Cultivate: Planting for Hope

How many times have you heard the adage, “You reap what you sow?” How many times have you seen it fulfilled? All the time – that’s why it’s proverbial. In my own life, if I sow much sugar into my body, I reap much pain and discomfort. If I sow a steady diet of social media and Netflix into my mind, I reap an anxious, unsteady heart. It’s a simple concept of cause and effect. 

But did you know that the origin of this prolific saying has its beginnings in the Bible’s Old Testament? God speaks through the prophet Hosea, explaining that all the evil Israel has sown into their hearts, minds, and community will reap more evil. His exact words, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). 

Paul expands on this idea to encourage the believers in Galatia: 

“Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:7-9 NET

I don’t know what you face today, friend, but if you’re anywhere like I am emotionally, physically, spiritually – we need to hear Paul’s words today. Not only to encourage perseverance in our faith but to be intentional in our sowing to the Spirit.

As we prepare ourselves for the planting, we must sow deliberately into the soil of our hearts the stuff of the Spirit. It’s why we have spent time and energy cultivating the soil of our hearts. We desire a harvest of the holy. We long for a reaping of godly hope. Therefore, we must trust that our soil is now ready – that it is rich with the fertile nutrients of God’s love and grace; it is soft and weed-free because of plowed preparedness; it is level, able to both retain the rain of the Spirit’s presence and drain off the stagnant waters of selfishness and insecurity. We, the field, are ready to be planted.

Let’s invite the Gardener to sow the seeds of His Word deep into our hearts.

Then, let’s remember that just as our Savior’s dead body was laid to rest inside the dark tomb, these dead seeds sown by the Gardener will land in the dark of places of our inner being. No life. No light. Yet also no fear, for this is the darkness of incubation, growth, and change – the kind we can rest in and trust because God is there. Darkness is no barrier for God (Psalm 139:12). At creation, He did not abolish darkness; He just separated it from light.*** Darkness has its place and purposes, so let us allow God space to do a good work in the dark depths of our hearts.

Because that’s where the miracle happens: life breaks forth into glorious light!

Photo by imso gabriel on Unsplash

Waiting with Hope

Just as a farmer waits for his unseen seeds in the soil to sprout new life, we as believers must wait on God to work, to redeem, and to do His work in His time and in His way.

Hosea lived during the years of Israel’s harsh exile. Though God explained that they had reaped what they had sown, Hosea continued to cry out to God on Israel’s behalf. And in that awful place of exile, God responded. He made a promise to lead them into the wilderness of freedom – just as He had back in Moses’ day:

There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

Hosea 2:15 NIV, [my addition and emphasis]

In other words, all that Israel had lost would be restored because in the midst of their trouble, God would open a door of hope. God called His exiled people to look back to a past era when He surprised the Israelites with redemption from the cruelty of slavery in Egypt so they would have faith and hope that He would do it again!

Tim Mackie, of the Bible Project, explains that the early church “cultivated a similar habit of hope”* – that of looking back to remember God’s faithfulness in order to have hope for a better future. This is hope based on nothing less than God’s character.**

The early church looked back on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as God’s response to humanity’s slavery to sin and death. They saw the empty tomb as another door of hope!*

Such faith in God’s goodness and steadfastness emboldened them to trust in the living hope that Jesus ushered into being (1 Peter 1:3). It gave them hope through the perils of persecution. It gave them hope through every trial and test. It gave them hope for an eternal future with God Himself. Despite their circumstances, they could wait with hope.

And so can we!

Sowing Word and Spirit

We are the field. God is the Gardener. Jesus, the Word, is the seed. And the Holy Spirit is the air, water, and nutrients that feed the seed planted in us, helping it grow and mature (John 6:63). 

Photo by Vince Veras on Unsplash

To bear fruit for God’s kingdom, to flourish in this life on earth, to live with hope for tomorrow and eternity, we must remain diligent in tending to the soil of our hearts. Cultivating for hope requires intentionally sowing Word and Spirit – not once, but in an ongoing fashion, full of rhythms that meet the need of each day and season. 

“By the Word of God we are given the perspective of faith and hope and love, endowed with the very Spirit of God and the mind of Christ, and come to bear the flourishing fruit of the kingdom.”

JD Walt, The Wakeup Call, 11/4/22

Friends, we want to sow Word and Spirit in the soil of our hearts so that our lives abound in their fruit. We want to look back on the faithfulness of God – in Scripture and in our lives – so that we can live with the kind of hope that promises God’s provision of a door to a future where goodness exists. We want to base our hope on nothing less than God’s character so that when everything around us crumbles, we have a solid rock on which to stand. This is planting for the hope of Christ.

Father God, we walk awe of how perfectly timed this message of hope is. So much has happened in the last few years and months that our eyes tell us life is crumbling around us. It’s disruptive and disorienting, but it’s not without hope – because You remain firm, steady, and constant. Thank You, that You continue to beckon us into your presence. Thank You, for the seed of your Word and Spirit that grows and matures within us. May we be good stewards of all that You’ve given us, trusting our futures to You. Holy Spirit, we welcome your work within the dark places of our hearts and minds. We know that with the Word planted within us, You will nurture its growth, pushing us upwards toward the glorious light. Thank You for your indwelling presence within us, especially in those dark places. We humbly ask that You’d continue to prompt us each time we’re tempted to believe the lies and insinuations of the enemy and that You’d continue to help us fix our eyes on the One who fears no dark place and brings His light of life with Him everywhere He goes. Lord Jesus, what an image your empty tomb has given us. You opened for us a door of hope – a living hope that continues to produce life within us and around us. We put our hope in You! We stand firm in it because we know no one and no thing can take this hope from us. There is no other anchor, no other Savior, no other so faithful, no other who never runs low on love – there is only You, Jesus. Yet, there is all of You, Jesus! It’s in your name we pray, amen.
(inspired by 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 16:11; Mark 4:14; Jeremiah 29:11; 1 Peter 2:9 & 1:3; 1 Corinthians 3:16; John 8:12, 44; Hebrews 12:2; Beth Moore****)

  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • *The Bible Project video on Hope in the Bible is fabulous. I’ve shared it here before, but I pull from it again in this post.
    • **Next week we begin a Lent series all about God’s character!! I can’t think of a better time of year to focus on building our hope on who God is. I hope you’ll join in and invite someone else!
    • ***I recently heard someone talk about darkness at Creation, and it has stuck with me. But I couldn’t remember details or even who said it. So, I went searching and found this article. He helped me tease out what I’d heard with what is found in Genesis 1. I’m learning that I’ve over-focused on darkness as bad and evil, so I especially have appreciated seeing that God is not afraid of the darkness — that He can actually do some of His best work there. Wow!
    • ****Beth Moore (for me) is one of the best Twitter follows in history. She’s incredibly authentic and is not afraid to speak truth into a place that rebels against it — yet she does so with grace and love. I happened to see her Instagram post on Oct 30, 2022. The word ‘hope’ jumped out at me, so I saved it (for such a time as this):
      • “If your hope is in Jesus, nobody can take your hope from you. I have lived no few years and through no few storms, and I know no other anchor. I know no other Savior. No other so faithful. No other who never runs low on love. There is only Jesus. But there is all of Jesus.”
    • And, of course our “Revival of Hope” playlist.
    • Y’all. I hope you’ve heard, read, or seen something about the spiritual awakening happening at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. At the time of this writing, they’re on day nine of a continual, Holy Spirit calling-in of college students into prayer, confession, healing, and worship. I have wept as I’ve watched video testimonies and read posts about the humility and simplicity that reigns in this epic experience of God’s outpouring presence. If you want some trusted sources to look at, I encourage you to join the Spirit in what He is doing — which is igniting and equipping the younger generation to go into the world to make disciples and be a light of life and love in a dark world. (weeping again).
      • JD Walt posted this video live from Asbury’s campus (where he not only attended seminary but served for years as its head of Chapel). On Friday he posted this solid summary and update.
      • Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary (across the street from Asbury University), has written a great post on his blog about the happenings there. Toward the end, he says, “we should let God move us to a permanent place of transformation before God and the eyes of the watching world.  In that sense, we are seeking to take what is clearly an abnormal move of God and ask how this can become normalized in a deep way.” So. Good.
      • Jennie Allen posted this on Instagram. Then after GOING to Wilmore, she posted this. BUT, on Thursday night she did a live stream to offer her experiences at Asbury, as well as testimonies from students who have been there throughout. Y’all, their plea for us to call on God “not to pass us by” continues to move me to prayer. It’ll be the best 35 minutes of your week (or month or year).
      • Pete Greig is one of the most well-respected leaders and voices on all things prayer and Holy Spirit in our generation (He began the Prayer 24/7 movement, including Lectio 365). He posted this and this on Instagram to encourage all believers to lean into and lift up all that God is doing in Wilmore. WHAT A GIFT OF HOPE THIS IS FOR ALL OF US!!!
  • Rhythms
    • The rhythm of speaking the words, “Jesus, I belong to You,” is a sowing of sorts. We’re sowing a truth in our hearts and minds about WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST. And that truth does an inner work within us that not only fuels faith and builds hope, but it also ignites within us a burning desire to share this hope with others!
    • Staying in the Word, soaking its words and truths into our hearts and minds truly is a planting for transformation. Let’s weave time in Scripture into our daily rhythms so that we remain anchored in the Word and can flourish for Him!
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world! 

Featured Photo by VD Photography on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

2 thoughts on “Cultivate: Planting for Hope

  1. Lovely, insightful, timely. I love your reference to Psalm 139:12. I think about that scripture every time I don’t understand something, or can’t see something because it’s an unknown to me. But God sees all things because the darkness and light are alike to Him! Such a comfort!!

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