Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - The Blessings of 5 Kernels of Corn

As the holiday season quickly approaches, I see more and more people worrying about what they will be serving and who should be invited to the holiday meals. Some wonder whether or not they will have the meal at one relative’s home and dessert at another one’s. Still more are planning on flying to visit family and friends. No matter what the situation, all seem to be preoccupied with the details of the season rather than the true meaning of it. 

When you consider the first Thanksgiving and the circumstances leading up to it, the meaning becomes clear. We need to be thankful for what we have rather than focus on what we do not have. Many reflect on what should have occurred in 2018 and wished that things could have been better. Some think about the promotion or raise that should have been given rather than being thankful for the job they have.

Several days ago, a dear friend shared with me that his company had just gone through another massive layoff. While others lament the lack of a raise or promotion, others now face the prospect of a tough, competitive job market. As I think back to all of my friends who have been laid off, each has told me the same thing, “I am so grateful that I have a job.” When you go without something for an extended period of time and then receive a blessing, you are extremely thankful for what you have received. 

Back in 2008 when the economy went into recession, many of my friends went eighteen or more months without a job. Many did odd jobs or took on temporary work just to make ends meet. They lived from one dollar to the next and prayed for a change in their financial situation. 

As I reflected on their plight, I thought about the early settlers of the new land we now call “America”. The Pilgrims faced one hardship after another. Of the original 102 Pilgrims who came to this new land, a little less than half had died due to illness and starvation within the first couple of winters. Crops failed to grow or the harvest was too small to help. The new colonists remained optimistic and used their faith to see them through the hard times. I am sure that many wondered whether or not God had forsaken them. They indeed faced tragedy at every turn.

It got so bad that food had to be rationed under extreme measures. William Bradford, the leader of the Pilgrims, rationed out the food. Each person received five kernels of corn a day to eat. Can you imagine trying to live on five small corn kernels? I am sure many of you cannot even imagine it. The Pilgrims faced that winter with only those five corn kernels and their faith to see them through the hardship.

In time, the harvest came and God blessed them with abundance. They soon had more than enough food for everyone. God truly became their Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord will provide”. God provided more than just food. He provided them with new friends, the Native Americans, who showed them what to grow and when and how to plant so that there would be a bountiful harvest. God showed them how important faith is and that love for one another was equally important. They certainly had more than just food to be thankful for. They were thankful for God’s blessings which became their lesson for the rest of their lives.

During that first Thanksgiving meal, each plate had five kernels of corn on it. Those five kernels of corn served as a reminder of the things that they should be thankful for. The first kernel reminded them that God loved them. The second reminded them that God always provides for their needs. The third was dedicated to their new friends, the Native Americans, who showed them how, what and when to plant and where to find food. The fourth kernel symbolized the love and devotion they had for each other. The fifth, equally as important to the first, reminded them that God not only listens to their prayers but also answers them.

When I read this story so many years ago, I told my family about it and it became a tradition to have five kernels of corn on our plates. We, like the Pilgrims of old, are thankful for each one and the blessings associated with them. Even when we go through the worst of times, we still are thankful. As many of you know, this year has been extremely difficult for my family and myself. I faced and continue to face the ravages of a horrible, insidious illness. This illness has pushed us beyond our limits and, at times, caused us to wonder the same things as the early Pilgrims, “Has God abandoned us?” Our faith was and continues to be tested each and every day and sometimes every moment of every day. There are days when we grow spiritually weary. 

When we feel like we cannot go on, we turn to the words of Isaiah 40. “29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

God never promised us that we would have an easy, smooth life. We, as Christians, still have the trials and troubles of a sinful world. We are not exempt from tragedy or strife. In fact, it, at times, may even seem like we receive more than our fair share. However, we need to remember the words of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12, he writes, “8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

It is only through our weakness that we truly recognize the power of Christ working in our lives. Paul boasts of his weaknesses and is glad for them. Each weakness, like those kernels of corn, reminds him of the power of Christ and the salvation provided by our Heavenly Father. Our weakness, setbacks and trials should serve as our reminder of Jesus’ power in our life. If we believe in him and have faith in the Lord, we can overcome everything that life throws at us. Jesus tells his disciples in John 16, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” If we follow his example and remain faithful, God will hear our prayers and will provide us with answers and wisdom to get through the valley of darkness. God will provide a plan “for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” and a path that will lead you to life everlasting and heavenly rewards.

In the weeks ahead, we will, like the Pilgrims, reflect on the lessons of the five kernels and how they apply to our lives when we face times of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Like Paul, it is through our weakness that we are strong, because we cannot rely on our own flesh and understanding to see us through our problems.  Proverbs 3 tells us, “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

If the Pilgrims remained faithful to the Lord, trusted Him and sought His will in their lives to see them through their hardships, we, too, can do the same and, through our weaknesses, can stand firm in His grace. 

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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