For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
In church life we love to talk about “planting seeds of faith.” I have heard countless professors, theologians, pastors, and Christian leaders all convey something akin to “you never know how the seeds you plant might grow into beautiful lives of faith.” The point being that we must choose our words carefully because they contain enormous power; at times our words can help nurture someone in their faith, and at other times our words can destroy someone’s faith.
Dick Dickerson, a beloved man in our congregation, once told me a story about a particular Christmas Eve that he experienced while fighting in World War II. Dick had spent the previous days at the front lines frightened for his life and for the lives of his friends. Through the bitter cold they continued to push forward into enemy territory unsure of what they would discover. Without realizing it they serendipitously found themselves sleeping in the comfort of a church sanctuary on Christmas Eve enjoying a welcome reprieve from the fighting.
Dick describes that evening with vivid details: the wax from the candles spilling over onto the wooden pews, the hole in the roof letting in the tiniest snow flakes, and the huddled soldiers staying close to one another for warmth. Though he cannot explain what prompted him to speak up, he asked the young military men around him whether they would like to pray for anything. To him he seemed like the right thing to do on Christmas eve while gathered in a church sanctuary, regardless of the circumstances. One soldier prayed for his family and friends back home, another prayed for the weather to warm up, and another prayed for his fellow comrades in the fight against oppression.
The praying went on for sometime, but after a rather long pause one of the youngest soldiers spoke up: “I seem to remember Jesus saying something about praying for our enemies,” he began, “so tonight I would like to pray for the men we’re fighting against, I pray that God would be them as He is with us.” Upon hearing this man’s words Dick was worried that an argument or fight would break out between the men but he was surprised to discover that everyone was silent with their heads bowed down. With tears beginning to form in his eyes he joined his brothers and prayed for his enemies.
God’s Word is mysterious, strange, and powerful. There are times when we hear or read something from scripture that will not become relevant or real for us until a later time. But like the prophet Isaiah said, “my word will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish that which I purpose.” The scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments are life-giving; they are like the blessed rain that fall from the sky in order to give new life from the earth.
Today let us all reflect on the ways that God’s Word has affected our lives.
Let us ask ourselves: What scriptures have transformed the way we see the world?