Planning ahead

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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.

There is a rhythm and a life to the farming year and it is that time of year again, when the suckler calves have left the green fields of grass, passed through the livestock mart and been housed on the beef finishing units.

At this point these calves are at a high risk of taking respiratory pneumonia and one of the biggest dreads on a Beef Unit is to walk into a pen of cattle that are puffing and blowing like a set of bellows.

There are farmers who believe in vaccination and there are those who believe that their cattle will never take pneumonia. Somehow against the odds they will be able to avoid it. Pneumonia is largely caused by viruses that are unseen and can lead to the death of an animal, or a major setback in lifetime performance - and a veterinary bill.

If farmers plan ahead they can put in place a vaccination programme to give protection. Some may think vaccination is too expensive, others may think they won’t need it and some just can’t get themselves organised in time. When they start to treat the sick animals they then realise they should have done something about it.

What happens with pneumonia in some ways is reflected in our own lives. Viruses exist and the Bible tells us that sin also exists and that we are all born with sin. In Ecclesiastes 7:20 we read, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” The Bible is full of free advice to encourage us to do something about our sin.

The only person who can deal with our sin is Jesus and we are called to trust in Him for forgiveness. Some people think viruses don’t exist because they can’t see them and some say the same about sin. But the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Sin affects our relationships, our thoughts, our words, the whole of our lives and separates us from God.

Today you can do something about it before it is too late. Just as we can’t see the viruses, we can’t see heaven, but they are both still there. Now is the time to turn to Jesus while we still can. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

It is a ‘sickener’ to lose an expensive animal, or have to face a large veterinary bill - but how much more distressing and expensive to lose your own soul? Pneumonia may be a risk, but for all of us death is a certainty. We can’t say that we didn’t know, or we hadn’t time, so plan ahead and be prepared for eternity with God. The good news today is that Christ has made a way for us.

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 or call him on 028 9753 1234.