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‘And they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.’ (Genesis 37:24)
‘Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’ (John 12:24-26)
Yesterday, we saw that to be planted includes being prepared to be despised for our faith; this is about enduring people thinking badly about us. Today, we will see that to be planted involves being prepared to suffer ‘darkness’- this is enduring negative actions toward us because of our faith; It also involves trusting God in dark circumstances like those we are all in at present.
If we are going to follow Jesus, we will be scorned and mistreated by some people. The author to the Hebrews writes,
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34)
If we are to bear fruit in our lives, we must continue to worship and trust God in dark times rather like this COVID 19 situation. Lloyd-Jone wrote,
‘Times of crisis always help to show what a man really is. It is one thing to be a theoretical Christian, but the real test is what you are like when things go wrong… What are you like when sorrow or bereavement comes to your home? What are you like when a war breaks out? You see, it is by our reactions that we betray what we are.’
Whether our darkness is derived from people attacking us or because of unexpected circumstances, we will bear fruit if we will trust and serve God through such times.
What darkness are you struggling with? Negativity from others because of your faith? Loss of income? sickness? uncertainty? loneliness?… what’s your cistern? Are you worshipping here? Are you praying?
James urges us,
‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’ (James 1:2-3).
Joy comes as we understand that God has purpose in all the testing situations that we have to endure.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY – TO BE FRUITFUL WE MUST BE PREPARED TO BE PLANTED.
Have you ever had the experience of doing something that you really didn't want to do only to find unexpected joy or reward in some way?
Introduction - please read in your group
Please read Genesis 37:18 and John 12:24-26
Joseph, like Jesus, was like a seed that was planted into a kind of death. Joseph’s ‘death’ would lead to the salvation of his family and many in Egypt. If we, like Joseph and, ultimately, like Jesus, want to bear fruit for God, we must be ‘planted’.
What does it mean to be planted?
In summary, it means to die to ourselves and live for Jesus. In the Joseph story, we see three aspects to being planted:
1. Despised – To be planted means to be prepared to be despised. Being Despised is about people's thoughts toward us. Like Jesus, and Joseph, if we are not prepared to be despised for our faith, we will not bear fruit.
2. Darkness – To planted means to suffer darkness. Darkness is about people's actions toward us. It's to suffer loss for what we believe: loss of a job, reputation, overlooked for promotion, hate on-line... If we are not prepared for people to treat us badly for our faith, we will not bear fruit for God.
3. Destination – To be planted means to embrace God's destination. Joseph was taken to Egypt. Jesus left heaven, came to earth and went to the cross. If we will only go or stay in places that are about our own comfort, we will not bear fruit for God.
In summary, Jesus put it very strongly,
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
Discuss together – What of these three aspects (Despised, darkness or destination) have you experienced or do you find the most challenging and why?
Discuss/share/pray in smaller groups:
What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about (maybe from Sunday's message)?
What will you do in response?
How can we pray for you?
Please share from this week’s Church News