19 November 2008
Thinking Like a Farmer
Here's an article written to the folks gathered at Trinity Road Chapel and published in our church magazine, The Witness:
My parents had the opportunity to grow up on small farms. After my father’s mother died, my grandfather closed off a career teaching maths and took up farming. And my mother’s family supplemented their income and food stocks by alternately renting out sections of property or farming it themselves. Though I grew up in a military family and travelled the globe, I had opportunity to summer on the family farms and participated in the labour, planting, weeding, fertilising, harvesting and storing various crops of maize, soybeans, potatoes and tobacco, along with several sessions in the fields and barns baling and putting up hay.
I learned much from those experiences. Three lessons relating to those experiences connect well to the task of reaching the lost and I think are helpful for all of us to keep in mind in our efforts to reach our area with the saving message of Jesus Christ.
I now have fond, almost romantic, memories of my joining in with my relatives on the farm, but the reality was far different. I spent many hot, humid and monotonous days carrying out back-breaking work. In order to ensure a crop at the other end of the season, a lot of work had to happen before the crops were planted. And harvest proved tiring as well. Many summers my cousins and I worked cutting, raking, baling and putting up hay. Stacking 40-80 pound bales of hay in a steamy barn loft at the peak of a summer day made me feel like every ounce of moisture in my body was draining out my pores!
If we desire a harvest of souls for the glory of Christ in our district and throughout London, we must labour. The industrious farmer starts his hard and demanding work early and quits late. He endures the cold, the heat, the rain, and the drought. He plows the soil whether it is hard or loose. He does not wait for his own convenience, because the seasons do not wait for him. When the time comes to plant, he must plant; when weeds appear, he must remove them; and when the crop is mature, he must harvest it. What drives the man to such hard toil is the harvest. And I can think of no better harvest than eternal souls won for God’s glory. Let us labour then!
During those long days of effort, day after day, the farmer understands that harvest is still far off and no fruit will be enjoyed for months to come. But the farmer has come to learn that today’s dry efforts are what bring tomorrow’s bounty.
Our days in gospel work are often seemingly fruitless. But that is no reason to quit or to grow weary of the work. We must continue on, working and waiting patiently for God to give the increase to all our efforts, just as the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.
We are called to bear witness to the lost about the saving grace of God in Jesus. And am delighted to hear many of you talk about and pray for the people you are helping to see their need of the Saviour. Keep up the good work, and just like the farmer, bear patiently through the dry harvestless days. Learn that there are no such things as quick results. Work and wait. You must sow the good seed of the word into hearts and minds. John Calvin reminds us:
If husbandmen do not spare their toils, that one day they may obtain fruit, and if they patiently wait for the season of harvest; how much more unreasonable will it be for us to refuse the labors which Christ enjoins upon us, while he holds out so great a reward?
Harvest time does come! We may plant and we may water, and not see any visible return on the investment for a long time or perhaps even in our lifetime, but the increase in the field will come from the Lord.