One of the most allusive things I have yet to be a participant in is the conversion of a sinner into a faithful believer in Christ. It certainly is not from a lack of effort or style of approach. I am an extrovert and I love meeting and talking to new people. I see relationships as highly-relational and long term, not as ways to employ quick transactional tactics. I even have a very visible personal testimony which has led me to dedicate my own life to fulltime ministry and church multiplication.
So, what gives? Jesus says the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2). Certainly I am a laborer, so where is the harvest, Jesus?
The flawed presumptions in that question can come from a misunderstanding of my role in someone else’s harvest.
Paul explained to the Corinthian church that he conducted the role of planting, while Apollos watered (1 Cor. 3:6). These are two distinct roles, but are they the only ones? Perhaps there was another person who built the watering container and another who provided the clay to make it. I’m sure if we spent some time on it, we could come up with dozens if not hundreds of roles that contribute to the “planting” and “watering” of a believer. Paul then explains that neither of them bring about any growth, let alone a harvest, but it is God who brings the growth. Paul understands it is not his harvest to control or dictate, only work in.
But even if I understand all that, where is the joy in laboring all day and not knowing when or where a harvest will come about? There are two ways in which your labor can be void of joy and wrought with despair and frustration.
The first way is if you are doing it alone. Paul is talking to the Corinthian church, not to one individual. He says, “He who plants and he who waters are one” (1 Cor. 3:8). Paul can take joy in the work of a fellow worker, Apollos. as you can take joy in the work of a fellow disciple maker. Paul knew what Apollos role was and how to supplement his work. We also need to know our fellow workers in the body of Christ well enough so that we are complementing each other’s work in making disciples.
The second way to labor in vain is to labor without the fuel of the gospel. Paul explains to the Corinthians that they themselves are God’s field, God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9). He’s reminding them of the very gospel that saved them. Keeping our minds on Christ and the work He did to save us is the only thing that will propel us to joyfully make any and every effort to fight the good fight and finish the race well.
Authored by Rocky Norkum, Director of Ministries at Charlotte Awake