Staying on Course

Some things on the farm are just self-evident and make for good, plain illustration of spiritual truth. You reap what you sow, for example. You can’t plant peppers and expect a crop of tomatoes.

It has been fun, over the years, to identify many agricultural themes in scripture and watch the application unfold on the farm.

But sometimes, we don’t recognize the meaning immediately.

For instance, in Luke 9:62, “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

What was he saying? What does plowing have to do with serving the kingdom?

It wasn’t until we learned, as our parents would say, “the hard way,” that the truth of this scripture was illuminated. It is not about plowing so much as it is about our focus as we plow.

Although in today’s no-till world, fewer farmers are using moldboard plows, we have used one for years to prepare our 45 acres of potato ground.

OK, we confess. The past two years, we switched over to chisel plowing, but we digress.

Anyone who has used a moldboard plow while looking behind as they plow will tell you that it doesn’t work. You will be led off course — sometimes right out of the furrow.

This becomes painfully evident at harvest when the rows of potatoes are unearthed, sometimes in spectacularly crooked patterns.

The picture of the backward looking farmer also points to the story in 1 Kings: 19-21 of when Elisha the prophet was called to serve Elijah:

“So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the 12th pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

“Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,’ he said, ‘and then I will come with you.’

“ ‘Go back,’ Elijah replied. ‘What have I done to you?’

“So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.”

To be called in ministry, in the service of the kingdom, is to step forward without hesitation and not to look back.

Forever Forward

There are many temptations in our age to look backward — college reunions, Facebook pages, cosmetic surgery and more.

Sometimes, looking back keeps us locked in shame or unforgiveness. Satan wants us to focus on the past so that we do not move in the direction of God and we hesitate to trust him with our future.

But the old self is gone. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God is always calling us forward into his plans and purposes for us.

The windshield of the car is many times larger than the rearview mirror because we need to be attentive to what is before us, with only a glance to our past to remember how gracious God has been to us.

When we are nostalgic for the way things used to be or stuck in the pain we have caused or experienced by plowing crooked paths, we may miss the blessing that God has just ahead.

Or we may miss the opportunity to nurture faith in those we meet along the path before us.

We need to stay focused on the prize and plow straight furrows with our gaze fixed on the hope we have.


This post was originally featured on Lancaster Farming.