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This Sunday in church we are celebrating the Harvest, a time of thankfulness to God that the seeds sown in the Spring have miraculously produced their abundant fruit - whatever that may be. The farmers have worked hard all year and are probably pretty tired by now, but at just the right time it all becomes worth it!
So it’s also a great time to think about how sowing and reaping feature in other areas of life beyond just the farmers’ fields.
Think about it.
If you put the right ingredients into your bake, the end result will taste great.
If you put in enough piano practice, you might one day become a proficient pianist.
If you keep up with consistent training, your puppy will grow into a well-behaved dog.
If you speak kind words to your friends, they will be loyal companions for life.
Of course it can also work the other way… if I treat my friends badly, they’re not going to hang around for long! It may be worth considering when someone is next mean to you: “Is she sowing? or am I reaping!!”
The truth is we always reap what we sow and harvest what we plant, so it’s well worth putting in the hard work - ask any farmer!
The Bible tells us that the work we do for God in this life is like planting seeds; it is not always easy, is often costly and can be really hard work, “but those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” And that really will be a time of thankfulness and rejoicing!
It’s always interesting to discover the origins of words and phrases we use in everyday speech and language. Some are more obvious than others and some are so common we don’t even think about their source.
The phrase “bottom line” first came from the world of finance and accounting, where it was used to note the income or profits of a company. It’s been used that way since at least the 1800s. If someone tells you to “focus on the bottom line,” it means they need you to prioritise the most important aspect or final outcome of whatever situation is at hand.
The bottom line is the crux, or the heart of the matter.
At Church we have started to look at a few of the Psalms and so many of them, written as prayers from a personal point of view, pour out the psalmist’s troubles, complaints and dim view of the world! This Sunday’s Psalm (number 2) for example begins: “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?” (used for the famous Bass Aria in Handel’s Messiah.) As appropriate for us today as it was 3000 years ago!
But time and again the psalmist brings us back to the “bottom line” (and it often is the last line of the Psalm), the reason we can hold onto hope in distress and find security amidst our fears - this God we serve is in control and this God is good!
If you’re struggling with life at the moment, try and focus on that bottom line.
The people in the know say that it is good to talk. It is better to talk about the things that trouble us than to bottle up those emotions. Being honest about our feelings is not very ‘British’ - “stiff upper lip” and all that - but if it improves our mental health and wellbeing then a good old chat with a friend over a cuppa seems the way to go!
For some however this is easier said than done. Pride can prevent us from opening up because society tells us that admitting we are struggling is a weakness and also, some of our thoughts can get a bit ugly!
This is why I love to read the Psalms; whereas the rest of the Bible speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us; they are so full of honest emotions. The psalmist is not afraid to tell God exactly how he is feeling, even if some of it doesn’t sound very ‘Christian’! Psalm 3 includes the line “Arise, O Lord… Slap all my enemies in the face!” (NLT) Let’s face it, God already knows how we’re feeling so pouring out our innermost thoughts is not going to shock him!
If you’re having a bad week or going through some tricky stuff, find a friend to share some of the burden, be honest about the way you are feeling, have a little cry, get angry if it helps, and ask God to give your enemies a slap, he can take it - he’s heard it all before!
I’ve been having a few troubles lately, just normal life struggles, like most people suffer at one time or another, but irksome nonetheless. It’s made me think about what I can expect from God at such times. I am a Christian and therefore a child of God and he is my Father; so like any child, I want to run straight to him and plead my case: “This hurts, I don’t like it, I don’t want it, please make it all better.”
Doesn’t the Bible say that the righteous shall be blessed and that our paths shall be straight? So why doesn’t it seem to work out that way, why doesn’t God free me from my troubles as soon as I pray?
Well of course I know that ultimately I am saved from (eternal) death and I have the hope of Heaven where all pain and tears and suffering will be no more, but what about now? Where’s the advantage now?
The media would tell us that we can have everything we want, as soon as we want, just a click away. Life should be easy, we deserve it! We shouldn’t have to wait, to work hard, or to persevere. It’s all there for the taking, right now - I’m worth it! But is that honestly how we measure our success in life? Wouldn’t we rather our children grew up to be strong characters? Resilient? Patient? Isn’t that what maturing is all about?
And it’s the same for the child of God. God wants us to mature, to experience the knocks, to dwell with the pain a while and to come out the other side. Because that’s where victory lies - the other side of suffering. Look at Jesus - faced with immense suffering he prayed: “Father take this cup away from me” but his path to victory was straight through the middle of the suffering. Yes it would be tempting to go for the cheap religion that offers a way around but true religion shows us the way through.
That straight path? it goes straight through and that’s where we find the blessing - Jesus, in the midst of our troubles, keeping us safe.