I have told people before who work with their hands that I envy their line of work. When they build something, they can see the results with their eyes and feel it with their hands; they can observe the completion of their project and be satisfied with the outcome. As a Christian, though, our calling is very different. Our work is not results based and, for many people including myself, that oftentimes can make it discouraging if you go for a period of time without seeing any fruit from your labor.
James compares the work of the Christian to a farmer waiting for harvest time. He says in James 5:7-8, “Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Many of the words used by James can be hard to swallow: be patient, waits, waiting patiently, and, again, be patient. We do not naturally excel at being patient, and it makes it all the more difficult when, in other areas of life, patience is not so desperately needed. We long for biblical patience, but we long for it right now.
Many times, though, the Lord will send us His little assurances that, in fact, His work is being accomplished through out toil. Much like the farmer who, after planting the seed and waiting patiently, sees the first glimpse of green breaking through the black soil, the Lord allows us to see the evidence of His fruit before it is completely mature. Paul, for example, planted the Philippian church in about 50 AD. Several years later, he was sitting in a lonely, dark prison cell. If I were Paul, I would be wrestling with the doubt that, perhaps, some of my labor had been in vain. And yet, as he is sitting in this prison cell, a familiar face from the church in Philippi, Epaphroditus, journeys to find him to bring him encouragement and a gift from his friends in Philippi. It was this occasion – the occasion of the green leaf breaking through the black soil of Paul’s circumstances – that prompted him to write the beautiful letter of Philippians.
I experienced a similar joy as I was serving with my Army Reserve unit this past weekend in Atlanta. Everyone in the Army has a specific function, a task to complete. Some work on computers, others handle logistics, and still others handle paperwork and so on. The chaplain, however, has an interesting role within the Army. Their job is working with people, and how do we know when a person is “fixed” to the point where our task is complete? I had spoken with a Soldier several months before when he shared with me some personal difficulties he was having. I prayed with him, wrote him a letter, and sent him a book I had written about having assurance in your faith. This weekend, he found me and told me that, through prayer and reading, the Lord had spoken to his heart, and that his life was turned around. His family was back together, and the Lord had pulled him out of his depression. Praise the Lord! The little green leaf broke through the black soil.
Though, as Christians, we cannot touch a finished product or see a completed project, the Lord does send us little reminders that He is, in fact, accomplishing His good work through us. As you serve the Lord, be patient. Establish your heart in Him as you wait patiently on His return. And, look for the little green leafs that break through the black soil of depression, weariness, and apathy. Look for answered prayers. Look for changed hearts. Look for the Lord and you will discover that, as you serve Him patiently, He is bringing forth a great and beautiful harvest in your life.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.