But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18)
Grow Where You Are Planted
Life never turns out the way it is planned. Someone said reading the book of Ecclesiastes is defined as “Life is hard and then you die.” There is truth to the idea that life can be an arduous journey fraught with many disappointments. From early childhood, certain ideals are hoped for and plans made to follow a certain course with definite expectations only to find the changing sands of time erase those dreams into a harsh reality. No book illustrates the uncertainty of life than the stories from the Bible. Adam and Eve could not have imagined how much their world would change by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Cain did not get up one morning and decide to kill his brother. Noah was not prepared for the message of destruction that would annihilate every person he knew and every human on the face of the earth. Abraham was 75 years old when he was told to leave his family and spend the rest of his life as a vagabond.
One of the great classic stories of the inequalities of life is found in the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph. As the privileged and much-loved son of Jacob, Joseph had an incredible life waiting for him. His father adorned him with a coat of many colors as his mother doted on him. It was a fateful day when his brothers sold him as a slave to a caravan going to Egypt. It would be twenty-two years before he saw his family again. During that time, he was sold like an animal in the slave market of Pharaoh, treated not as a boy of privilege but a slave, and then when life seemed to be turning around for the young Hebrew, he was framed by his master’s wife and thrown into prison. Joseph had every reason to hate God and despise his captors. Instead, Joseph grew where he was planted. His life had turned from the luxuries of a wealthy family to the harsh desert of human bondage. He loved and served God first, and the Lord blessed him. It took a long time for Joseph to understand why he was in Egypt, but he saw his life as a blessing from God.
Daniel and his three friends found their lives changed dramatically as they witnessed the fall and destruction of their beloved homeland and then the long journey of bondage in Babylon. Their early life saw the nation’s rebellion against the cries of the prophets to return to the Lord. They could not imagine they would be taken away from Jerusalem, never to return. The captors demanded they learn their language and culture and changed their names from honoring the one true God to the gods of the Babylonians. Part of the cultural training required they eat of the king’s delicacies, but they refused. This would have brought swift death by the hand of the captors, but God delivered them. Their faith would be tested again when the king built a large idol demanding his citizens bow down and worship it or suffer death in a burning fiery furnace. They refused and again were delivered by God. Daniel faced certain death many years later as an older man when his peers tried to destroy him by his faith. He held true to his practice of prayer and was cast into a den of lions. An angel of the Lord shut the mouths of the lions, and God delivered him. Life for these young Hebrews was nothing like what they would have imagined.
Twelve men were leading varied lives of fishing, government work, and one was a member of a radical group seeking the overthrow of the Roman powers when Jesus came along and called them to be His apostles. Their lives would never be the same. A young man devoted to the cause of the Lord God was intent on destroying a religious sect that denied the word of God found in the Law of Moses. He helped kill one of their disciples and then began a campaign of terror to destroy those of the Way. As Saul of Tarsus approached the city of Damascus, his life changed when the same Lord he sought to destroy called him to be his most ardent messengers of hope. As Paul was walking down the road or sailing in a ship during the midnight watch, did he ever stop and reflect on how different his life turned out?
In all the stories of these life-changing moments, the constant is how the men and women changed their lives. Peter admonishes those whose lives had been disrupted, turned upside down, and moved in a direction they could never have imagined, to do one thing that was important: grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Noah believed in the word of God and saved his household. Abram trusted in the word of the Lord and believed in the promises. Joseph grew daily in his knowledge of the love of God, as did Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. It was a tragedy that Judas killed himself, but the remaining eleven faced hardships and died the martyrs’ death and changed the world. Life can be hard and feel like a burning desert with no hope. An unlikely tree stands amid the seemingly endless dunes of the Rub’ al Khali desert in the Arabian Peninsula. It grew where it was planted. Wherever you are in life, grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God will bless you.