What Do You See?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? That was a favorite of my oldest grandchild when she was a two year old. We thought at one time that she was actually reading the book because we do have the smartest grandchildren after all. No, she wasn’t reading as we’d thought. She just had it memorized because she’d heard it so many times. With each page turn she knew just what to say. We only figured out what she was doing when she began to recite the next page before the page was turned. Three grandchildren later the book is still a favorite.
The Bible defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The vineyard isn’t showing much life these days though each day I walk slowly among the rows looking for some sign. If I described it right now as lush, thick green strands of vine, laden with tight clusters of luminescent purple and red berries the size of quarters, you might want to come see for yourself. You would find nothing resembling that anywhere on the property. But that’s what I saw two weeks ago as I planted the new vines in their rows. New vines are barely an eighth of an inch thick and three feet long with a small ball of root at one end; a far cry from the sturdy canes that will bear the weight of 40 – 50 pounds of fruit each when mature. But that’s not what I saw. It would have been a long day if all I saw was what amounted to little more than long twigs being stuck in the ground. That’s not what I saw. Interestingly enough as planting went on I found myself more and more energized and not tired at all because with every new planting I saw the fruit to come. Fruit won’t come on these plants this year. If it does I’ll cut it off right away because I don’t want these new vines to bear fruit yet. I want them to put all of their energy into growing the vine right now – not fruit. And when the new branches do begin to grow on the main vine I’m going to keep them cut back to about 10 inches because what I see is a vine thick and sturdy full of fruit and that won’t happen until after the second year. So what I’m seeing is two years and more down the road. I guess that’s what faith looks like. I’m seeing something, expecting something, hoping for something that isn’t visible to the naked eye. But I’m convinced that it will be and I’m going to work toward that goal. This year I’m even more convinced and encouraged because this is the third year I’ve planted and the faith and effort I put into the plantings two years ago paid off. I got a pretty good crop last summer with the promise of more to come. That’s the way faith works. Faith builds faith.
Jesus saw something when he was at the Passover supper with his friends. He knew one would betray him, one would deny him and all would dessert him. But that isn’t what he saw. Jesus saw something as he walked the streets of Jerusalem with the heavy cross on his back. There were angry people jeering, cursing and spitting. But that isn’t what he saw. Jesus saw something as he hung dying shamefully on public display on a cross. There were mocking soldiers gambling for his garments. But that isn’t what he saw. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus saw joy. The joy that he would see at the right hand of the throne of God. The joy of millions of lives redeemed and souls saved because of what he was doing. Jesus said that we would have trouble in this world. I guess he knew what he was talking about. We are afflicted in every way, perplexed, struck down and persecuted. What is the key to enduring, to not losing heart? Well, the key lies in what you see. The Bible says that all of our earthly affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (II Cor. 4:7-18) So we need to learn to see that; to see the unseen. After all its what is unseen that is eternal. Having our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. The key is what you see.
At the end of planting day I have to admit I was a bit weary. But as I sat on my porch looking out at the barely discernable twigs of this year’s plantings and the barren tangled vines from the last two years that’s not what I saw. I saw something that renewed my strength.
What do you see?