Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Recognizing the natural enemies of a fruitful harvest


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“…the good soil represents those who hear the Word, hold it fast in a good and honest heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15

When we hear this parable it’s natural to wonder which type of soil we are. On the one hand we know that we are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, so we can only be the Good Soil in the parable, but as Christians we are also intensely aware of our sins, so we wonder.

In the face of any possible doubts, however, please know that we are the “good and honest hearts” in which the Gospel has taken root! Not because of our stellar behavior to be sure, but because “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” and because in the sacrament of holy baptism God’s Word took up residence in our hearts.

Yes, we are the good soil, but if we consider the forces that conspire against us it is a wonder to behold! According to the Lord’s parable there are five natural enemies of faith.

Faith’s first enemy is the devil whom the Bible calls a thief. Whenever the word of God is preached the devil becomes alarmed. He doesn’t want to lose what he considers his own property so he steals the Word from under us lest we believe it, become reconciled to God by faith in Jesus, produce a harvest of good fruits and be saved. Yet, here we are in God’s House.

Faith’s second enemy is the troubles of life. When adversity comes Christians pray, but sometimes it seems as though God doesn’t hear us and isn’t going to help us, so we wonder. St. Paul had this problem, too. He was a highly gifted man who stood head and shoulders above the rest. Not only did he have exceptional talents but he was given elite theological revelations, and even permitted to get a glimpse into the lower realms of heaven where he saw sights and heard sounds beyond human telling! However, greatness always comes with a price. He reports in 2 Cor 12:8 that in order to keep him from becoming conceited God gave him “a thorn in the flesh,” a “messenger from satan" to make his labor harder than it already was. He reports further that he “pleaded with the Lord three times to remove it,” but the only answer he got, the best answer there is, and the one in which we can find much comfort today was this: My grace is sufficient for you! My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is most perfectly understood in your weakness. Few of us have suffered like Paul but we have all had to deal with adversities which test our faith. At times like this we wonder if God is able to sustain us or if we should look for comfort elsewhere than to Jesus. Yet, here we are; still in God’s House.

The third natural enemy of faith is the cares of the world. The business of living consumes us. It’s not easy to grow up, find a path in life and then spend what seems like endless decades laboring away to make ends meet and hold it all together. These things can so consume us that we have little energy left for eternal things. Yet, here we are in God’s House.

The fourth enemy of faith is the pursuit of riches. Money is like a god to us, the more we have the happier we are and the more secure we feel about everything. However, the Bible warns us against such a belief. In 1 Timothy St. Paul writes that, “…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Yet still, here we are in God’s House.

The fifth natural enemy of faith is the pursuit of pleasure. Unlike Moses who, “chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” we are mightily tempted by the world around us to make fun, relaxation and pleasant living our god. Yet in spite of many obstacles, here we are in God’s House, good and honest hearts, made so by faith in the only One who is truly Good and Honest, Jesus our Lord.

The lavish generosity of God brought us here, and keeps us here, and that’s because He doesn’t do things the way men do. In an agrarian society seed was money, it was precious capital which was never to be wasted, never to be mal-invested, but always to be put to the best possible use. No man in his right mind would do what the Sower did in the parable, but when the Sower is God everything changes because there are no limits to His mercy. He never stops sowing until His Word finally takes root in our hard and thorny hearts, and fills them with faith in Jesus.

Faith that gladly hears God’s Law, which though painful, serves as the plow needed to bury our intense love of pleasure and ease. Faith that especially believes the Gospel, that the Good and Honest Son of God shed His blood to cleanse us from our sin, so that we might be declared Good and Honest by the Judge of all the earth – not by our works but by faith in the Beautiful Savior. However, such hearts don’t sit idlely by any more than good seed planted in good ground! Instead, faith produces a harvest of good fruit. It leads us to fear, love and trust in God above all things, and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, which is a lot, although trying love our neighbor today is a tricky business. The world’s catechism has so confused charity with socialism that helping someone may do more harm than good, and this is not love! Therefore we must bring forth our fruit not only with patience as the parable teaches, but also with much thought and intelligence.

No, it’s never easy, but neither is there any need to worry or become anxious because in spite of the many obstacles, struggles and difficult decisions we face as God’s children we are the Good Soil in which God’s eternal Word makes its home. He will lead us, will guide us and keep us by His Word. Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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