PREPARING FOR RAIN Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy

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PREPARING FOR RAINScripture Reading: Deuteronomy 11:13-17; Philemon 1:22At one of our movie nights this summer we watched “Facing the Giants”. And in thatmovie the football coach of a Christian school was discouraged about the way things weregoing; there were folks who wanted to get rid of him because he was having anunsuccessful season. He was new at the job which he desperately needed; but thingswere looking grim. And then one of the other teachers came to him to give him scripturalencouragement from God. Afterward the coach asked the teacher if he really thought Godhad sent him with that particular scripture and the teacher said that yes, he did. Then thecoach shared how he was really struggling and confessed that he just didn’t see God atwork. At that point the teacher told this story:“’There were two farmers who desperately needed rain, and both of them prayed for rain.But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you thinktrusted God to send the rain?’ The coach replied, ‘The one who prepared his fields for it.’Then the question was asked, ‘Which one are you? God will send the rain when He isready. You need to prepare your field to receive it.’”All summer we’ve been talking about gardening. And now we’re into the fall, and wedesperately need rain. Our lawns are brown; flowers and vegetables have not reachedtheir full potential. Even some shrubs and trees are suffering from lack of water. We are in

2a severe drought and the rain that is so desperately needed has not been forthcoming.What are we to do? One thing’s for sure: We can’t make it rain. We like to think ofourselves as resourceful and self-sufficient; as intelligent and innovative. But there isnothing we can do about the weather. It is what it is, and all we can do is to pray that wewill, sooner rather than later, have rain; and that when that rain comes it won’t be amonsoon or a hurricane.As we talked about gardening this summer we were, of course, speaking of our lives asbeing our garden. So I will now ask you: Are you perhaps feeling overwhelmed, fatigued,drained, disappointed, depressed, burdened, or maybe even bored? Do you sometimesfeel hard-pressed to get out of bed in the morning? Are you over-worked? Do you findyourself binging on food or video games or TV shows? Does life seem to not be measuringup to your expectations? If so, it may just be that your focus is on the wrong thing. It mayjust be that you have put God on a back burner and are plugging along on your own steam.It may just be that you have ceased to expect great things from God. But whatever it is, itcould be that your garden, the garden of your life, is suffering from drought and desperatelyneeds rain.My Dad taught me that one way to prepare for rain is to keep the surface of the soilwatered so that when it does rain it will sink in deep to where it is needed. At some point Ihad bemoaned the fact that I had “wasted” my time and my water watering my garden onlyto have it rain. And my dad said, “No, that’s good. That way the rain will not run off, but willsink in.”

3Now, before we talk about how we keep our soil well-watered so that the rain can sink in,we need to ask, just what is this rain that we need so desperately but that we may not beexperiencing? What is this rain that can raise our drooping spirits, restore our wilted hopesand dreams, cause us go grow and to bloom? I submit to you that it is the blessing of Godin our lives. It is the grace and the mercy of God; it is His presence. It is the outpouring ofHis Holy Spirit. And it is the understanding and the conviction of the presence of His HolySpirit within us giving us the power and the strength that we so desperately need to live ourlives in a fallen world.The background for our scripture passage from Deuteronomy is the farewell address ofMoses to the Israelites as he prepares to transfer his leadership to Joshua and to preparethe people to finally enter the Promised Land. He was reminding them of all the laws thatGod had given them and he was urging them to obey those laws and to honor all God’sclaims on them as the people he redeemed from Egyptian bondage. And he was doing sobecause God had made it very plain that obedience to His laws was the key to theIsraelites receiving His future blessing.Now, you could argue that that these laws don’t apply to us; that they have beensuperseded by Jesus. But Jesus Himself, when asked by one of the Pharisees, “Teacher,which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” replied, “Love the Lord your God with allyour heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatestcommandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and

4the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” And at another time Jesus said, "Do notthink that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish thembut to fulfill them.” So we can see that nothing has changed. The greatest commandmentthat God has given to us is to love and serve Him with all our heart and soul; and He haspromised that if we will do so He will provide the rain needed for our gardens to grow. Hewill provide the rain needed for His garden to grow. He will shower us with His blessing.Our God is always with us; indeed, He has promised to never leave or forsake us.However, we can leave and forsake Him, sometimes without even being aware. And I thinkperhaps the reason we can sometimes slip away from God is that He can be so slow inbringing about changes in our lives. From our perspective He can take forever to answerour prayers. And we can begin to drift. However, there is a very telling passage inLamentations that reminds us of this fact and of our need to stay close to the Lord.Lamentations 3:24 and following reads, “My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance;therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him, tothose who seek for him. It is good both to hope and wait quietly for the salvation of theLord.”But our waiting need not be passive. Quietly does not mean passively; rather it meanswithout anxiety. So we can prepare while we wait in expectation for what God is going todo. And we are waiting with expectation because we have faith that God has notabandoned us. Therefore, we can take heart from the Apostle Peter’s admonition as given

5to us in 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that hemay lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”So – with all of that said – how do we prepare for this rain? How do we keep our soil andour souls well-watered so that the rain of God’s blessing: His love, His mercy, Hispresence, His providence, and the outpouring of His Holy Spirit can sink in?Our first clue comes from our scripture passage from Paul’s letter to Philemon. Almost asan after thought the Apostle Paul adds, Oh! By the way! “ one thing more: Prepare aguest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.” Paulis asking his friend Philemon to plan ahead for a visit from him. He does not tell Philemonwhen he might be coming or even if he is definitely coming. He says that he is hoping tocome as an answer to Philemon’s prayers. From this small passage we can easily see thatthe prayer of his friend had a large part in determining Paul’s plans. This was to be nocasual, random visit. It would be a visit in response to prayer. And Paul is saying that he“hopes” to make the visit; although it does not appear to be a sure thing. Nevertheless, heis telling Philemon to get the guest room ready. In other words, prepare for rain.This helps us to see that prayer is crucial in our preparation for God’s blessing. Now this isnot to say that God will not bless us if we do not pray, or that He won’t bless others who donot pray. For, in Matthew 5 Jesus tells us that the Father “causes his sun to rise on the eviland the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God loves everyonewithout distinction. However the blessings we are talking about today are spiritual

6blessings. To re-iterate, these blessings are the grace and the mercy of God; the presenceof God; the outpouring of His Holy Spirit; and the understanding and the conviction of Hispresence. And because part of the work of prayer is to change us and to bring us into linewith the will of God for our lives, prayer is the beginning of the softening of our ground toreceive the rain.Reading the Word is also crucial for soil and soul preparation. How can we know God’s willif we do not know what He says in His Word? How can we know the directions that Godwould have us take if we don’t know how He feels about His Creation? How can we knowwhat God expects of His Church if we haven’t bothered to find out? As scripture tells us inPsalm 119, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Even a cursoryreading of the Gospels will reveal God’s will for His Church. For, the Gospels tell us whatJesus did while he walked upon this earth.As we are told in Matthew 4, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness amongthe people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who wereill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those havingseizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” And in Matthew 9 we read, “When hesaw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without ashepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

7Then, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyonewho has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things thanthese, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, sothat the Son may bring glory to the Father.” From these three fairly brief scriptures we cansee that Jesus expects His Church to reach out to the lost – to those who are like sheepwithout a shepherd – to bring them the Good News of the Gospel and to offer them thehealing and deliverance of God. But how would we know that if we don’t read his Word?And how can we teach others what we ourselves do not know? And these are only threesmall scriptures! Think of how many, many more nuggets of truth are embedded in thescriptures just waiting to bring light to our paths and to our minds.Prayer and reading the Word are the foundational spiritual disciplines that we need toundertake to prepare for rain. And there are other spiritual disciplines that we could talkabout as well. However, I would like to mention just one more today; and this one willcome about when we practice the first two. And that is, cultivating peace; that peace thatJesus promised us: the peace that passes all understanding; the peace that the worldcannot give or take away. And that could conceivably be the hardest of the three tocultivate. For, there certainly is no peace to be found in the world today. In fact, I can’tthink of a time in my life when there has been less peace. And not only is there less peace,chaos is becoming more and more pronounced. So how can we cultivate peace in such ascary, detrimental and negative environment?We cultivate peace by choosing to trust God; by choosing to believe that He hears and

8He answers our prayers. Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trustin you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” We cultivate peace by choosing to believeGod’s promises as found in His Word. We cultivate peace by choosing to turn our livesover to God and to give Him the opportunity to use us for His purposes in the way that Hedesires. For, when we cease striving and trying to figure everything out on our own; whenwe cease trying to live a life that may be hard in our own strength, we will have placedourselves in the position to be able to experience that peace that Jesus talks about. Andwhen we have done that, along with engaging in prayer and reading the Word, we will havewatered the surface of our garden well and we will be in a position to receive the life-givingrain when it comes.And I would point out to you that all of this requires an act of the will. We have to choose.Every day. And this is pointed out in another admonition from Moses to the Israelites in hisfarewell address, as found in Deuteronomy 30, “This day I call heaven and earth aswitnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Nowchoose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord you God,listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life ”We’ve been talking about our individual, personal lives. But now I would like to turn to thechurch. How will the results of our individual attempts to prepare the ground for rain benefitthe church? I suggest that the benefit will come in obedience to God’s command that welove and serve Him with all our heart and soul. It will come in a renewed outpouring ofprayer on behalf of our church. It will be seen in a renewed interest in our coming together

9to study His Word. It will be seen in a rising up of expectation and conviction that Godindeed does have a purpose for us; a vision; beyond what we have as yet discerned.There will be a growing conviction that, regardless of how busy our lives may be, there issome gift that God wants us to use and to share in the life of His church. And as a churchbody we will grow in the expectation that God will continue to bring in people to join us asHe has been slowly doing.In some ways we are already preparing for the rain of God’s blessing. Our new praiseteam is awesome and they will be joining us more often in the future, adding a newdimension