Vol. 12 No. 5 May 2010
By Ed Benesh
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).
Did you know that Edison was born almost completely deaf? He could hear only the loudest of sounds. Yet, you may also recall that it was Edison who invented the phonograph. Odd, don’t you think? Odder still, however, is the fact that the work on this invention began two months after Edison’s plant, containing his inventions, burnt to the ground. Many have quoted those famous words, spoken to his brother as they watched their life’s work go up in smoke. “There go all our mistakes. Now we can start over afresh.”
Edison didn’t have a hand up, charmed life or golden boy status. Yet, he was a great success that changed the world. Often, however, our lives are very different. We seem greatly blessed, but do little with it. Especially is this true in spiritual matters. Many, who have the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation, never get around to doing anything with it. Content to just let the world fly by us, we often miss out on some of the greatest opportunities to do the work of the Lord and accomplish great things for the kingdom.
The reasons are many, I do believe. These reasons bear names like fear, lack of vision, apathy, laziness, and lack of spiritual discernment and contentment. Whatever may be the case, we can be assured that our Lord and Savior, who took the bitter sweet opportunity to save mankind by dying on a cross, is not pleased.
In this day, do with what you have. After all, God has given it to you for a reason. Maybe you don’t have more because you can’t be trusted with little.
I think most of us who preach can relate to the frustration of preparing sermons, preaching them with as much power as one can to an audience that seems to be listening, and in which there are lost people who need to act on that message, and then when the time comes for them to move, they remain where they are seated. Still lost. Still separated from God. Without hope. This is not only frustrating, but frightening, since we believe what Jesus said with all our heart.
Yet, part of this frustration is due to the fact that we preachers sometimes forget what our role is. Properly understood, it is that of a seed-sower. In Luke Chapter 8, Jesus gives the Parable of the Sower. He says in verse 11, “…the seed is the word of God.” He talks about the seed being planted and some of it landing in unfriendly places, but then He says some of it “…fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop…” (v. 8).
It is the solemn duty of God’s preacher to lovingly get the truth of God’s Word off the printed page and into the heart of the listener. It is then that the responsibility is transferred from the preacher to the hearer. Beyond faithful preaching and all the encouragement we can lend, there is not much else we can do.
As a preacher, I am not in charge of the harvest. Someone else is. Jesus says in Matthew 9:38 that He is the “Lord of the harvest.” My job is to plant the seed of the Word and trust the power of the Gospel to do its work in another’s heart. That is a hard lesson to learn. Sometimes we preachers try to rush the harvest or even manipulate it. This nearly always fails. Down on the farm, few things are more futile than trying to harvest a crop before it is ripe. It will rot. You have to give it time to mature.
I learned this anew and in a beautiful way just recently when our work at Lake Placid, Florida came to an end. From week to week over a period of eight months, I knew of a few who were sitting in my audience who had never obeyed the Gospel. I had my eye on them. Yet, they never made a move. As my final Sunday neared, I decided to preach a sermon on baptism that was so simple it could not be misunderstood. I delivered it as best I could, but still no one responded. When we left town early the next morning, I had a heavy heart as I thought about all that. In some way I felt I had failed, but just a few hours up the road my phone rang. It was one of the elders who said, “I had a call this morning. We have a man who said he has been listening every Sunday and now he realizes he has never actually been baptized.” So, he was baptized. He was saved (Mark 16:16). At the end of the week, another man called the same elder and said, “All week long I’ve been thinking about this and I understand now that I have never been baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and I am ready.” He, too, was baptized. Here were two men well past fifty who had received the Word into their hearts and that seed had germinated and now the harvest had come—well after I had left town.
What a joy it was for me to hear this news for it just served as a lesson to this preacher to keep on sowing the seed and leave the harvest to the Lord. Let me never forget that the power is not in me. Not in my talent. Not in my personality. The power is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Methinks that is why Paul told Timothy to “Preach the word… (2 Timothy 4:2).
May God help all of us who preach to do our best to faithfully present the Good News, to sow the good seed, and to patiently wait for the harvest in its own time. Don’t be discouraged. Nor fidgety. Don’t try to rush the harvest, but just plant the seed. “…the gospel…is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).