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Thursday, June 1, 2006

"Painful Toil"

To Adam He said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:17-19).

Yesterday I stopped by a beautiful Amish farm with a lush vegetable garden. The rows of plants were up on raised beds with a grassy area for a walkway between the rows. It was clearly a well-tended, well-watered garden. I could already see evidence of the abundant harvest coming up through the fertile Lancaster County soil.

But I also thought about the toil involved. It didn't just happen. They had to fight the thorns and thistles, persistent weeds, plant diseases, and the varied insects that destroy. It is an ongoing battle requiring attention, time, and diligent work. Though she wasn't working at the time, the toil behind this beautiful garden was a hard-working Amish lady with sweat on her brow and lots of dirt on her apron and under her fingernails!

Most of us don't work with soil. We may have a small vegetable or flower plot and that's enough to understand the effect of the "curse" referred to in the daily verse.

However I am pondering the phrase "painful toil" in a broader sense. Regardless of what our work entails it seems there is an aspect of painful toil. I take this internet ministry very seriously and also find it very rewarding in regard to personal fulfillment in helping others in their faith walk. 

My main interest is the preparation of the messages, which is usually a joy but honestly can at times be toilsome.  Any preacher or teacher who has prepared messages knows what I mean. Brooksyne and I also find it a blessing in the various ways we interface with readers and podcast listeners, mostly through email, although we do have opportunity to meet some face to face.

This past week I've had very severe administration problems with the website and as of today it's down again. (I will explain this more fully below.)  I will be moving the entire site to another webhost today and hopefully it will be back up soon. This has been very labor intense and the next steps are hard as well! I will have the painful toil of my 250 pound frame hunched over a computer figuring this all out. After all, I am a preacher not an IT guy!

Consider your work today. For some of you it's going very well and you might not even use the word "toil" in describing it, let alone painful toil!  But for most the toil is rather ongoing and you know painful toil as well. This "painful toil" may not be in the sense of an aching back but an obnoxious boss (I sure know that one) or fellow workers that are a real pain. It may be a project that is very difficult and everything just seems to be going wrong.

I want to encourage you today and to do so I must look ahead. Quite honestly I expect toil, very painful and perplexing at times for my remaining time on earth.  I ask the Lord to give me wisdom, persistence and an overcoming spirit as I deal with these issues.

But I also look for a promise yet future. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them" (Revelation 14:13).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer:  Jesus, my load becomes lighter as I consider that the ongoing toil and labor of this life is only for a season.  The daily struggle of meeting deadlines, employee relations, putting out fires, pleasing customers and bosses can be overwhelming and very frustrating.  Though I've asked for Your divine intervention many times some of these recurring irritants will not go away in my life's work.  May the sufficient grace of Your Holy Spirit grant me an enduring and victorious attitude even in the midst of these undesirable circumstances. Remind me again that Your blessings far outnumber the troubles of this day and that divine rest is promised to those who are faithful to the end.  In Your name, Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Brooksyne suggests this song as a reinforcement of the message today, particularly the last verse. Here's an acapella country version with nice harmony by a group called the Drummond Family.  "He Leadeth Me" (audio file)

Note from Brooksyne:  We're in great need of rain as Pennsylvania has fallen short in rainfall since the winter season.  I am still persisting in my gardening this spring, having planted about 40 different flowers and vegetables, mostly from seed.  After babying these seeds for months and preparing to put them outside into the soil I have been frustrated knowing that the needed rainfall is imperative for healthy growth of these plants.  I told a neighbor yesterday, "Weeds thrive when we have too much rain or whether there is a draught.  Nothing seems to stop them from popping up everywhere."  So I told the Lord I'd like Him to make my plants to grow persistently as the weed, in spite of weather-related conditions.  We'll see if my prayer is answered this gardening season. 

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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