Are We There Yet?

(Mat 13:23 NKJV) "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

Because of the first century farmer's primitive methods, they usually did not receive what we would consider a good return. The ratio of seed sown to seed received was not usually very high. Unless they had exceptionally rich soil, they would not expect the kinds of return which Jesus mentions in this parable. Indeed, in Genesis 26:12, Isaac is mentioned as farming in the Negeb which had some rich land and received a hundred fold that year. The fact that it was specifically mentioned tells us how unusual that was.

But Jesus also mentions that some will produce sixty fold, and some thirty. Somewhere around thirty was probably the normal expected amount. The fact that it produced fruit, itself, is the point. The other soils didn't produce any. Some produces the normal amount, others a greater amount, and some will produce what seems quite outstanding fruit.

In each of us, there are also those areas where faith has taken root, grace is planted, and we find communion with God most fruitful. Sometimes it even seems to grow a great field of fruit. God blesses the effort and like the fish and loaves that fed five thousand, things just click and people fed.

Most of us with kids have experienced the "Are we there yet?" syndrome. I recall one trip distinctly. We were living in the Texas Valley, down in the south, and headed on a six hour trip to my Mom's in Austin. We got on the highway headed to McAllen. Before we ever made the turn to head north from McAllen, the questions started. "How much longer till we get to Memaw's?" It seemed like they asked that question about every thirty minutes on that trip. My responses varied, from "We're about a couple of hours away" to "About five minutes since the last time you asked."

But that aspect of our nature is really illustrated in our kids. We are more concerned about arriving at our destination than we are about the trip along the way. We keep asking God, "Are we there yet!" And some, feeling that they have arrived, missed the whole point of the journey with God. It is not to "arrive" but to have a growing relationship with God. When we talk about the good soil, the tendency for us is to say to ourselves, "I've arrived!" Or at least, "I will have arrived when that fruit grows. I will be fulfilled and holy."

Our problem in these areas is the old sin of pride. Even in the good field where everything seems to be going right, sin is at the door waiting to bring us down. Our tendency is to focus on the fruit and say to ourselves, "Wow, look what I've done!" Like a field that has produced a golden field of wheat, we think that those cars passing on the highway look at our field and marvel at our terrific fruit. What a great Christian we are! Look what we have done for Christ! Unfortunately, this is exactly what Christ condemns.

(Mat 7:21-23 NKJV) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. {22} "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' {23} "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

The way you can know if you are focusing on the fruit is how you respond when it is time for the harvest. Are we willing to have all our nice fruit cut down and once again exist as a barren field? Are we prepared to have the remaining stubble burned away? Are we set to once again get plowed afresh? Did we produce it to be given away or for the fruit itself? If for the later, we will not be able to stand the harvest, even cursing God for the loss of our fruit. We want to hold onto it until it rots on the stem.

Jesus is using the fruit to point us to something else. The fruit is the expression of our communion with God. It is the communion with God, the quality of the soil which produces the fruit and is the focus of the fruit. The fruit is part of the process, as well as the harvest, burning, plowing, and planting again. Unlike real soil, which can get mineral depleted with constant planting, our souls grow closer to God though each cycle and God is glorified through the fruit that we produce as a result of that close communion. We don't mind the humility of the harvest because we know that God is working in us to minister to others and to draw us closer to Him. If we keep our focus on God and our brothers and sisters, we can avoid the final trap of the devil to destroy our fruit and communion with God.

Ironic, the more we accomplish for God, the greater this temptation. This is even what Christ Himself experienced not only after His baptism, but also in the garden and on the cross. But our fulfillment does not come from the production of the fruit itself. It does not come from our career. It does not come with our accomplishments, as much as Satan would like us to believe that it does. It only comes from our relationship with God and each other. All other means of fulfillment are temporal and will pass away. Our relationships will not.

The "career" is to support the relationship of the family. Ministry is to support our relationship to God and others. Our spiritual achievements in prayer are to build on our love for God. Humility, that is, keeping our focus on God and not ourselves, will keep these things from developing pride in us rather than holiness. What God calls us to, we do with all our heart and to the best of our ability. But we do it not to impress God or others. We do it because we love God; because of our relationship with Him.

This parable, then lays out for us those areas in our life which can prevent our communion with God from being all that He wants it to be. It shows us what by God's grace we need to focus on for living communion to take place and grow. First we must become plowed. Then our passion has to be focused on God rather than our own pleasure or worldly values of money or fame. Finally, we must avoid that same passion being focused on the fruit itself. Instead, like Paul, all else must be counted as garbage in comparison to the eternal value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. If that is your thirst, you will be filled according to Jesus Christ. May each of us grow fruit for the glory of God. Amen.

Rick