Fields of Provision
By Pastor Jim May
One of the things that causes many new converts, and even established Christians, to lose their relationship with the Lord is that they do not stay where God puts them. Instead, we tend to wander from church to church, ministry to ministry, from one preacher to another, in search of that one perfect church, perfect ministry, and/or perfect preacher where it will all come together in some form spiritual Utopia.
First of all, let me teach you about one immutable fact: There are no perfect churches, ministries and certainly no perfect preachers. There is, however, is a perfect place in God for each of us and that’s what we need to seek after.
Yesterday morning I sat in on one of the open meetings that are held in the Fellowship Hall of our church on Saturday mornings. It was a meeting of the Alcohol Anonymous group. Regardless of what you have heard about AA, they are helping a lot of people to find freedom from their addiction to alcohol. No – they do not teach people about Jesus. No – they don’t always refer to their “Higher Power” as God, at least not on a national level. But I have found, through our short time of allowing them to continue to meet here, that the individuals who come are given freedom to express what they feel and can say whatever they like. It’s all part of their program to help people recover and lead a normal life. There are no altar calls to accept Christ. There are no prayer lines to be delivered by the blood of Jesus. But the individuals do often give God the glory for their deliverance, even though they really aren’t saved.
On this day in particular, as I sat there, I was impressed by what each one said as they took turns telling a part of their story. The common thread through all of it was that they were seeking for help, wanting deliverance, did not know where to turn or how to break free, until they found the love and compassion of other people who had faced the same thing and found their answer through Alcoholics Anonymous.
One man said that he had search everywhere looking for an answer but none was found. He had gone to church, but no answers were there and he often felt rejected by other people in the church because of his drinking problems. He had tried time and again to develop a plan to break free: “Just a few shots of whiskey, and then I’ll quit”, “One last time to the bar, and I won’t go back”; “Just one beer in the afternoon, then no more, until I can finally stop altogether”. The problem was that none of his plans worked and he always found himself drunk again and then had to face the guilt and shame every time he sobered up. It wasn’t until he found the right “field”, the right place, the right people and the right message, that he finally found deliverance. He has been alcohol free for 18 years now because he found something, or someone, who could help him overcome.
It all started with Alcoholics Anonymous, but A. A. really wasn’t his answer. His answer was found in God. A. A. pointed him toward a “Higher Power”; he recognized that “Higher Power” was Almighty God, and he asked God to deliver him. So God was his real answer, not A. A. They were just the instrument to get him to God and the means by which he is able to remain free. I don’t know if he truly knows the Lord as his Savior, and he may never know Jesus as Lord through the teachings of A. A. alone, but at least he recognizes that God is the only answer.
As I sat and listened to him I wondered, “Where did the church fail?” I’m not sure what his denomination was, but whatever church he attended was not fulfilling the will of God to reach out to the lost. The very place where he should have found God and experienced the delivering and saving grace of Jesus Christ, failed in its mission. Thank God that he eventually found God, even if God did have to use a secular organization to make it happen.
Listening to all of this, and noticing what was being said, I could not help but think of the story of Ruth and Boaz once again. Last week I pointed out to you in the 1st chapter and the first 3 verses of chapter two that Ruth was a type of the sinner, coming from the land of idolatry, following the church, represented through Naomi, to discover the fact that there is a True and Living God as she professed her faith in the God of Israel and took hold of the covenant of Abraham.
Boaz is a type of Christ and his position and actions give us a picture of Jesus Christ as he deals with a sinner who comes to him. Ruth was a Moabitess, an idolater, a sinner, and she didn’t deserve anything from God. Yet God was leading her through His perfect grace, into a place of blessing and provision that was far beyond anything she could imagine.
Ruth finally found the place where her needs could be met. She found the right field because God led her to that field. It was the field of Boaz and there she began to glean in the fields to get the food she needed to live.
Ruth 2:4-7, "And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house."
Notice that Boaz, like Jesus, who would be born many years later, had come from Bethlehem. This is the initial introduction of Boaz to Ruth, and Ruth’s cry for help. The reapers, who are once again representative of the ministry of the church, leads her to Boaz and introduces her to her future Redeemer. That’s the job that we have to fulfill. If we will do our job in leading people to Christ, then they won’t have to try to find deliverance elsewhere.
When Jesus was coming into Jerusalem for the last time riding on the donkey, all the people praised him and said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. The Pharisees wanted to silence the voices of those who praised Jesus but Jesus said in Luke 19:40, "… I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."
If the preachers and the church won’t cry out against sin, cry out for the sinners to come to Christ, then God will use whatever means He has to in order to reach the lost. The Grace of God is not limited by the messenger. God’s grace will reach out however God desires for he wants to see people set free and delivered and he wants to see souls saved. That’s what it’s all about! It’s not about glorifying a church, lifting up a ministry or praising a preacher – it’s about getting souls saved. That’s our primary mission as a church, and as a Christian, and we should never forget it.
If the church won’t do its job, then God will use a “stone” like A. A. or something else. But He will find a way to reach a hungry heart. God help us when A. A., N. A, or some other secular group has to do the work that God has called the church to do. It’s no wonder that God will say to so many people on Judgment Day to “depart from me, I never knew you.” How can we say that we know God and we don’t fulfill his calling in our lives?
Boaz asked a question of the reapers. “Whose damsel is this?” When we lead a sinner to the Lord, he is a stranger to God. He knows not God, didn’t even consider the will or existence of God in his life until the moment that he hears the gospel for the first time and the Holy Spirit begins to convict him of sin. At that moment, when he first realizes that he needs God, is the moment that we see happening right here in the Book of Ruth.
As we introduce people to the Lord, through the preaching of the gospel and through leading them in the sinner’s prayer, Jesus stands there just waiting for the moment to take hold of their hand and extend his grace to them. If you are here today and you haven’t met Jesus, you are in the right field at the right time, because Jesus is here today, just waiting for the moment when you will come to know him. His grace is sufficient for you. You have been led to this field, this church, at this moment in your life, by the mercy and grace of God and today is your day to become a part of God’s family if you so choose.
At the moment of introduction, the church through its ministers, is speaking for the Lord and bringing Christ and the sinner together. But once the introduction is made, and the sinner comes to know about Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins to deal with that sinner on a one-to-one basis and the Jesus begins to lead him into a deeper relationship.
Notice what Boaz says to Ruth next. Ruth 2:8, "Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:"
Do you see what’s happening here? Can you understand what’s going on when a sinner comes to know Christ? The first thing that we must do in order to gain the provisions of God’s grace is to stay where God puts us. Where does God put us? He puts us in the church, around his children, his “Bride”.
Spiritually speaking, we are all part of the Bride of Christ and therefore we are all “spiritual maidens” in the sight of God. God says to the sinner, If you want the fullness of God’s grace and provision in your life then “…abide here fast by my maidens”.
God’s first requirement for a sinner is that they stay in the church, around his people, for God knows that is where they will gain strength and encouragement. When we come together, we are here to love one another, to lift one another up and to gain a fresh determination to continue on in our service to the Lord. That’s what Boaz told Ruth to do, and that’s what Jesus tells you and I to do as well.
Ruth 2:9, "Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn."
“Ruth, don’t let the green fields of the farmer next door entice you to jump the fence. Don’t go anywhere except my fields. The grass is always greener on the other side, but it’s dangerous over there. You could get hurt, and you’re too vulnerable to attacks from the enemy. You could be sold back into slavery, or worse, so stay where you are.”
God puts you where he wants you so that you can receive his provision through his grace. A hedge of fire, God’s power and glory, are around you and that’s where Isaiah 54:17 comes into the picture for the man or woman who stays in their place.
Isaiah 54:17, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD."
“Stay in this field Ruth. I’ve told the powers of hell to leave you alone. They can’t cross the line. I’ve given instructions to the reapers to take care of you so that none can touch you.”
That’s a picture of your brothers and sisters in the Lord who care about you and pray for you, and who want to help you to stay true to God. It’s a picture of theHoly Angels of God that Jesus commands to watch over you as your Guardian Angels, and it’s a picture of the Holy Spirit as he watches over you, leading you, guiding you and helping you to obtain all that God has for you.
“Ruth, when you get thirsty, go drink from the water that has already been provided. You are entitled to an equal share for God is no respecter of persons.”
Whether you were saved 40 years ago, or you get saved today; whether you are young or old; whether you are male or female; whether you are rich or poor doesn’t matter. You are entitled to an equal share of God’s love, mercy and grace. God has provisions for you, whatever you need. BUT YOU HAVE TO STAY IN HIS FIELD, IN THE PLACE WHERE HE HAS PUT YOU, AND NOT ALLOW ANYTHING OR ANYONE TO GET YOU OUT OF YOUR PLACE.
If you move out of your place, you might leave behind the protection that God has provided, and you will find yourself in a place where the enemy can steal your victory and drag you back into your old life. If you move out of your place, God’s promises are null and void. If you decide that you know best, then you will suffer the consequences of making the wrong choices.
I’ve seen some people who I know that God put in this church so that they could grow and learn about living for Jesus. God would have taught them, blessed them and they could have been a part of the Bride of Christ right along with everyone else who is here, but they chose to move somewhere else, where they did not have what they had here.
I’m nothing special, but the ministry that God has placed here is special. How many times have we heard someone say, “I searched everywhere, but I didn’t feel love or acceptance until I found this church?” That’s what its all about, being in the right field and staying in that place until God moves us on. Many of those who have moved on, moving ahead of God, are no longer in church at all. Many only wish that they could do it again, and they could, but Satan has them bound so that they can’t go back so easily.
Stay in your place and you will see God’s provision for your life in action. You will grow in grace, grow in your relationship with the Lord and become stronger as a Christian, able to stand against the attacks of the enemy by the grace of God. But you may never see that if you don’t stay in the place where God puts you.
If Ruth would have left Boaz’ field she would never have been a part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. Boaz would never have redeemed her and she would have been lost forever. She only received the blessings because she stayed in the right field.
A few of us attended the Bible Conference in Bastrop, LA, where Dr. Hunt ministered along these same lines. He gave us an illustration of what it means to stay in your place.
Suppose God called you to play your music on the worship team of the church, or maybe to be a teacher of a class, or to be the youth leader at Victory Temple: those are the fields that God has put you in. (Have three people sit in a chair)
Now, as you work in those fields, the blessing of God will be all around you. If you are faithful in gleaning, staying true to working in the field, then God’s blessings upon your life are going to become very evident to everyone around you. You will grow in understanding, in skills, in knowledge and your abilities to do the work that God has called you to do.
When your spiritual growth becomes evident is when things begin to happen to draw you off and sometimes the other side of the fence looks good, feels right and gets very appealing. What will you do then?
1) Offer the musician a chance to lead the worship for pay at another church!
2) Offer him a chance to make a lot of money in a Christian band or group!
3) Try to pull him off the chair with a strong offer!
1) Offer the teacher a position as a Christian School Administrator with a big raise.
2) Offer her the chance to be a teacher of a different class with more status.
3) Offer her a chance to go to a bigger church where she/he can have more students.
1) Offer the youth leader a chance to build his youth group at a different church where the pastor allows him to do whatever he wants without question.
2) Offer him the chance to have his own youth crusades.
3) Offer him a job as a Youth Pastor at a large church where he can earn a salary.
(Hopefully, none of them will move, but if they do, it will illustrate your point. So often we take such offers as the will of God, when they really aren’t. Satan can use even good things to take us out of our place.)
Many will fall prey to these traps and leave the field where God has put them, only to be destroyed in the end.
Unless God calls you to move – you are stepping out on dangerous ground. What if you don’t work out as a Worship Leader and you get fired? Where will you be then? Unemployed, in danger of financial disaster, with no place to go and probably with a bad taste in your mouth for any kind of ministry for a long time.
What if you take the job as a teacher at a large church and you aren’t prepared for teaching 50 or 100 kids or more? You feel overwhelmed and suddenly a ministry that was a blessing in your life becomes a weight around your neck that’s dragging you down and you become disillusioned with church.
What if that job as a Youth Pastor doesn’t pan out and you gain the reputation as a youth leader who can’t cut it because of the great demands of time and energy that are required?
What if, when you change churches, you no longer hear the truth being taught, and all you hear is that everything is alright, when you know its not?
What if you go somewhere else because the music is better, or the preacher is a better teacher, but when you get there, there’s nothing at all for the rest of the family?
You see, God knows what you and He puts you in the right field, so stay in your place and grow. Put down some roots and learn about Jesus. When the time is right, God will move you onward and upward. If you move on your own then you will only move backward and downward.
Like Ruth, you will only receive God’s promise, God’s provision and God’s best if you stay in the right field. You will only grow into a mature, strong Christian if you stay in your place.