The Watermelon Thieves

by Andy Wood on July 2, 2008

in Five LV Laws, Principle of Abundance, Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

Watermelon 2“Boys, if you want a watermelon, all you have to do is come knock on my door and ask.  I’ll give you all the watermelons you want.  But please, don’t steal my watermelons.”

You know where this is going, right?

I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot.  I was on the bus with a group of men from our church coming back from a meeting, and we were discussing one of my favorite subjects: watermelon.

I suppose as long as there have been watermelon farmers, there have been watermelon thieves, and Lloyd was describing how he and his friends had done it in their younger years in Indiana. They smiled and said “yes sir” to the farmer’s request.

Later that night, they went to work.

Lloyd and his friends weren’t content just to sneak into the patch and dash away with a big, fat prize. They added insult to injury! Under the cover of darkness, they would take long, sharp knives and carefully cut a plug out of the end of the melon attached to the vine. Then they would eat the heart – the sweetest part – out of the melon and replace the plug.

The next day they’d return to the scene of the crime, climb a tree near the patch, and watch as the farmer came to check his melons. He would carefully thump the watermelon and listen for just the right sound that told him the fruit was ready. The climax came when the farmer picked up a hollow melon and discovered the plug. He would throw his cap on the ground, shake his fist in the air, and vow to kill whoever did it. Not only had he been robbed, he had been deceived as well.

Oh, we laughed.

The image of sitting in a tree trying to hold in the hilarity while someone below is losing it was very amusing. But what was funny to me one day soon became very sobering. God has a way of doing that.

I was praying and planning a Communion service when the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to my heart: Is it well with your soul?

Of course it is, I replied.  I was pleased to remind the Lord of all the wonderful things that had happened in our church during the past ten months. Our Sunday School had grown. We had baptized a lot of people. And last but certainly not least, we were in a building program (that’ll always make the demons tremble)!

His next firm-but-gentle question allowed no escape:  Has there ever been a time in your life that you were closer to Me than right now? And if so, what is it that is keeping you from being that close to Me now?

Guilty as charged.  So I got real with the Lord, and He returned the favor.  He showed me that both I and my church were like those watermelons. We looked good on the outside. If someone “thumped” us, we made all the right sounds. We had all the outward trappings of success.  But somewhere along the way a thief had come along and cut our heart out. We had been robbed, and deceived into thinking that all was well.

Ouch.

In one of the most quoted verses in Scripture, Jesus Christ contrasted his purpose in coming with that of a thief.  “A thief is only there,” he said, “to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10, MSG). He invested His entire mission – life, death, resurrection, ascension – on the quality of your life and mine – an abundant life beyond your imagination.

But also active in your life is a thief, whose purpose it is to rob you of that abundance.  He robs us of our joy, our peace, our influence, our power. And what’s amazing is that not only do we allow him to do it, we also allow him to deceive us into thinking all is well.

If you find yourself still making all the right noises, but hollow-hearted, you’re in some pretty good company.  During the first century, the Apostle Paul said some things to the Christians at Ephesus he rarely said of other people.  He commended their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for all the saints (Ephesians 1:15).  He prayed cool things – deep things – for them.  He expressed a rare kind of confidence in them you just don’t see in his other letters.

Jesus wrote a letter to the Ephesians, too.  About 40 years later, He sent a message to them through the Apostle John.  It sounded the same at first – a list of all the amazing things this church was doing.  Just one problem, Jesus said.  “The love you had at first is gone” (Revelation 2:5, GW).  Here was a group of New Testament all-stars who somehow had lost the heart behind all they were doing.

It was true of them.  True of me.  Could it be true of you?

Who’s this a warning for?

1.  Those who face enormous responsibilities.  Like the Ephesians, you have a lot on your plate.  You’re working hard, and hanging in, and holding on.  And somewhere between the working, the hanging, and the holding, you’ve grown heartless and may not even know it.

2.  Those who are under tremendous stress – financial or otherwise.  The extended illness of a loved one, the repeated reminders of bills to pay or relationships to fix can lead you into survival mode.  Gritted teeth can lead to cold hearts.

3.  Those who find themselves living or working in an environment that is hostile to the gospel.  The Ephesians lived in hostile territory, and over time that can wear anybody out.  Faithfulness had become the right thing to do rather than an expression of passion.  Have you ever found yourself working so hard to resist evil that you eventually resist everything – including Jesus?

4.  Those who have been hurt because of the false witness of someone they respected.  I can’t tell you how many people I have known whose heart grew hollow when a hero fell.  It’s devastating.

Remember Lloyd, the watermelon thief?  He was 72 years old the night he told that story.  But somewhere in the night, as he laughed hysterically, his heart remembered what it was like to be a boy.

Your heart has a memory, too.

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