God’s Word Will Not Return to Him Empty

August 31, 2016

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:8-11


God's word will not return to him empty.


What does that even mean?


I've heard that verse repeated so many times. And mostly by one of the most confident, bold, strong women of faith I know. It was always in response to a discouraging or less than perfect result. At first I just acknowledged she said it while thinking in my head I really didn't understand what that meant. And I did that for months. I never really grasped what it meant or understood it with the clarity I needed until recently. But when God does finally make a verse powerfully make sense with the clarity you so desire, it is as if you saw a sunset for the first time. And that is what finally happened to me with this verse. My quick interpretation was that God's promises and truths will pan out like I think they will if I will just believe them, pray them, and do them. Wrong.


Maybe half of why I never got the meaning of it was because I didn't read the context of the know the before and after. And when I did finally look up the verse and read it instead of relying on my own understanding, it made so much more sense.


If God's word were to return to him empty, that would mean someone would share it or read it and it would have absolutely no effect on anything or anyone ever. It would be like dust disappearing into the wind. However, God says it will NOT return  to him without accomplishing what he desires. In other words, 100% of the time when God's word goes out whether from someone's mouth or by means of their hands or whatever avenue, it WILL accomplish the purpose God sent it for. Maybe its in one day. Maybe its 10 years from now. But it will happen. We are the vessel by which it goes out. All we have to do is listen to Jesus, obey what he says, and he works out the rest.


Often we get caught up in OUR purposes for God's word or better yet what we see his word accomplishing in others. While there can be good intention in this, it can also weigh us down as we realize the immense burden of responsibility that interpretation gives us. We think, "If me saying "this" doesn't lead to "that" then obviously I failed. Whereas our mindset should be "If me saying "this" doesn't lead to "that", "THAT" wasn't God's purpose for it to begin with and in fact, what he does with it will be WAY better!


Ministry is hard and by ministry I don't mean just what the pastor does while preaching every Sunday. Thankfully my church has shown me that ministry exists for all of us and is actually prepared in advance for us by God.  The bible clearly tells us we are all given a spiritual gift to be used in our unique ministry within the church and no one thing is less important than the other. All that to say this: We are all called to be involved in ministry at some level. And with that comes the question we all end up asking ourselves: Am I making a difference? Why am I not seeing the fruit of my labor before my very eyes?


One day I was having such a hard time. I was sharing scripture and truth with someone incessantly. I was losing sleep and pouring into this person day in and out for nearly a year. And I wasn't seeing the change in her or what we were praying about. I had confidence God would work but honestly it wore me out so bad. Then as if to encourage me, the Holy Spirit gave me this scripture:


"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.  For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building." 1 Corinthians 3:5-9


In other words, some of us plant seeds - we may speak some scripture to someone and see nothing at the time come from it but that truth entered into their ears. Others of us may water it  - maybe someone completely different and unrelated comes along and expands on that same truth whereas to increase the impact and understanding of your seed. But GOD ALONE is responsible for the actual growth: He is responsible for what happens to the seed and the watering. He alone has that responsibility. The person's response and the outcome of your obedience is God's responsibility NOT YOURS! What a blessing!


This reminds me of when I worked at a place where there were more non compliant patients than not. In my first years as a nurse practitioner, I would evaluate my effectiveness as a provider by if my patients were compliant. A couple of years into doing this and I finally realized the incredible weight and burden I carried around because of this. Then God taught me something: he gave me knowledge and wisdom and love for my patients and I was to treat them and love them with it, but what they did with the information was up to them not me.


God knew that the weight would be crushing if the responsibility of the person's response were left up to us. We are rewarded for our obedience as co-workers and servants and are NOT responsible for what results from our obedience and serving. We can lay that weight aside and follow him obediently and expectantly, trusting him for what happens.


What if you are on the first second end of a 10 year journey God has constructed for someone to meet him? I've realized that sometimes you enter in on their journey as the bearer of His word on year 9, day 363, while other time you enter in on day 1 with 9 years left to go. Sometimes you may be that 10 year mark and see the miracle before your very eyes. Sometimes you may be the beginning of a lifelong journey of someone finding Jesus.  


We are responsible for being the obedient servant and vessel to God's word. If we will just be obedient to whatever God calls us to say or do, his purposes WILL be accomplished through us. Forget about the outcome you see, but pray for the outcome you know will Glorify God. Forget about shouldering the responsibility of results, but be obedient to what God calls you and go after the one! God says that his word WILL water, WILL make things bud, WILL make things flourish and WILL yield provision and results.


Obey and then trust and rest...we must learn this. We obey then we trust God for the rest and we rest in his promise that his word WILL achieve what purposes he meant for it to. Its not up to you. You aren't powerful enough to thwart his plans. But you are important enough to play your part. And you have a big part to play with the initiator, author, and perfecter of our faith. His word will not return to Him empty.

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