Monday, August 26, 2013

August 25, 2013 Nurturing A Healthy Heart - Faithfulness

Galatians 5:22-23; Luke 18:1-8

I spent most of the 1980’s as an associate in Lawrenceburg, in Anderson County.  The church I served was a few miles south of town, with open land behind it.  Unfortunately, it became a “meet-up” place for people.  The parking lot behind the church was totally concealed from the highway, and I could look out of my office window and see couples meeting in the parking lot below.  They would drive both cars, park, and drive away in one of the cars.  One couple had been meeting like this over a period of weeks, and, to be honest, it really got under my skin.  Not at the church, please, was my attitude.  One day, after seeing them drive off in one car, I went into the minister’s office and said you know what we should do?  We should go out and let the air out of one of their tires.  That would let them know they are being watched.  He said no, and I thought perhaps, he’s right.  Maybe we should just leave them alone.  But then he said No.  What we should do is let the air out of two of the tires, that way they’ll have to call someone to come and help them.  And then they’ll have to explain what their car is doing parked behind our church.  So we went out and let the air out of both of the back tires.  We never saw them again!

As we continue our series, Nurturing A Healthy Heart, this morning we come to faithfulness.  As I began thinking about faithfulness that story came to mind, because when we hear the word faithfulness, we think of our relationships, and when we think of relationships, we think about our marriages.

A lack of faithfulness in marriage is one of the most emotionally and spiritually destructive events a person can experience.  Some people are able to work through that devastation, but many do not.

This morning, I want to speak two words – a pastoral word and a theological word.

First, the pastoral word, and it is about relationships.  Here it is in a very simple sentence – if you are having relationship difficulties, do what you can to fix them.  It is not a one-person task to fix a relationship, but do what you can.  And here are a couple of things when it comes to fixing a relationship –

1.  There is your side, the other person’s side, and the truth.  Sometimes, when I counsel with people, I can’t help but wonder as I hear two very different accounts of the relationship and the problem.  We must learn to hear what the other person is saying, and that isn’t easy, especially when we are hurt.  It’s hard to hear anything through our hurt.

We all see through a “lens” in life.  In relationships, that lens is often distorted by anger, frustration, disappointment, and hurt.  When we are looking through a lens shaped by those emotions, we are unable to see some of the truths we need to see and understand.

2.  If you don’t see a relationship going anywhere, do the person a favor and don’t string them along. 
I heard some rather amazing poll results the other day.  The results of this poll found that 73 per cent have made do with their partner because their true love slipped through their fingers.  73%! 
You can’t toy with the heart of another person.

3.  Be honest.
I find that people, as much as the truth may hurt, really want to hear the truth.  We all deserve the truth.  Be honest in your relationships.

I will add a disclaimer here.  Some people love to use the truth as a weapon.  These people want to use truth – or their version of it – to bring hurt.  It’s easy to see when this is coming – it usually if prefaced by this comment – I want to tell you something in love.  I generally find there is very little love in what they have to say, but plenty of hurt.

4.  Get help when you need it.
If you are sick and cannot get better on your own, what do you do?  You call a doctor, don’t you?  We don’t mess around with our health, so why do we so often drag our feet?  Get help!

I had a couple come to me once and their marriage was in really bad shape.  I met with the husband one day and he was pretty clueless, even by guy standards.  We talked a while, and I told him they really needed to talk to a professional, and I recommended one to him.  I remember the day when they came to me to say that counselor had saved their marriage.  And not only saved the marriage but made it stronger and better than before.

5.  Love is always worth the work.
Love, and relationships, are not always easy.  Relationships take work, but love is worth the work. 
That’s the pastoral word; now the theological word.

The passage we read this morning comes from one of the parables of Jesus, as found in Luke’s gospel.  Hear our readings this morning, first from Galatians, where we find the Fruits of the Spirit, and then from Luke’s gospel –

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.
And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think,
yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

This parable comes after Jesus had been questioned about when the kingdom of God would come.  Jesus spoke with his disciples about the future.  They were worried, very worried, about the present and the future.  Their world seemed to be falling apart.  As bad as the present was, they wondered if things are this bad now, what’s the future going to be like?  What’s going to happen to our children and grandchildren?

Does that sound familiar?  Have you ever worried about what the future holds for your children and grandchildren?

The world always seems to be falling apart.  People are always worried about the future, and for good reason, as there are some very real concerns.

So Jesus tells this parable about a widow who goes to a judge seeking justice.  We don’t know what she had experienced, but someone had taken advantage of her in some way or perhaps cheated her out of money.  Jesus said the judge neither feared God nor cared about men (verse 2).  This judge did not care about the woman or her problems.  He was, sadly, a very corrupt judge.

We have friends who adopted internationally.  They were encouraged to bring gifts for the judge who was presiding over their case.  Gifts?  I don’t think that’s the word we would use in our legal system.  This judge was many times worse.  He was openly corrupt and unconcerned about justice.  He was a Snidley Whiplash type of character, if you remember that cartoon.

The parable is often seen as a story of being persistent in our prayers, which is correct.  Luke tells us at the beginning of the passage that Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (verse 1).  But people often assume Jesus means that if we pray often enough, and hard enough, God will eventually relent and grant us what we ask.  That is not at all what the parable is teaching.

In the parable Jesus is drawing a contrast between God and the unrighteous judge, not a comparison. The judge would not respond to her request and only did so after her repeated pleas.  The judge was eventually worn down and granted her request for justice in order to save himself from the headache of her perseverance and to spare himself the embarrassment of not acting upon her request.

The lesson Jesus teaches through the parable is that God is not at all like this judge.  We do not have to cajole or wear God out with our continual pleas.  In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 6:8 that your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  God is not like this judge.  He is not thinking, if they would just ask one more time, and with a bit more conviction, or if they would get another ten people praying, then I would step in and help out.

The problem is not that God does not hear our prayers; the problem is in our trying to understand God’s ways and learning to adapt to his time frame.  We often struggle to understand the manner in which God works, wondering why he doesn’t seem to answer our prayers.  The truth is, God answers our prayers, but the time frame in which he answers, and the manner in which he answers, are not always understandable to us.

God tends to work over the long haul; we tend to operate in the moment.  It’s hard to think and act in our long-term interests.  We have enough difficulty getting through today; why should we worry about tomorrow?

At the end of the parable Jesus flips the question of faithfulness around – will God find that we are faithful?  Will we continue to be faithful in our prayers and in our faith, even though we may struggle to see the hand of God at work in our lives?

I used to have a poster that said when you come to the end of your rope – let go.  It’s good advice to let go and to allow yourself to fall into the loving arms of God.  Trust and believe that he is working on your behalf.  You may not see his hand, but his hand is guiding your life.  You may not understand his plan, but his plan is one of goodness for your life.  You may not understand his timetable, but his goodness will come to you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 18, 2013 Nurturing A Healthy Heart - Goodness

Galatians 5:22-23
Luke 18:18-27

As we continue our series of messages Nurturing A Healthy Heart, based on the Fruits of the Spirit, this morning we come to goodness.  How do we define goodness?  Let’s listen to how Jesus replies to a question about goodness –

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Does this passage sound odd to you?  There are a couple of unusual elements in this passage.  First, is Jesus saying he is not good?  And is he asking us, as he does this man, to sell all we have?
This man comes to Jesus asking how he might inherit eternal life.  Immediately, Jesus sense the man is asking the wrong question, because he asks what he must do. 
This brings us to the first point about goodness that we learn from this passage –

Goodness is not a competition.
We live in a very competitive world.  Just wait until football and basketball season start, if you need an example of competitiveness.

Goodness is not a competition.

Recent editions of the Sentinel-News have featured a bit of a dustup between belief and unbelief.  A letter from a person who rejects religious belief said it is not necessary to be religious to be a moral person.  And he’s correct in that statement.  What he doesn’t seem to understand is that even in his rejection of religious belief he is still very influenced by faith and his definition of goodness probably comes from religious belief.  The mistake made on both sides of the great chasm that separates belief and unbelief is to argue with one another about who can be moral.  It’s not a competition.

We are not out to see if we can be better than everyone else to prove to God that we are more worthy of earning salvation.  That’s a fairly easy competition anyway, isn’t it?  We can always find somebody who makes us look very good by comparison.  I can say well, I’m certainly not like Mother Teresa, but I’m a lot better than the guy next door, or down the street (or maybe in the next seat at church).

This was a mistake made by many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  They were very good according to the law, and yet Jesus was very critical of them, and even called them a brood of vipers and compared them to whitewashed tombs, looking good on the outside but containing nothing but death inside.

While that sounds very harsh, it’s more of an observation than it is a criticism.  They believed that goodness was solely in a person’s actions.

The man who came to Jesus made goodness sound competitive.  What must I do?  When Jesus tells him to keep the commandments the man eagerly responds he’s done all that.  Come on Jesus, give me something else.  What else can I do?  Have I done everything?

And then Jesus drops the bomb on him – sell everything you have and give it to the poor. 

Would Jesus ask that of every person?  I don’t think so.  Jesus was trying to make this man understand that if you want to base it all on goodness you’re going down an impossible road, because there’s always going to be something else you can do.

Goodness has to do with who we are.
There is a stereotype of faith that it takes all the fun out of life.  It portrays people of faith as puritanical prudes.  That really drives me crazy, but that’s what happens when so much emphasis is put on what we do, rather than on emphasizing who we are.

What we do will follow who we are.

The Scriptures seem to assume that who we are is more important than what we do, and that’s because we do what we are.  What we do – or don’t do – is evidence of who we are.

Goodness goes to the heart.  You can perform good deeds with bad motives, but God is always trying to transform who we are as people.  This is why Jesus, in the Sermon On the Mount, talked about our internal lives.

God is looking for transformation.
I have known a lot of saints in my lifetime; people who were such great role models.  These saints are people from my childhood right down to the present day.

I used to try to be like many of those people, and that’s a positive thing to do.  But they weren’t interested in me becoming like them; they were trying to teach me to be like Jesus. C. S. Lewis talks about this as good infection (Mere Christianity, page 153).  It’s like a good virus that sweeps through humanity, as we seek to be like Jesus.

The heart of the gospel is in being transformed.  The Scriptures talk about being born again, about putting on Christ, about being a new creation.  It really talks more about transformation than it talks about being good, because goodness is an outcome of who we are.  If we want to be good, we have to be new and different people.

One of the great examples of this transformation is John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace.  A terrible, notorious slave trader, Newton was dramatically converted, and the hymn Amazing Grace bears testimony to the change that came in his life.  Perhaps that’s why it resonates with so many people.
Do you want to be good?  Be like Jesus.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 11, 2013 Nurturing A Healthy Heart: Kindness

Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:3;
1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Luke 6:35; Colossians 3:12

How would you finish this sentence – Be kind to…

Would you answer be people, your neighbor, everybody?  I often heard the phrase be kind to animals.  You can, I believe, discover a lot about a person by the way the treat animals.

Twice in recent weeks I’ve been in an interesting traffic situation.  Cutting across from Shelbyville Road to go to Baptist East via Bowling Boulevard there is a pond and a marsh area.  There’s a group of geese always gathered there and occasionally they decide to cross the road.

A couple of weeks ago a large group of them walked into the road and all the cars stopped.  Of course, I had to take a picture (by the way, I was not moving when the picture was taken.  I don’t take pictures or text while driving.  I like the bumper sticker that says honk if you love Jesus; text while driving if you want to meet him).  Most of the drivers were very patient, but as the geese decided to stop in the middle of the road and just stand there, one driver started honking his horn.  That doesn’t work for geese.  Why?  Because geese honk!  They just start looking around and wondering which one of us is honking.  It took a while before traffic could get moving again and I think everyone actually enjoyed watching the antics of those geese.

A couple of days ago, I was driving the same route and a flock of geese decided to step into the road again.  This time, someone driving a pickup truck was not so kind.  He sped up, laid on his horn, and just about ran down the entire flock.  It was really an unkind action.

As we continue our series of messages Nurturing A Healthy Heart, today we come to kindness.

Kindness seems very simple, doesn’t it?  Be kind to animals.  When a flock of geese is trying to cross the road, let them cross.  When a person needs help across the road, help them out.  Hold the door for someone who has their arms full.  Speak to people with kindness.

That’s how we generally view kindness, isn’t it?  And all those actions, and many more, are indeed examples of kindness.  But as we talk about kindness this morning, we will see that in the Biblical sense, kindness is a far deeper matter than how we generally conceive it to be.  Kindness, in the Biblical sense, is much more profound than just helping someone across the street or holding open a door.  As we will see, kindness is very deep, very profound, and, most of all, very challenging.

Scripturally, kindness is a synonym for other things, and I have selected several passages of Scripture this morning that define kindness for us.

Kindness leads to forgiveness.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I don’t think that Paul just casually put those particular words together.  I don’t think that as he wrote he was thinking, oh this sounds good together – be kind, be tenderhearted, forgive one another.  That’s a nice string of things to say.  Paul puts those words together, I believe, for a very specific reason – he does so because Christian kindness brings about forgiveness.

There are stories often in the news about people forgiving others, even when a horrendous crime has taken place.  There are stories of people forgiving the person who murdered a loved one and other amazing stories of forgiveness.  And I don’t know if I have ever heard or read one of those stories where faith was missing.  It is always faith that leads a person to grant forgiveness, even in horrific circumstances.

Now, I want to add at this point that you should put out of your mind the old saying forgive and forget.  I think you should put that saying out of your mind because it leads people to the wrong conclusion – that if you have not forgotten, you have not forgiven.  That is not true.  You do not have to forget in order to forgive.  In fact, some hurts are so deep it is highly unlikely that we will ever forget them, but that does not mean we cannot forgive.

Kindness is an expression of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says that
love is patient and kind…

It is impossible to fake real kindness.  You can get by for a while, but if kindness is not rooted in love, it will become obvious sooner or later.

Kindness is a synonym for love.  In fact, the King James Version sometimes puts the words kindness and love together – lovingkindness – as a reminder of the intrinsic link between the two.

This is where kindness becomes far deeper, and more difficult, than mere surface actions, such as holding a door open for someone, because that’s easy to do.  It doesn’t cost us anything other than a few moments to hold open a door, or to speak to someone in a polite manner, or to offer directions.  I prefer the type of kindness that only asks me to hold open a door for someone.  What about you?  I prefer it because it’s so much easier.

But to love someone, that’s very different.

Kindness is love personified.  Kindness is love made visible, which is not always easy.  Sometimes it is.  When someone loves us, it’s wonderful and easy, isn’t it?  But Jesus says what is the greatness of that type of love?  We can all love those who love us.  In Matthew 5:46-47, in the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus says, If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?

As I was preparing for Zola Kephart’s funeral Laine brought her mother’s Bible by the office.  People often do this when I’m working on funeral messages and I always appreciate it.  It’s very interesting to go through a person’s Bible to see what passages they highlight and to read the many notes they often place within the pages.  Among the notes in Zola’s Bible was a prayer she had written.  About a paragraph long it included many of the things we often find in prayers – asking forgiveness for our sins and giving thanks for our blessings – but ended in a very interesting way.  Zola concluded with these words – and help us Lord to love others, even our enemies.  We often ask for help in loving others, but we don’t always add the request that we love our enemies, but this is exactly what Jesus asks of us.

The real test, says Jesus, is to love the one who does not love us.  The real test is to love the one who despises us and even works to our detriment.  The real test of love is to love even the one who is our enemy.  In Luke 6:35 Jesus says,But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

 Kindness leads to compassion.
Compassion is the ability to see others in the way that God sees them.

Imagine it this way – it’s the difference between another child and your child.  Imagine a child that is hungry, and then imagine it is your child that is hungry.  Imagine a child, that is lonely, and then imagine it is your child that is lonely.  Imagine a child that is ill, and then imagine it is your child that is ill.  Imagine a child that is frightened, and then imagine it is your child that is frightened.  Imagine a child that is poor, and then imagine it is your child that is poor.  When it’s your child, your 
actions and feelings are much different, aren’t they?

There is no one – no one – who is not a child of God, and it is God’s desire, I believe, that we develop the capacity to see others in the way that he sees others – as his children.

I watched a news story the other day about an 11-year-old young man who has spent his summer mowing lawns.  That’s not a big news story, but his purpose was.  His goal was to earn $1,000.00 over the summer to give away to people who had lost homes from storm damage.  That’s a big goal.  That’s a lot of yards to mow.  What was especially inspiring about the story was how he inspired others.  Because of his efforts, friends and neighbors had contributed $16,000.00, without anyone asking them to do so.

We think the world is a tough, difficult, and terrible place, and it can be at times.  But there is a lot of goodness – a lot of kindness still in our world.  It is a kindness born of the Spirit of God that touches the hearts of people.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

August 4, 2013, Nurturing A Healthy Heart: Patience

Galatians 5:22-23, James 1:2-8; Isaiah 40:28-31

How many of you have ever heard, or said, be careful what you pray for?  Almost every time that phrase is said, it’s attached to – what?  Patience.  We’re happy to pray for almost anything, except patience. 

Isn’t that odd?  We seem to believe that if we pray for patience God is going to fill our lives with such struggles that we will be forced to develop a greater sense of patience.  Why do we believe that praying for patience is in invitation for hardship to enter our lives? Perhaps that’s what it takes for us to learn patience, as patience is really tough.

As we continue our series of messages on Nurturing A Healthy Heart, this morning we come to patience.  Ah.  This is a tough one, isn’t it?  I know a lot of people with a lot of gifts, but the gift of patience may be the most rare of all.  And make no mistake about it – patience is a true gift.

As we talk about patience this morning I want to break it down into three areas where we need patience – patience with ourselves, patience with others, and patience with God.

Patience with ourselves.
There are some things I would like to see more often in people, and one of them is the ability to be patient with one’s self.

People can be really, really hard on themselves.  And maybe that’s because someone has been really hard on them.  The person trying desperately to live up to the expectations of someone else will struggle to be patient with himself.  No matter how much they push, and they strive, no matter what they do or what they accomplish, it’s never enough.

Maybe they need to turn off the media images that fill our minds as to how we should look, act, and live.  Those images aren’t real anyway.

Maybe it’s living in an instant gratification society, where we think everything has to happen right now, and we have to be what we want to be right now.  I want success right now; I don’t want to have to work years for it.   I want to be financially sound, and I want it to happen right now and without any sacrifice.  I want to be physically fit, and I want it to happen right now, and with very little effort.  I want to be spiritually fit, but I don’t want to put out the effort that it requires.

When I think of someone who was patient, I think of the Old Testament character Job.  Job, you may remember, had it all, and then lost it all.  He had three friends, who were not at all helpful, because they kept blaming him for his circumstances.  Their plea was for Job to confess what he had done wrong and hope that God would restore him.  I don’t admire Job’s circumstances, but I admire Job, because in spite of his condition and though he had a lot of questions to ask, he remained patient.

Patience with others
If you want to measure the ability of someone to be patient with other people there is a very simple test – put them behind the wheel of a car.  And then have them sit at an intersection where another driver is sitting at a green light as they punch a text message into their phone.  Have you been there before?  Surely you haven’t been the person tapping out the text. 

People may frustrate you, they may drive you crazy, but you know what?  You probably do the same to somebody.  We are all works in progress, and we must learn to be patient with one another.  Every one of us has struggled to be patient with other people, but we are called to practice patience with one another.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2 be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Jesus was often frustrated with his disciples.  In Luke 9:41 he says O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”  The disciples were often slow to understand the teachings of Jesus.  After hearing many of the parables they would ask what those parables meant, but Jesus never gave up on them, and his patience was certainly rewarded.  Look at the faith they attained and look at what they eventually accomplished.

Patience with God
Frank Schaeffer has written a book titled Patience With God.  It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it, that we would need to be patient with God.

There are a lot of people who need to make peace with God.  They have lost their patience with God.  Job lost his patience with God.  He wanted an audience with God.  He had some questions to ask.

One of the best prayers I ever heard came from a 5th grade young man.  I don’t know if it was original to him, but it sure had some great theology.  He volunteered to give the benediction and part of his prayer was Lord, help us not to see you as just a vending machine, putting a little in to get out of you what we want.  That’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Our relationship with God is not a simple transaction where we put in $2.00 worth of faith and expect $5.00 worth of blessing in return.  It doesn’t work that way.  It’s not an I’ve given you this God, now give me that type of relationship.  Many times we don’t understand how God works, and it requires a great deal of patience on our part while we try to understand his plan.

I believe that the Bible is a long treatise on patience, because there are so many passages that are what I would call hang in there passages.  They are passages such as Isaiah 40:28-31, that we read this morning.  Passages like the 23rd Psalm.  I Corinthians 13.  Philippians 4:13 – I can do all this through him who gives me strength  Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

When we read through Exodus, we find the people of God wandering in the wilderness, often losing patience with God.  We find them struggling to understand the ways and the purposes of God, and their impatience led them to some tragic choices, such as fashioning and then worshipping a golden calf.  We read through Genesis and find that Abraham and Sarah take matters into their own hands and decide that Abraham should have a child with Hagar instead of patiently waiting upon God.  We read that Esau traded away his birthright to his brother Jacob instead of patiently waiting.  We read Luke’s gospel and the parable of the prodigal son and his impatience that leads him to take half of his father’s wealth and belongings to waste as he squanders his life.  And perhaps most tragic of all, we read of Judas, who was impatient as he waited for Jesus to be the kind of Messiah that he desired, and when Jesus did not fulfill the plan of Judas, Judas betrayed him.

I am not a person who can grow anything.  I don’t garden and I am just not very good at growing anything.  Perhaps it’s my lack of patience.  There is a great lesson of patience in the plant world, and it comes from Chinese bamboo.  When you plant this kind of bamboo it must be watered and nurtured for an entire growing season, but it never breaks through the ground, not even an inch.  The second growing season, it must be watered and nurtured, and again, it does not grow even an inch.  Even in the third growing season, it doesn’t grow even an inch.  And a fourth year.  Most people would never make it past the first growing season, believing their efforts to be wasted.  But four years?  That’s a lot of time and patience and to see nothing happen.  All the work for absolutely no evidence of a return.

But in the fifth year, something surprising happens.  All that work suddenly pays off, and the bamboo tree can grow to over eighty feet tall in that one season.  It’s not that four years of inactivity took place.  During those four years there is a lot of activity under ground.  The roots are growing to provide a system that can sustain the growth that is to come.   

Be patient with God.  We never know what he is doing below the surface, out of view of our senses, but never doubt that he is at work.