At the time I was the Director for a ministry's Bible school in a country other than the US, and was approached by some pastors there about a minister rising in popularity that didn't look like any of them, with his tattoos and clothing right off the street. Yet they were in awe of the miracles claimed to have been done in his meetings. They were quite upset over his rising popularity not because of his rough appearance, but by the details of his private life.
They presented me with their dilemma as he pressured them to invite him to their churches: On the one hand, he claimed great miracles were done by the Lord, especially in overseas meetings - healings, people getting out of wheelchairs, and so on. But on the other hand, it was commonly reported he was unfaithful to his wife, had issues with drugs and alcohol, and anger & abuse accusations were heard as well. His private life didn't seem to be consistent with the Christian character one would expect of a minister and leader.
After much discussion everyone agreed that at some point in time, of the Lord's determination, if he didn't repent his sin would be exposed to the public. Until then each pastor had to decide for himself whether to invite him to their church or not. As far as I know, not a one of them did, and the minister soon had to go to another nation to those unfamiliar with him.
Endure difficulty like soldiers do, have the mindset of an athlete in training, and be like a....farmer?
I've been sharing from II Timothy 2:1-6 in which Paul instructs Timothy in 3 areas, which match perfectly the 3 parts of man: Body, soul, and spirit.
Paul told Timothy to endure hardship like a soldier does. Not that he is a soldier, but to endure the physical difficulties that soldiers do. That could mean arrest, torture, or death. Travel was on foot and/or ship, in all kinds of weather and cultures. Then he moved to the soul, telling him to train and compete according to the rules, to endure the emotional difficulties of being stripped down before the Lord and coated with the oil of the Spirit, which makes us slippery to the enemy.
Now Paul moves to the spiritual aspect, telling Timothy in verse 6: "The farmer must be the first to partake of his crops."
When we take this verse apart we see the Greek says "The hard-working farmer", so this speaks to diligence, to the farmer's life of difficult manual labor, used as an example of spiritual difficulties.
The tough life of a farmer is likened to spiritual toughness, and as a farmer must be diligent to know all the aspects that make for a successful crop, and be willing to work in all conditions because when the time is right, the time is right -the farmer must tend to the seed and crop when it is right - he can't wait until a warm sunny day if the seed or field or crop indicates it is ready now. So too spiritually we must be diligent, unchanged by circumstances, focused on the crop, the work at hand. Spiritual toughness, a willingness to lay all aside because spiritually God is calling and the field/crop requires our focus.
This could mean when you have the urge to pray for someone, you leave what you are doing to go pray for them. It means when you're out the door for one thing, and a brother or sister calls for you to help them, you change your focus because spiritual things take precedent. The things of the heart and spirit are elevated to be the most important thing in our life.
This speaks of overseeing not just the planting of a crop and harvest, but everything related to the farm: Soil preparation, planting, weeding, determining the right time to harvest, coordinating workers, gathering and preparing the harvest for use and market, and holding back enough seed for next year's crops, and much more. It requires diligence and focus.
The soil is the human heart
Paul says the farmer must be the first to eat of the crops that came from his soil. What does he mean?
In Mark 4 Jesus gave the parable of the sower, explaining in v13 that if you didn't understand this parable, you wouldn't understand any other parable He taught. That statement makes this parable the single most important parable, and the writers of the New Testament stayed with that example in their own writings. One example of that is this passage.
In the parable the sower sows the Word into the ground - the ground is the human heart - which is where the Seed grows, and depending on the condition of the soil/heart, the seed/Word grows accordingly.
Paul follows the Lord's example using the farmer, who sows seeds, so we understand the seed is planted in the ground, the human heart, and from that a crop grows. Paul is saying the farmer must first eat of the crop that grows in his heart. If the soil is the heart, the crop growing from the heart is the fruit of the Spirit - the fruit of the (human) spirit Paul writes about in Galatians 5:22-23, that grow out of the heart (spirit) of a born again person.
It requires hard work and diligence that causes that seed to grow and develop, and the farmer (you and I), must watch over the seed of the Word in our hearts and nourish it, make it a priority. You know how a seed develops: It first pops up through the soil (heart), delicate, needing the right conditions to grow - water, light, nourishment from the soil - and the gardener or farmer must make that seeding first priority.
He or she watches it daily, cares for it, picking off any damaging insects which might try to destroy it. So too Paul tells Timothy to protect and nourish your spirit man. Don't let things which would damage the Life in your spirit threaten. Pick off the damaging insects (demonic and other forces) that would try to destroy the plant. If you read Mark 4:11-19 you'll see that sometimes the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and lusts for things 'enter in and choke the Word'.
Paul is building from that parable of Jesus and telling him not to let anything choke off the Word in his life - do all you can to nurture your spiritual life by providing a safe and nourishing environment. Don't entertain the things that do not contribute to healthy growth.
The word Paul uses to say the farmer is the first to 'partake' of the crop means 'to participate, to eat, to receive, to take'. It means exactly what it says - you have to practice what you preach. You can't be like the minister above who preaches one thing and then lives another at home.
IF you can endure physical discomfort or pain like a soldier, IF you are willing to take the emotional discipline as part of your life and return to your Trainer for more 'oil' after each contest, then it is understood you must be the first to eat of the crop of your own heart, you must walk in the revelation you have, the light you have. You must establish priorities and boundaries involving all three elements Paul teaches here. Our lives must be consistent from spirit to soul outward to our body/lives.
That doesn't mean we are accountable to perfection, but we are accountable to growth. Being a disciple of Jesus is a serious undertaking, a day to day series of decisions to let Him change us from the inside out. He uses every circumstance, every closed door, every difficulty, as an opportunity for our growth. He doesn't cause hardship, we do that to ourselves or the enemy tempts and tries us, but the Father is the Master at taking that which was meant for our destruction and turning it towards us growing more Christ-like.
As it was observed back in Mark 4:33, Jesus only taught the people as they were able to receive it. Are you able to receive more? Be careful, for if you say yes, you are instantly accountable for what He gives you. To walk in that light you'll have to be willing to endure difficulties like the soldier, the mental ups and downs of an athlete in training, and the spiritual diligence of being like Jesus your #1 goal in life, no matter what life throws at you. It is a rich life however, spiritually and internally speaking. Others won't always understand, but that's part of the price to pay for being Christ-like. It is our call.
New subject next week, until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org