(Post by Liz Crim)
Do you ever feel as if your life has become a routine: work, home, friends, church, work (sprinkled liberally with Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest)? Recently I’ve found myself somewhat deadened by routine; the familiar rhythm of life lulling me into a false sense of self-sufficiency, while the constant onslaught of images, stories, and information makes nothing surprise me because “I’ve seen it before.” In the tumult of life, I’ve lost my awe: for life and for God. When life becomes routine and ordinary, we can forget that our calling is extraordinary. We need to be shaken up and disturbed. We need our routines to be disrupted, and our eyes opened to the greatness of what our God has done and is doing in the world and in our lives.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a story about a farmer who sows seed. The farmer scatters his seed (the gospel) onto four types of soil (the path, rocky soil, thorny soil, and good soil). The seed sown on the first three types fails to grow, being snatched up by the Devil, withered by shallow roots, or choked by the cares of this world. But the seed that fell on good soil took root and produced a bountiful harvest (those who hear the Word and let it take root in their lives). This parable used to terrify me because for years I was sure I would never produce anything because I had a rocky and thorny heart. But I was forgetting one very important thing: the role of the Farmer.
This must have been obvious to first century listeners because of their closeness to the land, but the farmer does so much more than throw his seed around willy-nilly. In fact, very little of his time is spent sowing seed; most of it is spent in preparing the soil and tending the crop once it is planted. Because good soil is not a natural state. Before seed can even be planted, the farmer must spend time preparing the field by removing thorns and stones and breaking up the ground (preparing our hearts to receive the gospel). After the seed is planted, the farmer continues to care for it by fertilizing it, removing weeds and stones, and tilling to break it up to allow air and water to penetrate the roots.
Even after the gospel is sown in our hearts, God continues to feed us with his Word, weed the world from our hearts, and break up our hard hearts so that we may continue to flourish.
What does it mean for our hearts to be broken up? Consider the words of Sir Francis Drake, who penned this while on his voyage to circumnavigate the globe:
“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little. When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life. Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity. And in our efforts to build a new earth,we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly. To venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.”
God breaks up my heart in big ways and small. When the Gospel is preached to my heart during church, my complacency is disrupted. When discussing struggles with my City Group, my self-satisfaction is shattered. When I’m feeling despondent, I need to be woken up to the joy of salvation. When I’m feeling self-sufficient, I need my independence to be shattered to remind me who is in control of my life. When I feel entrapped by my sin, I need to remember God’s power and victory. This pattern of disruption is necessary to keep me from making my life about me.
The City Church mission trip to Chattanooga last year was one such disruption. As I shared in worship this Fall, Chattanooga taught me two things: God’s power and his greater vision for the Kingdom. God has the power to change even what seem to us to be the most hopeless of situations, such as the brokenness of the inner city or the complacency of our own hearts. This trip woke me up to the greater Kingdom work; reminded me how to serve, how to love, and how great a power a network of believers can have. God tells the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:26) that he will give us hearts of flesh to replace our hearts of stone; if I want to love as God loves, to ache for the orphan and the needy, then I need to allow him to remove the rocks from my heart.
Whether you join us on the trip to Chattanooga or not, I encourage you to allow your life to be disrupted by God. Allow Him to remove the stones in your heart, and sow the seeds of gospel life where you have become fallow. As Erik said in a sermon a couple weeks ago, the issue is belief and trust. Surrender yourself to the work God has done in your life and he will continue to work through you. Step out in faith knowing that He will carry you through to places you may never have imagined! Trust the Farmer; God can bring bountiful crops from even the thorniest of landfills.
Interested in serving with us in Chattanooga this Summer? email John@citychurchrva.com for an application. Applications are due on March 31st.