Monday, August 23, 2010

What we can learn from our okra: we are blessed so we can yield blessings

Although our okra is strong and productive now, it didn’t start out that way. It required a LOT of attention earlier in the season. The seeds needed soaked before we planted them. The young plants were in danger of being overwhelmed by the spring crops they were interplanted with, requiring us to repeatedly trim those spring crops. The same was true with weeds, requiring us to put down newspaper/straw mulch. Then there was side dressing and thinning. Okra was definitely a high maintenance crop during May and June.

We did all that work for a reason—we knew that the okra would bear much fruit later. It is a steady producer (averaging 30 Lbs. a week so far this year), and the plants themselves are pleasing to the eye. We were therefore willing to give it extra attention at the outset.

The same dynamic occurs between individual Christians and God—He invests much in us early in our relationship with Him so we can bear fruit later. Think about it. Your early months/years walking with the Lord were probably filled with graces, blessings, and a sense of His presence that seem extraordinary in hindsight. That dynamic underlies Jesus’ parable of the patch and the wine skin. Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39. It is also displayed, on a corporate level, in the book of Acts; God lavished extraordinary blessings on the very early church. Acts 2:43-47, 4:32-35, 5:12-21, 12:1-18.

Scripture makes it clear that there is a reason for those great early blessings: to prepare us to bear fruit later. Isaiah 5:1-7 speaks to that dynamic, explaining how God richly blessed Israel so that it would bear the fruits of justice and righteousness. Isaiah 5:1-2 describe how God built “a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine … then He expected it to produce good grapes” (emphasis added). Jesus taught the principle; it is implicit in the parable of the barren fig tree set out in Luke 13:6-9 and is the basis for the parable of the vine. John 15:1-11. The principle is unmistakable: God blesses us so that we can yield blessing.

There is also an unmistakable corollary to that principle: extraordinary blessings will be withdrawn if we don’t bear fruit. Isaiah 5:3-7 describe how God took away His special blessings from Israel when it didn’t produce the fruit He expected. The property owner Jesus describes in the parable of the barren fig tree threatens to cut the tree down if it doesn’t produce, offering a rationale any gardener can understand: “It is taking up space we can use for something else.” Luke 13:7 (NLT). John 15:2 describes similar consequences for the failure to bear fruit. Perhaps that’s what James was referring to when he wrote that “faith … if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17.

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