Luke 9:62 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Fit for service in the Kingdom of God. Fit, qualified, competent, prepared, ready, adapted or suited. Am I fit, qualified, competent, prepared, ready, adapted or suited for service in the Kingdom of God? I used to think if I could “do” something and purposed to “do it” to the Glory of God that I was “fit” for service. So, for example, if I could teach young people and I volunteered to do so by preparing lessons, studying God’s Word, showing up and doing that thing that I was able to do, God would bless me. Just because we know how to do something and choose to do it for the Lord does not necessarily mean that we are fit for service in the Kingdom of God. As I hang my head reminded of all the times that I have set off to do “something” for the Lord only to wind up falling flat on my face, broken in heart or weak in my spirit. Our best intentions cannot fulfill the Call of God or make us fit for service if our heart is in the wrong place.
“But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Seeking the Kingdom of God implies nothing about what I can do. To become right with God requires total surrender to Jesus Christ making it impossible for me to earn it or come by it naturally. Luke (chapter 15) has parables related to the Kingdom of God and its attributes. It is like the shepherd who looks for just one lost sheep. The entire kingdom rejoices when it is found. It is about one person not the entire world. The Parable of the Lost Coin tells of the woman who could not rest and would not relent until it was found and so it is in Heaven when just one sinner repents. It is like the story of the lost son who upon his return from his wandering, the father stops the work, kills the fatted calf, welcoming him home at last. Matthew (chapter 13) compares the Kingdom of God to the treasure hidden in the field and a man who sold all he had to obtain it or the pearl of great price who was obtained by the one who sold everything he had and bought it. We must understand the mentality of acquiring the Kingdom of God to become successful in our endeavor to do so.
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Oh, how I long to be fit for service. The Kingdom of God is my greatest desire. However, it would take most of my life to begin to discover what is hidden in the Heart of God and finally figure out what following Jesus is all about. My way didn’t work. It never will because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – no one can come to the Father but through Jesus Christ alone. Naturally, the image of a farmer planting his field comes to mind. As a young man, he was impatient quickly racing his horses and plow down the field to get the seed in the ground more quickly not mindful of the soil and its contents. Growing older, he became more interested in his neighbor’s field with its lush production so he looked at his own property with loathing discontent and so he became over meticulous about his plowing and planting – not really interested in what his own land might produce but trying to imitate the productivity of his neighbor. After many years of lack and dissatisfaction through the tests of time, the farmer matures into a master gardener when finally he understands the patience of the farmer and the focus of his plan – to grow what he plants where he is planted. He may sow the seed, and others may water, but only God’s gives the increase. (John 3:30) Keep note of that – we will come back to it very soon.
2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our church will hold its first service in its new building this morning. For almost a month, men, women and young people have invested countless hours of time and immeasurable amounts of energy into renovating the tired, old property for the Glory of God. This morning my bones are creaking and moaning like a tired old house standing for years and feeling each one. We cleaned, scrubbed, loaded and unloaded to continue to revive this place left desolate by the last failed attempt to build God’s Kingdom. We are a congregation who desires the next great move of God to be facilitated through us. Do we know what that is? What will make us successful? Are we after God’s Kingdom or just to build a successful congregation? His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by His Own Glory and Goodness. We are fully equipped to see a revival breakout. The Lord has provided all that we need. Resources are not the issue. He puts the plow in our hand. He has put purpose called eternity in our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) What will we do with all that we have been given?
2 Timothy 2:19-21 (NIV)
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
To be useful to the Lord, I must become His Instrument. Yesterday working side by side with many people, personalities quickly emerged. We all work differently in the Father’s Hand. I have always been very much like Martha whose eyes remained firmly fixed on the task at hand without the ability to remove blinders and see those around me. It is not a worthy attribute. Martha tends to rip the utensil from God’s Hand and do it herself. She impatient and may become rude. There are the Mary’s who hang on every breath and every word. So immersed in others that she can hardly move for herself. See Martha and Mary are human both with good and bad qualities. These characters though they are referenced as female can be applied to all people. I used to plow over people. If I knew the end goal, they were just collateral damage. God had a goal and it was my job to achieve it. I was wrong and have issued many apologies over the year to those I did not see in my haste to complete a task or fulfill a request. What about you? Are you Martha who is too controlling and task oriented? Or Mary with your head in the clouds? In our attempts to build the Kingdom of God, may we never become useless utensils in the Hand of God, but willing vessels in all things!
I Kings 19:19-21 (NIV)
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV)
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
The call to follow Jesus is not one that causes us to rise up but rather bow down. I wish that God’s People would come to realize that there is nothing of worth that we can do other than to know the Lord and walk in His Ways. There is nothing that the Kingdom of God “needs” us to do to contribute to its coffers. When Elijah found Elisha in the field plowing, he didn’t say a word just laid his mantle on him. He was called but not by the prophet’s words but by God’s Anointing. He made the choice to burn his plow and sacrifice his oxen to follow the Man of God and thus the Lord. When Jesus called out to Peter and Andrew who were just working men doing their job and making a living, He offered to make them fishers of men. He did not have to say anything else and these men left their livelihood behind to follow the Lord. We all answer the Call to follow Jesus from our heart but we must learn to change our mind and the work of our hands to follow suit. What we can do will never be as important as what we were sent out to do? Gather God’s People and build His Kingdom.
Psalm 20:6-8 (NIV)
Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses. The plow is carried down the field by some kind of beast of burden. In many cases, it is by horses. These horses must be kept under the strict control of its owner to ensure proper plowing. When we are unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), it makes us think that we are like the horse pulling the plow. If we do not work, the production will stop. If we don’t plow, nothing will grow. If we fall short, the whole harvest is gone. We put our trust in utensils such as chariots and plows. Many of the disciples put their hope in the net. The Lord is reminding me today that I am His Vessel created for His Service. If I am unsuccessful or ineffective in my ministry or mission to build the Kingdom of God – I may have transferred my trust from Jesus to those around me and the things in my hand rather than the Spirit within me.
We are to live “yoked” to Jesus Christ. Matthew 11:28 is the answer to being “unequally yoked” with nonbelievers. There are Christians, followers of Christ, pastors, teachers, and leaders in God’s House and the Kingdom of God with areas of unbelief. I find new areas in my own life every single day that must be surrendered to Christ. Not a day goes by that I am not convicted to live out God’s Love in a more effective way.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” As believers, it is our duty to daily yoke up with Christ to build His Kingdom. We can do nothing apart from Him but must abide in Him to be successful and prosper where it counts. When we follow Jesus by becoming “yoked” to Him, we share His Load which is His Unfailing Love for all mankind. We cannot every outdo Him. We cannot out carry Him. If for a single moment, one person becomes less important than the task at hand, our ministry, our life, our job or our agenda, the yoke to Christ is broken and we go our own way.
I Corinthians 3:5-7 (NIV)
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
The disciples of Jesus followed Jesus. Jesus commissioned them to continue make disciples and that the world would know His Disciples by their love for one another. When the people began to split apart according the disciple who they followed, it became clear a problem was arising. Paul addressed this decisively. I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but God has been making it grow. What good is planting, if there is no harvest? We can water and tend the field but that will not feed us if there is no growth. We spend a great deal of time sowing into God’s Kingdom but if there is no growth is God really with us? Sometimes in our church, job and life we become so engrossed in our task and doing things our way to “advance” the Kingdom that we do not allow God to grow others and even prohibit His Growth in us.
Discipleship comes in many forms. It is not true discipleship until it is all about Jesus. Your followers should outgrow you and latch on to the Lord. We are not called to a mission of minions to do our bidding but rather sowing seeds in human hearts and watering them with God’s Love patiently until God gives the increase. Harvests are not once in a lifetime but godly prosperity lasts season after season as we flourish in the Kingdom of God. A spoon does not try to be a fork and a knife has no interest in either for they are focused on the meal. We cannot allow distractions in our discipleship of others. I will drive past many churches to get to the place our family worships. One may be a silo and the other a water tower today each with its own special purpose. Friend, only God can give the increase. It is nothing we do, and certainly not a part from Him.
Micah 4:2-4 (NIV)
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.
We all work for the same God and are on the same mission. We are called by His Love to love one another and build His Kingdom together. Sometimes our plow is laid down for a sword. Other times we put our trust in other things like the horse that drives our plow or maybe even our own strength. I didn’t know what a plowshare was until today. It is the blade that cuts the ground. It says to beat our swords into plowshares again sharpening our sword in our spirit to cut away calloused hearts and break up solid ground so seeds of faith and hope can be sown, and the Spirit can water the people again. God will make it grow when the production of our life is pleasing to Him and contributes to His Kingdom. Leave the weeds. God will sort them out. Just love and tend everything that grows and let Him worry with the rest. We have everything we need to prosper not according to this world but in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom seeks prosperity in people even that one or just one – Jesus loves them all. How will we know when we are successful?
The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. (Isaiah 32:16-18) To yoke our life to Christ will produce places of undisturbed rest, secure homes and peaceful dwelling places right here and right now. Love covers a multitude of sin. If all we can see is the faults and differences of others, we have looked back and are not fit for the Kingdom. Forfeiture of grace requires repentance. Lord, place my hands firmly on the plow again, keep my eyes fixed on you, and may I be yoked with Christ always. My mission is love. I trust you for the increase.
John 3:30 (NKJV) “He must increase, but I must decrease.”