Consider the Lilies

Scripture: Song of Solomon 2:1-2, Matthew 6:28-30
Date: 11/12/2011 
Jesus encouraged us to "consider the lilies." God not only designed and loves beautiful things of nature, but also loves and cares for each one of us.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I never thought the day would come where I would preach about flowers. There is a longstanding joke in our family. Frequently as I travel people say (they’re expecting me; I’m speaking different places), “Can you please give us your sermon title?” And in reality, I often don’t know what I’m saying until I’m even on the platform. Usually I’m a little more prepared than that, but some people want it weeks in advance. So I’ve often said, “My sermon title is ‘Flowers in the Breeze.’” And it’s because I couldn’t think of anything else. But I never did preach on “Flowers in the Breeze,” until today—as close as I’ve come.

I started thinking about flowers, and why do people view flowers the way they do? Then I remembered the verse we just heard during our scripture reading, where Jesus said (and it’s our sermon title today), “Consider the lilies.” So I am doing today what Jesus told us to do. Jesus told us to consider flowers. I started thinking more about it, and there’s a lot that you can learn from flowers. For one thing, there would be no life on earth—none, not you, not me; there would be no life on earth today if it was not for flowers, because all of the life in the vegetable world is somehow related to flowers. But they didn’t have to be beautiful. Or do they? Somebody said one time that flowers are God’s smiles.

I’m going to refer three times in today’s message to that famous book Steps to Christ, and the first one is right now. It’s on page 10. I’d like to read you a quote. “The world, though fallen, is not all sorrow and misery. In nature itself are messages of hope and comfort. There are flowers upon the thistles, and the thorns are covered with roses.

“‘God is love’ is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass. The lovely birds making the air vocal with their happy songs, the delicately tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air…—all testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God and to His desire to make His children happy.”

What is it with people that we give each other flowers? You wonder, where did that tradition begin? And what is it about flowers that attracts our attention? We have flowers around our home, and everybody works around the flowers. I typically have the boys weeding the flowers. I probably buy and plant most of the flowers. Karen buys some of them. But it’s something about these little flowers and big flowers and all the varied colors that seems to call to us somehow. There’s something almost divine about them.

I just stopped at the store yesterday. I thought it would probably be nice to have an illustration. We have a lot of beautiful flowers on the platform, but—yes, they’re plastic. I thought they were; I just wanted to make sure.

Something interesting happened while we were in Hawaii. In the room that we were staying in, the bathroom sink got plugged up. I try and fix everything everywhere I go. Frequently, I leave a hotel room better than I find it. The little things drive me—. Switch plates that are half crooked, I unscrew them and straighten them out. I always have my Swiss Army knife. So when the drain wasn’t draining very fast, I thought, “It’s plugged up.” So I went and I took the little stopper out, and I thought, “I need a hanger.” But all the hangers in the closet were the plastic ones, and you can’t really unwrap those. I thought, “What am I going to do?” I looked around, and they were nice enough to put some plastic flowers in the room, and they usually have the wire stems on them. So I grab one of the long purple ones, and I went over to the sink, and I took it, and I began to just jam it down the sink as I’m running water, and sure enough, it worked like a charm! It unclogged the sink. It was great! Then I realized it was a real flower. It’s the truth! This is one of the things (I didn’t know whether to tell you) that sort of inspired the sermon. I was so impressed. I thought, “I don’t know what this is, but it’s tough!” The stem of that thing is multipurpose. And then I felt bad because someone had paid money to put those flowers in our room, and I went, and I put it back, and it blossomed for the rest—it did even better, I’m almost sure, for the rest of the trip!

The reason that people even make plastic flowers is because there’s something so beautiful about them, it’s worth imitating. We had some friends that came to our house for dinner one time, and they brought us some plastic flowers. And I thought, “Well, that’s odd,” but we still have them in our house today, and they still look beautiful, and that’s been about 10 years now, and I really came to appreciate them. Flowers are God’s smiles.

When you talk about the lily of the valley in the Bible, Bible lilies… This was on sale at Save Mart, so I bought it because they are lilies, but I think they’re called Asian lilies. They’re pretty. But actually, the lily that Jesus is speaking of was probably red, probably a crimson color, which really jumped out in the fields. I think I have a picture of them up on the screen there. Those are actually lilies in Israel, and we believe this is the lily that Jesus was referencing when He said, “Even Solomon in all of his glory is not arrayed like one of these.” But make a note that they were scarlet red, because that will come in before the sermon is over.

There are a lot of lilies in the Song of Solomon (that’s interesting), a lot of flowers in this book. It’s the love song in the Bible, and it talks a lot about flowers. Song of Solomon 5:13 [KJV], “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies.” Now, if the lilies were white, you wouldn’t want to say somebody’s lips are white, or if someone’s lips are purple, they probably need to see a doctor. But you expect someone’s lips to be maybe pink or red. It tells us that his lips were “like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh,” and that is one of the analogies of Christ and His church.

If you go to Song of Solomon 6:2 [KJV], “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.” So, here you have one reference I found in the Bible of someone gathering flowers for someone that they love. Why do we bring flowers?

I remember a friend of mine (he’s a builder), and he made a big deal one day. They were doing some contract work at this house for some people. I think it was a remodel job. And he told several of these rough, a little bit uncultured, contractors that worked with him, and the subcontractors; he said, “Guys, I want you to all pay attention. I’m going to teach you something today that, if you’re paying attention, it’s going to change your life.” He told them that in the morning, and through the day, they’d say, “Joe, what is it you’re going to teach us?” He said, “Just be watching. I’ll be teaching you, and when I show it to you, I want you to pay attention, and don’t ever forget what I’m going to teach you.” And through the day, they kept ribbing him a little bit and saying, “What is it? Teach us!” He said, “You just stay with me. When the time comes, I’m going to teach you something that’s going to change your life.” Finally, the end of the day comes. He says, “Now, watch carefully,” and he goes over to a rose bush. This person had a whole bunch of flowers in their yard. He cuts two or three of them, and he wraps them up with some tape or something to protect them, and he says, “I’m taking these home to the wife. You guys, if you’re smart, you will never forget this, and you’ll learn to do this, too.” And he made such a big deal out of it because they were all married and they were all having problems at home, and he thought, “I have to teach you guys a very important lesson.” Why do we bring flowers to show affection for somebody?

While we were there in Hawaii, Karen got one of those Hawaiian, I think they’re called hibiscus flowers, and put it behind her ear, and it’s very pretty. To me, that’s a lot prettier when you see a girl with flowers in her hair, than some of the other bobbles and beads that they might use for adornment. But I’ve always wondered—it’s a mystery, why?

Why not cans? Really, if you think about it, couldn’t you just give your wife some cans at the end of the day? They shine. These particular cans have fragrance, beans! I could probably sprinkle a little aftershave on them, and at the end of a rough day, I could bring Karen some cans. But I’m serious! I know we’re kind of joking now, but I’m serious! What is it about humans, that we prefer that over this?

You can answer me right now. Why the flowers, the lilies, as opposed to the cans? You say they’re beautiful. Why? You’re saying because God made them. Didn’t God make us, who make cans? We’re made in the image of God, and we make cans. They’re soft and delicate. Well, I think they’re hard, and I think that’s beautiful. Why don’t I think that’s as beautiful as that? Who defines that color is beautiful? Who defines that soft and delicate is beautiful? But I was really thinking about it. Why would people rather have that than this? I think we would all say, “Well, because these look junky, and those look beautiful.” But why? What is it in our brain that makes us think that’s beautiful and this is junky? Are we all preprogrammed? I don’t think so.

I think you can go to any people in the world and ask them would they rather have a can or a flower. Which is going to last longer? Aren’t they more enduring? Did I tell you all about the year that we didn’t get a Christmas tree and we had an aluminum ladder instead? I think differently sometimes. The reason I came up with is that God made flowers. Flowers are God’s idea of something that is exquisite, delicate, beautiful, fragrant, happy, and the only thing I can come up with, the same reasons that God made them, and He sees them that way, is because we are made in God’s image, and there is something primordial in all of us that we get from God that we can’t shake that identifies beauty, and we don’t find this as beautiful as that, even though these are more enduring and you could make them smell if you want to. No, I won’t give these away. These are from our yard. That’s from the supermarket. This is Karen’s favorite flower—one of them.

Back to the flowers. Would you like to hear a few amazing facts about flowers? For one thing, do you know, there were flowers in the sanctuary—in heaven. You read about the temple of Solomon. Not only did they have carvings of angels, 1 Kings 6:28, 29 [KJV], “He overlaid the cherubims with gold. And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, within and without.” All through the temple of God, there were carvings of, not only angels, but of flowers, because they reflect something that is beautiful.

Here are a few amazing facts about flowers. Did you know that white flowers typically have more fragrance than the colored varieties? One reason for that is, flowers need to attract in order to reproduce, and if they don’t have the color, then they have to use more of the fragrance. That’s the nearest they can tell.

I thought this was interesting. Prince Charles is paid one daffodil annually as rent for the unattended lands of Sicily. The local environmental trust makes the payment. They somehow worked out an agreement where they have to pay him one daffodil a year in exchange for using those lands.

Did you know, before they developed some of the petrochemical Styrofoam and things that they put in lifejackets, lifejackets floated on the stems of sunflower stalks because they were very buoyant?

The word daisy is not really supposed to be daisy; it’s supposed to be day’s eye. Because the middle of a daisy looks like the sun, they used to call it the “eye of the day” or the “day’s eye,” and then over time it’s sort of evolved into the common word daisy.

Flowers are much smarter than you think. Do you know that there are some flowers that actually grow, and they mimic different animals or insects in nature? A couple pictures or examples are on the screen. They have something called orchid mimicry, where orchids, in order to attract bees that will then pollinate their flowers (and there are about 25,000 species of orchid—more than any other flowering plant)… There are no bugs on that screen. You’re looking at the center of the orchids, and not only do they look like different bees and bugs, they send out a fragrance that smells exactly like the female or male of that species so that it attracts the opposite sex, and it will pollinate the flower. That’s pretty smart for a plant! It only took 50 million years for that to develop. (Now, you know I’m kidding. Someone watching, I want to make sure they know that I’m kidding.) That, to me, is just such powerful evidence about the creative mind of God, that you just look at the things—Jesus said, “Consider the lilies…” You can see the mind and the wisdom of God even in these little flowers that He’s made.

In California, we have a flower that is protected by law. Do you know what it is? The poppy, the golden poppy, to be more specific, in California is a protected flower. Have any of you seen some of those fields that are absolutely blanketed with poppies? If you go to Round Valley… We have some actually on our property in Covelo. There’s this one meadow that just turns orange at a certain time of the year. But around the airport, it just grows lots of poppies, and it’s so special when you can see them before the star thistle takes over. But I remember one time I picked one. I think maybe Karen told me, “Don’t pick them. It’s against the law.” I looked it up, and sure enough, it’s the state flower, and you’re not supposed to pick or damage them. I pictured in my mind two guys in prison, and one guy saying to the other guy in some dark corner, “So, what are you in for?” “Murder, robbery. What are you in for?” “I picked a poppy.” I haven’t met—have you ever met anyone arrested for—? No, I’m not encouraging that, because there could be a claim.

To protect something… Well, they thought that the golden poppy, since it was the golden state and they discovered gold here, that would be appropriate, and they are very pretty. They don’t have much smell to them. But it’s a protected flower. If a state would do that, will God protect His children? Jesus said, “If God is going to clothe a flower,” if a state is going to protect a flower—. I can see it now, a new department in Washington, D.C., the Flower Patrol, to go around and make sure nobody’s picking the poppies, picking pecks of pickled poppies. (Say that seven times fast!)

There’d be no life on earth without flowers. Flowers were made on the third day of creation with all the vegetation. Their principal purpose is to reproduce, to grow, and they come in all different shapes and sizes, all different colors. Some flowers are pollinated by vectors in the wind. Some flowers are pollinated <_____hydrotically_____> by water. Some are pollinated by insects, moths, butterflies, bats—yes, bees. They would be in the insect category.

What is the purpose of a flower? I know they’re beautiful to look at, but when you really think about it, why do they exist? Flowers are to produce fruit, whether it’s going to have the seed of the plant or the fruit of the tree. Flowers don’t live very long. Their idea is, they are to bloom, and then they are to reproduce and bear fruit. So there are some things that we can learn from flowers. What is our purpose in life, according to Jesus? Isaiah 27:6 [KJV], “He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” We are to bear fruit. Again, Jesus says in John 15:8, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” It’s one thing if you’re pretty, and it’s another thing if you’re fragrant, but do you have fruit in your life? And what kind of fruit? We’re supposed to have much fruit in our lives.

People are kind of like flowers. All different kinds of people, and there are all different kinds of flowers. There are broad ones and thin ones. There are all different colors of flowers. There are tall ones and short ones, and there are almost endless varieties of flowers. I told you just in the orchid family, there are 25,000 different kinds. You know what’s neat? God made flowers where you can create new kinds through cross-pollinations and hybrids. A lot of roses that they’ve developed today have no thorns. They grow and breed the roses for different colors, and it’s just absolutely fascinating what they can do.

One of the miracles in the Bible, for a while, anyway, there was a flower in the ark of the covenant. Do you remember when they were arguing about whether or not Moses and Aaron were really called by God, and some of the others were trying to get their position? And God said, “Let everyone take his staff and put it up before the Lord in the tabernacle overnight,” and all the different tribe leaders, patriarchs, put their staff, and among them was the staff of Aaron. And overnight, that staff did something very unusual. It developed a bud, and when they went and got it in the morning, this staff that had been carried around for years, a stick, developed a flower. It was an almond flower, and it continued to grow, and it developed an almond (I don’t know how it pollinated itself), and it bore fruit, all out of this dead stick. It brought forth fruit. Now, that should encourage all of us, because if we’ve ever felt like dry bones, if we’ve ever felt like, “I don’t know how God could bring forth fruit out of my life,” if He could bring fruit out of Aaron’s rod, then He can bring fruit out of us. Amen?

Some flowers stink. There are some flowers that masquerade as beautiful, but you get close enough and you find out that they don’t smell very good. The biggest flower in the world is called a <_____Rafflesia arnoldii,_____> and it’s better known as the corpse flower. We have a picture of it up there on the screen. It doesn’t really show scale very well, but it’s about three feet across—largest flower in the world, can weigh up to 24 pounds. You wouldn’t want to give this to your girlfriend unless you’re getting ready to break up, because when it opens up, from a distance many people have said, “Wow!” and they run over to it, and it is absolutely revolting because it smells like rotten flesh, and that’s why they call it the corpse flower. What it does is it attracts all of these carrion flies, all these flies instead of beautiful bees. They have all these flies that are rooting around inside this stinking flower to pollinate it, and it seems like a contradiction. There’s something incongruous about such a big, attractive flower that stinks.

If you’re going to say you’re a Christian, then I hope that you’re sweet. There are some people out there that, they wave a flag and they tell everyone, “I’m a Christian,” but they’re bitter, and their words are caustic, and they’re unkind, and the Lord wants us to have that real fragrance of His Spirit in our lives.

While I’m here talking about the biggest flower, I thought it would be interesting to find out about the smallest flower in the world. It’s a type of duckweed. It’s called Wolffia, and it’s from Australia. The flowers are actually little white things that bloom. I don’t know that they’re all bloomed in this picture. But it is the smallest in the world. You can put 12 of them on the head of a pin—not the point of a pin, the wide end of a straight pin. So God has flowers all different sizes, those that are nearly microscopic and those that weigh 24 pounds.

Then there are some flowers that are hidden. There are actually some flowers people never see. I’m going to show you this next picture and tell you a little story. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but that flower there is called the Belladonna, sometimes known as Deadly Nightshade.

By the way, tomatoes and potatoes are in the nightshade family—those little yellow flowers that you see on the tomatoes, depending on what your tomatoes are, or even the potato flowers. You’re not supposed to eat the plant. For years, people thought that tomatoes were deadly because they knew they were in the nightshade family. Do you know, it wasn’t until a fair, I think it was in Chicago, about 100 years ago, that someone got up in front of everybody and ate a tomato, and they thought he was going to fall over and die. And he began to eat them in front of people and said, “They’re good! They’re delicious!” They called them love apples, and they thought they’d kill you. And they became very popular there at the fair. People were eating them, and pretty soon it spread around the country, and now it’s one of the number one fruits eaten in North America—the tomatoes. It’s in everything from the ketchup to the pizza to you name it that people eat. But they’re from the nightshade family.

But that nightshade, jimson weed, that I was just showing you on the screen is deadly. When I lived up in the mountains, this flower grew right outside my cave or within at least 50 feet. The interesting thing about it, it does not bloom during the day. It blooms at night during a moon. It’s really eerie, because I’d see the plant, I’d have to walk by it all day long, and then I would hike home sometimes at night, and it would unspiral. You can even see; they have a picture of this you can watch on YouTube that someone actually did real time, watching the thing unfold at night with a special camera. But it’s almost a spooky plant, and if a person drinks or eats the roots or the fruit of the jimsonweed, take my word for it, it can kill you, and it can send you into hallucinations and make you very sick. It’s a very dangerous plant. By the way, how many of you remember the cold pill called Contact? It was for colds. One of the ingredients was from the Belladonna plant that was in that. It would dry you up—an antihistamine, very powerful. Now they’ve substituted it with something else.

This flower really only blooms in the shadows, and there are some other people that they’re flowers that are living in the shadows. They say, “I’m a Christian, but I’m a secret Christian.” You’ve heard it said before, “There’s no such thing as a secret Christian. Either your Christianity will destroy the secret, or the secrecy will destroy your Christianity.” God wants us to be out there in the sunshine and to let our lives show and let it shine.

Somebody once said that “forgiveness is the perfume that the trampled flower casts on the heel of the one that crushed it.”

There are some things that we need to be reminded of by flowers. Flowers don’t last forever. Flowers fade. I could have read a lot of verses on this, but I didn’t want to be depressing. Have any of you ever gone by a cemetery and you’ve seen where somebody put some flowers there, maybe on Memorial Day or something, but they’re still there a week later, except the flowers don’t look so good anymore? And we’ve all probably seen graves before that it looked like they had flowers there placed a year earlier that have not been touched. It’s kind of sad. That’s a time when plastic flowers might be better.

Eric Flickinger was telling me this week, his grandma said, “If you ever put plastic flowers on my grave, I’m going to become a ghost and haunt you.” So you have to consider that.

But the Bible says, Psalm 103:15, 16 [KJV], “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Flowers know that they have–well, I don’t know if they know—but they have a brief time. But they still smile, even though they just have a brief time.

Isaiah 40:6-8 [KJV]. This is a great verse in the Bible. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?” God told the prophet that “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Something even more important than our lives is the Word of God. We should let it shine out of us.

Again, James, and it’s also in Peter. James 1:10, 11 [KJV], “But the rich, [tell him] that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth.” So here James actually acknowledges the grace and the fashion of the flower. “So also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

But having said that, I think it’s important to remember flowers don’t worry. Isn’t that what Jesus said? Matthew 6:28-30 [KJV], “And why take ye thought for [your clothing]? Consider the lilies of the field.” The Lord is telling us to consider the flowers, so that’s what we’re doing for about 40 minutes today. We’re thinking about the flowers. Jesus said they don’t toil, “neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory”—the greatest, richest king who had the best clothes of all—“was not arrayed like one of these.” There is no man, there is no bride… As a matter of fact, brides will often accentuate their dress with flowers.

I have a friend who spent about $50,000 on the wedding flowers—just the flowers. That must be important. At least if they were plastic… And the marriage only lasted a week. I’m not kidding. That’s sad, isn’t it? But flowers are important to a bride because they’re so beautiful, and they want their weddings to be beautiful. And what do they often do? They get the little bridesmaid and the little flower girl before the wedding, she comes up the aisle, and they usually do something antic, whether it’s planned or unplanned. Everybody’s laughing, and she gets some little girl, and the parents are saying, “Go, go, go!” and she’s scared, and everybody’s looking, and she’s trying to throw her petals. Sometimes they get nervous and they just dump them all at once. You know what I’m talking about? And the bride is supposed to walk on this trail of petals. Why? Because there’s something sacred about flowers.

I remember when I was a new Christian, before I was even baptized, a doctor—it was a lady doctor; her name was Lolita Simpson. (I can see the flowers still making the rounds. Good, made it to the section. Some of you have been hogging those roses!) But Lolita Simpson, she went and plucked—it may have been a daffodil, for all I know, from her garden, and she walked over, and she said, “Come here, Doug. I want to show you something.” She said, “This is proof of God.” And I thought within myself, “Isn’t that sweet this dear old lady is, telling me that there’s a God because she’s showing me this flower.” Then I realized she was looking at it as a scientist and not as a sweet old lady.

She said, “Look at its dimensions. Look at its mathematic perfection. Look at the symmetry, the organization. They all have the same number of leaves. Look at the arrangement of its pollen and its stems so that it perfectly reproduces and it calls the insects in.” And she said, “This would require design. It requires intelligence.” And something that I never forgot, she said, “And we all recognize it as beautiful.” Why do we recognize it as beautiful, and not the tin cans? Because I think there’s a little bit of God in all of us. We’re all made in the image of God, and there’s that echo of God’s appreciation of beauty that we all naturally have inside, so that when we look at a flower, there’s a little piece of God’s image in us that recognizes that as beauty—or if you see these hills that are painted with the glory of God.

Flowers don’t worry. If He takes care of the flowers, will He take care of us? Let me ask this flower. Are you worried? There you have it. Are you happy? “Yes, we’re happy!” That’s my attempt at ventriloquism.

Another quote from the book—this is actually the book Desire of Ages, page 330. “The continual worry is wearing out the life forces. Our Lord desires them to lay aside this yoke of bondage. He invites them to accept His yoke; He says, ‘My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’ He bids them seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and His promise is that all things needful to them for this life shall be added. Worry is blind, and cannot discern the future; but Jesus sees the end from the beginning. In every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief. Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing.” Flowers don’t worry. He takes care of them. He takes care of the birds. We need to trust Him more.

Someday we’re going to live in a world where the flowers do not fade. Isaiah 35:1, 2, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.” One of the first visions that Ellen White recorded, she was given a glimpse of heaven. A little excerpt from that, it tells us in Christian Experience, page 62, “I saw another field full of all kinds of flowers, and as I plucked them, I cried out, ‘They will never fade.’ Next I saw a field of tall grass, most glorious to behold; it was living green, and had a reflection of silver and gold, as it waved proudly to the glory of King Jesus.” Won’t it be something to live in a world where there’s no more death, where the flowers will never fade, and their fragrance is always fresh; none of them stink.

Part of the problem of sin was thorns ended up on the flowers, and thorns represent troubles that we have in these lives. Paul said there was this thorn that came from Satan that tormented him. There are thorns on some of the flowers. I’m glad that they’ve developed a variety of rose that is thornless. Our best flowers in our yard have thorns on them. They’re beautiful and they smell nice, but you have to be careful. I don’t know about you, but if you’ve ever been lacerated by a thorn bush before, it is not pleasant.

This is from the book Steps to Christ in the chapter <_____“What to Do with Doubt,”_____> page 116, 117. Listen here. “Many, walking along the path of life, dwell upon their mistakes and failures and disappointments, and their hearts are filled with grief and discouragement. While I was in Europe, a sister who had been doing this, and who was in deep distress, wrote to me, asking for some word of encouragement. The night after I had read her letter I dreamed that I was in a garden, and one who seemed to be the owner of the garden was conducting me through its paths. I was gathering the flowers and enjoying their fragrance, when this sister, who had been walking by my side, called my attention to some unsightly briers that were impeding her way. There she was mourning and grieving. She was not walking in the pathway, following the guide, but was walking among the briers and thorns. ‘Oh,’ she mourned, ‘is it not a pity that this beautiful garden is spoiled with thorns?’ Then the guide said, ‘Let the thorns alone, for they will only wound you. Gather the roses, the lilies, and the pinks.’

“Have there not been some bright spots in your experience? Have you not had some precious seasons when your heart throbbed with joy in response to the Spirit of God? When you look back into the chapters of your life experience do you not find some pleasant pages? Are not God’s promises, like the fragrant flowers, growing beside your path on every hand? Will you not let their beauty and sweetness fill your heart with joy?

“The briers and thorns will only wound and grieve you; and if you gather only these things, and present them to others, are you not, besides slighting the goodness of God yourself, preventing those around you from walking in the path of life?”

It’s like that old adage, “Some people see the cup as half full, and some see it as half empty.” And if you see a rose, are you just going to focus on the thorns? Or when you look among the thorns, that God would send the rose as a sign of His love? There are all kinds of problems in this world, there is sickness, there is death, there is sin, there are problems, we all have our aches and pains and our bills and our troubles and conflicts, and yet we can go through life and talk about all these things, and you’ll just be throwing thorns in the path of everyone around you if that’s your focus. Or you can focus on the roses and the flowers. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful flowers on thistles. As much as I hate star thistle, do you know it makes a very good honey? The bees love it. So you can find something bright in everything if you want, which is probably a good point to close on.

It says in Song of Solomon, one of the verses I didn’t read to you, chapter 2 [KJV]. It says, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” Christ, was He that flower surrounded with thorns, that hung upon the cross? Was He a crimson flower when He shed His blood for you and me? Jesus is that lily. His life was perfect, just like a flower, flawless, symmetrical, pure, fragrant.

One of the things I never mentioned, sunflowers—it’s just amazing how they track the sun. They want to turn wherever the light is, and Jesus lived in the light of the Father. He is that Lily of the Valley. And I think we ought to just remind ourselves every now and then, Jesus told us, “Consider the lilies.” Consider the flowers. Think about the positive things in life. Think about the beautiful life that Jesus lived and what He gave for you and me.

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