Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
The price of a bit of land these days still amazes me, especially if it is just a few acres.
I recently read some land value statistics, which indicated that the most valuable farmland in Northern Ireland is to be found in County Armagh. Talking of land, my ears pricked up the other day when I heard that President Donald Trump had placed a bid with the Queen of Denmark for Greenland’s 215 million hectares, the world’s biggest island!
Over a thousand miles to the south east of Greenland are the Outer Hebrides and the story brought me back to the small plots of land and the farms that I had seen during a visit there. Known as ‘crofts’ they average around 12.5 acres and used to be able to provide for a family, but now another source of income is required. On places like the Isle of Lewis and Harris, for example, there is still a steady demand from people who want the crofting lifestyle.
But back to County Armagh. When I was training for ministry, I had the privilege of being given a ‘placement’ at Vinecash Presbyterian Church in Portadown, followed by an assistantship in The Mall Presbyterian, Armagh. While there, I was introduced to the world of apple growing, which is a great way of maximising the output from a small number of acres where the climate is right.
For some people, a small thing can be a nuisance, but the Bible asks in Zechariah 4:10, ‘Who despises the day of small things?’ When you think about it, a small apple seed that was planted one day, will hopefully grow into a tree and produce a crop of apples. While it may produce a few apples at first, farmers needn’t despise this initial crop because they know that the yield of the tree will increase with the passage of the years.
When Jesus was on earth, He talked a lot about sowing seeds. He used the seed being sown into the right soil to represent the message of His kingdom being planted in receptive hearts. Starting small, just like the apple tree seed, His life changing message would grow and grow in us.
Maybe you have been picking apples this season, or maybe you are planting the seed for winter cereals in expectation of a good yield next year. Whether we are thinking in crofter terms, or in ‘Trumpian’ terms, it is worthwhile remembering that God doesn’t despise small things because small things can grow and be used for His plan and His purpose.
God sees things differently than we do! Neither the number of acres that we own, nor the yield of the crop, is a true indicator of prosperity. In God’s eyes true prosperity is knowing that Christ is in your life.
As the American writer and evangelist, R.H. Schuller, once said, “Anyone can look at an apple and count the seeds, but only God can look at a seed and count the apples.” Will you let the seed of salvation take root in your heart and so become part of the growing Kingdom of Jesus Christ this autumn? I pray that you do.
Trevor Boyd is the minister of First Rathfriland Presbyterian Church in the rolling County Down countryside. Married to Barbara, the father of three is an ex-sheep breeder and previously sold animal health products across Northern Ireland.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.