A man of folk-lore and legend in the Midwest is John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. During the 1800’s he wandered the country-side of large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia planting apple orchards…some of which still stand today. This American pioneer nurseryman spent his lifetime scattering seed in hopes of a harvest someday. In these verses, Jesus is likening the kingdom of God to the mystery of germination and growth and what man’s responsibility is in it all. We are told to plant or scatter seed…the Good News of the Gospel Message, and then to allow God to do the rest. For God’s kingdom grows in His time, in His way…always moving forward. So just like Johnny Appleseed, we are to be sowers of hope and leave the progress up to God.
Psalm 40:8 tells us, “I desire ( or choose) to do Your will O my God.” We even see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, “Yet not as I will (want), but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) When we seek God’s will… we desire that which pleases God and thus will create joy within us…for we will find ourselves in the center of His will…and it’s the very best place to be.
To paraphrase Acts 26:18…We are to turn from spiritual darkness to the light of Jesus Christ… from the limited power of Satan to the infinite power of God, so that we may receive forgiveness of our sins and a place among fellow Believers who are sanctified by faith in Jesus. The Lord has snatched us from danger and set us free…the chains have been broken off and we are no longer a slave to sin and the jurisdiction of darkness…for the Kingdom of God is now residing within our hearts. (Luke 17:21)
The first time you heard the Gospel, what filters did it go through in your head? If your background is in Engineering, maybe you applied scientific and mathematical principles. Or if your background is in Liberal Arts, maybe you dissected, examined and scrutinized the message from a different point of view. But if you were like me, in the end, we had to take the Gospel at face value…believing it was the truth, and deliberately and readily receiving it as such. Being receptive to the Gospel demands a leap of faith…of embracing something with child-like faith that we don’t fully understand…but trusting God will show us the way. In the verse before this, Jesus tells the disciples to, “Let the little children come to Me.” We are His little children, and that’s how He expects us to come to Him…filled with child-like faith, confidence, and hope.
The important part of this Scripture is not what is said, but rather the space of time between when the building of the Temple stopped and it was restarted. For it was 16 years that no work was done at the building site. How many people do you think looked at the Temple foundation year after year and considered all the work a loss? We will all have setbacks in life…times when our forward motion is hampered or even stopped for a season… and we don’t know why. This delay is not a time to declare defeat…for with God, any setback is only temporary in His timetable. And if we have faith and persevere, any delay will have success in the end.
If you have ever been part of a marriage conference or counseling…they teach you the art of active listening. Each has the others undivided attention as they converse back and forth…repeating back to the person what they heard and asking, “Is this what you meant?” There is much more listening done than speaking, and more unselfish attention given than self-centeredness. Listening to the Lord is a lot like that. It is not blabbering on incessantly about our own feelings and emotions…it’s listening with all our being…taking the time to be quiet…hearing and then heeding His voice.
The OT prophets had it pretty rough. They faced rebuke and persecution from all sides, especially when their message was the total opposite of what the people wanted to hear. So where did this boldness come from? How were these mild-mannered, many times even timid men able to stand before Kings and High Priests proclaiming God’s Word? It was the Holy Spirit within, enabling them to go boldly into battle for the Lord. Are you brave enough to pray the prayer the Apostles did in Acts 4:29? ” Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness.” Boldness empowered by the Holy Spirit will change your perception. For you’ll no longer have your limited vision, but God’s.
The verse written here was the fulfillment of prophecy first spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) Jesus was the embodiment of light and truth, and His message still rings true today…”Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
People have really good excuses why they don’t want anything to do with God. “Religion is only for the weak that need a crutch.” “I’ll get right with God when I get old and about to die…you know, like Fire Insurance…something you have just incase.” “I don’t believe any of that mumbo-jumbo Jesus garbage.” So when you’re confronted by this, what is the best answer? The Truth. You don’t need to defend God…He’s perfectly capable of defending Himself, thank you. You state the Truth in love, but neither do you water down the Truth to make it more palatable for all. The Truth is, if you forsake God, He’ll reject you…forever.