The sower

For eight years and change, I had poured into Chip. Week in and week out, I had watched as he tried to make life work on his own terms. I was there when his baby was born (well, within a couple of hours, anyway). I listened when his wife and him had fights. I prayed with him when he didn’t think he could go any more. And I told him, time and again, that those prayers would do no good if he did not surrender his own will and start pursuing God’s. Because – and you’ll have to trust me on this – God’s will was infinitely better than the stuff Chip wanted to do. Then his wife announced she wanted a divorce, and Chip was devastated. He stopped coming to church. Pretty soon, I only saw or heard from Chip when he had done something wrong and whatever remained of his life seemed to be crashing down around him. And then I got the call. He was out of money and needed gas to get to work. Immediately, I hopped in the car and went to meet Chip. I put some gas in his car, and then, as we stood there talking, he grabbed me and said, “Jeremy, I have to tell you something! The other night, I was at this church near where I’m living now, and the preacher gave an altar call. I went up and prayed, and I got saved! Got a spiritual birth certificate and everything!” He was clearly excited, but two thoughts ran through my mind. The first was that he had been to the altar with me many times, tears streaming, and then walked away utterly unchanged. For him, God had been someone who would pick up the pieces after whatever Chip wanted to do. But this time, something was different. And so the second thought that crossed my mind was this: All that work…One of my greatest pet peeves as a pastor is watching people into whom I and our church have poured and poured and poured getting saved in some other church’s revival (or whatever they want to call it) service and immediately dumping us for the other congregation. I imagine it’s something like what one feels when they discover their spouse has been having an affair and is now leaving for the “other” woman or man. Okay, so it’s probably not that severe, but still, it stinks. I feel betrayed. Used. Jealous. And I will freely admit that, on more than one occasion, I’ve raised my fists to God and cried out, “What in the world are you doing?????”

For some reason, I think I have a claim on that person because I took part in planting and cultivating the seeds of the gospel in their life.

In John 4, Jesus led his disciples into an area where Jews ordinarily wouldn’t be caught dead: Samaria. And as the disciples dared to go into town in search of something to eat at about noon, Jesus hung out at a well on the outskirts of town. As he waited for their return, a woman emerged from the village to get water. In all likelihood, she came at noon because she would have been mocked and abused if she came in the morning with everyone else. But as she approached, cautiously at first, and then – when she saw Jesus, a Jewish man, sitting there waiting for her – with a sigh of resignation that, even at this uncommon hour, she would still be condescended, something interesting happened. Jesus didn’t harass her. He didn’t abuse her. Instead, He asked her – politely, even – for a drink. And over the next few minutes, as their conversation unfolded, she came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Then, her water jars filled, she left there and started telling everyone that they needed to high-tail it out there to see this guy, and we discover in John 4:39 that “many Samaritans from that town believed in him.”

Can you imagine the electricity in the air at that well? How exciting that would have been, even for the Jewish disciples who hated Samaritans! And yet, in the middle of it, Jesus says something to those disciples that just smacks me upside the head. They were concerned that He needed to eat. He told them that what He really needed was to obey. And then he said this: “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together.”

Let’s break that down really fast. In essence, Jesus said, Don’t you get it? We don’t have time to eat! The field is ready for harvest, and it’s time to get in the field! But then, He adds this tidbit about the sower and reaper rejoicing together. His disciples were getting in on the reaping. The fun, seemingly profitable part of the growing season. But as urgent as that moment was, Jesus still wanted them to remember that this day came only as the result of years – centuries, even – of work. The seeds of the gospel had been planted, even among the Samaritans. They had been cultivated, watered, and protected. Even among the Samaritans. And Jesus and His disciples were getting in on only the very end of a very, very long process.

Jesus wanted the reapers to remember the work of the sowers. That encourages me, but I think He also wanted me, as the sower, to realize that the reaping is really what I was working for. So I should rejoice with the reapers, even though I might not be the one enjoying the harvest.

I need to rejoice when someone gets saved. Whether I’m the reaper, the sower, the cultivator, whatever. The objective was never to get another plant in my garden. It was to get another sheave in God’s barn. So I need to have a kingdom mindset, and I think it’s in that realization that I find another key to joy. When I’m concerned primarily about my people, my church, my work, I’m wrong. And that attitude will only ever bring frustration and discouragement. But when I’m concerned about bringing people to the Lord, however that may happen and under whoever, I win every single time someone gives their life to the Lord. I like winning. So if I’m going to have joy, I need that Kingdom mindset.


1 Response to “The sower”

  1. 1 budsummers January 18, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Its get that its hard to see someone go somewhere else. Good for you on taking the high ground. I find that remembering that the results aren’t really my doing in the first place helps. At the end of the day each person comes to Christ but the working of the Holy Spirit. Yes we get to play part but like a guy who works on building a plane we are part of the project not the builder.

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