Tuesday, August 1, 2017
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Spring was planting time on the little farm my wife, Karen, grew up on. And in her early years, that was no small job. Her Granddad actually would hitch up Betsy and Jack-who I thought might have been her cousins but actually Betsy and Jack are mules-and they would start plowing that hard, Ozark ground. Karen would follow behind in her bare feet as Granddad and his team turned up that dirt, broke up those big dirt clods, and smoothed out that broken soil. Then came the seeding…and then the waiting. At that point, it was pretty much up to God-the weather, the warmth, the moisture, and the sunlight. Then, when the corn finally matured, Granddad swung into action again with the big work of harvesting what God had grown. It was really a neat balance of what a man could do and what only God could do.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "His Hand And Yours".
One of the spiritual giants of the first century church at Colosse was a man named Epaphras. Some Bible scholars think he was the man who actually started the church that Paul wrote to in his letter to the Colossians. At the time Paul wrote, Epaphras was traveling with Paul. And like a good spiritual farmer, he understood that wonderful balance between God's work and man's work.
Our word for today from the Word of God begins in Colossians 4:12 where Paul writes: "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you." Now there's a man who practiced the dynamic duo, praying hard-working hard.
When Paul says Epaphras was "wrestling in prayer", he's actually using the Greek word "agonizomai", the word from which we get "agonize". When this man prayed for the people he loved, it wasn't just a little casual, "Dear God, please bless them and help them." No, he was like a wrestler, using everything he had to win the battle for these people, praying with total intensity and passion-agonizing in prayer for them. He was seeking God for things only God could do in their lives-like empowering them to live right, to choose God's will, to grow up. Like Granddad Glenn back there in the Ozarks, he was totally trusting God for the crop to come up.
But he also believed in working hard for those people. Again, like Karen's granddad farmer, he knew there were some things he was supposed to do in the process. And Paul said he was working very hard on the part that was his. Now in the spiritual farming you're doing-raising your family, doing your ministry, or developing people, it's important that you do both-praying very hard for what only God can do. Working very hard on what He wants you to do.
Many of us tend to naturally gravitate to one or the other of those, and then neglect the other one. We work hard, but we don't pray enough. Or we pray hard, but we don't work enough. Granddad couldn't make that crop come up-he totally trusted God for that. But God didn't turn up the ground, God didn't plant the seed. He didn't bring the crop in. He expected the farmer to do that. Many of the great miracles of the Bible are like that: the wedding servants get the water pots and pour the water, but only Jesus can turn the water into wine. The disciples find lunch and get the people ready for a picnic, but only Jesus can make it enough for everybody - always that beautiful balance of God's hand and your hand.
And what part is God expecting you to do? Well, ask Him. Don't just run around, doing things just to try to make things happen. Don't decide what you're supposed to do based on the situation or the crisis or even conventional wisdom. Ask God to lead you into efforts He wants you to do. It won't be your efforts that will bring the result-it will be God's efforts. But strangely, it might not happen if you don't do what He wants you to do.
So, pray very hard. Work very hard. That's the blueprint for a wonderful harvest. In the words of the first foreign missionary in modern times, William Carey, "Pray as if it all depends on God. Work as if it all depends on you."