having the blessing of a wood burning fireplace in the family room I have spent some time lately splitting wood. I had some large pieces of birch aging in my backyard for a couple of years. These large logs averaged about 30-35 centimetres across (12-14 inches) and were about 45 centimetres (18 inches) high. I waited until the weather was below freezing to do my splitting because even though there is very little moisture in them, they are easier to split in colder weather.

Given the size of these logs it was a real challenge and I considered getting out the chainsaw to cut them into shorter pieces. However, I never did, I just persevered in my splitting. It is hard work and I split about ten large logs over two sessions. At times I concluded some would simply not split as they had large knots from branches, but then as I persevered, they did. 

If you have spent any time splitting logs you are aware of how difficult it can be. At times the axe gets caught in a log and is hard to extricate. There can be a feeling of futility at times, yes, I felt this. However, the encouragement comes when you see a small crack appear down the side of the log. Even if it is only a quarter of the way you know that if you continue it will get wider and longer and the log will split. At times you will have a very stubborn unyielding piece of log that seems like it will never split and then you strike just the right blow and the pieces seem to burst apart and you now have two or three smaller pieces rather than one large one to deal with. It is much easier to split the remaining smaller pieces.

So, now let us look at how we can draw something of spiritual value from a log splitting experience. In writing this I was thinking of David. His story begins in 1 Samuel 16 where Samuel anointed him as king to replace Saul. In spite of being mocked by some of his older siblings he soon starts his journey to the throne by killing Goliath and subsequently serving Saul. In time out of jealousy Saul drove David away and then over a period of years pursued him to kill him. David had opportunities to kill Saul but refused, trusting the Lord to deal with him.

We pick the story up in 1 Samuel 29. David had fled to seek refuge among the Philistines with king Achish and now all the Philistines were gathering together to battle Israel and David and his men were set to go with them. To this point while seemingly serving Achish David had secretly been venturing out and raiding the enemies of Israel. David however has no way out of this battle with Israel. That is until the other Philistine lords refused to allow David and his men to go with them into the battle against Saul and David and his men are forced to separate from the Philistine army and return to Ziklag.

It is in this pending battle between the Philistines and Israel that Saul and Jonathan will die and the army of Israel will be defeated. David of course does not know this. When he and his men return to their stronghold at Ziklag they discover that the Amalekites have raided their camp, burned their fortress and taken everyone captive, including the families of the men with David.

Consider what David has been through. As a youth he was anointed king, became a warrior, served Saul and served the Lord. Hs loyalty has been rewarded by betrayal, a king hunting him to kill him and being forced to live at various places in the wilderness. In addition to his family and some loyal warriors he has also had the privilege of providing leadership to the discouraged and disgruntled who have come to him from Israel. At this point he is about 30 years of age so it has been well over a decade since he was anointed king and while he now has wives and children he is still a fugitive.

Though David has been faithful in following the Lord what was promised when Samuel anointed him king has certainly not been realized. Now we have the response of those he has been leading when they find their families have been taken captive and their camp burned.

6  Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 1 Samuel 30:6 (NKJV)

David’s own men want to stone him! However David continues his pattern and looks to the Lord. Like trying to split a stubborn log, after all David has been through, though he is unaware of it, his perseverance and faithfulness are about to lead to breakthrough. The Lord is about to undertake on his behalf and deal with Saul. This is David’s final test before becoming king.

In our own lives we likely have unfulfilled promises from the Lord and have had various tests and trials. If we have been faithful to steward these promises then we can anticipate a breakthrough. Let’s look for just a little crack in the log and persevere until we see His hand move on our behalf!

Sowing in any Season

Scripture tells us the following.

12  Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. Genesis 26:12 (NKJV)

The latter part of the verse, ‘and the LORD blessed him’ is one of those ‘no kidding’ statements. To sow seed in a time of famine and reap an abundant harvest requires the Lord’s blessing. Some context is helpful. As the region entered into famine Isaac received a specific word from the Lord.

2  Then the LORD appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. 3  Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4  And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5  because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Genesis 26:2-5 (NKJV)

Isaac was being blessed because of the obedience of his father, Abraham. His later natural harvest was a prophetic picture of the spiritual promise, ‘in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’ We know this was fulfilled when through Jesus salvation was made available to the nations. Applying it to our lives, Jesus our elder brother sowed His life on the cross and reaped the lives of all believers – past, present and future, as a harvest.

Jesus may call us to sow no matter our season. Decades ago I heard a missionary share how the Lord sent him into Cambodia in the late 1970’s when the Khmer Rouge were slaughtering everyone and all the Westerners were fleeing the country (the Khmer Rouge killed 1.5 – 2 million people, roughly a quarter of Cambodia’s population from 1975-78). He saw a great harvest of souls from sowing the gospel in the country against all natural odds.

Jesus calls us to sow seeds and stated the following regarding sowing His own life in the crucifixion.

23  But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:23-25 (NKJV)

As we hear Jesus heart and make a decision to lay down our own lives and agendas let us seek His wisdom for where we are to sow. As we seek where to sow we can reflect on the incredible capacity that lies with seeds. In the image below we see the ongoing fruit of a small seed being sown in a difficult place.

A Right Harvest

Growing up there were nine of us in a small house. There were six of us children, my parents and my grandfather. We lived on the edge of small town and my grandfather had us plant about half an acre of garden every spring. Half was potatoes and the rest a variety of vegetables ranging from corn to cucumbers. Harvesting cucumbers is an unpleasant task, particularly if like me you find even the smell of a fresh cucumber hard to take. However, the harvest was important as we stored carrots, potatoes, turnips and other things over the winter to sustain us and my mother froze or canned many things from the garden.

Just as we do naturally, so spiritually we should desire a bountiful harvest. In our walk with Jesus we will reap what we have sown so being wise in sowing is critical in the process leading to harvest.

So let me go back to growing up and how we arrived at a harvest. As a young boy I much preferred playing with friends or hanging out in the forest by myself rather than working in the garden. Yet there were choices to be made and my mother was good at making them for us! We engaged in a process – the preparing of the soil, the planting of the various seeds, then the weeding and watering that took place over the summer. If all of this was done well and the weather cooperated there was a bountiful harvest in the fall.

Obviously the primary factor in what we harvested depended on what was sown. I like raw rutabaga. If you have never heard of it the vegetable is like a small turnip with, in my opinion, better flavour. However, if we never planted any there wasn’t much point in looking forward to consuming some in the fall.

So now let us look more closely at what we see in scripture about spiritual sowing and reaping. For our purposes the main thing we learn is in Luke 8. Here Jesus placed before us the principle of sowing and reaping and said that what was sown in our hearts was the word, His word.

11  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11 (NKJV)

When we look at the scriptural practice we are assured that when we sow to the spirit we will reap a spiritual harvest if we remain faithful. Paul put it this way.

7  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:7-9 (NKJV)

Paul said we will reap what we sow and Jesus said that what we sow is His word. In being very practical we can look at what we are sowing into our lives regarding healing, revival, holiness or a variety of other spiritual areas. If we are called to evangelism, teaching, intercession or pastoral ministry we will reap in those areas as we sow into them in our lives. We can look at whether we are planting seeds that will produce a harvest of maturity and what we are sowing into our spirit and the lives of those we come in contact with.

One of the things my grandfather did was that coming out of harvest he would begin selecting and preparing seeds for the following spring. He selected the best seeds from the fall to be used in the spring for the next crop. As we reap a spiritual harvest we can look at how we can reinvest our seed through time in His word, in prayer, in sitting with Him and in loving Him.

We choose our harvest by selecting where and what we sow.

Love and Truth

In our current rancorous and escalating culture wars the greatest casualty seems to be truth. Jesus walked in unconditional love. John said that God is love and I think that those of us who know Him would agree. Even many who don’t know Him extol Jesus as an example of love. What I think we can miss if we are not careful is that Jesus also walked on the earth in uncompromising truth! The idea of truth is highlighted in the scriptures below.

10  Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. 11  Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12  Yes, the LORD will give what is good; And our land will yield its increase. 13  Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway. Psalm 85:10-13 (NKJV)

16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 (NKJV)

In Psalm 85 above truth and righteousness are linked. Righteousness conveys the idea of right conduct but it is right conduct based on His standards not ours, for example the moral precepts in the Ten Commandments or the calls to godly living in the Sermon on the Mount. We see examples of this in Jesus earthly ministry. He called us to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and said our priority should be to seek above other things His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). When we do this we are embracing truth because we cannot separate truth from righteousness.

We can see more in the gospels because Jesus didn’t avoid difficult truths. In the reference from John grace and truth are linked. Jesus graciously offers forgiveness if we fail and sin but He provide no license to continue in it. In the well-known example of the woman caught in adultery we see Jesus grace and mercy when He does not condemn the woman but instead offers forgiveness. However consider His parting words to the woman “go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). Jesus called her sin what it was, sin.

Another example from John is the man who was healed at the Pool of Bethesda. Jesus healed the man and left but later sought him out and challenged him.

14  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14 (NKJV)

The truth is that sin has consequences and in a season when we are being told by our culture to not judge or challenge popular cultural we need to embrace our calling to follow Jesus and speak truth. As Jesus did and Paul exhorted (Eph. 4:15) we are to speak the truth in love, but we are called to speak. When we respond to the call of Jesus to demonstrate both love and truth then truth springs out of the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven.