Sermon on Matthew 13
Father's Day Sermon LMPC
“Be Planted, Grow, Bear Fruit” Mt. 13:1-9, 18-23 6-18-17; Eph. 6:4 6-18-17 Fathers Day
What is a father’s job? If a father had a job description what would it be? Maybe it would entail three things: have a child, raise them well, and then help them to be productive citizens on their own. Perhaps the basic job description found in the Bible is in Ephesians 6:4- Fathers do not exasperate your children but instead raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In some ways, this goes along with the parable of Jesus about the seed. We are the seed, the Father is the sower, and the great hope is that we will be raised up to be healthy, strong, and bear fruit- raised up in the nurture and teaching. I want to approach this parable on Father’s Day with the idea of our children- the children of this church and community being planted, growing, and bearing fruit. By the way- if you look at about half of the Vision Statements or Mission statements of Protestant churches today- this is what they so- be planted, grow, and go bear fruit; or “come, grow, and go.” The calling of the church to help provide good soil is much like that of a father. Parents are the church to their children in many ways. So let’s look at the three parts of childraising- starting- growing- and then helping them bear fruit.
I. The first step is to plant- get the child going- young fathers and mothers need a WHOLE lot of energy, strength, and wisdom to get things going. The risk to a child’s failure in faith is greatest in infancy, it also is the time when children latch on to eternal things. We teach our children so much about life and God at their very beginning. “Jesus loves me” the great stories of the Bible, how to love one another, how to pray. Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from it.
In the planting part it is important not to exasperate your child. Plants can die of two much water as well as too little. So there is a balance in raising a child- all praise and no discipline can be a problem. All discipline and no praise can be a problem; not spending time and effort on raising your children. They will not automatically grow the right way- they take a great deal of care. A chicken may lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime and may have hundreds of chicks. But we only have a handful of children- at most two handfuls that we must nurture. Let us not exasperate them by neglect over attention. They are neither our toy or a God.
Jesus said that some of the seed fell on the path- it never got going. These are people who never hear or never even give God a chance. Sadly some in our own neighborhoods will never hear. Some seed fell on rocky soil- that started to grow but had no root and withered when the slightest problem came. We need to teach our children to soften their hearts to God and to put down deep roots of faith. Instead of exasperating them, a home is a place to provide good soil for spiritual growth. Let their roots sink down deep so they can withstand some problems- the bullying, the friends who mess up and invite them down the wrong path, the pressures of bad things in media and social media. Teach your children or grandchildren to think for themselves to say no to what is wrong and displeasing to God.
One of the things I hear quite often from visitors is how great it is to see so many children in church- especially at our children’s sermon time at 10:30. I have been in some churches where I have actually heard members criticize having children- they make too much noise, they leave too many messes, they don’t know how to behave- yes, yes, and yes! The disciples wanted to keep the children away from Jesus and he said, “Let the little children come to me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” But there is a prejudice against children out there. People would rather have dogs. They are always happy with you- and they don’t ask for money. In fact, there was an article in Forbes that says Millennials are waiting longer to get married, buy a house, have a baby. 75% of young Americans have pets whereas the average population 50% have pets. Part of it is being saddled with tremendous student loans and the cost of living. it costs about $3,000 a year to raise a dog compared to $14,000 a year to raise a child. Psalm 127 says “children are a heritage from the Lord, blessed is the one whose hand is full of them.” The command to be fruitful and multiply is not simply a physical command- it is a command of faith. We are taught to believe it is a good thing to be alive and blessed by our Creator.
II. The second step is to grow- grow without worries.
The thorns speak of the problems of growing. There are thorns that grow along with the crop of our children. These thorns, Jesus said, are the worries of this life, and the deceitfulness of wealth. You can worry about not having enough money- and never be happy. You can have plenty but think you never have enough- which is a major problem in our country compared to most of the world. Or you can be deceived into thinking it is all about your stuff- and you can become proud- and a hoarder. I think one failure for me is not sitting down and having an honest conversation with my older child about how to make a budget. Probably because I was scared I would mess them up.
I like those commercials on the radio about foster parents. “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. There are thousands of kids who would love to put up with you.’ It shows a man going to play ball with his foster kid and sending the ball through his neighbor’s window. It shows a father trying to help his daughter cope with a boy who treated her poorly on a date and stumbling. But what it shows me is that we all need grace. If we can entrust our parenting to God- He will get us through.
Teach children not to worry but instead to pray and trust God. People of faith- statistically have more hope, more purpose. While some believe the urban legend that Marx gave that people of faith need a crutch, it is clear globally and statistically that people of faith who attend church regularly are healthier and live longer and have less worry and more peace. Life is not all about things- but the spiritual part adds length and depth to life. A CNN report about a nurses health study that came out May 2016 found that those who attended church at least once a week had a 26% lower risk of dying than those who didn’t go at all. Also they found that those who attended were more optimistic had lower rates of depression. This confirms what Psalm 91 says, “With long life will I satisfy them [who love me and call on me].” Teach your children to love God more than the stuff of this world so their faith will not be choked out. There is more peace for those who follow Christ and worship Him. The National Institutes of Health has combined some studies to talk about those who attend church sleep better than those who do not. It was not… talking about going to sleep in church. But it was pointing out that there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation- especially among our teens. But families that attend church together tend to get more sleep and rest for their brain- and that effects depression, suicidal thoughts, the ability to think clearly- do well on tests and at work. Teaching children to not worry but to trust in God is a great blessing. Despite all the fears and worries of life- life is good because God is good. That is a faith statement. The less faith we have, the more we may look around at the wind and waves and doubt- or the more we may be choked out by the worries of money and concerns of life. I remember my own mother saying that I could not afford children- or at least not many. But she had children when we were a lot poorer. What she meant was I couldn’t afford to give them a college education. But do we really want to say that life is not worth living without a college education and a good job? Is that how we view the poor and is that how we view the potential of our own children? Jesus didn’t go to college- of course he didn’t have a car, four bedroom house, cell phone, and nice clothes either. But most people in the world do not have that- and they are perhaps less depressed than those who do.
III. The third basic kind of soil prospers and bears fruit a hundred, sixty, or thirty times. We cannot will good fruit. We cannot make ourselves into this. It comes with abiding in the vine- abiding in God. As we bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, they begin to bear good fruit. Part of this is letting them have wings and leave the nest. The goal is never to clip their wings but encourage them to be strong. The fruit may be immediate- or it may be in five years, ten years, or more. This parable is not a simplistic recipe. Follow the instructions and you are guaranteed to like the result. This parable is a descriptive parable. It is a warning that our children need good roots; that our children need to grow up to know life is not all about what you have or don’t have; that our children need to seek to bear fruit for God- the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; or the fruit of reproducing faith and goodness in those around them.
I am responsible for the process used in raising my child, not the outcome. We cannot live in regret, or on the other hand great pride in their outcome. I have seen some parents do everything right and their child makes a tremendous mistake. I have seen others do everything- or almost everything wrong and the grace of God steps in to help them- but these are the exceptions. It is a tough time to be a father- opioid crisis, human trafficking, fear for my granddaughters; Yet, in general in history, it has been tough to raise children. Our calling is not dependent on what is going on around us- which means we must be willing to do what is right even if everything around us seems to be going haywire. Our calling is to raise children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord- guiding them, praying for them, valuing them.
I am saying today this- “Life is good.” It is good not because of our stuff- it is good because of the love of God and the love of others. Families, I invite you to love each other more than seek to simply provide more stuff and less love. Love each other and teach your children to love God which will give them deep roots for troubled times, strong backs to resist hard financial crises, and a purpose to go out and bear fruit for God and make a difference.
Ernie Johnson is an announcer for TBS and TNT’s NBA and Major League Baseball games. His father was a professional baseball player and long time announcer for the Braves. Ernie is an unashamed Christian but he doesn’t beat people over the head with it. But he is the father of six- the last two were adopted. He and his wife, Cheryl, heard about kids with disabilities being neglected and abused in orphanages in Romania so they flew there and adopted one. Three years after adopting him they found out he has Muscular Dystrophy. He says that his child, now in his 20s has given Ernie more blessings than he has given. His worst nightmare has turned into his biggest blessing. Many are scared to be fathers today. But I want to encourage you to trust in God with your fatherhood and your children. A father’s job is to be a father- physically giving kids a start- but teaching them to be raised up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord- avoiding the thorns and bearing fruit.
Prayer: Today- there are fathers who are struggling. They are struggling with their sin and are in the midst of choosing between their sin and their families. We pray for Jamie and Parks Sandifer and ask your grace to rest upon them and on Finley Kate Sandifer as she starts out in life. Give them grace O Lord to choose you- and to choose love over selfishness. There are broken homes here Lord, that we ask that you would help. Be a father to the fatherless, Lord. We pray for children of those who died serving our country and ask your help to be on them. We pray for the Children of Thornwell Home today. Be a help to those who have lost children. Comfort them as only you can. We ask for your comfort and strength for Brenda Rowe, Tommy Runge, Earl Guilford and all those facing cancer and illness. We pray for older parents in their last years and those children caring for them. We pray for Representative Scalise- and for our government leaders. We ask that you would give them all a desire to serve our country over any ideal or selfish motive. Today, too, Lord we would be amiss if we didn’t thank you for being our Father. Thank you that Jesus came down to show us your love and to help us call you our Father. Thank you for your provision, your grace, your help, your comfort, your strength, your teaching, your love.