“And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith.” 1 John 5:4
2016 was an incredible year for the women at Heritage!! Thirty women committed to reading through the Bible in a year. Fifty-four women participated in “Write the Word”, writing out verses and chapters of the Bible, on a daily and weekly basis. One-hundred-and-forty women have joined Bible studies, coming together to open the Scriptures- whether in the Hub, online, or huddling up in a cozy living room after a shared meal. A growing number of women are also building friendships, praying together, and discovering God’s specific callings on their lives.
And while growing numbers are not and should not be our goal, one thing is evident: God is stirring up women in this church to a love for Christ and an excitement for his Word. Praise God, seeds are being sown.
Sooooo, we thought, what better time than now to look at “the Parable of the Sower/Seeds”. For if women are “digging in” to the Word, we believe that faith will come (Romans 10:17). But our desire- and presumably yours, as well- is that this would be deep-rooted faith that understands. Faith that is fruitful. Faith that endures.
As a child, I remember picturing my Christian walk as one that would “shine ever brighter until the full day of light” (Prov 4:18), having faith that I would grow from “glory to greater glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). I envisioned that I would grow to love more like Jesus and look more like Jesus- to have peace and joy filling my life. But, to be honest, I didn’t expect suffering and I didn’t understand sanctification. It’s not that I held up the two- a life of difficulty, walking with Christ, compared with a life of ease- and chose the easy path. I just didn’t imagine for a second that a life pursuing Jesus wouldn’t fit neatly into my American dreams of success, security, and a picture-perfect family. As you can imagine, when the first struggles started rubbing up against my plans, it threw me for a loop.
I don’t think my experience is an uncommon one. But I do think it is one easily avoided if we are willing to take an honest look at the life Christ called us to, and let him arm us for the opposition he warns will come. That is why we’re going to be spending the next few months talking about “Faith That Endures”.
In Matthew 13, Jesus lists four specific types of soil that the seeds of truth fall upon- three end up killing the seed, while one seed goes on to “hear… understand… and bears fruit” (vs 23).
The first seed is snatched away because it “does not understand” the Word. Without the Holy Spirit to “enlighten the eyes of our hearts” (Ephesians 1:18), truth will quickly puff us up with a loveless knowledge. It will fill us with the false comfort of moralism. It will shake us with questions and doubts. And it will weigh us down with the condemnation of our sin.
But remaining desperate for the Spirit’s interpretation of the Word will lead us through these pits into a life that doesn’t merely learn of Christ, but looks like Christ.
The second seed falls away “when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word”. As Christ-followers, we are not promised happy marriages, successful careers, or financial prosperity. Nor are we ensured against death, sickness, and rejection. As Dietrich Bohnhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” It is when we understand this call and embrace it, that our sorrow and fear will be traded in for rejoicing, and our suffering will glorify God.
The third seed is choked out by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches”. Every day, we wage war against the lies the world tells us- that we would be happier if we owned more things, fulfilled if we possessed more beauty, satisfied if we attained more success, etc. We must fight for an eternal perspective and cling to it when the temptation to pursue the world’s treasure strikes.
You will get to hear about each of these threats to our fruitfulness in greater depth, as each month we’ll be taking on “one soil”. We will hear about the “fighting without and fear within” (2 Cor 7:5) that we should expect in our journey of faith. We will hear about the God who is faithful to carry us through these struggles. And we will hear about enduring through these hardships to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Life in Christ is difficult. Betrayals take place. Seasons of doubt cast dark shadows. Temptations rage. Sin shames. For we can be sure that, as demonstrated throughout the entire Bible: where the gospel advances, opposition will arise.
But when we have the expectation that “to enter the kingdom we must go through many tribulations”(Acts 14:22), then these storms don’t ruin us. They may afflict us, but they won’t crush us. We will be perplexed, but not driven to despair. Persecuted, but never forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4)… The result of faith, lived out and wrestled through, is strength— it is a divine endurance that creates a radical, though gradual, transformation into the Lord’s image and a deep peace and rejoicing beyond explanation.