Friday, April 26, 2019

Dying to Live

Wherever the Wind Blows (Part 3)

Several months have passed since I began sowing my seeds for this year’s crop.  I was intent on getting them ready even earlier to make sure I had enough flowers for the flower competition at the county fair.

Batch number one was planted the first week of March and the second on the eleventh.  Some seeds were mail ordered, while others were my own.

About now they are doing their best indoors, but truly long to be planted outside in good soil so their roots can spread freely.  Just when I think the weather is about right, the winds come and temperatures drop back in the 40’s causing me to wait once more on God’s perfect timing.

Need to catch-up on this series?  
Wherever the Wind Blows (Part 1)
Wherever the Wind Blows (Part 2): Big Wind Day

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Submitting to the Soil

For the past few months I’ve been watching how magnificent life is through seeds.  They are truly amazing don’t you think? 

Carefully I prepared the soil to receive these dried, lifeless, paper-like particles we refer to as seeds.  Some are as tiny as granules of salt, yet they were designed by God to produce something.

It reminded me of the mustard seed parable in the Bible.  When planted, this particular seed begins its life journey at only about 2 millimeters or 0.079 inches long.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at the seeds that the plant can grow up to nine feet tall.

I was intrigued how one of our very own states, North Dakota, produces the largest crop of mustard seeds in the USA and I never knew it!  One of these days I’ve got to visit there so I can cross it off my “places to visit” bucket list.

In order for it to become this remarkable tree, the seed has to be changed from its former self – a seed.  The seed has to die to being a seed so that it can become what God intended.  It doesn’t have a choice of what it wants to become, where or how it will be used.  It just has to submit when sowed in the soil in which its planted, and no longer be its former self.

Once plunged (submitted) into the ground and covered the transformation miraculously begins. The tiny, paper thin, lifeless, dry seed that was held in our hand no longer exists.  At the proper time it appears out of the ground totally different.   Literally it was changed from something dead into new life; it had to die so it could live!

Here’s my point. If God can cause a seed to die to itself so that it transforms into something else through submission, how marvelous is His favor toward mankind when it came to the redemptive work of Jesus in saving the lost?  God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die to self, submitting His earthly body to the ground to be used for His purpose, which was to bring souls back to Him.

By salvation through the death, burial and resurrection (rising from being dead) of Jesus Christ, we are sown into God’s Heavenly garden as “Kingdom seeds” and He expects us to bring a harvest.  However, the only way that can happen is if we die to self so we can become what God planted inside.  You see, the seed isn’t the final product; it’s the tool or source needed in order to produce a desired end.

The seed is only a vessel of something greater.  It has to die (submit) so what’s inside can be born or live.  When we die to self it allows God to transform us into something more, granting the inner beauty to be birthed or raised.  If we never die to self, we’ll never know what God had planned to emerge out of us.

The Most Difficult Prayer

Renowned author C.S.Lewis wrote a series of “life lessons” for those of the Christian faith, describing the temptation and failings seen through the viewpoint of the devil (satan).  It’s a dialog that we don’t want to admit happens when it comes to denying self.

In his Christian apologetic novel called “The Screwtape Letters” he writes:

“Humans rarely pray for the thing God wants them to pray for, they simply want enough grace (favor from Him) to see them through some moment or time of trouble.  They conjure up a vision of the future they want and appeal for that outcome.

They persist in wrapping their anxious hands around life’s steering wheel as if ‘it’s going to work this time if only they clutch it more tightly.’ The most difficult prayer for us to voice is, not my will, but Thine be done.”

Sometimes it’s not easy to “go wherever the wind blows” as in walking with the Holy Spirit in a direction that frankly, we don’t want to take.  Our carnal nature wants things to go smoothly without any uncomfortable circumstances. 

There’s no getting around it friends.  Basically, we want our will to be done – that’s why we prayed. If God’s gets accomplished along the way that’s great, but Lord, don’t forget what I asked for first.

We want life to be a breeze, with puffy clouds blowing gently among the blue, blue skies of our uninterrupted world.  Human nature wants to compromise, but the thing is, once a seed dies it can no longer be what it once was even if it wants to revert back to its former self. 

The fact remains, a seed will totally die if not sown because it becomes useless.  Humans are God’s seeds and if we aren’t sown into His good soil our souls will die, destined for nothingness and never become beautiful like He intended.

Instead of fighting against the “Wind – the Holy Spirit”, we need to prayerfully submit and embrace the journey in which God will have us take.  Dying to self is a process that requires Daily Favor to endure, without it we’ll keep “blowing” around and never take root.  When we finally grasp that concept it’s easier to move with the Holy Spirit and minister to the needs of others, because we are no longer obsessed with our own interests.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (herself).  Let each of you look out not only for his/her own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV)

How Do I Die to Self?

I wish there was a perfect answer to this … dying to self, but the truth is it’s not easy.  One of the hardest scriptures that I have a difficult time with is 2 Corinthians 12:9, where God tells us that no matter what we’re going through His grace (unmerited favor) is enough for the situation.

“And He said to me, My grace (favor, loving-kindness and mercy)
is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Okay I get it - God shows Himself strong in my weakness … how does that help me?  Ah, read the last part of the verse.

“Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities,
that the power (the Holy Spirit favor) of Christ may rest on me.”

Not until my weaknesses are exposed will the Spirit of God, the favor power that blows on my life, change the “infirmities” or situations. Yes, but wouldn’t that require me to submit to the will of God, becoming a living demonstration of Christ’s favor in order for something good to come out of a bad thing?  Of course, it does, but thankfully we don’t have to do it alone.

The Dirt Truth

There is no getting away from it, the only One who can make us grow into something amazing is God.  Using the Easy to Read version of the Bible, Paul the Apostle said in a way even a child can understand. 

“Is Apollos so important? Is Paul so important?  We are only servants
of God who have helped you believe.  Each one of us did the work
God gave us to do.  I planted the seed and Apollos watered it. 
But God is the One who made the seed grow.

So, the one who plants is not important, and the one who waters
is not important.  Only God is important, because He is the One
who makes things grow,” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7 ERV)

After preparing the soil, the first thing I did in planning for my summer harvest was to plant and water the seeds I was given.  I did my part then God took those seeds that died to being seeds and caused them to sprout into something different.  The beautiful flowers were always there, but not in a form we could recognize them as such.

Now let’s transfer this into how it relates to Christian living.  Each time I write an article, post something on the internet or speak I plant seeds into others with my words.  God initially gave me the “seeds” (words to share about His truth).  My part is done, except for prayer, because I cannot force anyone to do anything with the seeds I give/gave.

When Paul said “Apollos watered, he meant that the words he spoke or wrote were now being shared by someone else to keep the message alive.  Without the continual watering (sharing) of the gospel the words of Christ will die in the heart who received it. 

After the seed is sown (my part) and watered (your part) then the Holy Spirit goes into action causing it (His Word into the heart of another) to grow into something beautiful.  When God chooses to use us as seeds for His glory, our part is to plant and water what He has given individually. 

On the other hand, if you are not a believer in Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God and Risen Savior, none of this will work for you, because you haven’t received a new spiritual heart to do the will of God in your life.  Today you have been given favor by God in reading this so your can become a child of His.  It’s your choice, do you want what the Lord has prepared for you?

When a person accepts Christ through salvation, the Lord breathes Holy Spirit power (blows wind of eternal life into their soul) on them, and their entire concept or view of life literally changes.  It’s an experience that causes you to seek the Will of God out of gratitude and love. 

Requirement for Growing

From the very beginning in God’s Garden all living things were created to grow with a specific purpose.  Nothing was to remain in the initial “seed” stage.

Do you know the most interesting thing of all this?  There is still one aspect needed for it all to come together.  You know what that is?  Think about it.  Wind … yep!  No kidding!

The fourth part of making “this” (seeds dying to self, sowing, watering, growing … all of life) work, is that none of it can happen without the favor of God through the touch of His Holy Spirit.

I’ve been trying to move my seedlings forward into the purpose of what I intended, but the wind has prevented that.  There are both good and bad wind breezes that affect life – human, animal and nature. 

Touch test stimulated by fan wind.
Good wind is not just beneficial, but greatly needed for all plant life to grow.  When plants are seedlings the slightest breeze moves them gently back and forth strengthening their stems.  The "touch" result is that they become a hearty sturdier plant that can withstand all types of weather if correctly cultivated.  

It's the same for us. We need the touch of God's favor through His Spirit in order to fulfill the call on our lives.  His mighty surrounding Wind makes us stronger so that through Him we can do all things as scripture declares.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (empowers, infuses inner strength, gives me strength and confident peace to fulfill His purpose)." (Philippians 4:13  AMP emphasis mine)

The opposite is true with gale force, derecho winds, which come to kill steal and destroy. Sound familiar?  It should, because those winds aren’t of God. (See John 10:10)

We all learned this from childhood. All things living need air – oxygen to survive.  Plants use the carbon dioxide from the air to make sugars and starches which feeds them.  The roots have the job of gathering water and nutrients for the plants, but without air they wouldn’t be able to fulfill God’s purpose for them. The same goes for people, we all need “something” to grow and it isn’t always food!  

This Week's Challenge: 
Letting the Self-Seed Die

Admittedly, I don't like going through the process of anything.  Process for me means waiting on something or someone else, and that slows down my plans. I'm so thankful that Jesus didn't feel the same way when He died to self on the cross that we might live eternally.  

What I've learned through a lifetime of "seed processes" is that they're going to come whether I like them or not, so I might as well enjoy the journey.  This mindset of dying to self doesn't come easy, and can blow emotions all over the place or out of proportion if permitted.  

Daily I'm reminded of how much I need God and His Holy Spirit favor in all my plans or they just won't turn out the best they could be.  Maybe you have discovered the same thing.  If not, here are three things that help when going through the "self-seed dying" process.

1 – Remind yourself that you are not sacrificing anything, but seeking God’s Will when you submit to the Lord.  The attitude of your heart in obeying His Will over your own will determine if you are sifted and tossed about in the wind, which will cancel out favor on the situation.  (Read James 1 for guidance.)

2 – Be motivated by love for Christ.  Dying to self doesn’t mean that you obey God because you’re afraid of Him, that’s actually the opposite of loving Him.  Any results you may gain will be short-lived.

Submitting to the Will of God must be based on our genuine love for our Savior in redeeming us from our sins when He was crucified. (Read Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13-14 and Titus 3:1 for how to submit to God’s authority in love.)

3 – Chose mercy (favor).  In other words, give mercy (unmerited favor) to receive mercy and experience God’s blessings (Matthew 5:7).  When we’re backed into “corners of life” the last thing we want to do is show or give someone mercy, especially if they don’t deserve it.  However, not giving mercy will get you into worse situations with no way out from the Holy Spirit. (Read Romans 12:8 about showing acts of mercy.)  

Dying to self is a testimony that you alone can live before a world that denies God exists.  Learning to submit your will is challenging, but remember what Jesus said?  His sufficient grace, favor and loving-kindness are right there with you.  He will supply the "Holy Spirit Wind" favor power for things to happen when the "self-serving seed" has died.

Heavenly Father,

You understand our hearts, know our needs and the root of our prayers better than we do.  Our spiritual needs are more important than anything here on earth that is temporary.

With love help us to joyfully submit to Your Will that gives life meaning, purpose and fulfillment beyond anything we could ever ask or think.  We are "Dying to Live" in Your Holy Spirit favor.  Let Your powerful Wind move among the Body of Christ now that we might accomplish the vision that is seeded within us.

In Jesus; Name, Amen.

“Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous – with 
life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of 
their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain 
(favor) mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 AMPC) 

If this article has encouraged or helped you please consider sharing it by using the social media icons provided at the end of this post.

Until next time, God’s favor is sufficient!

“My grace, loving favor is all you need?”
-        Jesus Christ

What’s New This Week: Click on the link below.

A Godward Life by John Piper

and for those who are interested ... 
The Screwtape Letters - Audiobook on CD by C.S. Lewis
Narrated By: Joss Ackland

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Note: Emphasis may be given in some scriptures to show clarity or understanding and is not to take away from the inspirited Word of God.

When used, the words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.

Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues but is geared toward spiritual awareness.

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Unless noted, scripture reference in series was taken from the New King James Bible Version provided by Bible Gateway.  Image credit:  Creative Common License if not specified.  Seedling  Mustard Seed Tree  The Most Difficult Prayer  Humility  Christian Life  Plant Touch Test 

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