For many years, it was a tradition for our family to drive out to Oak Shade Farm, not far from our home. We would drink homemade hot cider, cut a tree, bring it home, and put it up. Then a few years ago, my wife Pam and I changed from having a fresh cut Christmas tree to an artificial one. I struggled against this change for years. I like real trees and my family always had a live tree. Have you ever kept doing something because it’s the way you have always done it? Not only is this true in our personal lives, it’s true in churches. While families have traditions, churches often institutionalize them. We create programs or certain ways of doing things, that later, even if they have outlived their usefulness, we just can’t let them go. Today, let’s consider this problem as we read a familiar comment from Jesus:
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24)
In this passage, Jesus gives us a powerful word picture: a grain of wheat. A grain of wheat has hard shell. If you put it in a jar on a shelf, it doesn’t germinate. Even so, there are many documented cases of grains of wheat found in sealed clay pots from ancient excavations, which, when put into soil, began to germinate after thousands of years of being dormant. It’s like that with many of the things you and I do. I’m talking to someone today. You may need to make a difficult change in your life. You can hold onto it and keep it, but as in today’s passage, Jesus says that if you hold on it, it will be like that hard little seed, and nothing more will ever come out of it. Is there an alternative? Let it go. Hand it over to God and trust Him. Be willing to drop that seed into the ground, lose sight of it, buried there in the dark. Maybe people will walk all over it, not even knowing it is there, not knowing that it was so important to you. Believe me, I know it’s hard to do! I’ve had to do it! But God promises that new life will come out of it.
Are you trying to save your own life? Jesus says if we try to save our lives, we’ll lose them. But if we’re willing to let go, we’ll not only experience new life, but eternal life!