When I was a kid I grew up in the city, about twenty minutes from Newport Beach, Ca. I spent a lot of days down at the beach, especially in the summer. Catching waves, playing whiffle ball and football on the beach was my scene.
I had a friend named Jim, and every once in a while we would go and visit his uncle’s farm; now that was a culture shock, to say the least! Years later, as an adult, I moved to Northern Oregon to plant a church, and it was there that we were surrounded by farm land and farmers. Studying about the way farmers go about their business is enlightening and it is no wonder that the Bible, in several passages, reminds us that the Christian life is more like farming than a day at the beach!
Take James chapter five, for example. The Apostle declares, “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (5:7,8)
Consider the farmer: he ploughs the field and plants the seed in the ground where he cannot see what it is doing, but by faith, he waits for the rains to come that are going to produce a harvest. He waits with an expectancy, anticipating the reward for his hard work. Often times, while he is waiting for the one field to bring a harvest, he is preparing the next field for the next crop he is going to plant.
James says, concerning the coming of the Lord, we as believers are to be like the farmer, waiting with patient expectancy for His coming. As I survey the landscape of the church as a whole, I have to admit that I don’t see as many believers patiently expecting the Lord’s coming, and that troubles me, especially since all the signs in the Middle East and Israel, the wickedness in our world, the growth in technology, the talk of a one world government, grows in intensity every single year.
Why is the coming of the Lord so distant on the minds of many Christ followers today? I have a couple of ideas:
The Boy Who Cried Wolf. You are probably familiar with the story of the little boy who kept crying, “wolf” to his little village when there was no wolf to be had. He did this so often that the villagers grew deaf to his cry, to the point where when the wolf finally showed up, they were not ready. Now what does that have to do with what I am talking about? Well, I think some in the Christian community have sort of done the same thing by trying to interpret every little thing, every war, every uprising, as the “SIGN” that the Lord’s coming is now! I think that approach has backfired a little bit. My own dad, who is an awesome godly man, was convinced that the Lord would come back before I graduated High School in 1982, but here we are 32 years later. As Pastors and Christian leaders, I think we need to be careful about always looking for the sensational headline use as a bench mark that we are living in the last days.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew Chapter 24 that the signs leading up to His coming are going to be like labor pangs or contractions. You ladies, who have had a baby, know very well what that is like. The closer you get to delivery, the more those labor pangs grow in their consistency and their intensity. Those are the signs that we need to be paying close attention to. Are the labor pangs growing in their consistency and their intensity? Often time, ladies experience false labor. They have some pain weeks before they are ready to deliver. Sometimes, we in the church, can be guilty of sharing false labor pangs. We need to be paying attention to the consistency and the intensity of the labor pangs around us and teaching believers in our churches to do the same. So one of the reasons some believers are not patiently enduring is because of the little boy that cried wolf syndrome.
Another reason, and probably a more likely reason, is Believers have become distracted by the cares of this world. In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about the seed that is planted among the thorns, that takes root, but doesn’t bring forth fruit because the seed gets choked out by the thorns. Jesus identifies the thorns as the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches. And for many believers, the word that is being planted in their hearts brings excitement and initial acceptance, but eventually gets choked out because of the distractions of this life and the desire to get ahead and be comfortable here. I was reminded recently of the song by the band Switchfoot, where they sing “We were meant to live for so much more….have we lost ourselves?” As believers, it is so easy for us to forget that we have, in Christ, a higher calling; a glorious destiny that is beyond the riches and pleasures of this world. We get so caught up in living for the “here and now” that we forget that life is more about the “there and then”. Eternity is a long time!
Another reason many believers are not waiting expectantly is a byproduct of the latter cause, their love has grown cold. Jesus actually predicted that would also be a sign of the last days – Matthew 24:16- “the love of many will grow cold.” I think we see that happening a lot in the church today. Many believers have become like the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation – they have left their first love! With some, it is even worse, as Paul declared in 1 Timothy 4:1 that “in the latter days some will depart from the faith”! Unfortunately, we see that happening more and more!
So what do we do?
Jesus said to those in the church of Ephesus, who had left their first love, “Remember from where you have fallen, repent and do those first works again.” (Revelation 2:5) Remember, repent (change course) and return! Have a reality check. Do some soul searching and get back to seeking and serving Jesus your top priority!
In Luke 19:13, Jesus tells a parable of a master who went away on a trip and told his servants, “Do business until I return.” I think that is a good word for us. Remember the farmer- plant, water, and wait expectantly for the harvest!Christian Growth, Church, Good Works, Heaven, Persistence, Spiritual Walk