'Unless the Seed Dies' - Another Jonah
29 Nov 2003, Pr George Porter
(George is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
Title: "UNLESS THE SEED DIES" - ANOTHER JONAH
Scripture Reading John 12:24 and Psalm 126:5
Theme: We must die to self and live for Christ
Today I wish to tell you the story of a modern Jonah and his famous wife. However, before I do, let us enlarge on our discussions with regard to the Holy Spirit.
We have recently talked about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasized this need constantly. I believe it could have started with the example he observed, when the Holy Spirit filled layman, Stephen the deacon. In Acts 6:3 we find that Stephen was one of seven men chosen by the Church because they were, " men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom…" Verse 5 says, "they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit." These men were presented to the apostles by the Church. The apostles prayed for them and "laid their hands on them," signifying their responsibility and authority to serve the Church. The result was , "the word of the Lord increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith." They became Christians. As for Stephen, he was said to be, "full of faith and power, and did (performed) great wonders and miracles among the people," verse 8.
Full by the Holy Spirit. Honest by the Holy Spirit. Full of Wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Full of Power by the Holy Spirit. Full of Miracles by the Holy Spirit. Full of Witnessing by the Holy Spirit.
What is happening here? God is keeping His promise recorded in Joel 2 , to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Yes, on deacons. On the laymen. The Spirit is not just for people of title or position. He is for all the saints. In this particular case, He filled particular saints for a particular role and purpose in the Church.
As always opposition built up and Stephen was busted. He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin and by the power of the Holy Spirit defends himself, Jesus Christ and the Christian Church. Acts 7 is a transcript of the trial. Stephen spoke until he was silenced by a shower of stones. He died a martyr as the Holy Spirit continued to speak through him. He was full of the Holy Spirit until his death. " But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up with assurance into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God…"
"Unless the seed dies." The seed must die to grow again and make many seeds. Watching the seed die was Saul of Tarsus. The arch opponent of Christianity, the bigoted devotee and defender of Jehovah and His word. That day the seed died in Stephen but it sprang to life by the Holy Spirit in Pastor Paul the energetic Spirit filled leader of the Christian Church established by Christ. The seed must die. It must die if there is to be growth and a harvest. Stephen died and Paul sprang to life and the result was scores of Christian communities across the empire with thousands of people accepting salvation in Jesus Christ. This whole drama controlled by the Holy Spirit gave us a great part of the New testament writings.
THE MODERN STORY - Another Jonah and His Wife.
It was 1921. Missionaries David and Svea Flood and their two year old son left Sweden for Zaire ( Belgian Congo). On arrival at the main mission station they met up with a young Scandinavian couple, called the Ericksons. They believed the Holy Spirit was leading them to leave the main mission station, to take the Gospel to the untouched remote areas. They had great faith and were filled with the Holy Spirit.
They were lead by the Spirit to enter the village of N'dolera. The chief did not want the Gods of his town upset so he refused the newcomers. The Floods and Ericksons decided to move half a mile up the slopes outside the village. There they built themselves mud huts to live in with their families. They set to praying and seeking the Spirit's leading but there was no breakthrough. Their only contact with the villagers was a young boy who was permitted to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood,who was only four foot eight inches tall,decided that she would try to lead this lone African boy to Jesus. She succeeded. Nothing else at all happened to encourage them.
Malaria continually struck each of them until Ericksons had had enough and pulled out returning to the main mission compound. David and Svea decided to stay on at N'dolera alone. Svea became pregnant and when she was to be delivered of her child the village chief graciously loaned her the services of a mid-wife. Floods had a little girl and they named her Aina. After a severe and exhausting birth process and weakened by continuous malaria, Svea died seventeen days after giving birth.
David Flood dug a bush grave and buried his twenty seven year old wife. Something in David snapped at this point of time. He had had enough. He returned to the main mission with his son and baby daughter. He gave his daughter to the Ericksons, and snarled, " I'm going back to Sweden. I've lost my wife, and I obviously can't take care of this baby. God has ruined my life." The modern Jonah left for the ship, rejecting his mission and calling and God himself. He went down into depression and life long hatred for God.
Eight months later, both of the Ericksons died of a mysterious disease within a few days of each other. The baby Aina was given to American missionaries who renamed her "Aggie". They returned to the USA when she was three years of age. Legal obstacles loomed re Aggie and travel so they decided to stay in USA and do pastoral work. Aggie grew to young womanhood in South Dakota. Attended North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. It was there she fell in love and married Dewey Hurst.
The years rolled on and eventually Aggie gave birth to a daughter and son. Their ministry eventually led them to Seattle where her husband became president of a Christian college. Aggie found herself in a lot of Scandinavian heritage.
The day came when a Swedish religious magazine arrived in her mailbox. She could not read Swedish but browsed the photos. One photo stopped her suddenly in her browsing. A bush grave. A white cross. A name on the cross. The name was Svea Flood. It was her mother's grave. She raced to the college faculty area to have the article translated.
It was a story of a missionaries grave outside the village of N'dolera in Africa. A missionary who had given birth to a "white" baby, before dying. The lady had led one little African boy to Jesus Christ. The chief finally allowed him to build a Christian school in the village. The boy eventually won the students to Jesus. The students in turn won their parents to Jesus and even the village chief became a Christian. Today there are six hundred Christian believers in the village of N'dolera.
God said, "Svea Flood, the "seed" must die and the harvest will follow. David and Svea Flood's sacrifice saved a heathen village.
Hurst's reached their twenty fifth wedding anniversary. The college decided to gift them a vacation to Sweden. Aggie wanted to find her father. He was an old man now. He had another wife and four more children.. He was a dissipated alcoholic and had recently had a stroke. He was still bitter. His family rule was, "Never mention the name of God - because God took everything from me."
Aggie succeeded in tracking down her new family. It was an emotional meet with her half brothers and half sister. Then it was time to announce her desire to see her real biological dad. Her half siblings faltered and hesitatingly agreed, even though father was gravely ill. One caution. "You can talk to him…. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage." Aggie was determined, she would not be deterred. She entered through the filthy squalor of her father's apartment. Past the empty liquor bottles strewn everywhere, to a seventy three year old man lying death-like in his crumpled bed. I quote,
" 'Papa', she said tentatively. He turned and began to cry. Aina, he said, 'I never meant to give you away.' 'It's all right, Papa,' she replied, taking him gently in her arms. 'God took care of me.' The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped. 'God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of him.' He turned his face back to the wall.
Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted. 'Papa, I've got a little story to tell you, and it's a true one. You didn't go to Africa in vain. Mama didn't die in vain. The little boy you won to Jesus grew up to win the whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you were faithful to the call of God in your life….. Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.'"
By the end of that afternoon after much talking David Flood came back to God as a faithful Christian believer. They had happy days together. A few weeks after, David Flood died a reclaimed man for Jesus Christ.
A few years later the Hursts (Aggie and husband) attended an evangelism conference in London. They attended a report given from the nation of Zaire. The national superintendent of the Church of 110,000 baptized believers spoke eloquently and glowingly of the success of the Gospel in his nation.
Aggie just had to ask him if he knew of David and Svea Flood. She introduced herself. He answered in French which was translated for her.
"Yes, it was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact to this day your mother's grave and her memory are honoured by us all…. You must come to Africa, because your mother is the most famous person in our history." They embraced in a long sobbing hug.
Aggie and her husband did go to Africa. They were met by the entire cheering village throng of N'dolera. She met the old man who had been hired by her father to carry her back down the mountain in a cradle to the main mission station. Then came the dramatic event of being escorted by the pastor to her mother's grave with the little white cross, enscribed with the words SVEA FLOOD. Aggie knelt down , prayed and gave thanks to God for her mother's sacrifice; leading in her own life, and the final salvation of her father.
The local pastor read the words of Jesus recorded in John 12:24 . "I tell you the truth, unless a kernal (seed) of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Psalm 126:5 "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."
The sacrifice of Svea Flood and Stephen are similar They both gave there all for God and others. Both died too young. Both were filled with the Holy Spirit. David Flood was a modern Jonah but God still used Him and finally won him back through his daughter he gave away. Of course through the Holy Spirit.
So, "How we live is more important than how long we live." How we die is also important.
I want to be God's child totally, don't you?
I do not want to be alive, only half full, do you? That is half dead!
I want to live filled with the Holy Spirit, don't you?
I want to be like Svea Flood and Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit until I die , don't you?
I don't need a title. I don't want to be famous. I don't want to be rich.
I just want to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be clothed with Christ's righteousness.
So that He can influence people for Christ's salvation.
How about you?
We cannot ignore the real purpose of our lives.
We sin by thinking too small and being selfish in our living.
We are often contented to be partially filled!
We need to think and consider the privilege and potential of belonging totally to God.
Pray for God to reveal His will and purpose for you and go after it with all the grace and power He supplies in the Holy Spirit.
Unless you die to self there will be no harvest. Inwardly to self or externally or others.
Unless there are tears there will be no reaping. There will not be songs of joy.
The seed must die to self.
That is why Paul said, " I die daily," 1 Cor 15:31 and in Gal 2:20 - " I am crucified with Christ: never-the-less I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which
I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God; …"
The seed must die. You must die. We all as seeds must die.
(I am indebted to Jim Cymbala for this story. In his book, "Fresh Power", published 2001 Zondervan, Grand Rapids Michigan.)
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