Due to setting aside a successful football career to embrace the dirt of this earth and grow from it life for others, Jason and Tay Brown’s story is close to my heart, as you can imagine. The founders of First Fruits Farm in North Carolina, the Browns are uniquely equipped to tell us about noticing and relishing God’s harvest in our lives. Except for what they hold back to feed their family, they give the food they grow away. I could not love this story more! A true life of service. It’s a pleasure to welcome them to our farm’s front porch today….
uring our first harvest at First Fruits Farm in 2014, we saw how much hunger there was, even in our little area of North Carolina. We knew we had to keep giving.
Give, God tells us. Give till it hurts. It’s been hurting for a while now.
But we’ve never been happier.
First Fruits Farm has truly become, in practice, All Fruits Farm. Except for what we hold back for our family, we give the food we grow away.
Food banks and soup kitchens depend on what we grow. We’ve donated more than a million pounds of food since we started.
But it hasn’t been easy. We’ve wondered sometimes how we’d be able to keep doing what we’re doing.
People have told us that what we’re doing is not sustainable—that we can’t keep giving away everything we grow and hope that the miracles will still keep coming.
“You keep giving help like this,” my father sometimes tells me, “and pretty soon, you’re going to be the one who needs some help.”
He’s got a point. But I also recognize that I’m attached to a kingdom with unlimited resources—that I’m loved by a generous God.
And so we keep giving. We keep working. We keep doing what God called us to do.
I’m working harder now than I ever did playing football. I’m sacrificing more now than I ever did playing football.
And some people might wonder, Why bother? Why put so much into this work when, compared to the NFL, you’re getting so little out of it?
But here’s the difference between my life then and my life now: When I go to bed, I have a sense of peace and satisfaction.
The stress that I felt playing football is gone. And, although it’s been replaced by different stresses, I know that all my problems come with a purpose. A mission. I know that what I’m doing now isn’t just for me. It isn’t even just about all the thousands of people who might otherwise go hungry.
It’s for God. I’m doing what God has truly called me to do.
One of the Bible’s most famous verses is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (nkjv). Sometimes when you hear ministers preach on that verse, they concentrate on the “I can do all things” part. “I can do all things!” they say, and they talk about the miracles that the disciples and apostles performed: healing the sick and curing the paralytic and even raising the dead.
But you know what? The context in which Paul said that has nothing to do with great, miraculous happenings. He was talking about being strong through difficult circumstances and finding a sense of contentment even in the midst of them.
Paul was saying, Look, I know what it feels like to be hungry. I know what it feels like to be full. I know what it feels like to be rich, and to be poor. But I’ve learned how to be content in every state. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Paul said. That’s where the stress should be. Paul wasn’t talking about miracles; he was talking about finding peace through God’s plan, even when that plan is hard.
I know what it’s like to be rich, and to be poor. I know what it’s like to have everything, and I know what it’s like to cry out to God in the middle of a dusty, fly-infested field.
My life of comfort is gone. I stress and I sweat and sometimes I wonder how the next bill will be paid. But I’m content. I’m content in Christ, because He strengthens me.
God called me to be a farmer. And guess what? He’s calling you to something too. He’s knocking on your door. He’s whispering your name.
You may think it sounds crazy at first. You may worry what people would say if you actually dared to listen.
But you know what? Listen anyway. Follow.
The life you find may be strange and uncomfortable. It may be hard. It may push you to what you think is your breaking point and keep pushing you—pushing until you cry in pain and frustration and anger.
But follow anyway. It’s only by following that you can find real contentment. It’s only by following that you can find real purpose.
For all the work I do, for all the weariness that sinks and settles deep into my bones, I wake up every morning, look out the window, and feel . . . amazed.
I can’t believe that God allows me to steward this place. I can’t believe how blessed I am.
I see the sun rise over my barn, the sky painted orange and purple.
I hear the birds in the oak trees beyond.
I breathe in the scent of the animals, the plants, the water in the air.
And I feel God beside me. Above me. Everywhere. Because I am right where He has called me to be.
Jason Brown grew up in Henderson, North Carolina and played football at the University of North Carolina. After being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2005, Jason became a free agent in 2009 and was signed by the St. Louis Rams for $37.5 million, making him the highest-paid center in the league. Three years later, Jason left behind several lucrative offers from the NFL and bought a 1,000-acre farm near Louisburg, North Carolina.
Jason is the author of Centered, the inspiring riches-to-rags-to-true riches story of how he left behind a lucrative career in the NFL to buy a 1,000-acre farm in North Carolina. He has been farming full-time since 2013, and he gives everything that he grows to the poor. He and his wife, Tay, have been married since 2003 and have eight children.
This riveting story of a top-earning NFL center and his family who walked away from it all to follow God’s call to alleviate hunger as farmers—a life they knew absolutely nothing about—illustrates the sacrifice and ultimate reward of obedience to our heavenly Father even when it doesn’t make earthly sense.
[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]