One of our biggest challenges in ministry is that it’s often difficult to know what comes from our work.
It’s easy for builders. In the morning, bricks lie scattered on the building site, and by evening a wall has been built! The builder has the satisfaction of seeing clear and measurable results from a day’s work. But ministry is different.
Farming is a better analogy for the various ways in which we serve the Lord. When the farmer sows seed, the field looks much the same in the evening as it did in the morning. At the end of a hard day’s work, the farmer has no visible or measurable results to show for his efforts, and if he has a “builder’s mindset” he might wonder if his work is really worth it.
Good News for Sowers of the Word
Christians have the same experience. Looking back on the various ways we have tried to serve the Lord, it is often hard to know what came from our effort.
And then there’s another problem: Why is it that some people get the joy of great success stories while the rest of us labor on, sowing our seed without anything dramatic seeming to happen? Reapers have the joy of bringing in the harvest. Sowing just seems like hard work with no immediate reward.
But Jesus has good news for sowers. “The reaper,” he says, “is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together” (John 4:36, emphasis mine).
The Eternal Reward of Ministry
Sowing and reaping are separated by many months, and seasonal workers may never meet, let alone rejoice together. But when God’s great harvest is finally gathered in, our Lord says the sowers and the reapers will rejoice together. The reward is not for reapers only; it is for those who did the sowing as well.
None of us knows what God will do in a person’s life after we have sown the seed. But Jesus makes it clear that you will share in the joy and the reward of all that comes from every seed you have ever sown.
In this life, you only see a small sample of the full harvest God will bring from what you have sown through your faithfulness in serving, giving, going, speaking, helping, and praying. But when God reveals the full effect of every prayer you ever prayed, every dollar you ever gave, and every hour you ever served, along with the full outcome of your perseverance in loving and trusting Christ even through the valleys of disappointment and loss, you will experience overwhelming joy!
The Reason You Can Rejoice Now
The shared joy of sowers and reapers also reminds us that we may have the joy of reaping what someone else has sown. Our Lord says, “One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor” (John 4:37-38).
In our increasingly secularized culture, we may sometimes fear that people are no longer interested in spiritual things. That’s simply not true! There are always people who are ready to hear the gospel and respond to Christ, and there may be people in your sphere of influence who are more open to faith in Christ that you would think.
Someone else may have “labored,” doing the hard work of praying and sowing the seed of the God’s Word in the life of your friend or neighbor. They did not see a harvest but, unknown to you, the seed was planted, and now you may have the joy of reaping what someone else has sown.
How could you know if your colleague at the office has a believing cousin who has been faithfully praying for her? How could you know if your new neighbor down the street once had a Christian friend who made a deep impression on her for good?
The joy we have in ministry is that you never know what God has been doing in a person’s life before, and you never know what he will do later as a result of your sowing the seed.
This article is adapted from a column by Pastor Colin in Mature Living Magazine.
If Jesus offered to tell you “secrets of the kingdom of heaven” for your ministry, would you listen? Join Pastor Colin Smith for the free course Sustaining a Lifetime of Ministry where he unpacks Jesus’ Kingdom Parables of Matthew 13 that help us embrace God’s perspective on gospel ministry.