Hebrews 12:2-3 (New International Version)
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Sam was fourteen. He had just accepted Jesus in his heart and he wanted to make a difference in life. He decided to attend a Christian boarding school for the remainder of his high school years. He carefully chose one that was supported by a seminary, because after graduation, he hoped to study theology and become an effective and dedicated pastor.
He entered the boys' dormitory on that very first day wearing his best suit of clothes. His tie was perfectly straight, and from the genuine way he spoke as he introduced himself, one would have thought that he was already a pastor: "I'm Sam. I want to become a pastor once I finish high school." He was so caring and always eager to help that no one doubted he would achieve his goal and everyone welcomed his friendship.
Unfortunately, this included his not-so-desirable classmates. Before long, his manner of dress changed. The tie was out first, and then jeans with holes replaced his suit. This was followed by changes in his ambitions. No longer did he want to become a pastor, and his kind deeds were replaced with foul language. In fact, he soon became a specialist in the worst kind of swear words.
What had gone wrong?
The grass started to look greener outside of the church!
Jesus addressed this problem early on in His ministry. In fact, He gave a very poignant illustration of this very problem: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matt 13:3-9 NIV)
Let's take a closer look at each of these examples:
1. INCOMPREHENSION: "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and DOES NOT UNDERSTAND IT, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path." (Matt 13:19 NIV)
This first example isn't talking about someone who is in the church. Instead it is referring to those who never accept the word they hear. Notice why the evil one is able to snatch it away before it can take root in their hearts: They don't UNDERSTAND it!
In the last three examples, Jesus is referring specifically to people who ARE in the church, for in each of these examples, the Good News was accepted with eagerness. Let's look at Jesus' explanation of the first two to see what Jesus has to say about "greener grass"-about why people fall away from the church:
2. AFFLICTIONS, TROUBLES AND PERSECUTION: "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." (Matt 13:20-21 NIV)
3. WORRIES OF THIS WORLD: GLAMOROUS DECEITFULNESS OF RICHES: "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful." (Matt 13:22 NIV)
In our day and age, it is easy to make someone feel dissatisfied, to make them long for something better. Just point out inconsistency and claim it to be a global truth. For example: the church edifice gives the opportunity for many to come and worship God together. However not everyone who comes there is saved. In fact some fake being a Christian so well that they end up having an important function in the church! How easy it is to point out their hypocrisy and then generalize it to: "They are all hypocrites!" This kind of reasoning easily leads at noticing the deceitful greener grass outside of the church.
What can happen to those who fall for the "greener grass" deception? Let's look at the life of Judas. He betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins (see Matthew 26:15). The silver coins looked so attractive at the time Judas went for them. However soon he realized the deception, but while attempting to amend his error, he ended up committing suicide. (see Mathew 27: 3-5).
There is one group of people in Jesus' parable, however, who persevere to the end. It is the last group: "But the one sown on the good ground-this is one who hears and UNDERSTANDS the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown." (Matt. 13:23) Why does this group succeed when the others fail? The difference between them lies in the word "understand". They understood the true message, not just the frills! And the resulting crop was proof of this.
The only way to avoid the "greener grass" pitfall is by consistently keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Dear Lord We want to keep our eyes on You. We pray today that we would always focus on You and not let our eyes wander. In Jesus’ name, Amen.