Enjoy God’s Good Gifts

“How is it with your soul?” I have not had the courage to ask this question of others, but it does come to mind as I see the hurried and worried expressions on people’s faces and in their posture. We live in a culture of information overload and 24-7 connectivity, and we are exhausted. Depleted. Numb.

As God’s representatives in this world, we must resist “third soil” culture. If you are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower, the third kind of soil was full of thorns that choked the growing plants and made them unfruitful. The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth are cited as thorns in one’s life (see Matthew 13:1-23).

So, perhaps another question must be asked, “How is it with your soil?” What is taking up space in my life that is hindering the fruitfulness of the gospel and my witness to the world? Jon Tyson, in his book Beautiful Resistance, wonders if perhaps this is why the church lacks credibility in our world. “Maybe we are just too tired to model agape love, too scheduled to show compassion, too distracted to pray, too much like the exhausted culture around us” (pg. 49).

I have good news for us all: Jesus offers the invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take me yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28). We are all yoked to something. We are yoked to the pace of our culture, or we are yoked to Him (Tyson, pg. 48). There is another way to live. God extends an invitation to 24-6 living. Take a day to rest—Sabbath. This is God’s gift to an exhausted human race.

When I was a child, Sundays—what I was taught as Sabbath—were less than pleasurable. In fact, I thought they were boring. My focus was on all the things I couldn’t do on that day. I did not see Sabbath as a good gift from God.

Now, as an adult seeking respite from a loud, busy world, I embrace this good gift! God invites me to receive whatever will restore my soul and de-thorn my soil. On some Sabbaths, I enjoy a luxurious nap. At other times, I take a leisurely walk, taking photos of what catches my eye in nature, enjoying simply being with Him. I’m invited to feast on beauty in nature or art or literature. I’m invited to linger over a good book or around a table, feasting on friendships and good food. I love this word picture: “On the Sabbath, we are reminded that Christians are called to order desserts and laugh till it hurts” (Tyson, pg. 57). Not all Sabbaths occur on Sunday, but I am better equipped to represent Him well when I receive His invitation to 24-6 living.

Receive from God what will restore your soul. Ask Him to help you remove thorns from your soil. Delight in the goodness of God. Find rest.

Jen Vogel

Jen Vogel

Jen is the national director for Alliance Women; she serves in a variety of ministry capacities, including on the President's Cabinet for The Alliance. She enjoys reading, travel, and completing the New York Times crossword puzzle daily. Jen and her husband, Doug, attend Dover Avenue Alliance Church in Orange City, Iowa.

Ten Responses to “Enjoy God’s Good Gifts”

  1. Good word, Jen! And the third soil application–priceless! Over the years I have gradually learned to ask a hard question about every passage where something sinful is depicted. Is this terrible thing somehow also in me? It’s not always true–but sometimes it is! I would hate to think that God is trying to tell me something and I am not listening. Thanks for this.

  2. Every. Single. Time.
    These devotionals hit the mark at just the right moment. Do you know that 2 weeks ago we looked at that very parable and came to the same conclusion- we need to stop assuming that we are 4th soil people. None of us even considered that the 3rd soil people could be … us. 40 years of church teaching and seminary and I never heard this interpretation- its powerful teaching and good exegesis. It’s so hard to unwind ourselves from continuous activity. thanks so much Jen!

    • Wow. Thanks for sharing your parallel experience with this parable. I agree that it is “hard to unwind ourselves from continuous activity.” Well stated. I appreciate your engagement. God bless.

  3. Excellent…I like the idea of 24/6 living. I am sorry you had a misconception of what “Sabbath” was in your childhood; I am happy you grew into a better understanding.

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