Dying of thirst while your feet are in water

Have you ever been so desperate you thought, ‘Surely even God has abandoned me?’ I know someone who has, in fact, I know quite a few people who have, but this story is about only one of them.

Mthethwa’s life has been transformed by implementing godly principles in his farming practices.
Mthethwa’s life has been transformed by implementing godly principles in his farming practices.

His name is Mthethwa; he lives in Chiweshe communal lands and is one of the many small scale farmers in the area. And here is the irony – this farmer was facing starvation, most of them were, but he had everything he needed to survive. The farmers worked hard, and reaped little. And in the house of hunger there is not much joy – tempers flare easily and good news is viewed with suspicion by a people who have been disappointed so many times before.

Sometimes even self-pity takes hold, and despondency settles in – this is where phrases like ‘sihamba lakho’ are heard again and again. Like Henry David Thoreau said so many years ago, ‘Most men live lives of quiet desperation, barely holding on from one day to the next’.

Lack of knowledge

Mthethwa’s situation was a case of ‘kufa nenyota makumbo arimumvura’ (dying of thirst while your feet are in the water) – he had everything he needed, not just to survive, but to thrive. The bible says ‘my people die for lack of knowledge’ – and so he was. This is the situation in which the visiting grass-roots trainers from Foundations for Farming found him. And they shared with him the good news: ‘Through Christ’s death on the cross, we have been given all things for life and Godliness’.

They told him that when we find who we are in the Lord, we get the faith to believe. It’s all simple really, God made us, he understands exactly what problems we face at any one point in time – and here’s’ the good news – he has the full solution to whatever problem it is we are struggling with. His solutions are complete, relevant to our situation and totally within our.

There is a catch – you must believe. Those who come to God must first of all believe that He exists (Hebrews 6:11), and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. For many this is a problem – does God really exist; is He who He says He is? Many want to see the proof of this before they believe in Him. But if we take him at his word, and apply it to our lives, we will find the evidence we are looking for.

In Mthethwa’s case, he first received, and accepted the good news that God exists, that God loves him, and that God wants to help him to change his situation. This takes faith; it takes faith to believe in a personal God who wants to help you personally. Having believed in God, he then committed to live in the way God tells us to live. He committed to applying God’s word to his life.

Who we are

To apply the word to his life, Mthethwa had to understand what it says about who he is and why he was created. Someone pointed out to me that we are called human ‘beings’ not human ‘doings’. Our identity is first of all about who we are, not what we do. Discovering who we are in Christ is a lifelong process of understanding that we are beings created for an abundant life in relationship with God, with each other, and with the environment.

And it is in recovering our identity that we discover our vocation as productive stewards in God’s creation. It is difficult to understand what you are meant to do in life, if you don’t know who you are meant to be, and yet most people spend more time worrying about what they should do with no regard to who they are.

Framework for farming

Having understood and accepted who he was, Mthethwa had to understand how God meant for him, as a farmer, to steward God’s creation the way it was meant to be. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun. We do not determine when things happen – God does – but we need to ‘read the signs of the times and seek him for wisdom’. God sets things in order and asks us to act within these frameworks, to co-create with Him, working within his divine laws.

God has given us time and he has measured it for us. If you are a farmer in Zimbabwe for instance, you need to plant your maize on or around November 25 – this is the framework within which all the farmers have to work, and this is why. The earth goes around the sun in 365days – we get our year.

The moon revolves around the earth every 30.25 days – we get the month, and this happens 12 times per year.

The earth spins or rotates on its axis and each revolution takes 24hrs to complete, and this gives us the measure of one day, sometimes facing the sun, sometimes away from it – this gives us our daylight hours and our night time.

The axis of the earth is slanted, so the sun shines on parts of the earth at different angles, the sun being more directly overhead in our summer than in our winter – this gives us the seasons.

In Zimbabwe the sun is most directly overhead on December 22 (our summer solstice), and on that day we have the longest and most intense sunlight (heat unites, which plants need for photosynthesis). This is also the time of the greatest likelihood of rainfall, the two things plants need the most to grow.

If we plant our maize crop such that by the time December 22 comes round it is knee high, we are most likely to reap the highest yields. All a farmer in Zimbabwe has to do to benefit from this, is to make sure he plants his crop by November 25.

We can, of course, choose to rail against these laws of God, sometimes deliberately, sometimes through sheer ignorance. And when we do, this is what happens – we lose 120kg/ha for every day that we plant late.

25th Nov – potential 14t/ha

25th Dec – potential 10t/ha

25th Jan – potential 3t/ha

25th Mar – total crop failure

Reaching our potential

What is true of farming is true in life, operating outside God’s laws (whether deliberately or not) has the same result, we fail to reach our potential.

So, here’s the thing – God speaks through his word, he always has and always will. Sadly, we do not always apply the word to life, sometimes because we do not know what the word says, sometimes because we don’t think it makes sense. God sometimes says to us, like Naaman, go and dip in the river seven times, and we think that doesn’t make sense, so we don’t do it.

There are a lot of things that God‘s word tells us, and we do not understand. But we don’t have to, understanding is not the issue, believing is. When we, in simplicity of mind, believe, and act on what the word says, we find that God’s word is true. He is who he says he is, and he does what he says he does still.

So what happened to Mthethwa then? Over a period of four years, this man who once lived in poverty went from providing enough to feed his family, to generating an excess which he sold year by year to buy cattle. Recently he purchased a corrugated roof home and a blue Mazda truck. Just like he was told on that first visit, he already had everything he needed. The full cost to him was nothing but the sweat of his brow, use of land he already owned, and faith to believe.

Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe. (John 20:29)

Post published in: News
  1. Arne

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