Blessings to all of you. We’re at the end of this little mini-series we opened up the year with. The idea of life apps and how we can apply our faith to something foundational and growing wherever we are with God. We started by talking about the platform on which all the apps are built. We mentioned that the first thing we need to do and Jesus talked about it was to remember the most important thing is to love the Lord, our God, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Love God and love people. That was the foundation. We explored with our first app the idea of how to love people better. What does that look like? We talked about the good Samaritan and tried to sit with it. We followed that up last week by talking about the application of celebrating life’s gifts and surprises. We spent a lot of time pondering the story that Jesus gave us. The story of the prodigal son was a story of two lost sons, a younger son and an older son. We tried to get everybody thinking about; Where are we there in terms of our life?
Now we’re moving into the third application, the third life app. We’re going to talk about how to grow in the season we’re in. It is quite important. In the book of Ecclesiastes, it says there is a season. “To everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” The idea of thinking about the season that we’re in is part of what we want to explore. We want us to be able to glean wisdom. My purpose is not that we will have nice teaching and be off to the rest of our day. A lot of things will happen later in the day. I want us to think about what’s truly important. Not just the games and the fun of life, but think about our life at a soul level. I’m asking you to consider investing your thoughts, energy, and whatever spiritual sincerity we have at a soul level into this moment to have God speak to us about our life in the unique season that we’re in.
I want to pray and ask God to bless what we’re about to do. I don’t want to take for granted that we presume His presence. We want to ask Him for it. Lord, I want to invite You to come. We’ve sung about you. We sang to you. I know that we have other things planned, but we are here in this place where Your name is loved. It’s an opportunity for us to be open to what You might want to say to us about our lives, no matter where we are or the season we’re in. We’re all in different places. I know you have words for us where we are. You have something you want to speak to us about. I pray that we would have an openness and a listening ear to be able to receive the grace and wisdom that You want to give to us. I ask for your blessing over our time. I ask this in the name of Jesus, and I say, Amen, Lord, let it be so, God.
I like to think of life in terms of natural seasons. It’s something for several years I’ve found compelling. We think in terms of the length of life. We think of life as having a springtime life, a summertime, a fall or autumn, and wintertime. If we believe the words of Jesus, then life also has something of a new beginning. A new springtime that awaits us beyond winter. That’s the promise of the cross and the resurrection. Some people asked me, “How long is spring and how long is summer?” It just depends. Different people think of it differently. But usually, it’s around the whole 20 to 25 years that creates a season of our life, give or take some. A few days ago, I was reflecting on my life in times because something happened that reminded me that the years were flying by. Now and then something will happen and you’ll think, “Wow, time is just flying.”
One of those moments happened to me. Some of you know, my wife Cheryl and I have four children. We have an older son and daughter, and a younger son and daughter. Let me show you a picture of our youngest daughter. She is a cutie pie. That’s how she was about 15 years ago when I used to call her peanut. This is her today. She just turned 20 on Thursday, which meant something. If that’s our baby, that means we don’t have any more teenagers in our world anymore. It also meant something to Cheryl and I because now all of our four children are in their twenties. It was a marking point. We looked at each other and said, “Wow, this is the end of an era for us.” It represented something. It was a way of marking years. I thought, “Wow, time flies, seasons turn, and seasons move into other seasons.” Before we know it, life is being lived and time passes quickly. I was thinking about that because like all of us, there’ll be things that periodically stop us in our tracks and get us thinking about life a little bit differently.
There might be a loss of a loved one. I shared when my grandmother died. For me, that was the end of something. Some of us have those experiences, but this was a marking point. We have these marking points in life. I was thinking about generations and how people mark them. A book I read years back by Howe and Strauss talked about how they categorized generational life phases. I want to use it as a bit of a blueprint or framework if you will. Howe and Strauss described childhood are those years between zero and 20, young adulthood, 21 to 41, midlife, 42 to 62, and elderhood, 63 to 83. The bonus time is late elderhood, 84 to however long. When you overlay the generational model onto the seasonal model, it provides a different way of thinking about seasons and life stages.
One of the things we were invited to do is think about where we are in life as we explore this life app. Where are we? What does it mean? How should we be thinking about the remainder of our days? I put the 90th psalm in your handout. The 90th psalm is the Psalm of Moses. It’s the only one. Psalm 90 is where Moses is recorded with what he has to say about God. Moses talks about His eternal quality and our temporal quality. It’s very poetic. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or You had ever formed the earth in the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” Moses is establishing that God is timeless and dwells in eternity. He contrasts that with the plight of humankind. “You turn man to destruction. You say, ‘Return all children of men.’ For you, time means nothing. A thousand years on your side is like yesterday when it’s already passed. Like a watch in the night, you carry them away.” That’s us, like a flood. “They’re like the sleep in the morning or the grass, our lives are like the grass that grows up in the morning. It flourishes, it grows up, but in the evening it’s cut down and withers.”
In verse 12, Moses concludes, “So, Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Teach us to value, to make full use of this opportunity of life. Give us wisdom for living. Help us, Lord, to remember that we don’t have all the time in the world, that time is moving on.” You want us to be unstuck. You want us to keep getting better. You want us to keep growing. You want us to be a blessing. You want us to use this gift of life now at a personal level. I am making my way in this autumn season of my life. Trying to more acutely number my days. Grappling with how to embrace and grow through it. That’s what we are invited to do. Perhaps some of you can relate to a passage of scripture.The passage of scripture I’m going to have us look at is interesting. It is a passage of scripture that speaks profoundly to me at this stage in my life. At the same time, I remember as a young follower of Jesus, when I was just a teenager in high school.
I was a freshman and had just begun to follow the Lord. I remember sitting and trying to think about the world. Think about what mattered. I looked at what Jesus said about what happens when a prophet or person gains the whole world and loses their soul. I was thinking about these kinds of concepts a lot. I found myself drifting to a passage in Corinthians that challenges us to see our world a little bit differently than we’re tempted to do. These are from 2 Corinthians 4. It says, “Therefore we do not lose heart.” That’s a great way to start because life has a way of getting us to lose heart sometimes. Sometimes we feel so beaten down by things that it’s hard to move forward. This is not, “Have faith and you’ll always be happy.” There are going to be things in life that can be crushing and disappointing. Some of those things happen early on in life. In the spring of our lives. I talk to people all the time that are in their middle summer and autumn years. They are struggling with things that happened in their springtime. Some of those choices have to do with things that we chose to do that damaged us. Others, have to do with things that were done by other people that we had no power over. They affected our lives. We are working through that because of it. Part of following Christ is being healed and learning how to resolve things. To be able to move forward with the plans He has for us.
This verse says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. It was meant to be encouraging. For even though our outer person is perishing.” Remember, no matter how young we are, our outer person will perish. Our inward person, however, can be renewed day by day. It can grow. He went on to say, “This light affliction, which is but for a moment working for us a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory. Because we do not look at the things which are seen.” That’s always the temptation, isn’t it? To be defined purely by what we see. “We do not look at the things which are seen because the things which are seen are temporal.” They will pass and fade away. They will erode. They will not last forever. Even as Moses said, “But the things that are not seen, things of the spirit, things of the soul, things of God, these things are anything but temporary.” They are eternal. We need to focus on eternal things. Going back to what Jesus said, what does a prophet or person, do if they gain the whole world, but lose their soul? It’s inviting us. That verse is inviting us to think of our lives in light of eternity. To cultivate an eternal perspective that causes us not to want to escape this world, but choose to live in more healthy Jesus-centered ways in our present. It means that we have to be committed to a growth plan in the season that we’re in. The Lord has some things to say to us around this. I’m pretty convinced of that.
That’s the biblical framework for thinking about life in terms of our seasons. When we think of it this way, we realize we’re on a journey. We’re on a journey. Jesus said, because He had come, “There’s far more than just this life.” If that is true, then He says, “I want you to remember, always let where things are going affect how you are living in the present.” Our perspective of the future affects how we live in the present. If we remember what Jesus taught us, then it’s going to affect how we live our lives. It’s going to affect how we love. It’s going to affect how we work. It’s going to affect how we think about things like aging, death, and the focus of this life. The message is seasonal opportunity.
Bearing that in mind, I want to talk about how we can maximize seasonal opportunities. If the Lord has given us a timeframe to live, then we need to be able to explore that a little bit differently. I’m hoping we can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity that we call church. Church, in my mind, is what we’re doing right now when we come together. Jesus said, “Where two or three gathered in my name, there I am in the midst.” Hebrews 10 says, “Let us consider one another to provoke under love and good works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together as the tendency of some is, but exhorting, encouraging one another so much the more, even as we see the day of His coming approaching.” Having said that, one of the things I love about church is that it allows us to not only honor God but allows us to listen to our lives. We need to do that because we’re very busy. Think about what God did when He was establishing the Church of the Old Testament, Israel. He gave them these commands. We know them as the 10 commands. It was more comprehensive than that, but that was the nut of the fruit.
In the 10 commands, one of them was so unique because it was devoted not to a, “you shall do this.” It was something God said He wanted his people to do, so they would be healthy and blessed. He said, “I need you to honor the Sabbath. I need you to set aside one day in seven to make an intentional effort to not only think about who you are in relationship to me, but I want you to be able to truly rest and not define yourself exclusively by your work.” He was saying, “You are not mere animals. You are not an ox or a donkey. You are a human being. You are the jewel of the creation of God. You are created to know Him, to love, to create.” Part of that means you need to be able to pull out and think differently. It’s an invitation God makes for us. It’s one of the reasons why I love church. It’s an opportunity for us to think about things in a different way than we normally would and to ponder things together. I say that because I want to put some things up for us to consider. In light of what we just shared, we would do well to ask this question. What season are we in? Based upon the models for the seasons, spring, summer, autumn, fall, and winter, where are we? What season are we in?
I’m going to take it one step further. I think each season of life has three micro seasons. For example, let’s say, spring has an early, a middle, and a late micro season. Summer, an early, a middle, and a late. Fall, an early, a middle, and a late. Now, here’s the thing about seasons. When you’re in late summer, it almost can feel no different than early fall. Late spring and early summer feel almost no different. Eventually, when we go on far enough, we will realize that it is different. The days shorten. The clothes people start wearing are different. The way it feels is different. That’s the same thing with the nature of life. One of the things I think is helpful to do periodically is say, “Where am I in terms of my overarching season?
I’m in the spring. I’m in the summer. Am I in fall? Am I in winter? Within that, where am I? This is not an unbiblical thing because the Lord invites us, Psalm 90. Number your days. Think about your life and times. Jesus talked about thinking and reflecting on life, and having an internal perspective. Let that affect how we are living. Examining our life is very legitimate within the framework. So am I in a mini-season? Where is our mini period? Are we in an early period, middle period, or a latter period? When we transition from one season to the next, many times it’s where people go off the rails. Transitional periods are difficult sometimes because we’re trying to grapple with something that can feel a little bit odd for us. It is important to remember where we are. That leads me to the second piece.
Once we identify our season, be intentional about choosing to live in it gratefully. The reason I say that is because it can be very easy to become dissatisfied. We might fight against it. Some of us might fight against it because we don’t want to accept it. Others don’t want to leave where we were. Sometimes, we feel a bit resentful. The point is, if we are anything less than grateful Lord, keep our hearts grateful. It undermines our ability to embrace what the Lord has for us. So we don’t want to live in denial. We want to live honestly, ask good questions, and embrace the complexity of our life. I know for the very young, this may not make sense. But as we get older, a lot of our naivete is lost. We need to be able to embrace life with all of its joy and all of its pain. We need to be able to embrace as Jesus invited us to with all its happiness, disappointment, majesty, and mystery. It’s what makes us human. Embrace it thankfully. Try to wrestle with it. Try to appreciate it.
Thirdly, remember, God wants us to grow in the season that we’re in. How do we do that? For those of us who are younger, I was thinking about a verse. I think this verse could be helpful. It’s really good for us to have seasonal verses. Even if it’s a mini-season verse. One of the reasons I’m encouraging everyone to read through the New Testament is because it allows God to create opportunities for Him to speak very precisely to us. We also have the benefit of reading it through and all that comes from having a good knowledge base. There’s a value because it allows God to speak to us. As we’re honest with it, we wrestle with His words. This is a word for you within this word. There have been times in my life when I’ve been reading God’s Word and all of a sudden, I’ve been going through something in my life. It’s like the Word that I was reading became a living word for me in that very intentional moment. This is a word for your season of what you’re right in right now. Hold onto that word. I am really big on holding onto verses as a word for a season. Those of us who are in late spring, or early summer, here’s a great verse from Timothy. It talks about the example that we are to not let anyone say, “Oh, you’re just young.” The Bible says. “Do not let anyone really think less of you because you’re younger. Instead, be an example to all believers in the ways, in what you say and think about in the way in which you live and the way in which you love in your faith, the quality of it. In your period.”
What an invitation. To be an example for others of what it means to genuinely love the Lord and to contend for that. To be able to own that and say, “Lord, I want to live my life as an example for you. I want to live my life. I want the quality of who You are to be at work in my life so that it shows up in the way in which I talk about You. The way in which I live, love and honor You by the choices I make. I want to do that.” For those of us who are a little older, here’s a verse that’s been valuable for me. This comes from a chapter that is usually read at a wedding. It’s called The Love, chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. In that chapter, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child and understood as a child, and I thought as a child. But now that I’ve come to maturity, I’m a man. I’ve put away childish things.”
It’s an invitation for some of us to stop fighting God and to make the break so we can move on. Let us lay aside the sin in the way that does so easily beset us and run this race with patience, which has been set before us looking unto Jesus, the author, and the finisher. Letting go and looking unto. Are there things that God’s calling us to let go of? Are there things that we say, “That was me, but honestly, that’s childish, and I need to move forward.” Not lose my childlike wonder, but lose my childishness. Always differentiate between the two. The Lord always wants us to keep a soft and childlike heart, but He doesn’t want us to be childish, which is different. It tends to be selfish and immature. It’s very much dependent on what I get and what I don’t get. It doesn’t necessarily understand nuance and how to live in questions. How to live there. How to prosper there. How to be resilient. These are different things. These are different qualities. It’s not going to be an issue of salvation. Do you really want to live that far below your potential? Or is there something more that you want to do in your life?
Bearing that in mind, how do we grow in the season that we’re in? We said God wants us to grow. Well, how do we do it? Number one, be realistic about opportunities and limitations. Every season has an opportunity in it. Some people are always dreaming. I’m not anti-dreaming, but I am pro-reality. When our dreaming undermines our willingness to act on what we have in the present, it can become unhelpful. We may wistfully ponder what can be and then refuse to honestly assess what actually is. Some of us are far too hard on ourselves. Others are too lenient. Some are pushing ourselves too hard, and some of us aren’t pushing ourselves enough. The key is to be realistic about our seasonal opportunities and limitations. For example, we have a lot of young families. In those seasons, when you’re parenting young children, it requires so much energy and sacrifice that it can almost be jarring and overwhelming.
Some seasons require us to work extremely hard on our jobs, especially when we’re younger, with very little fanfare and modest compensation. It can become easy to be frustrated. I’m using those two as examples. The point is different seasons have different challenges. They have different demands on us. We have to be okay about that. We have to be honest about that. We have to remember that for different seasons and times in our lives, different virtues, and perspectives are required. It’s very important. If we find ourselves in a place where we feel like we’re under a lot of pressure or not getting a lot of affirmation, then it’s going to require patience and consistency with little affirmation. Others might find that we’re in a very different place. We’re in a season where what’s required is humility and flexibility. When we’re in the autumn and winter of life, we have things like health, waning vitality, and an emerging sense of obsolescence. Some of us are in younger places and have certain challenges we’re facing. Others are in an older place in life, and we have certain challenges that we’re facing. Sometimes the challenge of getting older is feeling as though I’m getting passed by. My best days are behind me. In every place, God has a word for us that will call us to a place of flourishment and growth. It’s important that we think about these things and remember them. Lord don’t let me be too frustrated. Don’t let me not challenge myself. Don’t let me be too easy or hard on myself. Sounds so simple, but it’s hard to do.
Secondly, set seasonal goals and aspirations. Differentiate between being an artist and an architect. Goals are specific and measurable. Aspiration is more of a tone. It’s more of a desire or a direction. Each of us has to feather out which of the two approaches is better. I realize for those who are heavy goal setters, this can almost sound ludicrous because everyone knows achievers are goal setters. But that’s not always true. Some of us are more artistic. What I mean by that is we’re less inclined to be architect types. We’re more inclined to be artistic types. Artistic types are less rigid in our life approach. Some of us just don’t like being that contained. We may find more joy in a tone or direction that invites us to discover life. Not to just set all the goals we’re pursuing rather than plot out a specific course that we’re going to follow. We feel more like we want to be open to the things of life.
Both of them have challenges. When we’re an architect type of person, the danger is we become driven. In our tenacious pursuit of certain things that we find valuable and somehow make us what we are, we can compromise other things that are more important according to Jesus. Things like loving Him and loving people. Oftentimes in our pursuits, when we’re an architect type of person, we get so focused that our scope is narrow. It’s not like we’re trying to be mean. We just don’t see things. That’s what I love about Jesus. He modeled the beauty of both. He was both an architect and an artist. He was someone fiercely committed to the pursuit of doing His Father’s will. He models with discerning eyes. He saw things other people missed. He seemed capable of having conversations and loving with nuances that many times people weren’t noticing. Some people say, “I’m not necessarily an architect. I’m an artist type.” The artist says, “I just want to live life. I’m not going to set any goals. I’m going to enjoy life.” Many times I hear people quote Thoreau to me. “Not all who wander are lost.” I say, “Yeah, that’s true. But a lot are. You need to be careful there because you can get lost.”
The danger of being a person who is less goal-oriented is we float through life and meander on our way. Meandering has its values. But there’s a time when God wants us to clamp on and focus on things too. Both places need to have anchor points. When we’re driven, we need to keep asking, “Lord don’t let me build on something that doesn’t matter and pour everything I’ve got into it. At the end of the day, I realize I put my ladder against the wrong wall.” On the other hand, for those of us who are wandering, we need to be careful. We need to make sure to have time for prayer and reflection. We’re bringing other people’s voices into our lives because we can oftentimes go unchallenged. We’re not going to maximize who the Lord’s calling us to be in the season that we’re in. Both are required. I’ll push a little bit further on this. Make time to appreciate each season, thirdly, despite its challenges.
Every season has its beauty. God wants us to enjoy the beauty of it instead of focusing and fixating on what’s wrong. We do that so easily. It’s amazing how easy it is for us to look at all the things that aren’t going right. Or all the people are disappointing us. All the things I wish I had. What’s not going well. If that’s how we want to live, we can always do it. The Bible says we are not to focus that way. We are to be a different kind of people because we can always find reasons to have a bad attitude. That one is clear to me. We can always find reasons why someone is disappointing us. God wants us to be a people, for the most part, to focus on what is good. Pause then, not just to appreciate these seasons’ gifts. But try to honor the past. Settle into a future with gratitude. Ask the Lord to help us to be able to honor the past but not get stuck in the past.
I see people get stuck in the past. It can happen to all of us for two reasons. Sometimes we get stuck there because those were our glory days. What about today? Other times we get stuck in the past because we go back to an injury or wound. The thing that keeps haunting us. It might have something to do with a choice or decision we made, an experience we had. A series of things that we had happened to us, but it’s we’re stuck in our past. We can’t get out of that. The Lord’s trying to say, “I need you to accept what I have for you and heal up.” It’s not about never having a wound. Many times we’ll have wounds, but it’s about the Lord saying, “I want to heal that thing,” so that it’ll be a scar, but it won’t be infected.
Many times we’re walking around with an infection. That infection’s connected to our past. God’s trying to say, “You need to let that go. You need to receive My forgiveness. You need to receive My life. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. Take My yoke upon you.” A yoke was a harness. It was a tool for oxen, and one would be stronger than the other. They would tie two together. Jesus was saying, “Let Me bear the weight. “Wasn’t escapist. It was just saying, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Don’t walk around offended, angry, or despairing. That’s not the way of the Lord. He wants us to have a resolution with things. He wants us to have an optimistic sense of our future because we have a great savior. It means we get to hold onto promises both now and yet to be. We’re going to hear some practical things that we can do, in addition to some of the things we laid out around a biblical framework. We’re going to have our time of giving and the closing song that is connected to it in a kind of broad sense. It challenges us to live life enthusiastically and think about what it means to honor Him in our season.
I want to pray specifically at this moment for a lot of us and where we are. Lord, I want to ask You to help us have openness and listening ears. I know, Lord, that there’s a good thing that happens when we think about the time and season of our life. We ask ourselves hard questions about what You’re trying to get us to be open to. For some, You’re calling us into a place of growth and harvest. For others, Lord, it’s about letting go, getting healed up, or having a different perspective on things. Maybe there are things that we’re supposed to hold onto versus what we’re supposed to claim. What is it that you’re trying to say to us, God? Help us not to keep running through life, but allow your life to run through us. I ask for Your blessing. I asked for Your goodness and grace. I pray that we gain wisdom from what we’re about to share in these closing minutes. This is what I ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Speaker 2: We’ve learned from Pastor Terry about the importance of our life platform as it relates to growing seasonally. I’d like to explore this as we take this into our everyday lives. It is a life application that we’ll call the life season’s app. It’s only fitting that we’re here among a vineyard, as Jesus used the example of the vine and the vineyards many times throughout His teaching. Of course, a vineyard knows the tests and the trials of all seasons, but somehow manages to bear fruit over and over. Let’s start with planting. There are no vines, and there are no grapes without some form of planting. Someone must get down and dirty to plant a seed with hopes of one day tasting the outcome and good fruit of the labor.
Nowhere is the adage of ‘what goes in, is what comes out better,’ used than in the metaphor of planting seeds and the eventual harvest. We want the best to come from us, so that means we must pay close attention to what we’re planting within us. The world has no shortage of its own seeds such as online material, media messages, TV shows, songs, books, pictures, diversions, and activities. These are all seeds that can get planted within us and sometimes get deeply rooted. Why is what we plant so important? If we’re planting the wrong seeds, then by the time of harvest, it can be too late to change. We can miss opportunities.
Are you wondering what you’re planting? Let’s try this exercise to find out. Sit down with your calendar, credit card statement, or maybe your checkbook, and look over the last three months to see where your time and money are being spent. Wherever your time and money are going, those are good indicators of the seeds that are being planted. After planting comes the growing season. We have to trust if we’ve planted the right seeds and doing all the right things to water, nourish, and cultivate growth, that below the surface, is going to be successful. All of our Bible time, prayer time, fellowship time, and the disciplines of our mind are seeds. Just because our growth seems slower than we want it to be doesn’t mean we should give up and stagnate. Our growth and maturity comes from whatever time it’s supposed to take.
Of course, we must do our part by not ignoring what is happening around us. If we want growth to occur, then we have to be sure we’re keeping away those things that might stop or stunt our growth. Most of the time, we know what those things are in our lives. Too many times it comes down to whether or not we are committed and disciplined enough to weed out the bad before it feels too overgrown to tackle. So along with our growing time, it’s also time to do some tending. Time to do some weeding. Time to do some cleanup. That brings us to our harvest season. It’s the best time of our lives. It’s when all of the choices, hard work, trust, and patience all pay off. Our work, relationships, body, mind, and spirit all feel strong. We feel like we’re bringing glory to God. Remember, harvests can come and go quickly. Sometimes we harvest big and other times we have small harvests, but they can all be just as good. So let’s enjoy the harvest that we’re in. At the same time, someplace else in our lives, we’re still planting and growing in anticipation.
It’s also good to rest. That in itself can be a season to be attentive and enjoy. Consider that God gave us a day of rest, the day of Sabbath. Not because He was tired, but because He wanted to give us an example that it was more than okay to take a rest day at least once a week. Land that doesn’t rest runs out of the needed nutrients to keep things growing. We need to consider some rest right now so that we can replant, grow, and harvest with enthusiasm and excitement. So how about this? How about a digital Sabbath from Saturday night sundown to Sunday night sundown. Just put the phone away, put the screen away, and come Sunday night, there’s still plenty of room and time to get ready for Monday morning work. Plant, grow, harvest, and rest are four important parts of our life seasons app. Let’s do our best this week to apply how we can seasonally grow.