Luke 8:11-15 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Nobody will argue with you if you tell them that your life is becoming more hectic year after year. Each of us feels the same way. We get too busy much of the time. As Christians we know that our busy schedules are often a problem in our own Christian living. Things seem to always “come up” to disrupt our time for prayer, Bible reading or study and meditation. Too frequently we find that the urgent things have crowded out the important things.
In business we talk a lot about putting out fires. URGENCY rules the workplace in most instances. URGENCY causes the student who failed to prepare all semester to stay up all night and cram for a test. We all know what it feels like to have URGENCY rule our schedule. We live that way most everyday of our life.
The parable that Jesus told about the sower and the seed is a very relevant story about growth. The story contains a few elements: the seed (the gospel), the sower (those who teach the word), the soil (the hearts of men who hear the word) and time!
The first was wayside soil. In time, the devil came and snatched the word from the heart of the wayside soil.
The second soil was rock. In time, temptation came and the seed fell away.
The third soil was thorny. In time, cares, riches and pleasures choked the seed so it could not bring forth fruit.
The fourth soil was good ground. In time, it brought forth fruit.
IT TAKES TIME TO GROW SPIRITUALLY
Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen overnight. 1 Peter 2:1-5 Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation; if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
It takes time to mature in Christ. We can’t mature in Christ by doing it on the “run.”
Spiritual growth is like compounding interest. If you’ll start when you are young and invest your time consistently – then over time, you’ll be rich spiritually. We have to be willing to devote enough time to accomplish spiritual maturity.
It’s an interesting fact that most of us can become experts at something if we just devote ourselves to it. The choices we make in how to spend our time are the difference. Those who become expert at something worthwhile spend the time in that pursuit. The rest of us spend our time watching TV, being distracted or pursuing worthless things. So over time, most of us don’t become expert at much more than the latest sitcom on TV or the latest novelist or our favorite sports team.
It’s been said that if we’ll spend only 1 hour a day at the pursuit of a thing – within 5 years we can become an expert at that thing!
I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s not hard to believe. The fact is, most of us don’t devote an hour a day to any single pursuit so we don’t know if this 5 year plan will work or not. It almost makes you want to try it though, doesn’t it?
What if we devoted ourselves to an hour of Bible study every day for 5 years? Do you think you might know more Bible than you do today? Well, sure you would.
What if you devoted yourself to an hour of visiting those who need it? Do you think you’d be pretty accomplished at visiting folks? You know you would.
What if you devoted yourself to spending an hour trying to teach the lost? Do you think you’d be better at talking to the lost about the Truth? Of course.
Christians are commanded to be good stewards. Stewardship is taught in many places in the Bible. In Titus the men who would be elders are commanded to be blameless, as God’s stewards. All Christians are to behave as God’s stewards. This means we behave as though all we have belongs to God. In essence, we know that everything DOES belong to God. That’s why the Bible depicts us as pilgrims and strangers here. We’re simply passing through on our way toward heaven.
Christians have to be generous with our money and our time.
1 Corinthians 16:1,2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
With regard to the public contribution in worship, we are commanded to give cheerfully, with purpose and as God has prospered us. Financially, our prosperity can differ, but when it comes to TIME – we’ve all got the same amount. How we give of our time has nothing to do with how much of it we have because we’ve all got the same amount of it.
It’s possible for us to be miserly with our time and our money. God’s people shouldn’t be stingy with their time or money. A person might say, “I just don’t have the money to give like I want.” While I’m not certain we can be correct in making that type of statement, I suppose a person might desire to be in a position to give a greater amount financially, when they are already giving cheerfully, with purpose and as they’re prospered. But it’s not possible for any of us to say, “I just don’t have the time to give like I want.”
We can give it our time. It just means we have to put something else aside. It might also mean that we’re wasting time – just like we might be wasting money!
Luke 15:11-13 And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of thy substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his substance with riotous living.
We call the younger brother “prodigal” because he was recklessly wasteful and extravagant. Prodigal literally means to “squander.”
He wasted his inheritance. He didn’t use it wisely. Instead he couldn’t wait to go party and have fun with the financial gain that took his father a lifetime to build. We don’t often talk about the waste of his substance, but understand – his father had worked all of his life to build up the inheritance for the sons. We don’t know how long it took the younger son to waste it, but we know this – it took much longer to earn it than it did to waste it!
We need to examine how we allocate our time to God’s service.
Time management may not be the real problem. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to teach their employees how to better manage time. In reality, they’d be much better off teaching their people how to manage the data and the people in their lives. With all the reports, e-mail messages and other written communication that every employee must muddle through – there just literally isn’t enough time to keep up with it all. The answer might be to find ways to stop some of that data from hitting so many people and instead, get it to the people who need it most and who can deal with it.
For God’s people, time management might not be the real problem either. Maybe we need to focus on examining the IMPORTANT matters and let the other things slide a bit. Instead, we try to have it all – and it’s just not possible, no matter what folks might tell us!
The Bible teaches us this principle in very simple, straightforward language:
Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.
Well, this tells us something. Isn’t that exactly what many of us are doing, laying up treasures here? But we want our treasures in heaven, too! We live in America where we know you CAN have it all. Can’t you?
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
OUR PROBLEM IS OFTEN THE PROBLEM OF OVER-COMMITMENT TO THINGS THAT COMPETE WITH OUR CHRISTIAN LIVING.
Stress is a real killer in our world. Experts tell us that 43% of all adults suffer from the adverse affects of stress. Up to 90% of all doctor visits have some relation to stress. Stress has been linked to all leading causes of death including cancer and heart disease. Sixty percent of all employee absences are linked to stress related issues.
One aspect of stress is when our heart says, “Don’t do it, your priorities will suffer.” Your mouth says, “Why sure, I’d be happy to do it.” In other words, we over-commit! It might even be a good deed or something that is positive.
Brethren, the fact is – there just isn’t enough time to do it all! Don’t fool yourself!
During the summer months I hear parents talking about keeping their kids busy with this camp, that sport, this trip, that project, and on and on. In some cases I think the kid is bound to be ready for school to start back so he can get some rest! The stress of DOING, DOING, DOING starts very early for a lot of kids.
How many children in Christian homes have the time or take the time to quietly read the Bible or pray with the family? How many families PLAN that quiet time alone with the Bible or alone in prayer?
Maintenance time is crucial for our well-being, but that’s usually the first thing to go when we’re pressed for MORE time. We put sleep on a back burner. We bump vacation time because we’ve just got too much going on. We push doctor visits aside because we’re just too busy right now.
Maintenance time for God’s people is time spent with God – in study, in prayer, in fasting, in worship. These things are normally sacrificed for other pursuits. So what happens? We eventually find ourselves running on empty…until we run out of “gas.” Another year goes by and we realize we’re no stronger today than we were when we first started walking with the Lord. But we shouldn’t be surprised because we’ve not taken the time to GROW.
We get distracted and worry about a lot of things. We’re busy being Martha when we ought to be more like Mary.
Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving; and she came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. But the Lord answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Perhaps no little group of verses hit us any harder when it comes to taking the time to grow in the Lord than these verses. The phrase, “ thou art anxious and troubled about many things” describes most of us today! We’re very busy fretting about things that are not eternal. We consume our lives with activities that won’t matter at all when time is declared no more.
ONE thing is needful and we have to choose that one thing – service to God!
It’s possible for us to be so busy here and there that IN TIME, we find our spiritual life has slipped away from us.
Burnout happens when people become so single-minded in their pursuit of a thing, normally a career or some athletic pursuit begun at an early age. Normally that doesn’t happen spiritually. As Christians we’re more liable to FIZZLE out than to burn out!
We’re guilty to putting too many things into our lives. We take on too much. But we can easily justify every one of them.
– This activity will help advance our career.
– That activity will help us spend more time with our family.
– This other activity will help us become a more rounded person.
– And we just like that other activity because it’s fun and we need some fun.
JESUS LEADS THE WAY.
Private devotion to God was something Jesus knew very well. I doubt any of us are as pressed for time as the Lord was. He knew His time was short. His earthly ministry was merely 3 short years. I don’t think I want to compare my schedule with His, do you?
Mark 6:30-32 And the apostles gather themselves together unto Jesus; and they told him all things, whatsoever they had done, and whatsoever they had taught. And he saith unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desert place apart.
Jesus made the necessary arrangements for time alone with God. We find him after a very busy day…the day he fed the 5000 with the loaves and fishes…retreating to pray for most of the night. On many occasions he would retreat after a long, hard day. Then, alone he’d commune with God. At other times he’d wake up early so he could be with God.
Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in these days, that he went out into the mountain to pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God.
Mark 1:35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.
This was his habit. He didn’t just do it once in awhile. He did it all the time. It was important time for him. He knew he needed it.
Luke 5:16 But he withdrew himself in the deserts, and prayed.
If we’re going to grow spiritually we have to spend time alone with God. Reflecting and spending time considering our own life is crucial to our Christian success. It’s possible for our schedules to be so busy that we have little or no time to think about our relationship to God and our obedience to His Word.
Do you suppose that if Christ needed it, then we might need it even more? Then why don’t we make sure we set that time aside?
DISCIPLINE IS NECESSARY SO WE CAN MAKE TIME TO SPEND WITH GOD.
For years we’ve sung, “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord.” We shouldn’t underestimate the time we spend ALONE with God – time taken to BE HOLY. It’s time that will help us GROW.
We haven’t talked about the many wonderful WORKS that we should be doing. We have to visit the sick and widows. We have to minister to others. We have to worship God. The Christian life is certainly a life of action.
These things are important and urgent, but they do not replace time alone with God in prayer, in His Word and in quiet calm thinking of our life and what we need! Local teachers in a congregation MUST spend quiet time in study and reflection of God’s Word. The result that you see and hear from the pulpit is the culmination of time alone with God’s Word. Just like the performer spends hours and days in practice – the audience sees the performance, not the preparation. Brethren, we need to spend more time in preparation because people see the performance!
Calm, deliberate time with God is what we need. Time with His Word in earnest study and reflection. Time with Him in prayer. Time in fasting focused on the things that matter most.
1 Timothy 4:15, 16 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
The ASV renders the word “meditate” as “give diligence.” The task of living a Christian life is hard. It’s toil. It takes everything we’ve got. We’re going to have to WORK at it.
If you go back to the parable of the soil, the sower and the seed you realize that the soil must give itself wholly to the seed in order to bear fruit. The soil that didn’t give itself wholly to the seed and only the seed was eaten up with weeds and other things that choked the Word.
There are so many basic fundamental lessons that all of us need to learn.
– Give yourself wholly to living for God.
– Realize that heaven gave everything just like the prodigal son’s father gave a
lifetime of work to produce the inheritance.
– Understand that the time it takes to invest in spiritual growth can be ruined
by only a moment of sin’s pleasure. It always takes longer to earn it than it
does to spend it.
– Actions and good deeds are worthy and necessary, but time alone with God in
selfless devotion to learning and maturing will prepare us and spur on those
actions that please God.
– Your growth in the Church will be determined by the time you spend in pursuit
of spiritual things: prayer, study of God’s Word, reflection on your life and
devotions to please God.
– Whatever it takes – we ought to put a calm center of devotion in the eye of
the storm that is in our lives. What storms exist in your life that are more
violent, more time consuming, more stressful than the storm facing Jesus on
the night he was betrayed?
John 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
In our private lives, the time we spend in self-examination, in study of God’s Word, in prayer to Him can be profitable times of GROWTH. During these times we can see ourselves in the mirror to the soul – God’s Word. We can see the things that are amiss and need correction. We can see the things that God has blessed us with and give Him thanks. We can see if our course is straight or if it needs correction. It’s during these times that we can decide to fix the things that are wrong in our lives. It’s during these times that we can resolve to keep going forward in the Lord.
These are times of GROWTH. Like the seed in the parable, our spiritual lives need time to grow. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen because of urgency. It’ll only happen because we give it a place of IMPORTANCE!