Did you know that there are four seasons to farming? In the Spring, it’s the time of planting. The soil is tilled and seeds are placed at the right depth and spacing. In the Summer, it’s critical to make sure the crops are getting the right amount of water, fertilizer and sunlight. With the Fall comes the harvest. It’s about gathering in the produce at the peak of ripeness and then ripping out the old stalks so the ground can be infused with organic matter. Then, when the winter comes, the land has an opportunity to rest. You also spend this time repairing your tools and getting ready for the next Spring.
As I read that, I can’t help but think of the seasons of our life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us there is a time and a season for everything. That includes our lives. Some of us are in a season of planting and preparing for what’s coming. Some of us are in a season of working on growing what we’ve planted. Some of us are in a season of harvest where we are reaping the benefits of what we’ve done. Others are in a season of rest where things in your life have been ripped up and it’s time to make repairs so you can plant again. Have you ever considered what season you’re in and the responsibilities God has given you for that season?
Proverbs 10:4 says, “Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!” (TPT) God has you in this season for a purpose. In every season you find yourself in, there are things you should be doing for that season as well as things to prepare for the next season. Ask God to give you wisdom to know the things you should be doing in your season. Every season comes and goes. You will not be in this season forever, so make the most of it. Don’t let the opportunity of what God is trying to do in your life during this season pass by.
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
I was speaking with a friend who is a pastor a while back. We were talking about ministry, living the Christian life and the struggles faced by those who walk away from their faith for a period of time in their life. I shared with them my story and my calling. I talked about how in the past I couldn’t see how God could still use me since my calling came before my falling away. I felt like I needed to be perfect to fulfill the role God had designed just for me and I had wrecked it. For a long time that is what kept me up at night. I knew there was no way God could use me after how I had lived.
They shared with me the story of their child who has walked away after having been raised in church. They told me about the struggles they face, not just as a pastor, but as a parent who has a child not walking in the way they were taught. With tears in our eyes I began to share my journey back and how I’ve come to the point that I believe God can still use me despite my past and how He can actually use that to His advantage. They looked at me and said, “it was no surprise to God that you walked away or came back. He knew what paths you were going to take. He took that into consideration when He designed your robe of righteousness. And you know what? The garment still fits.”
When you look at Ephesians 2:10, you see that we are God’s masterpiece. He has created you and I with a purpose in mind. When a sculptor is creating a piece of art and they come to an imperfection in the stone, they don’t start over. They don’t even try to cut that part out of the stone. They take those blemishes, those imperfection and they incorporate it into the art work. The imperfections that threaten the future of the masterpiece are what make it unique and are what really sets it apart as a work of art. The sculptor starts each project knowing there’s no perfect stone and knows they will have to work with imperfections to make each piece work.
The second part of that verse says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” He knew long ago the life each of us were going to live. He knew long ago each of us would mess up. He knew we would have imperfections, sins, disabilities and doubts. He designed all of that into the plan He made for each one of us. It doesn’t matter if you found out the plan He has for your life before you walked away, after you walked away or are seeking it out. He has built the plan for your life around the things that would happen to you and the paths that you would take. He took all that into consideration and the garment still fits you.
Our associate pastor was talking this past Sunday and brought up Paul and Silas. He was referencing the time when they were in prison and were shackled down. At midnight they began to praise God and to sing. During that time of praise that all the other prisoners could hear, an earthquake hit under the prison and freed all the prisoners from their shackles. Instead of leaving, every prisoner stayed put. The pastor then said, “Sometimes God will free you from your chains, but leave you in the prison in order to minister.”
That has stuck with me this week. We’ve all heard sermon after sermon about praising God in your midnight, but I never heard anyone talk about what he mentioned. We’re so eager to get the chains off that when they do fall off, we run out of the place God had us. We never stop to think that just because we’re free of the chains it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily free from the prison. There may still be work to do there.
The prison guard heard the chains fall off. He knew the prisoners were free and that he was no match for them. He assumed they had gotten away or were going to. If that was to occur, he would be killed. As his mind raced through every negative scenario, he decided to take his own life. As he drew his sword and held it up to kill himself, the very men that were set free called out to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We’re all here!”
The guard called for lights and went down into the dungeon where Paul and Silas were, fell on his face before them and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The quake that night wasn’t about freeing the prisoners, it was about saving a soul. Paul and Silas were in tune with God enough that they knew not to run in their freedom. Instead, they used their freedom in that dungeon to minister to someone who wouldn’t have listened to the Gospel any other way.
The guard got his family so they could hear the message. They too were saved. Then he took Paul and Silas into his home, cleaned their wounds and fed them. The next morning they were freed from the jail by the city. Even though the chains that bound them had been released, they were still prisoners until the night was over. Had they fled when the shackles fell off, they would not have been legally free and would have been considered fugitives. The story would have had a different ending.
How is your story going to end? We’re all prisoners to something. When we’ve learned to praise in our prison and we’ve been set free, we shouldn’t be so quick to run out of the prison. There may be others who need to be set free as well while you’re there. God can set us free from the things that bind us in order to minister in the place He has us. Where does God have you now? Are you so concerned with getting your chains off that you haven’t noticed others who need your help? Ask God to teach you to open your eyes in the prison you’re in and then start to praise.