A Harvest of Righteousness
Righteousness, to put it succinctly and a little simplistically, is Christlikeness. It’s where your thoughts, your desires, your attitudes, your actions, your character are more and more conformed to His. So this third harvest brings along with it the other two harvests. You cannot grow into Christlikeness, a heart after His, without also growing in evangelism and generosity, a heart to save and a heart to give. But a harvest of righteousness is also distinct from the other two. It requires two things: that we submit to God’s discipline, and that we seek God’s peace.
Submit to God’s Discipline
God, according to the letter to the Hebrews, disciplines His children as a sign of His Fatherly love. The discipline is often painful, even misery-producing. It makes us want to quit or run. Let me quote the passage in full.
Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate children at all. Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more we should submit to the Father of spirits and live! Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that way we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11 [TNIV]
“No discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful.”
So why bother?
Because, “Later on . . . it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it.”
But here is the verse that rocks my world: “Endure hardship as discipline. god is treating you as children.” Endure hardship as discipline. Hardship, in whatever form it takes, is all and sundry as opportunity to grow, but only if we allow God to use it that way. An act of endurance is required on oue part. Every adversary, every disappointment, every setback, every affront isan opportunity to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. The painful trial you are going through in your (fill in the blank: marriage, finances. work, family, health) is something God can and wants to use to make you more like Jesus. Zig Ziglar says that a child who is not disciplined by his small world in love will be disciplined by the big world without love. Hardship is an inevitable part of life. Endure it as discipline, a sign that God is treating you as His child and is training you for holiness. In your small world, He is disciplining you with love.
It doesn’t mean it won’t be painful. No discipline is pleasant at the time. But it does mean something good comes out of this. A harvest of righteousness and peace.
So submit to God’s discipline.
Seek God’s Peace
“Peacemakers,” James says, “who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).
I’m prone to misread texts like this. I want to assume that bring a peacemaker and a peace-sower means, simply, that I enjoy peace. Which I certainly do. I prefer it, hands down, to turmoil and strife. If this is the measure of a man of peace, I am already fully formed. Nothing can be taken away, and nothing can be added.
It’s not what James means. What he means is we must seek even at the cost of turmoil and strife. This is abundantely clear from the very letter James writes. It’s not written with kid gloves. It’s not written in gentle, playcating tones. He doesn’t softpedal., backpedal, sidestep. He flies straight at issues, bare-fisted and rough-tongued. “You foolish man.” “You adulterous people.” “Now listen, you rich people.” Try preaching that from the pulpit and see if it lulls people into smiling serentity.
Seeking, making, sowing peace often reqyires a certain wading in, and calls for forcefulness as much as gentleness. Recently, I heard Bishop Andre Mfitmukiwa of Rwanda speak. He was asked how he felt about UN forces evacuating Rwanda on the precipice of the 1994 genocide, when a million people were brutally killed in a span of a hundred days. “I don’t understand what your western countries mean by peacekeeping,” he answered. “How is it that they run away as soon as there’s trouble? Does peacekeeping mean you’ll stick it out as long as things are peaceful. and bail out as soon as they’re not? Is being comfortable the only termsunder which you serve? I don’t understand this.” (A dialogue of a group of pastors with Bishop Andre Mfitmukiwa in Toronto, Canada, 14 May 2009)
James wouldn’t either. To seek peace, and pursue it, and make it, and sow it means that we are willing to risk our own comfort for the sake of crating real shalom (peace). Besides producing peace, as opposed to a mere truce, it also comes with a promise. People who sow peace, reap a harvest of righteousness.
They end up looking a lot more like Jesus.
Who is our peace? (Ephesians 2:14) Jesus, the Prince of peace, establishes and rules a kingdom of shalom. And He sought that shalom, that peace, and pursued it, and made it, and sowed it not by pulling out of the genocide but stepping into the middle of it. He made peace by taking on Himself the full brunt of the carnage. He waged for us, and won by losing.
Peace was secured. It just took enduring a storm to get there.
This morning I finished memorizing Psalm 29, a hymn to the power of God’s voice. “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning” it says. “The voice of the Lord shakes the desert . . . the voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forest bare.” God speaks, and a storm descends, violent, unpredictable, tumultous. It rearranges the landscape.
But the Psalm ends this way: “The Lord blesses His people with peace.”
Peace was secured. It took enduring a storm to get there.
Do we need to seek and pursue and make and sow peace somewhere–your home, your workplace, your church? It may take enduring a storm to get you there. It may require a Christlike act of filling up in your “flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). It may be that you have to stifle the urge to bolt in the midst of upheaval.
I watch a lot of people leave churches. Some leave another church to come to ours. Some leave our church to go to another. Some drop out altogether. I listen to their stories, as much as I have opportunity. Usually, they’re “right”: so and so hurt them; the sermons here, or there, can be boring; that outreach effort was a bad idea; we’re not nearly as freindly as we ought to be; I did forget the anniversary of my husband’s death.
Most of these people leave to early. Only rarely does anyone leave to late. Most don’t seek peace, pursue it, make it, sow it. They just miss it, and so drop out.
It’s a kind of peace, sort of, in a way.
It’s just not a harvest.
~A Harvest Of Righteousness~
To be conformed to the Christlikeness of Christ literally takes a whole lifetime on earth. Some don’t come to salvation later in life or physical death as the thief who died on the cross on Golgotha’s hill ( ), while some get “saved” as children only to see them through it all away because the powers in this world draw them away, still others stay the course (Matthew 13:1-5). Since the Holy Spirit was in me at a very young age, the Holy Spirit called me out to be different among my peers, and at the age of thirteen I went forward in an altar call to say whatever the Lord wanted of me I would happily give it, whether it be my training to be a missionary to go off into some foreign country or be like Dave Wilkerson and the ongoing story of Teen Challenge. The Holy Spirit put the passion in me to stay the course no matter what. In my mind, that is when I began on my journey to Christlikeness.
To be conformed to the Christlikeness of Christ literally takes a whole life time on earth. Some don’t come to salvation later in life or physical death as the thief who died on the cross on Golgotha’s hill (Luke 23:40-42), while some get “saved” as children only to see them through it all away because the powers in this world draw them away, still others stay the course (Matthew 13:1-9). Since the Holy Spirit was in me at a very young age, the Holy Spirit called me out to be different among my peers, and at the age of thirteen I went forward in an alter call to say whatever the Lord wanted of me I would happily give it, whether it be my training to be a missionary to go off into some foreign country or be like Dave Wilkerson and the ongoing story of Teen Challenge. The Holy Spirit put the passion in me to stay the course no matter what. In my mind, that is when I began on my journey to Christlikeness.
Despite my needing glasses and the devastating news that I now had diabetes which pretty much makes it impossible for me to undergo Lasik eye surgery, I found a new Holy thing in which I could dedicate my life to: Righteousness through becoming just like Christ, Christlikeness.
Submit To God’s Discipline
It is hard for me to choose which story of my life in which I submitted to God’s discipline over my two score (40 years) of being a True Life Christian. More recently (about 10 years ago), I was an elder at our small and local church, and all the other elders had enough time to see my struggles that I would present to the youth. At that time, the pastor said that we were going to need a youth leader for the adolescents that were coming to the church as a part of families, and us elders were all in agreement with the pastor. We all saw the need for someone to minister to adolescents, some of whom had mental and behavioral challenges.
“Finally,” I thought, “my dream of actually being a youth pastor had come to light!” Immediately I went home after and started preparing for the chance to have an equal shot at this first ever Youth Director position. I had some disadvantages, though, since I am slow to speak and have expressive aphasia (which means those that suffer with this condition have a thought in their heads but have trouble expressing it). I thought that the group of elders would encourage me using the verse, Philippians 4:13. And that verse says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (ESV). But they did not. They questioned my calling to be a Youth Director/Pastor. That hurt, and that is one major time in my life where I submitted to God’s discipline.
Seek God’s Peace
Over my forty-five years plus of being a True Life Christian, I have come to know that through Christ nothing’s impossible (see my upcoming Season of Winter). Yet, for the most part, God seems to want you to seek God’s peace as John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let your hearts not be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (ESV). But it’s taken me a long time to get there.
Early on in my walk as a True Life Christian, I was filled with internal anxiety, but I was cool as a cucumber, I thought. If I was filled with internal anxiety now, the Presidental Election (coming up this November 3, 2020) of the United States of America would send me into a tailspin because of radical left and conservative right. Rather, instead of having my body fill up with anxiety over this Presidential election, I’m filled with God’s peace, even though the world is fretting over who will become the next President of the United States.
Peace-it doesn’t happen like that. In the current culture of technology, people throughout the world are used to things just happening instintaneously. But peace doesn’t happen like that, especially to seek God’s peace. It takes time. But God’s peace is an internal peace. Things may seem like chaos around you; however, the person that has God’s peace has truly sought and is seeking God’s peace.
Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger
A HARVEST OF SOULS
The Bible promises a harvest of souls.
Jesus sends His disciples to do kingdom work. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers few.” We have way more people ready to come into a loving, saving, transforming relationship with God than we have people ready to assist. The other passage is where Jesus points to His disciples to the Samaritans, a people group with whom they want nothing to do, and says, “The fields are ripe for harvest.“
The undeniable assumption of this harvest is that the sowing has already taken place; God Himself has done it, somehow, sometime. His Spirit has gone before, scattering seed, quickening it to life, nurturing it toward ripeness. The evil one has been active, too, plucking, choking, trampling, scorching.
But God prevails.
Now the harvest is ready. And God needs workers. Harvesters. He wants us to finish what He started. Three things are needed to do that, Jesus says. We need to look, pray, and go.
First, look. “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, emphasis mine).
Are you? Do you know how hungry people are for something bigger than themselves?They might be skittish, too, hungry people usually are. Don’t let the skittishness through you off. The world longs for God knows what. People all around you-in your neighborhood, in the cubicle next to yours, on the bus seat across from you, the mom over there with a three-year-old, that one by the park slide–people all around you feel empty, and all the things they’ve crammed into themselves have only left them with a stone in their belly that weighs but doesn’t fill.
“LOOK!” Jesus says, “Open your eyes. Don’t you see them?“
I fly often, and usually by myself. On roughly half of those flights, I get into a conversation with the person seated next to me. Telling a stranger that I’m a pastor is either a quick way to kill a conversation or a quick way to open it wide. I can never predict which it will be, but that too is roughly half and half. Still and all, I end up in a lot of “spiritual” conversations with complete strangers. I hear a fair amount of homemade theology, and some of it not bad: “You know, pastor, I thought God was that feeling, you know, of happiness when life is miserable–you know what I mean? That feeling it’s gonna be okay though everything around you isn’t okay. That feeling deep inside. You know?”
But, mostly, I hear a lot of hunger: “I’m forty. Great marriage. My wife is, like, supermom. She keeps herself fit. Kids are amazing–my youngest just won this music award . . . well, you get the picture. We have great friends. I have this job that pays extravagantly. I travel a lot, stay in nice hotels, all that. And you should see our house. We had it built last year. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you this, ’cause there’s only four of us. But the place is forty-five hundred square feet, and that’s not including the garage and the suite above it. But, pastor, I drive out of my driveway everyday and I can hardly keep from weeping. I feel so . . . I don’t know. Alone. I feel I’m faking it. I feel like the the whole thing’s a colossal sham. I don’t know how it is that I have all of this and it’s still not enough.”
Or: “My life is a disaster. I never really knew my dad. My mom–I don’t want to get into all that. It makes me to angry and sad. I have a kid who hates me. An ex who hates me. I don’t have a friend in the world. I just lost another job. I’m heading to Dallas right now because my uncle’s going to give me a chance working in his warehouse. My question is, Does God hate me, too? I think if I could believe God loved me, that would make a difference. Pastor, do you think God loves me?”
Open your eyes.
And pray. That’s what Jesus also asks of us. Pray God would send workers willing to join Him in His kingdom work. Pray to God that this great moment isn’t missed. That this little window of opportunity isn’t squandered.
Prayer commits us to the heart level to what we endorse at a head level. Prayer mingles our tears and our longings with our observances and our assessments. Looking shows us the problem. Praying makes it our problem. Looking allows us to glimpse the opportunity. Praying requires us to seize it. It forces us to care about what we know about.
Which leads to the third thing Jesus ask of us. And here, as a friend of mine likes to say, Jesus stops preaching and starts meddling.
“Look,” He says. “Pray,” He says.
And now the meddling: “Go,” He says.
You do it. You be the answer to your own prayer. “Even now those who reap draw their wages, even now they harvest the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not work for. Others have down the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:36-38, TNIV)
“Even now.” Even now, you could reap what you haven’t sown. Even now you could taste the unearned privilege of rejoicing alongside those who have. Even now you could share the wages and reap the benefit of someone else’s hard work.
I honestly don’t understand why we don’t fall over astonished at this. To heck with meddling: going is the best part. And the easiest. I have never led a person to Christ who wasn’t ripe for the harvest. There was no tugging and twisting, trying to get the fruit’s stem to seperate from the branch. There was no wrenching and pulling, trying to force the grain from the stalk. It just fell into my hands at the slightest touch.
Every time that’s happened, I’ve rejoiced. I’ve felt like I hit a jackpot. And every time it’s happened, the person I led to Christ feels I’ve done some heroic thing, some great act of daring and generosity.
I’ve done no such thing. I just reaped the benefit of someone else’s hard work.
They toiled, lonely, dirty, in heat and cold.
I walked in, did the easy part, and got the paycheck.
What’s not to like?
Look. Pray. Go. And then watch what God does with your simple act of saying yes.
(Darren’s Comments-A personal take on Look. Pray. Go.)
Since I was thirteen, after my tragic diagnosis of having diabetes mellitus type 1, I was looking to God on what He would have me do since my dreams of being in the U.S. Air FORCE had officially come to a close since an air pilot was my dream. At a Sunday evening alter call, calling any one who felt like the Holy Spirit was calling them to go up if they like God was calling them to something.
The church had a special missionary giving service that night, and he was “on fire.” It wasn’t till the end, that he gave an unique alter call. I don’t remember much about that specific service except I felt like I was called to give my life in service to Him. So, I left me pew and headed down to the front. I remember there was a whole bunch of people there, standing along side me, excited to see other’s felt a similiar calling. Looking back, I feel that others were stopped in their pursuit of God and what He wanted for their life; this was for a variety of reasons: peer and social pressure, others felt like they wanted to be considered “holy,” and as in the Boston Marathon others intended on finishing the race they found they were not prepared for the riggors of the race facing the treachory of “Heartbreak Hill.” Yet, I knew all this and was prepared for what God said He wanted from me.
After the news of my life-long illness of type 1 diabetes at the age of twelve years ten months, I was devastated since my diagnosis put the final nail in the coffin of my dream of being an Air Force pilot. I needed glasses, and that seemingly spelt the end of my dream, but with Lasik eye surgery, I might have a shot. However, this diagnosis spelled the end of my dream. It didn’t take me long to find a new Holy passion–to be called into serving God with my whole life. So, I from then on I took up my life with prayer.
I prayed with Holy passion. Fifteen long months it took me to receive confirmation to my prayer that I had so earnestly been seeking. It happened at a small, private Christian school where I received the answer that I’d been seeking so desperately-God was going to use me to minister His Word to a population that needed Him most, teenagers (I thought). Since I was just at the start of my teenage years and since I loved the youth, in my excitement, I prepared to do what I thought was natural–become a youth pastor. After all, I was inspired by the most famous book named THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE by David Wilkerson, who started Teen Challenge in 1959.
Along with my praying (and I never ceased), I began to take action on what I thought God had called me to: getting encouragement, awards, and pep talks from my youth pastor, and regional pastors for my preaching sermonettes all to the youth. I even remember my youth group went down to our local slums, and I got the distinct pleasure of introducing some local teens to Jesus Christ and His kingdom, and within 4 years, I was finished with high school and ready to start Christian college in the fall. So I was going in the correct way, I thought.
About 15 years ago, I swept in from from the hard work that my pastor did (watering and tending a precious soul), and I just happened to be the one who got the harvest of leading him to Jesus Christ. Later, I heard from my pastor that he was jokingly “jealous” of me because he did the hard work, and I had the distinct pleasure of reaping that which I did not toil for like an apple that is fully ripe I plucked that soul from the tree.
If you have a similar experience I would love to hear about it, so please comment of your victories in this area. Although I know that many Christians are scared to share their faith in Jesus Christ (especially in the current social culture in America), share with me your struggles in the work place, sitting down in the waiting area of the family physician’s office (like I did), the local coffee shop, etc. specifically in proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger