January 10, 2015

Obedience, motivations, and weeding the garden

My next eight-week course work officially starts on Monday, but after looking at the syllabus and list of assignments, I started early. This one is heavy with reading and video lectures, eight writing assignments, but thankfully no exams. Again, my complaint reverts back to the same one I had when the Lord nudged me to start this degree program. It goes like this: “But I am too old.”

Today’s reading assignment shows God’s sense of humor as well as His sense of timing. In Genesis, I read this: “The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13–14)

In my case, going back to school when I have grandchildren and a few great grandchildren seems to be nutty, but I didn’t laugh at His request. He paved the way and here I am, relying on Him, the One who can do anything. And at least He didn’t ask me to bear a child!

The next verse that caught my eye speaks of several things . . . “For I have chosen (Abraham) that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:19)

Theologically, this verse shows the close connection between obedience and blessing. God expected this man to raise his family in a godly way which would be important to receiving God’s promise. While I agree with this principle, part of me does not want it to be true for I feel I’ve not been the mother that fits this description. God then reminds me that whatever He asks, He grants grace for the doing. Without Him, I can do nothing.

In principle, it also speaks to me about obedience in going back to school. I’m not sure why God asked this of me or what blessing might come from it, but if there is a blessing, obedience is important. While I’m still thinking, “I’m too old for this,” God’s word to Sarah comes to mind: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” I know one thing, each course so far has been too hard for me, but by His grace, I’m nearly finished!

In the next reading, God reminded me of the wrong motivation for doing this or for any other endeavor. “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4) My work or any skill I might have cannot be fueled by a desire to be better than someone else or because I envy someone else. That is foolishness and like chasing the wind. It is self-defeating and a lesson that I’ve learned and must keep relearning and remembering.

Next my devotional book takes me into the NT and the story of the sower and the seeds. Most know it and the ending where Jesus says that the seed that “was sown on good soil” describes a person “who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

At first I linked this to other people, then realized God is telling me to ‘hear and understand’ and be fruitful. It is easy to be a know-it-all or at least think, “I’ve heard all this before” even as I’m studying. However, God has been patiently showing me that I don’t know much of anything. Not only that, He has definitely made the link between knowing and obedience (and the lack thereof). In other words, if I am not doing what He has taught me, then I really have not learned it.

Besides that, pride, humility, and loving God by loving people are more important than degrees, good grades, writing papers, and talking theology with other students. And if I don’t consider those other students above myself, then what good is my ‘hearing and understanding’?

My life is something like the field in another parable from Matthew. This time, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.” (Matthew 13:24–26)

At times, I feel like that field with a mixture of good seed and stuff the enemy has planted to keep me from being as productive for God as I could be. Jesus’ solution was to let both grow together and sort it out at the end. While I know this parable is about a much larger entity than my solitary life, I’m thankful that He isn’t going to rip me up to fix things, but also thankful that He gives His children the opportunity and desire to do some weeding, with His help of course, so He can make good soil out of that which has been prideful and stubborn.

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