I ordered seeds from three different sources, and all of them have arrived. Each package of heirloom seeds is filled with the hope of future delicious meals. But let’s be honest: Each package is filled with the hope of a lot of work.
Those tiny seeds will grow into amazing vegetation, 8-foot-tall corn stalks, lush tomato plants, beautiful cabbage, deep green zucchini and bright yellow summer squash. There are three bags of seeds sitting on my desk that will be a field full of food in a few months.
It is a stunning thought, the creative power of our Lord demonstrated so simply and profoundly. A seed is planted, it germinates, a seedling appears and the journey begins. The seedling is transplanted into the field, it grows, nourished by soil, rain and sun. And while it’s clear the hardest and most miraculous work is from God, we who garden understand that we have work to do, pulling weeds and protecting the plants from bugs and invasive critters.
Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 (ESV): “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
The work of evangelism is much like the work of a homesteader or a farmer in the fields. It is very easy to get caught up in the practical methods of evangelism. It’s also easy to overestimate the role we play when someone with whom we have been sharing the Gospel comes to penitent faith in Christ.
When I plant my fields, I stop and pray. I have done as much as I can do. The seedlings that grow into fruit-bearing plants are the work of the Lord. The unsaved sinner coming to penitent faith in Christ and bearing the fruit of the Spirit also is the work of the Lord.
I have heard testimonies where the individual describes how a particular church or particular preacher brought them to salvation. No, the Lord in His mercy drew you out of your wickedness into saving faith in Christ Jesus. The church, the preacher or the street evangelist did little more than plant a seed or water the seed that was already planted. All credit, all glory, belongs to the Lord.
The gardener understands the work that must happen throughout the growing process. Pruning tomato plants allows for more fruit. Hilling rows of potatoes forces the growth below ground, allowing for bigger and more abundant crops. Picking off cabbage worms protects the cabbage harvest, and hoeing the weeds between rows of corn and beans allows for more abundant plant growth. These tasks are the normal work of the gardener in partnership with the Sovereign Lord of the harvest.
The life of the believer demands care. Sometimes, we must be pruned, the loving act of the Father to cut away from our lives the things that distract us from bearing fruit. Sometimes, we need to be watered, filled with the living water Christ promised to the woman at the well. And always, we must be nourished by the nutrient-dense Word of the Lord, so we take steps ourselves, praying, studying our Bibles, sharing the Gospel, serving others, loving God, loving our neighbors, loving one another, loving even our enemies.
And still, God gets all the glory.
May your seedlings grow strong, your soil be rich and loamy, your back remain strong and your early efforts be rewarded. May there be love in your hard work, joy in the sweat that falls from your brow and peace found in your daily efforts to grow the food you eat. May the wind be always at your back and your children and grandchildren rise up and call you blessed. Peace be with you, in these difficult days in our world.
Denny Dillman is benevolence pastor at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.