When you have to change your wishes and expectations because God’s got something different in mind for you – there’s a perspective change, but it’s worth moving for. Mark 4v3-6 reads, “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” While the trodden, rocky, and thorny soils all received the same seed, they did not let the sower’s seed produce for harvest.
Have you ever felt like the ground in the sower’s parable? During the different phases and changes of your life, God throws seeds of grace and guidance your way. It’s your choice to be hard, cold, and prickly – not letting the grace of God water the dried-up plot of life you’re in. You can choose to surrender the rocks and thorns from your lot, letting the wellspring of life soften your heart and spring up the lush, green field that’s waiting for harvest time.
Often times, our unfulfilled expectations or purely self-centered wishes about an ideal life leave us hollowed out and dried up. They reflect our human nature – the will to freely sin without remorse or consequence, to be purely satisfied by our pleasures and our passions, and to have pride in the making of our merry lives. We get picture-perfect about life and its objects, and we want our perfect expectations to be instantly gratified — that is why we have that common saying, “Patience is a virtue.” Our selfish desires reflect a dry field – hard, rocky, and thorny soil that can’t possibly grow up the right seeds into thriving plants. If you don’t like the seeds thrown, you choke them out.
To further reaffirm this, Jeremiah 17v5-10 states, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.’”
When you decide to put stock in your hopes, trusting and believing in your expectations, that comes with a curse. Mere man (a.k.a. you) can’t be trusted for fulfillment. You’re not enough to find fulfillment on your own. So, whether you’re hoping for marriage, a new career, a fresh passion in life, or other tangible and intangible satisfactions – you can’t find gratification when you focus on the things of man. And, in fact, the Lord says that the heart is deceptive – even the heart you’re in possession of cannot be understood by you. Your heart and mind are both connected, often desiring deceptive things. So, I’ll ask – do you entertain your mind like God is the King of your life or do you sit your desires in that throne thinking they are worthy of it? The conditions of our hearts are much related to the things we dwell upon, and this is where the key word from that verse comes in: confidence. When you have trust and confidence in the Lord, you come out of the place of desolation into a place of fearlessness and fruitfulness.
Jeremiah 17v8 describes the constant refreshing of your soul like a tree planted by a stream. It is confident in the care and providence of the stream to tend its roots with water. Instead of hoping in the things of your corrupted mind and heart, you should look to something solid. Your foundation is much like the roots of Jeremiah’s tree – when you let your soul rest upon the solid rock, you will begin to appreciate its solidity and stability.
Here’s a curious thought: Home contractors insert special bolts into wet concrete while pouring a foundation block, to have a fixed mark that holds the house to its permanent resting place. These bolts are called “anchor bolts,” and I love the pure irony of that name. The things that hold our homes to their resting places are called anchors. Hebrews 6v13-20 says, “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Despite the bleak odds of old age and barrenness, God granted Abraham the blessing of having a child and the promise of a great nation. This example draws out one specific point – God has plans that are external and overarching, and while they may or may not align with our plans, he tells us that his purpose for us is unchanging. And, this unchanging hope we have is an anchor, firm and steadfast, for the soul. So, if you feel as though your heart’s desires and plans are unconceived, know that God still has a purpose for you that is clear and unchanging. So, in the forward movement of your faith, I have some advice.
Number one, make it clear to your heart and mind who sits on your throne. If your heart has been withered up like a desert bush and not growing like a watered tree, shift your thinking to mirror that of the Samaritan woman’s thinking at the well with Jesus. John 4v13-14 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’” Recognize that Christ is the only one who can water the dryness of your soul, and realize the life-giving nature of that eternal promise.
Number two, Psalm 40v1-2 reaffirms what happens when your heart cries out for God’s grace and refreshing, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Our foundation is a rock, to which we are anchored, firm and secure in faith. That foundation is deep, like the roots of Jeremiah’s tree, reaching into a stream of living water that revives the soul.
Number three, God is like a farmer – throwing opportunities and guidance in your way, and you can choose to receive it like the soft soil that springs up good plants or to let it return void in harvest time. You might not see the seeds that God’s planting right now, and I encourage you to talk to God like Jesus did in John 12v27-28, “‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour?” No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’” Ask God to glorify his name, and let your heart’s desires, your human expectations for life, become lesser. Galatians 6v7 reminds us that a man reaps what he sows, so make sure the intentions and actions you sow into your own life will glorify God. Ask God to glorify his name, and he will.
I’ve been listening to the FFH song “Lord Move, or Move Me” on repeat for two weeks. I’m experiencing much change in life now, and I’m looking for what God has in that change. I know we all have hopes, and that’s something wonderful about the free will that we’re given. I also know, taking a break from the things we constantly self-will can be the means of refocusing our attention away from our human hopes toward heavenly realities. Oftentimes, giving over the paper castles of dreams we’ve built up feels like we are being torn down. Yet, remember that 2 Corinthians 12v9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Let your deceptive heart’s pretentions be burnt down, so that you may recognize that the only part of your home that matters is the foundation. 1 Corinthians 9v25 says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” So, it’s not easy to give over your life plans, but we know that the rigors of pursuing God’s purposes, the seeds of His sowing, have always had the greatest reward.
So, be like the tree in Jeremiah. Psalm 92v12-15 says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” In Christ, your tree is always watered, is always green, is always bearing fruit, and is always rooted on a stream of living water. And, let Psalm 52v5-12 be your prayer of your heart, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Shift your will to match the purposes of the Lord of your life, and let your soul flourish on a solid foundation.