And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
A couple of summers ago, my oldest son and I went on a mission trip to Hungary. We were serving in the little town of Tóalmás, a rural community surrounded by endless acres of farmland. One of the crops Hungarians grow is the sunflower and they caught my attention. The flowers were in full bloom, creating a sea of brilliant yellow as far as the eye could see.
Sunflowers are a unique flower; they get their name because they follow the sun across the sky. In the morning they face the east and track the sun to the west. Then through the night, they turn their heads back to the east in anticipation of the next sunrise.
All flowers need the sun to grow, but most do not follow the sun throughout the day like the sunflower. The sunflower is one of the fastest growing and tallest flowers in the world. In fact, the tallest sunflower ever recorded stood over 30 feet tall. In order to become what it was created to be it must soak up as much sunlight as possible, so as it grows it follows the sun across the sky.
Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above not on the things of the earth.” The way the sunflower keeps its face turned toward the sun reminds me of how the Lord wants us to keep our focus on Him. This is the way we grow and mature, by spending time with Him, learning to trust and follow Him.
The farmer grows sunflowers for several reasons, here are just a few. They replenish the soil, the flowers have a deep root system and when it is allowed to die in its place the decomposition adds nutrients to the soil. A wheat crop grown after a crop of sunflowers typically produces a bumper crop. The seeds are crushed to make oil, which is used in cooking and even medicine to prevent high cholesterol and heart disease. They are also grown for animal feed and human consumption.
As the sunflower follows the sun it matures into a beautiful flower, and a vast field of them is breathtaking. But its true purpose is not fulfilled until it dies. Luke 9:23 says “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” In this verse Jesus is saying following me will look like sacrifice, it will demand more than you think you have to give. At times it will take you to places of rejection and isolation.
In the next verse Jesus says “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” In these two verses Jesus says the way to follow me, to live out what I have created you to be, is to lay down your life. Lay down your pride, lay down the way you think you should be treated, lay down your desire to serve yourself, lay down what you want others to think of you and follow Me.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus is the example, He loved us and laid down His life, and He is calling us to do the same. But in order to do this we must keep the eyes of our heart fixed on Him.
So when we see a beautiful sunflower let’s be reminded to follow the Son.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.