"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building." - I Corinthians 3:7-9
Growing takes time. Bearing fruit can take months, even years. And then sometimes, the fruit may not come.
Julius, SHIM's agriculture guy, told me today that our avocado plants are "fruiting." I have been in Uganda for over three years and have been waiting and waiting to see avocados on our plants. Finally.
In recent discussions with a couple of short-term missionaries we have mulled over some of the challenges of ministry here. One is that you can invest hours upon hours of preparation and then active ministry, spend focused time building relationships, you read, you pray, you talk, you encourage. And sometimes there is fruit, and sometimes there is not, or there is little evidence of it.
I was heartbroken when last year I learned that J, one of my most faithful girls in Bible study, had become pregnant. Not only that, but she was encouraged by her boyfriend to "run away" to Kenya and abort the baby. She was later found in Kenya and indeed she did abort her baby. "Why?" I wondered. Had nothing I shared for the past year and a half made any impact on J?
Yet, when I read the above scripture this week, I was encouraged. God does not hold me responsible for bringing forth fruit in other's lives. I am asked only to plant or to water. He gives the growth.
We are His fellow workers. I love that sentence. God does not send us out like a big manager over some underlings. No, He invites us to join Him in what He is already doing. Amazing. This gives me such joy and assurance as I serve here in Uganda.
It is like a father inviting his young son to join him in working on a project. The young boy may or may not be although that "helpful," but the father knows he is investing in his son, teaching him a new skill, and most importantly, building the relationship. In the end the boy is not responsible to finish the task, the father is.
We also are not responsible to finish the work that God is doing in the lives of those around us. We cannot produce the fruit or make the change happen. It is just impossible with our finite abilities and limited understanding. But our God is big enough and able enough.
You may be part of a long line of individuals who have tilled, planted, watered, weeded, watered and weeded some more in an individual's life. You are part of a much bigger picture, which you cannot yet fully see, until we reach heaven.
So, here is my encouragement - sow faithfully. Whatever God has asked you to do, in whatever place, among whichever people, work and serve and pray and build relationships faithfully. You may be blessed to see the fruit or you may not, at least on this earth. But, no matter, God is at work, and He just asks you to be faithful in what He has called you to do.
And, lastly, reflect on the people God has used to sow faithfully in your life. I look back and see many - my parents, pastors, Sunday School teachers, friends, mentors, and others - each one having made an impact that they may or may not know about. I am so thankful for each one.
Are you God's fellow worker? Are you sowing faithfully? Are you trusting God for the fruit?
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9
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