I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
Thoughts for Today:Last night was movie night at our house. My wife Sherry made a big batch of popcorn and joined Amanda and I on the sofa for a movie titled "Big Fish". The story is of an adult son, who at the bedside of his dying father, attempts to get his father to admit the stories he has told of events throughout his life are fabrications (hence the title "Big Fish"). As the father's health continues to digress the son begins to investigate his father's stories, ultimately uncovering certain kernels of fact buried deep within the seemingly outlandish tales. At his father's funeral, the son meets many of the characters portrayed in the stories which he had previously written off as mere fiction and fantasy. He then realizes (too late for a relationship with his father), that the true nature of his father was intimately entwined with his stories. The son had missed out on the relationship and identity of his father because he couldn't get past arguing about the details.
I'm not sure if the author of the book, screenplay writer, or director intended any spiritual overtones, but I couldn't help but make a number of connections myself. For example, when we stand before the Lord, I wonder how silly people will feel for doubting or arguing over whether the Biblical Jonah could survive for three days in the belly of God's own "Big Fish"; or the possibility and improbability of a ship (the Ark) which could hold two of every kind of living creature. Many miss a relationship with God because their own minds can't stretch large enough to believe in a Creator whose ideas are bigger than their own.
There was also another spiritual component I gleaned from this movie -- the father's death brought to his funeral all the people who were influenced, benefited and befriended by the father. They were his "cloud of witnesses". Those who testified by their presence as to his worth. They were his "harvest". In our passage today, Paul writes: "...in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles." That is why Paul wrote to the Romans. He encouraged, instructed, and invested in them -- and they in turn became his harvest. In fact, we ourselves are a part of Paul's harvest today. I wonder if Paul had any idea how many would come to know Jesus through his efforts. I for one am grateful for his faithfulness.
Questions to Ponder:I have two points I wanted to make in today's devotion: First, let's not limit God by our own small-mindedness, and second, who would point to you as having had an influence upon their growth in Christ? Unlike the movie I described, it won't matter who attends our funerals because it is still an earthly event which has no eternal meaning when our physical bodies are dead. If you are thinking, "I can't influence anyone for Jesus because of _____________," could it be you are limiting God? If God could bring Jonah to preach to the Ninevites via a "Big Fish", why couldn't He also use you to increase the harvest for His Kingdom?