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 GROWING GOD'S GARDEN

Introduction

          In America, gardens are usually just a hobby for many people. They enjoy working outdoors and watching things grow. Some people have a special talent for growing more and better vegetables. We say that they have a ďgreen thumbĒ because they are so successful.

          Here in Russia, the garden is more important. It is important for a family to eat, survive, afford food for the table. It is an important work. It is also important to know how to raise vegetables so that the most will be produced in the land available.

          Jesus often taught in parables. A parable is a story on a subject with which the people are familiar. Jesus could then teach them spiritual truths by applying the principles of the story. Parables, someone said, are ďearthly stories with heavenly meanings.Ē This study is a parable of your garden.

          This study of 6 lessons is about a subject that is familiar to each of your. In fact, you can teach me much about this topic. I have tried to grow gardens and produced more weeds than vegetables. While I am teaching you about GROWING IN GODíS GARDEN, you can teach me about growing vegetables in your gardens.

          The Bible often uses figures of speech about planting seeds, plowing the ground, and harvesting the crops to teach spiritual lessons. The garden of God is not a parcel of ground. Godís garden is his church. Just as you want your garden to grow and produce, God wants his garden (the church) to grow and produce fruit. (John 15:2, 8) God expects us to produce fruit for the garden of God, the kingdom of God, the church of Christ.

 

Lesson 1 - Prepare the Soil

 

Dream, Plan, Prepare

          After a long winter, you are ready for spring. You are ready for the snow to disappear and for the ground to begin to warm. Even while there is still snow and ice everywhere, some of you begin to plan your gardens.

          I have seen young tomato plants growing in boxes in March. I have seen people lined up to buy packets of seeds for their gardens. Growing a garden takes thought, planning and preparation. You can just decide one warm day to begin a garden. You must plan ahead.

          What do you need to plan? What kinds of vegetables are you going to plant in your garden? How much of each vegetable should you plant? Where in your garden does each one grow the best? Some like direct hot sunshine and others prefer the shade or cooler areas protected from the sun.

          There are four spiritual lessons to remember.

1. We must do some dreaming. God is able to do all things. He is bigger than our dreams. (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:19; Genesis 11:6) Just as you plan your garden, you must plan for the church to grow. Gardens to not grow by accident. They grow by planning.

          I know of churches that have spent great amounts of money to build a building that is not big enough. It is filled before it is finished. We must plan ahead. Plan for growth. How big can this church be in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?

2. We must plan for the future. We do not know what the future holds for us. We do not know if we will remain alive tomorrow. Life is uncertain. (James 4:13-15; Psalm 90:6) [NOTE: In Russian Bibles the Psalms are numbered differently. Please remember to use the Russian numbers.] Our life is like a blade of grass that grows, blooms and dies. Our life is like steam from a kettle. It is seen and it vanishes away.

          On the other hand, God might bless us with a long life to be useful in His garden. What will you do in the church of Christ? Will you just come and sit? Will you work in the garden of God? How can you use your knowledge and abilities to work in Godís garden?

3. We must be prepared. We are not sure when the ground will be warm enough, when the last freeze will occur. We can not know when it will be time to begin work in the gardens. As we dream and plan our gardens, we must also be prepared to go to the field and begin the work.

          Get ready. Be prepared. Be ready for every good work. (Titus 3:1) The Apostle Paul was ready to preach the gospel in Rome. (Romans 1:15) In America we have a saying, ďMake hay while the sun shines.Ē We must take advantage of the opportunities that are given to us. Opportunities come quickly and they go away just as fast. You must be ready to jump the opportunity comes.

4. We must prepare the soil. During the fall, after the crops have been harvested, weeds can come in and begin to grow. We need to remove the weeds. We have to remove everything that will take energy from the soil and keep our vegetables from producing.

          It takes a lot of work to get a garden ready for planting. You must turn the soil to loosen it. This will allow rain and air to get into the ground. The young plants need loose soil so the tender roots can grow, reach out and find the food necessary for the plant.

Parable of the Sower

          In Godís garden, we must prepare the soil. Jesus told a parable about a sower who was scattering seed everywhere. (Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:3-9; Luke 8:4-8) Some of the seeds fell in the roadway. The seeds could not grow there. The birds came and ate the seeds. They never produced any vegetables. The seeds never even began to grow.

          Some of the seeds fell on stony ground. They tried to grow but could not because the ground was too hard. Other seeds fell where thorns were growing. The thorns took all the water and food from the soil and the seeds died because they were choked out by the weeds. They could not get food, water or the sunlight they needed to live.

          Some the seed fell on good ground. The ground had been prepared. The weeds were removed. The stones were taken away. The ground could provide the nutrition which the young plants needed. And they grew and produced great amounts of fruit.

          Jesus explained this parable to the apostles. (Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 4:14-20; Luke 8:9-15) There are several important truths to remember.

1.     The seed is the Word of God, the Bible. (Luke 8:11) If we want Godís garden to grow, we must know, study, learn, understand and teach others the Word of God. The Bible is the seed that we need to plant in honest and ready hearts. (Luke 8:15)

2.     Do not waste time and seed on areas that will not produce fruit. (Luke 8:12) In Jesusí sermon, he said that we must not give that which is holy to dogs or cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6 )

3.     The rocks and weeds must be removed. (Luke 8:13-14) All things that hinder us from growing in Christ must be us removed. (Hebrews 12:1) Remove all the weeds. Clear away all the rocks that hinder growth and production of fruit in Godís garden.

4.     Satan can steal the seed. (Luke 8:12) Just as birds can steal the seeds from you garden, Satan can steal the seed (Word of God) from the hearts of people. We must be alert. We can not allow Satan to rob those we teach of the faith they are gaining. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) Do not let Satan steal the seed.

5.     Some will fall away. Not ever seed will grow and produce good vegetables for us. Some of the seed will not grow and mature. If the young plant does not have a strong root system it will die when the hot sun shines on the plant. The plant will wither away. It will burn up. It is not strong enough to  survive the trials, temptations and problems that come to it.

6.     Some will begin good and end bad. Some will begin to grow. They will have some roots and leaves. They will produce blooms and begin to produce fruit. Then the attraction of the world will attract them. (Luke 8:14) They will be choked by the cares and pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:25) Sin brings pleasure. But the pleasure of sin does not last. The pleasure of serving God is eternal.

Encourage Growth

          Growth does not happen automatically. It takes planning, preparation, work, and constant care. There are things that God does to help us grow our gardens. God gives us rain and sunshine. (Matthew 5:45; Genesis 8:22) He gives us seasons. He also give us snow. Snow is a natural fertilizer for our gardens. (Job 38:22)

          There are also some things that you must do to help your garden be a success. You must clear the weeds and remove the rocks. It is necessary to plow the ground and prepare the earth ready to plant the seeds.

          The spiritual application is clear. We must study. We need to develop a life of prayer. We should be regular in worship. Our faith and knowledge of the Scriptures must grow. We must be prepared to receive the seed as it is planted in our hearts.

 

MAY GOD HELP US TO PREPARE OUR SOIL

TO RECEIVE THE SEED FROM GOD.


 

Lesson 2 - Plant the Seeds

 

          When the garden is prepared. The ground has been plowed. The weeds are removed. The rocks are eliminated. The temperature is warming the soil. The rains are coming. All things are ready to move to the next step.

          We need to plant the seeds in the garden. This is so obvious that I do not need to discuss it al length.

          In Godís Garden, we must not forget to plant the seeds. Often we are guilty of studying the seed (the Word of God), learning how to plant seeds, discussion the great variety of methods of seed planting and trying to decide which method is best.

          There are some important lessons for us to learn as we think about seed planting in Godís Garden.

 

There are different seeds.

          There are many false teachers in our world. They will bring their seed (their books, writings, which they claim are inspired from God) and they will try to plant this seed. We must use only pure seed from God. God does not want false seed planted in His garden.

          Do not be deceived by the claims that are made. Do not allow every wind of doctrine to take you off your path to God. (Ephesians 4:14) Some will not want to hear good teaching from God. They just want to hear what pleases them and makes them feel good. (2 Timothy 4:3-4) There will be dangerous teachers who will come in and do great harm. Paul said that they are like wolves who come to you looking like sheep. (Acts 20:29-30)

 

Each seed will reproduce after its kind.

          When you plant tomato seeds, you will grow tomatoes. When you plant an apple tree, it will produce apples. God made each seed to reproduce itself. (Genesis 1:11-12) The same principle applies in the spiritual world of Godís Garden. If you plant seeds of the flesh, you will harvest the flesh. If you plant seeds of Godís Spirit, you will gather eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

 

Seeds grow at different speeds.

          You can pick the tomatoes the same day you plant the seeds. You must be patient. Wait for the sun to warm the soil. Wait for the rain to come. Wait for the seed to germinate. Wait for the blooms. Wait for the fruit to develop and mature. Growing a garden requires patience. (James 5:6-8)

          When you plant the seed of the gospel, you must be patient. You must wait for the people you teach to  receive the seed. You must wait while the seed germinates and begins to grow. You must wait for the fruit to mature. Growing in Godís Garden is not done in a minute. It takes time. Be patient.

          We must remember that it is God that gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) We can plant the seed. We can water, weed and care for the garden. But, we can not make seeds grow and reproduce. Only God can make a seed grow and mature.

How can I plant seeds?

          Most new Christians are eager to share their new faith and knowledge with others but they feel that they lack enough information. By the time they gain enough information to share the gospel with others, they have lost much of their zeal and excitement.

          Numerous Christians have a real desire to plant the seed of Godís Word but are now sure how to do it. Just as with planting seed in your garden, you must know when, where, how deep, how much space between each seed and other factors that will affect how the seeds grow.

          In Godís Garden there are many ways to plant the seed.

          Teaching the Bible can take many forms.

1.     You can hand out tracts, pamphlets and other reading materials. If you know of a special topic of interest or concern, give them a tract on this subject. They can take time to read, read again, look up the scriptures and think about what is taught.

2.     You can invite your friends to worship with you. Most people have never thought about what the New Testament teaches on worship. When they come with you there will be many questions in their mind. They will want to know why we worship as we do.

3.     You can offer to let them study the Bible by mail with a correspondence course. It does not cost them anything. They can study when they have time. There is no pressure to accept what is taught.

4.     All kinds of news media are available. We can put ads in the newspaper. We can advertise on television or radio. We can use these means of communication to announce special events, classes, and other opportunities to have public teaching.

5.     Classes on special topics might be of interest to some. We might have a series of lectures on ďIs there a God?Ē or ďIs the Bible Inspired of God?Ē Other topics of interest might include - Horoscopes and Astrology, the New Age Movement, Why are there  so many Churches?

6.     You can be a good example to those around you. Let your light shine. (Matthew 5:16) You can talk to those who are discouraged. You can encourage the weak. You can look for those who are facing a crisis in their life - sickness, death, unemployment, financial problems. Be ready to encourage and support them in this time of distress. When people face large problems in their life, they need hope more than anything else.

 

Lesson 3 - Care for Your Garden

 

          You understand, without me reminding you, that you can not just plant the seeds and walk away. You can not expect to return later and enjoy the many vegetables you planted. They need your constant care. You must pay close attention to them. They are weak and need you to watch and care for them. Disease, insects, weather and people can destroy our crops.

          Growing Godís Garden also requires care. Watch, care, support, help are words the bible uses often to describe our work in Godís garden.

          Study these verses from the Bible about taking care of the garden.

Care

Luke 10:34 - The Samaritan saw the wounded man and took care of him.

1 Corinthians 12:25 - We should have the same care for one another.

2 Corinthians 7:12 - Paul wanted them to know how much he cared for them.

1 Timothy 3:5 - An elder in the church must know how to care for it.

Support

Acts 20:35 - We should support the weak.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 - Support the weak

Watch

Matthew 24:42 - We must watch because we do not know when the Lord will come.

Matthew 26:41 - We must watch that we do not enter into temptation.

1 Corinthians 16:13 - Paul instructs us to watch and stand fast.

1 Thessalonians 5:6 - We are commanded to watch and be sober.

Revelation 3:3 - Watch or Jesus will come as a thief in the night.

 

What to Watch For

          In your garden there are many dangers from insects that will attack the plants and kill them. There are birds that will steal the seeds and eat them. There are people who will take the fruit before you can harvest it. Plants must receive water and sunlight. Some plants grow tall and need support to help them stand towering over other plants. Weeds will come and choke the vegetables before they can grow.

          In Godís Garden there are also many dangers. False teaching, trials, temptations, cares of this world, lack of spiritual nutrition, and discouragement are just a few of the dangers that are present with us.

 False Teaching

          We are always in danger of false teaching. There are many false teachers in our world. (Matthew 24:11) Some will make rules, laws and regulations that God did not make. They will claim to have power like God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4) They will make rules about what you can eat, drink and whither you can marry. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

          We must constantly be aware that these teachers are trying to lead us away. (1 Timothy 6:3) We must not allow them to change the direction of our life. (Ephesians 4:14) They are in our world, be alert. (2 Timothy 3:13; 2 John 1:7) We must be strong in our faith. Do not allow them to turn you away from the truth. (2 Timothy 3:3-4) Paul warned us of these false teachers. He called them wolves that come into the flock of God. (Acts 20:29-30)

          Remember, Jesus only built one church. Since there are many churches in our world we can reach some clear conclusions.

          A. All of the churches in our could be wrong.

          B. They can not all be right.

Trials and Temptations

          These two words are often used together or in place of each other. Life is not always smooth. There are many things that test us and try our faith. We need to be alert for the attacks and trials that come to us. We often complain to God and ask, ďWhy is this happening to me?Ē Let me tell you four things that will help you.

1. ďWhy?Ē is a question of pain. We do not ask why something is happening to us for the purpose of gaining information. We are not really seeking an answer to the question. It is a question we ask out of our pain and hurt. Jesus asked, ďWhy have you forsaken me?Ē (Matthew 27:46)

2. Study very carefully 1 Corinthians 10:13. This verse tells us that what you are facing is common to all men. Often in our trials, we think that we are the only ones who have suffered in this way. Many have to suffer worse than you. Your temptation is not yours alone.

          One of the advantages of having a church family is that you can share these problems with others who will understand. With the fellowship of Christians and the love of God, you will never have to walk through these trials alone. Even in death, God is with us. (Psalm 23:4)

3. Your problem is just your size. God has promised that your trials will never be larger than you can handle. We often think, ďI can not take any more. If anything else happens, I will not live through it.Ē but we do live through these trials. God will not allow them to get too big for us. God know you. He knows what you can endure. He will never allow you temptations to be too big.

4. God will open a door. God will provide a way of escape. God is the source of your trial. He is wanting to help you out of it. When all seems dark and there seems to be no way out, God will open a door.

Cares of This World

          We must be alert to the cares and attractions of this world. There are many things the Satan has made to look so inviting. He has made them shine, glitter and attract our attention. We must remember that all that glitters is not gold. (Hebrews 11:25) The glitter is temporary. The pleasure from sin does not last. Jesus warned us about this. (Mark 4:19)

Lack of Nutrition

          Many begin the Christian life and then begin to suffer from lack of spiritual food. We must desire the milk of the word of God. (1 Peter 2:2) We must hunger and thirst for spiritual things. (Matthew 5:6) We must then grow in our faith and increase our knowledge. (2 Peter 3:18) We must develop into spiritual adults and learn to eat the meat of the word. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

          Without proper nutrition, we will die. We must eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meat and milk. Spiritually, we must eat a balanced diet of study from the Word of God. Many are weak in faith, spiritually sick and faint of heart because they have not had the proper care and food.

Discouragement

          Probably the greatest danger that we face is discouragement. It is easy to become discouraged and our faith fades away. Few Christians quit God all at once. Most leave very slowly, gradually. They seem to fade out into the night.

          Do not be discouraged. It takes courage to live for God. We must have full confidence in God. Janet and I came to Russia with confidence that we could help you in your study of the Bible. We have confidence that your faith will increase and your desire to serve God will continue.

          Life often places obstacles in path. We can become discouraged by these hindrances or we can use them as stepping stones to go on to greater heights of service for God. Think carefully about the words of Paul. (1 Corintians 15:58) We must remain steadfast and unmoveable. Do not allow the problems in your life to discourage you. (Acts 20:24)

 

          Just as your garden requires constant care and attention, so does your work in the garden of God. You must be persistent and devoted to the work you are doing in Godís garden.

 


 

Lesson 4 - Keep the Plants Healthy

          Once the plants are in the ground the work of caring for them begins. This work is as important as preparing the soil and planting the seeds. There are many dangers to our gardens. In the previous lesson, we learned that we must be alert to the dangers. We discussed - False Teachers, Trials and Temptations, Cares of the World, No Nutrition, and Discouragement.

          In this lesson we will focus our attention on the need to do more than be alert. We must be alert. We must give attention to the first signs of a problem. But, we must also act. We must give the care and correct the problems that we see.

          Our doctor would not help us much if he saw our disease but did not give us the proper care to get well. We want the doctor to notice the disease AND give us the proper care and treatment so we can recover and be well. In the same way, our gardens need our attention AND they need our care.

          Again the application is clear. We must pay attention to each other. We must look for disease (sin) and be alert for dangers. It is important that the members of the church be like a family. We must be help each other.      There is an important passage of Scripture that I want to study on this subject. Romans 12:4-16 teaches some important lessons about caring for each other. If we are the plants in Godís Garden, then we need attention and care. Each of us can be of assistance to each other. Study this passage and make the applications to your life and your relationship with other Christians in the local congregation of the church of Christ.

Verse 4 - The church is described here as a body with many parts. Your body has arms and legs, eyes and ears, a nose and a mouth. Each part is different. Each part does a different work. But the body needs each of these parts.

Verse 5 - Even though we are many different parts, we are still one body. We are not in competition with each other. The one who invites a friend to worship services and the preacher who teaches are working together. We are members of one another. We help each other. We care for each other member of the body.

Verses 6-8 - Each of has different gifts, talents and abilities. You can do things that I can not do. I am not a good song leader. Some in the church have a special talent for music and they can lead singing. Others can pray, invite, teach children, talk to their neighbor about the gospel, or show Christ in their life by a godly example.

Verse 9 - We should love the brotherhood. (1 Peter 2:17) Our love should be without reservation. Our love must not be hypocritical. We must hate what is evil and hold to what is good.

Verse 10 - Each of us must show kindness to each other. There should be real true affection for each other.

            Let me include a personal note here. Janet and I love the people here. We have learned to love you more with each trip we made to Russia. It was our desire to come here and help the churches in this area to grow. We love you. We love you for your faith and the struggles that you endure to be faithful to Jesus. We love you for your courage and desire to grow.

          Our love for each other must be as the love for a brother. We are family. This kind of love is not selfish. True love for each other will cause us to seek what is best for others before we seek to fill our personal and selfish desires. We will honor each other. We will recognize that others have value and importance.

          Each of us must prefer others above ourselves. This means that we recognize the importance and value of each other. We will always be ready to listen to the desires of others, even when that desire is in conflict with our personal desires.

Verse 11 - We can help each other grow to maturity by the series of short statements which begin in verse 11 and continue through verse 15. Do not be lazy. Keep busy with your Fatherís business. (Luke 2:49) We need to keep our zeal high. Do not become discouraged. Keep the fires of excitement and desire burning in your heart. (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 1 Corinthians 14:12) Keep serving God. You are in Godís Garden. Continue to serve Him. (Hebrews 12:28)

Verse 12 - Rejoicing is a natural thing for the Christian. In everything we can rejoice and be glad. (Philippians 4:4) Patience is more difficult for us. In Godís Garden we must learn to be patient with each other. Remember, others are patient with you. When trials and tribulations come your way do not become discouraged. These are times that you learn to have greater patience.

Verse 13 - Share what you have with others. You may feel that you are too poor to help others. Do not forget the wonderful example of the brothers in Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 8:1-3) Be willing to share with others and seek opportunities to show your kindness and hospitality.

Verse 14 - Do not return evil for evil done to you. When others treat you in an unkind way, show your kindness and love for them. (Romans 12:17-21)

Verse 15 - Because we are family, we care about each other. We laugh with those who are happy. We are sad when we learn of the grief of our brother or sister. In Godís Garden, share the joys and sorrows of the others in the garden.

Verse 16 - We share feelings. We also share thoughts. We think alike. We have the same goals, interests, and desires. We may differ in our talents and methods. We will not disagree with the goal of reaching the lost and saving souls. God expects us to not think ourselves higher than we ought to think. (Philippians 2:3-4)

          These verses give us the formula for showing care and concern for each other. Just as we care for the plants in our garden, we must learn to show our love and concern for each other in Godís Garden.

          We need to learn how to assist each other when they are hurting. We can help in the healing of the sick. We can give support to the weak. We can encourage the discouraged. We can lift up the fallen. We can restore those who have wandered away from God. (Galatians 6:1) We can admonish each other. (Romans 15:14)

 

 

Lesson 5 - Harvest the Crop

 

          It would be very foolish to spend all to money, time, work, and effort to plant a crop, care for it, feed it, help it to grow, and then fail to pick the produce that was grown. We assume that if one would go to the trouble and work of planting vegetables in a garden, they would also harvest the vegetables which grew as a result.

          In the spiritual application, however, we do not always harvest the crop. Listen to Jesus talk to his disciples about the subject.

          Jesus was a man of deep compassion. He saw the sick, the lonely, those grieving over the death of a loved one. He was able to see those who were dealing with struggles and problems. (Matthew 20:34) He also had compassion for the lost. (Matthew 23:37; Matthew 9:36)

          It was from this extreme and great compassion that he began to talk to his disciples. (See Matthew 9:37-38) Here is the focus for our study in this lesson.

 

The harvest is abundant.

          The problem is not a lack of fruit to harvest. Jesus tells us that the fruit is ready and in abundance. We do not need to have concern about the harvest.

          When we were first able to come to Russia, we found here a ripe field. The harvest was plentiful. The fruit of our labors is flowing. There are people throughout the world who are seeking, searching, begging for someone to show them the way of God.

          You have the knowledge. They are seeking it. You can harvest the crop. You can teach others the gospel that you were taught.

          Sometimes when I teach on this topic in America, I am told that people do not want to hear the gospel anymore. I am of a different view. I see people every day who are searching for the answers to the meaning of life.

          Others have the attitude that ignorance is a blessing. It is thought that if people do not know about Jesus then they will be saved because they did not know. This is not a correct view. If this point of view were accurate then we should send all preachers and missionaries away. We would not need any Bibles. We could just let all people be ignorant of God.

          Jesus has plainly commanded us to go preach the gospel to every creature under heaven. (Mark 16:15) The lost are everywhere. We need to take the message of hope, forgiveness and eternal life to this lost world.

          People are looking for answers to their personal problems, marriage troubles, adversities with money, difficulty with raising children. People in this city look for answers in the bottom of a vodka bottle. They look for the answer in drugs. They look for the answer in all the wrong places.

          We have the answer. It is not more beer or vodka which they need. It is not a new and more powerful drug. They need Jesus. They need to learn about the saving power of the blood of Christ. They need what we have.


 

Where do I find the harvest?

          It is not difficult to find the harvest. It is everywhere you go. Get on a bus - you will see many sad faces. Go the cashier in the food shop - you will see troubled eyes. Go to schools and look in the eyes of many children - you will see disturbing things on their faces. You will see distress. You will see emptiness. You will see grief, loneliness and discouragement.

          The harvest is everywhere you go. Jesus said, ďAs you are going, make disciples.Ē (Matthew 28:19) You can go anyplace and find the harvest. As you go about your work, look for disappointment. As you walk the streets of the city, be alert for expressions of distress. As you ride the bus, keep alert for the grimace on peopleís faces.

          Everyone who has not obeyed the gospel of God needs to be taught. All who do not have faith can not go to heaven. (Hebrews 11:6) All who do not believe in Jesus are lost in their sins. (John 8:24) All who have not repented will perish. (Luke 13:3) All who have not been baptized for the remission of their sins are still in sin. (Acts 2:38) If they have not had their sins washed away in the blood of Jesus, they are still lost. (Acts 22:16)

God Needs Workers

          The problem is not a lack of harvest. The problem is a lack of workers. The harvest is plenteous, the laborers are few. Pray for laborers that God will send into the harvest.

          I have had Christians tell me that they do not know what to say or how to begin teaching the lost. I have a simple suggestion.

       Develop a friendship. It is as simple as seeing a person who looks lonely or discouraged and say to them, ďYou look like you could use a friend. Can I be your friend?Ē

       Talk to them about your life and the joy that you have in worship, study of the Bible, prayer, and fellowship with the family of God.

       Tell this person that you would like to introduce them to your spiritual family. Invite them to come with you to worship. Introduce them to others.

       When you build a relationship with them, you have a bond of friendship that will cause them to respect your wisdom. They will listen as you show them what the Bible teaches.

 
 

Lesson 6 - Preserve the Harvest

          Do not lose all your work. You can not let all you planning, hard work, effort, expense and time be wasted. If one goes to all the work of planting, digging, caring for the plants, and picking the vegetables - it only makes sense that they would also seek to save them until they can be eaten.

          Just as a new mother would not leave her new born baby in the hospital and tell it to eat what ever it can find. Babys need our attention and constant care. They need love, protection, food, and many other things. They can not do these things for themselves. They need our care.

          Growing in Godís Garden also requires that we preserve the harvest. Many churches are losing out the back door more members than they are bringing in the front door. We must plant the seeds, grow the crops and bring in the harvest. But we must also retain, care for, protect, and preserve the harvest.

Receive the Reward for your Labor

          You must not muzzle the animal that works in the field. The one who works should enjoy the reward of his efforts. (1 Timothy 5:18) Paul discusses this in detail in 1 Corinthians 3:6-15. Here is a verse by verse study of this section of Scripture.

Verse 6 - Some people have the opportunity to plant the seeds. I have been richly blessed because I was given the opportunity to plant the seed of the Gospel in Kirov and Kirovo-Cheptsk. However, many other people, Americans and Russians, have followed this work. They watered the seed. They took care of the young plants. The result is these churches are strong and growing. We must not forget that it is God who blesses our work with fruit.

          You can plant seeds. You can prepare the soil. You can remove the weeds. But you do not have the power to make that seed grow, bloom and produce tomatoes. Only God can grow a garden.

          This is a lesson that many professions need to learn. A doctor can diagnose and prescribe a treatment. But only God can heal the sick.  A farmer can plow and plant. Only God can grow wheat. A teacher can instruct and explain. Only God can produce a clear and alert mind. We can teach and baptize. Only God can forgive sins and give eternal life.

Verse 7 - It is God who blesses our effort with fruit. God takes our feeble attempts to produce and brings many tomatoes from a single seed. We can not make corn grow. God gives the increase to our efforts. He rewards us with a harvest.

Verse 8 - We are not in competition with each other. The one who plows the ground, the one who plants the seeds, the one who removes the weeds are all important. No one is of more importance than the others.

          In Godís Garden there is no difference between us. We are all children of God. There is no separation of clergy and others. There is no hierarchy in Godís Garden. Apostles, disciples, Christians, members of the body of Christ, are all equal before God. The apostle Peter forbid a man to bow down to him. He said, ďStand up. I am also a man.Ē (Acts 10:26)

          We are united in our purpose. We have the same goals, dreams and desires. We all want to harvest the crop. If you will plant, I will water, another will weed, another will harvest. Each of us is doing a different work, but we have one common purpose.

          God will reward each of us according to our work. I will not be rewarded for your effort. I will be rewarded according to the work that I tried to do in Godís Garden. While we work together and have a common purpose and goal, we are each responsible for our own work. We will be rewarded according to the deeds done in our body, whether they are good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Verse 9 - We are workers together. We are in the same garden, Godís Garden. We are united in our desire to produce fruit for God. We are Godís workers. All that we do must bring honor and glory to God. We must forget our personal and selfish desires. We must die to self and allow God to be in control of our lives. (Galatians 2:20)

          We must not begin to think that we can make it on our own. We need God. We belong to Him. (1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 6:20) We are not smart enough to know how to behave or direct our life. (Jeremiah 10:23)

Verse 10 - Here Paul changes to the figure of a building. He makes the same point. We must begin with a good foundation. One lays the foundation and another builds on that foundation. If the foundation is weak it will harm the building.

          Here is the warning. Let every man be cautious HOW he builds on the foundation. Remember, we are building for God. We are working in Godís Garden. He will reward us according to our work. Be careful how you work. Do the work right and you will be rewarded. Do the work wrong, and you will be rewarded according to your work.

Verse 11 - There is only one solid, sure, firm foundation. The foundation for all that we do must be Jesus Christ. We must not build upon some man. The preacher or missionary is just another man working in Godís Garden. Do not put your faith in the preacher.

          I often say, ďDo not believe a word that I tell you. Look it up in your Bible and believe it because the Word of God teaches it. (Acts 17:11)

Verse 12 - Laying a good foundation is determined by the kind of material that is used. When you build a garden for God with weak materials, it will not last. Jesus taught about the foolish man who built his house on the sand. (Matthew 7:24-27)

          In this verse Paul lists six materials. Three of them are strong and will last a long time. The trials of fire will not harm them. Gold, silver and precious stones are not afraid of the fire. Fire purifies and improves their quality. However, the other three are not lasting and can be quickly destroyed by fire. Wood, hay, and stubble are soon destroyed when the test of fire comes.

          In Godís Garden we can not always control the quality of the seed we plant. Some of the seed with be good and produce great amounts of fruit. Other seeds will not produce. You can not tell which are good seeds or bade seeds by looking at them. They look the same. The difference is inside the seed.

          You may work, teach, and baptize two people. One of them will grow and be a strong useful worker in the church. The other may not be fruitful. You have taught them both. You cared for both. You tried to help both to grow and be fruitful. But the heart of the seed determines its value in the garden.

Verse 13 - Each type of work will become evident. The seeds that are not good will soon become visible. The plants that are alive and fruitful will also be clear to see. The work you do in Godís Garden will be rewarded. You will be rewarded for you work, your effort. Even if the seeds you plant do not grow and mature, God is aware of your effort.

          Not every person you talk to will obey the gospel. You may work very hard to teach a person. Then they will tell you that they are not interested and they do not want to become a Christian. God is aware of your work. He will reward you.

          When the trials, temptations and tests of fire come, our work will be revealed. (1 Peter 1:7) We will know what type of material it is. Some of our work is wood, hay and stubble. When the fire comes, it will quickly be destroyed and disappear. Some of our work is gold, silver and precious stones. When the fire comes it will come out of the trial with greater shine and brilliance than when it entered the fire.

Verse 14 - If your work is good and the material is precious, you will be rewarded. God will say, ďWell done good and faithful servant.Ē (Matthew 25:21) You will have the pleasure of growing with them in the faith. You will worship together, sing together, plant seeds together in Godís Garden. You will enjoy the fellowship, love and support from each other in this life. You will also enjoy eternal life together with God.

Verse 15 - If the seed you planted is not strong, the fire will consume it and it will be destroyed. But God will reward you according to your work. God will not hold you accountable for the loss. You did all you could to teach them and help them to grow. The fault was in the seed itself.

          You will be discouraged because they are not faithful. You will feel a sense of loss. You may think that you have failed. This is not how God views your work. You planted the seed. You cared for them and tried to help them grow. God knows and appreciates your effort.

          These verses teach us that we are workers in Godís Garden. Do your best. Work hard. Teach the lost. Do not be discouraged. Grow in your faith. Remain faithful to God and His church. Worship as God has instructed. You will be rewarded.

          How do people who come to the truth turn away? How do they become so weak that they are destroyed when the trial of fire comes to them? Notice the following Scriptures - - -

       2 Peter 1:8-9 - We must grow to maturity. If we are growing we will not be a bare plant. We will be fruitful. But if we do not grow to maturity, we will be like a blind person. We can not see heaven and eternity. We forget that we were saved from our sins. We forget that we are children of God.

       Hebrews 10:25 - Many show their weakness by not attending worship services. God gave us the church as a place to find support, encouragement, instruction, admonition and fellowship. When people do not come to the assembly of the church, they are not going to be fruitful.

       1 Timothy 1:19-20 - Some people just decide that they do not want to be a believer any more. The put away their faith. Their faith looks like a shipwreck on the ocean floor. Destroyed and broken, their faith is gone and they begin to blaspheme the God they once worshipped.

 


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