A couple of years ago I was quite discouraged with ministry. A friend of mine asked me if I had an “encouragement” file. I had no idea what they were talking about. They told me:
You know it’s a file or folder you keep with notes from students and parents that make you remember why you serve them.
Now I got even more depressed. Not only did I not have such a file, I couldn’t even make one if I wanted to. The reality was (and is) that I worked in a “type” of youth ministry that did not lend itself to garnering accolades. Even today after 22 years of family ministry in the inner city I have about 3 notes from students and none from parents.
This is when the Lord reminded me of something He had shown me years before. We all focus on the idea that the “harvest is plenty and the workers are few.” However, we forget about 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Paul is talking.
I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building
We are farmers and that means we do more than “harvest.” Farmers prepare the soil. They dig up rocks and dirt and make hardened ground ready for the seed. They fertilize and till. Then they plant little seeds. They water and wait and wait and wait. They protect the baby plants from pests, weather, and the “elements” that might attack them. In short there are a lot of things that happen before you ever even see a plant bloom. Farmers work with others. No one can plant a whole crop by themselves. As Paul pointed out some of us will plant, others will water, and God makes it grow. We don’t all get to collect the “fruit.” Often when we do get to be the one who “harvests” we forget the hard work of a “farmer” that came before us.
If you can put together a “file folder” like my friend said, I highly recommend it. I think it is a great idea to take time on the days we want to “quit.” However, I think we also need to start a list. When are the times you can see the ground moving in an immovable life? Just last night I had a conversation with a student who told me they are less angry than they were a year ago, and God is doing that. It isn’t a full harvest, but it’s a seedling. I need to celebrate that.
Our job as farmers is to look at every heart and believe that one day they will grow. God is making them grow. He is the only one who can do that work at all. We just have to look with his eyes. It may look like a field of dirt to the average passerby, for us we see something amazing.
How are you working as a farmer?