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 (Matthew 27:32-44 ; Mark 15:21-31), 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.
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