“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-9
As anyone who has tried to influence others for Christ knows, it can be discouraging. We want to see results. We want to feel like we are making a difference, that our lives and ministries are bearing fruit. To be honest, results (at least the kind that we can see and measure) help us to feel better about ourselves. And tangible results help us to validate our ministry to those who support us.
But God doesn’t always work that way
Many times it is hard to see fruit. We can spend hours and hours with students and invest heavily into their lives and feel like we are making little headway. Sometimes we see nothing at all. But we need to remember that sometimes it is our job to plant or water or cultivate and it is someone else’s job to harvest.
Jiale attended our ministry occasionally and was involved in a Bible study led by a couple of our students. They spent a lot time with him. And then Jiale transferred to another school. He later returned to the University of Arkansas. And he came back as a Christian. When he left, he got involved with some Christians on his new campus and went to a Bible study there.
Over time, the seeds that were planted on our campus and were watered and cultivated on another campus bore fruit. Jiale decided to follow Jesus. When he returned to our campus, he asked if we would baptize him. As he put it, our ministry was the place where it all started – where he began to learn about Jesus, was first introduced to Christians, and begin to understand the Gospel.
“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
Amanda attended our ministry off and on for a year and a half. She also successfully avoided all of our attempts to get to know her or to get her involved in our community in other ways. And then we didn’t see her anymore. A couple of years later, I received a message from her on Facebook. She told me about the heavy partying that led her to drop out of school and what God had done in her life since then.
She finished her note this way: “I imagine I seemed like the most unlikely girl to end up following the Lord but here I am changed for eternity. Thank you for your ministry in Fayetteville. God planted seeds in my life that year and a half that he used to draw me to himself. Thanks for being obedient and letting the Lord use you “
And the words of Jesus are proven true again.
Chad became a Christian during his days at the University of Arkansas. After graduation, he started his career as an engineer, married, began raising his family, and became active in church. A few years later, when he was in his 30’s, he called me to tell me that he was quitting his job and was going to serve as a missionary. As we talked, he said, “You know, this is your fault. You planted this seed in my mind when I was in school and I have never been able to shake it. I guess it is just now bearing fruit.”
Keep Scattering Seed
My word to you who are serving Christ is to keep planting seeds. Be faithful in investing in the lives of others. Trust the Holy Spirit to convict and transform. It is his job. Not ours. Be faithful in fulfilling your role and let God do his work.
My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. We work together as partners who belong to God. I Corinthians 3:6-8 (NLT)
Mike Armstrong (@_mikearmstrong_) is in his 33rd year of ministry to students at the University of Arkansas with Christ on Campus and is a past president of the Association of College Ministries. He is also part of a group of leaders from about a dozen campus ministries who have prayer together on a weekly basis for over 17 years. You can read his blog at http://www.michaelarmstrong.net/ or find him on Facebook at THEMikeArmstrong.