What keeps us from finishing strong?
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7 (NIV)
In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus explains to the disciples what he meant by the Parable of the Sower (13:3-8):
“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23 (NIV)
Pastor Eli pointed out that the soil determined the success of the seed. There was never anything wrong with the seed - it's all about the soil. In the book of Matthew, Jesus describes four types of soil (aka how we receive the Word of God). None of the other seeds produced fruit except the one planted in good soil. It's the soil of our soul that determines what happens with the seed that is given to us.
We need to ask ourselves: What soil am I?
God doesn’t care the size of the plant or the seed - He cares about what you produce. He highlights on production in Mark, as well, with the fig tree. Because the fig tree only held the appearance of a healthy fig tree, yet produced no fruit, Jesus cursed it so it could not grow anymore.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11:12-14 (NIV)
So if Jesus speaks of reproduction, we know that it’s important for our lives too. Are you only focused on growing and not reproducing? Or do you see your growth as a gateway to reproduce? If we want to finish strong, we have to reproducers, not just growers.
What good is it to grow if you never reproduce?
“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
As Christians, we don’t want to only grow in our faith—we want to reproduce ourselves in others. In 1 Corinthians 4:17, we see that Paul knew the importance of this with Timothy. He reproduced himself in Timothy so that Timothy could carry on Paul's legacy and go where Paul had never gone before. It’s not just about growing; it’s about reproducing.
A humble heart enables you to receive from the word of God.
Many people will say that they are “not getting fed,” but if we were to look a layer deeper, maybe it was more because these people never came hungry in the first place. If we are hungry for the Word of God, we can receive from God in even something as silly as VeggieTales, a children's show. It doesn't matter how good or poor the Word is communicated - Are you hungry for the Word of God outside of Sunday?
In order to even put ourselves in a position of receptivity, we need to plant and let our roots run deep. Pastor Eli gave us a picture of this comparing planting a tree where it has room to grow roots, versus planting a tree in a pot where it can be moved around and roots only grow as deep as the pot.
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 'The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.'” Psalms 92:12-15 (NIV)
As we see in Psalms, it is the one who is planted in the House of the Lord whom flourishes. These are the ones who still bear fruit in old age, staying fresh and green. When we uproot our lives and go from one church to another based on our wavering feelings, we don’t grow roots. We don’t flourish.
Once we plant, just as a plant gets it resources from the sun (photosynthesis) and water in the soil (sky and earth)—we get our resources from the Son (the Trinity) and our soil (our family around us in the house we plant in). It’s here that our dull edges are sharpened, and we truly flourish. It’s more than a social club—it’s a Godly sealed community of covenant.
Is your conduct worth replicating?
But we don’t stop there. Remember, we are reproducers, not solely growers. We replicate, just as Paul did with Timothy. The Godly process consumes to then contribute, just as a plant does when it goes on to give its surrounding environment oxygen to breathe. We assume responsibility and become a father and mother to those on our left and right. We find someone younger than us physically or spiritually and we become their friend and walk through life closely with them, breathing spiritual life into their lungs.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV)
Paul is not just a pastor, he's a father. The thing that is going to derail the church the most is wanting teachers and not fathers. Fathers reproduce. We need to be planted in the House of the Lord not just to grow, but to reproduce and bear fruit. To make disciples. And you will only grow and bear fruit through discipline and discomfort.
What will you choose?
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