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Encouragement: The Power of the Sonflower
It is only on the darkest nights that the brightest stars fill the sky. Our skies have been filled with much darkness these days as we watch the media coverage surrounding the events in Ukraine and news reports of crises at home. Most of us long for a story filled with stars that remind us of God’s providence and goodness. Like a vibrant sunflower on a refreshing spring day, we yearn for something admirable, praiseworthy and beautiful. Well, this is that kind of story, and after you read it, you’ll be reminded of Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
22 years ago, some friends of mine embarked on a journey that would change their lives forever. As they traveled over 5,000 miles to Kyiv, Ukraine, their hearts were filled with hope and anticipation. Soon they would be adopting a child who would bring both joy and challenges for years to come.
The journey itself began with a step of heartfelt obedience. The still soft voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to the couple as they heard a missionary speak to their church congregation about three children from Ukraine that he was trying to bring to the U.S. for medical treatment. Although the goal was to raise money and prayer support for these kids, the Lord had more in mind as the missionary mentioned that one of the children was an orphan.
While many people adopt babies and younger children, my friends knew that the Lord had a different plan. Instead, they would be adopting a vivacious, spunky, pre-adolescent child who had already braved many obstacles in her young life. This type of adoption wouldn’t be easy, but they knew it was God’s will, and he would provide everything that was needed.
Most people were supportive of the young couple’s decision to adopt and even contributed financially, but some were skeptical about taking on these unique circumstances. Nonetheless, they knew the Lord said, “This is your daughter,” so there would be nothing to hold them back.
After close to a year of preparation and prayer, they hopped on a plane to Ukraine, where they would spend a month in Kyiv to complete the adoption process. The time finally came to pick up their daughter from the orphanage located in a small town two hours south of the capital. Traveling in a compact car along unkempt roads filled with potholes, my friend felt like the perpetual, jostling bumps were similar to labor pains. But in the midst of these rough, country roads, there was something beautiful that caught her eye. Fields of bright, tall sunflowers stretched for miles and miles, reminding her that God’s hand was in this adoption from the very beginning, and it would bring many blessings to their new family.
It’s been a long time since my friend gazed upon those gorgeous fields of sunflowers in Ukraine, but God brought them to mind many years later with an amazing message that she feels is relevant for today. At a women’s retreat in 2018, she spent some time in reflection and prayer by the conference center’s lakefront. Soft raindrops fell as she gazed upon the water. Suddenly, the image of a large sunflower came to mind. Great quantities of seeds burst out of the sunflower, resembling raindrops. It reminded her of the seeds of the gospel. Just like a sunflower that drops thousands of seeds, we are also made to bloom and then share “seeds” of Jesus’ truth, while loving abundantly wherever we are located. This multiplication will produce a beautiful crop of believers for God’s Kingdom and glory. Additionally, the sunflower turns toward the sun, just as we must turn to the SON for everything we need. Jesus is the light of the world so this made perfect sense. Yet, all this was just one part of the vision. The next piece connected it all together and brought profound revelation to my friend’s heart.
The Holy Spirit spoke these words: “Place your WORSHIP in Jesus.” In other words, place your worship in the SON. Additionally, each letter of worship had a specific meaning tied to it.
Our WORTH and value must come from the SON. Our accomplishments, bank accounts, family, friends and social status cannot provide this.
Our sense of ORDER should never be dependent on our circumstances or surroundings, even when we face trials and the world around us appears to be in chaos. We can have peace knowing that Jesus has everything under his control. God will work everything together for the ultimate good of his people and his glory.
Our REALITY must be derived from Jesus’ perspective. Hollywood, the media and/or the latest trends are not sufficient sources. Our reality must be based on what God’s Word says is true, as well as Jesus’ promises for our life on earth and in heaven.
Our SECURITY cannot be rooted in other people such as our parents, spouses, children and friends. Stable jobs, retirement accounts and even a state-of-the-art alarm system will not fill this need. Our security comes from dwelling in the shelter of the Most High as Psalm 91 declares.
Our HOPE cannot be anchored in family members, preachers, politicians, leaders, or anything of this world. Jesus is the only hope, no matter what we are facing.
Our IDENTITY must be tied to our architect and Creator, Jesus Christ. Good looks, prestigious jobs and accolades will only get us so far. Like all earthly treasures, they will fade away. Our identity in Christ is eternal.
Our PROVISION doesn’t come from ourselves, other people, or our careers. All we have and receive comes from Jesus, and it’s He who will sustain us both physically and spiritually.
If we place our WORSHIP in Jesus, we can weather rain, hail, lightning, floods, tornadoes, wars, sickness and anything life throws at us.
The call to worship the Lord through music, singing and dance (both individually and corporately) is scattered throughout the Psalms. As God’s creation, we were made to worship. Not only does it magnify God, but it unites the Body. While music, singing, dance and giving can all be wonderful acts of worship, they should stem from an attitude and lifestyle of worship, based on our core identity in Christ, founded on who God is. If we truly believe our God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, perfectly loving, just and sovereign with perfect timing, then we will place our worth, order, reality, security, hope, identity and provision in him, regardless of what’s happening in the world and our lives. This is more than lip service to God– it is living out our worship. Our entire being will be an offering of worship with our mind, heart, soul and strength. Truthfully, we can never outgive God. As we surrender all to Jesus, his peace will fill us.
Isn’t this what the world needs to understand right now? With war looming on every front, we should turn our heads toward the SON. The French word for sunflower is “tournesol” which means to turn with the sun. Sunflowers track the sun, which is known as heliotropism. When the sun rises each day, young sunflower buds and blossoms will face east and follow the sun. When it sets, the blooms will face west. As followers of the Son, we must track and follow our Lord in all times and seasons of life.
Another amazing and surprising fact about sunflowers is that they are fantastic when it comes to absorbing toxins. Millions were planted after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan. They were also planted in fields near Chernobyl and Hiroshima. Known as hyperaccumulators, sunflowers have the ability to absorb high concentrations of toxic materials into their tissues. Their efficient root systems can pull radioactive elements right out of the soil!
We can apply this same truth to the here and now. Jesus absorbs our toxins by removing the accumulated sins, burdens and worries in our lives. This is only possible, however, when we place our WORSHIP and trust in him.
My friends placed their WORSHIP in Jesus when they took a leap of faith years ago to adopt their daughter. This act of obedience and worship brought countless blessings to their lives. Applying this idea to what’s happening in Ukraine today, it becomes more important than ever that we focus not on what we can do, but what Jesus can do through our humble obedience and prayers. As a reminder of this amazing hope Jesus gives, my friend’s son planted sunflowers with their home church group recently. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine, so each one planted symbolized the importance of interceding for the protection and provision of the people, but more importantly, their salvation.
Thinking back on the sunflowers she saw in Ukraine, my friend said, “They were mammoth- sized, but each individual flower was unique and beautiful. Together they really displayed God’s glory! That’s how it is with the Body of Christ. As we unite in prayer for our brothers and sisters around the corner, or around the globe, Jesus is glorified. They (Ukrainians) will know we are Christians by our love.”
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35.
Prayer Point: Lord Jesus, even your creation reminds us that you are the source of our trust, faith and hope. Help us place our WORSHIP (worth, order, reality, security, hope, identity and provision) in you! Let the seeds of the gospel be as numerous as those of the spectacular sunflower. Shower them everywhere we go, but especially in the dark corners of this world.
Are you encouraged by this article? Share with a friend!
Angela Rodriguez is an author, blogger and homeschooling Mom who studies the historical and biblical connections between Israel and the United States. You can visit her blogs at 67owls.com and 100trumpets.com. Her latest book, Psalm 91: Under the Wings of Jesus, was released in June 2021. Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash.
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Father, thank you that you accept our worship. We praise you for the ways you have pictured yourself to us.
Thank you so much for this reminder to keep looking to the Son. Our eyes fixed on Him, we can withstand all that comes at us in this age and enables us to shine as stars in the world, by holding form the word of life! Phil.2:15
>Another amazing and surprising fact about sunflowers is that they are fantastic when it comes to absorbing toxins. Millions were planted after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan. They were also planted in fields near Chernobyl and Hiroshima. Known as hyperaccumulators, sunflowers have the ability to absorb high concentrations of toxic materials into their tissues. Their efficient root systems can pull radioactive elements right out of the soil!<
I didn't know this! I grew up in Hiroshima while my dad, a scientist, was researching the effects of radiation on 4800 Japanese children who survived the first atomic bomb. Maybe people will fund the planting of more sunflowers in areas that are still radioactive. What a beautiful gift!
Is the picture of the sunflower 🌻 and WORSHIP words available for purchase? Love it.
Love the sunflower painting! It should be made a garden flag for us to buy and display.
Linda, I agree with you! I’m going to suggest your idea when I talk to my friend who painted it. I have a print of the sunflower framed and it hangs in my kitchen. It reminds me of the WORSHIP acrostic throughout the day. May God bless you and thanks for reading
Sunflowers are my favorite flower they’re always happy and following the Sun(Son)
And isn’t it amazing that God created something once again to clean up the mess we humans made. Amazing grace
Nothing is ever wasted that God created
So encouraged by this article, such a beautiful story and I love the acronym for worship – looking at sunflowers through new eyes now – thank you! http://www.mtothe5th.wordpress.com
What a beautiful essay! I love sunflowers, and it was such a joy to read this! I cannot express the thankfulness I feel as a result of your tremendous words encouraging us to worship – as the sunflowers designed by God himself, follow the sun.
I have been doing a lot of drawings of sunflowers and wish I could share some of my art. It is to say that the Body of Christ is often on the same page, Hallelujah!
Deborah, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. When my friend shared the WORSHIP acronym, it really helped me internalize the truth about Jesus, and how I needed to put my eyes on him continually. I hope you keep creating sunflower art. You can share it on social media, or even make prints and cards for loved ones. Have a blessed day!!!
Great, uplifting, encouraging article, Angela. We need to put our complete trust and hope in the Lord in these End Times.
May our hearts and minds be consumed with the glory of the Lord. Being Like the sunflowers always looking to the Son in all we do and say. Let us always be radiant of the One we love. Father forgive us for trying to be self sufficient and self absorbed. We need you more every day. Amen
“We can have peace knowing that Jesus has everything under his control. God will work everything together for the ultimate good of his people and his glory.”
Psalm 28:7 (Aramaic Bible) “LORD JEHOVAH is my helper and my protector, for my heart is confident in him and my flesh flourishes, and with glory I shall praise him.
“Our REALITY must be derived from Jesus’ perspective.”
Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
“Jesus is the only hope, no matter what we are facing.”
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not being seen. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Hebrews 11: 1; Romans 8:2, 2 Corinthians 4: 18; Romans 12:12
“If we truly believe our God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, perfectly loving, just and sovereign with perfect timing, then we will place our worth, order, reality, security, hope, identity and provision in him, regardless of what’s happening in the world and our lives.” I do, Amen!!
Susan, thank you for sharing all those verses. They really drive the point home and emphasize the hope we have in the SON- Jesus. Very encouraging!
Now I realize, unknown until just now, why I LOVE sunflowers 🌻 so much. I’ve loved their beauty since adulthood; however, before today, I did not know their “story”. Thank you, Angela, (my daughter’s name) 🌻😊 for sharing this amazing story regarding the sunflower’s background and their strength! Wow!
Fay, looks like we are all in the sunflower club now!!! So glad you enjoyed reading about sunflowers!!! They really are beautiful. I am so grateful that my friend helped me see the symbolism and how they remind us to WORSHIP the SON- Jesus. Have a blessed day!
Oh my…how this touched my heart. I have been obsessed with 🌻 sunflowers for the last few months. This article was amazing and powerful. I must share. Thank you 😊 for being obedient and letting God write His words to your heart.
What a beautiful encouragement! Praise the Lord for His unspeakable gift, for the hope believers have in Him!
Thanks, Angela, for this beautiful story and testimony! It made my morning off to a great start and is a reminder of the many blessings of our good Father! Simplicity and appreciation for God’s simple and daily blessings keep us grounded and close to Him.
I am so glad you enjoyed reading the story. I hope God continues to bless you daily through the beauty of his creation.