I know I’ve referenced this poem at least once before in a Praiseletter. I learned and memorized it for a year-end program at our church when I was a nine or ten-year old boy.
LIFE IN THE VINEYARD
A year is a long long time you say
Compared to just a second
But I studied and thought about it one time
And this is how I reckoned
There are sixty minutes in an hour
Twenty-four hours a day
Seven days in every week
Four weeks in a month we’ll say
Only twelve short months and the year is gone
And what was there really in it
Multiplied, squandered and wasted
The insignificant minute
I want to be counted worthy
For the time that’s given to me
For what I do on earth with that time
Will count for eternity
– Author unknown
Every year I’m reminded of the challenge of the poem and usually find myself reciting it once again at some year-end occasion.
As we begin the adventure of a new year in 2017, let’s consider how we might apply the message of this poem to our lives.
The Moments You Make Matter
Simply put, every moment matters! And every moment holds the potential to please the heart of God, honor the name of Jesus and strengthen the Body of Christ.
It all comes down to whether or not we are bearing fruit in and through our lives. Are we more like Jesus now than we were a year ago? Have we brought others closer to Jesus? Do the things that matter most to God matter most to us?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then perhaps we should look to one of Jesus’ parables to gain insight and a challenge.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
In Luke’s gospel account, Jesus presents a parable as follows: “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it, but did not find any. And he said to the vineyard keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)
Matthew Henry provides insightful commentary on this passage and it reads as follows:
This parable of the barren fig tree is intended to enforce the warning given just before; the barren tree, except it brings forth fruit, will be cut down. This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews. Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church. When God has borne long, we may hope that He will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that He will bear always.
Cut It Down!
Let’s imagine for a moment that we are those vineyard keepers who have been placed within His vineyard. We are aware that He has been examining our fruitfulness (or lack thereof) for a season and upon His most recent examination of the tree, for which we are responsible, He has found no fruit. He therefore concludes, “Cut it down!”
We then, appealing to His mercy, cry: “Please give us one more year to till the soil, apply the fertilizer and then if no fruit develops, go ahead and cut it down.”
Now let’s suppose that 2017 is that year to prove our devotion, display our fidelity and produce the expected harvest. What would be different? How would we change? What fruit might be borne to His glory?
I realize analogies, as I have just proposed, can have flaws and be misapplied in ways that open the doors to legalism and performance based relationships to our Lord and Savior.
Legalism always leads to bondage and performance based attempts for relationships always offend grace. I am not in any way suggesting that this year is the year we’d better get it right or else!
And yet shouldn’t our desire be to get it right, or walk in His righteousness, every moment of this year, throughout all the “insignificant minutes?”
Are You Producing Fruit?
We have been placed in His vineyard and because of our privileged standing as sons and daughters of the living God, fruitfulness is a natural expectation.
I often say, “Ministry is a privilege.” We must regard where He has placed us and what He has called us to do, as a great privilege. The tilling of the soil, the dressing of the vines and the pouring of the fertilizer are all to be done with joy and from a heart of gratitude to Him who has saved us and called us.
We do all this to the glory of God, bearing fruit for His honor and storing up treasures in Heaven.
This is Life in the Vineyard.