When life gives you lemons call in the Master Gardener

Moses is confronted with a plague of lemons. The Egyptian Pharaoh has finally let Moses’ people, the Israelites, go after four hundred years of slavery. Now the great leader of Israel is standing with up to a million refugees between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian army ready to mete out revenge for that unpleasant “death of the firstborn son” thing.

Moses and the Israelites needed help from a higher power. So, just like Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments movie, the Red Sea parts, the Israelites walk through on dry land, and then, when they’re safely through, the sea closes over the Egyptians. Sometimes, our problems are way too big for us to handle.

We’re facing a sea of lemons in front and a thundering army of lemons right behind us. But the problem is no problem for God. Most people don’t turn to God until there’s a major crisis: trapped in a foxhole, facing an approaching hurricane, dealing with the horror of a terrorist attack, the stock market tanking, unemployment, etc.

But He has designed us to draw our strength from Him, not on an emergency bailout basis, but in a daily relationship. Life-puckering problems get our attention.

There’s a recurring pattern in the story of the Israelite exodus. Things are going well for the Israelites, and they soon forget that it was God who brought them that good.

Unfortunately, that has been the case in my life. It’s taken my wife nearly dying at the birth of our daughter, a kidney stone, and books that actually sold negative numbers to get my attention; to make me realize that my purpose in life is not to sell millions of books and speak at large conferences, but to have a relationship with God.

People flippantly quote Romans 8:28 as some kind of mantra that turns lemons into lemonade: “All things work together for good.”

As a junior higher, that wasn’t much comfort. How do acne and braces work together for good? (My face looked like a pepperoni pizza with a zipper.) How did women and children being burned alive by napalm in Vietnam work together for good? What was good about my Sunday school teacher hanging herself? And what was Ray Stevens smoking when he wrote that ditty, “Everything is beautiful in its own way”?

Part of the confusion was the result of not reading the whole verse and the verse that followed: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That purpose is defined in verse 29: . . . “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” I was missing a few important components.

Not all things are beautiful! Some things are truly ugly and evil in this world. All things do not work together for good all by themselves. It is God who is able to take the ugly and the evil and somehow, miraculously use it for the good.

And there are two important conditions. For good to result from “all things,” we must be loving God and living for His purpose. The purpose for all these “things” working for “good” to those who love God is to make us more like His Son, Jesus. That’s humanly impossible!

Humanly impossible, but possible through God’s “work.” Through a life-giving relationship with Him.

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by: James Watkins

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jimwatkinsJim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella! He is • author/contributor to over 30 books and over two thousand articles• acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House• conference speaker throughout North America and overseas• editorial adviser for ACW Press• instructor at Taylor University• minister of communications at The River Community Church, and • child of God. The first six titles note what he does, but not who he is. “Whether I succeed or fail in those jobs, I know that my identity is secure in being an unconditionally loved child of God.”

About Be the Light Editor

Martin Wiles is a minister, author, freelance editor, and English teacher who lives in Greenwood, SC. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and is the author of Grits & Grace and God and Grits, Gumbo and Going to Church. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (www.christiandevotions.us) and Assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three.