BY PAUL D. MOONEY
Ministry depends on confidence. Clearness of mind and vision serve the man of God, while weakness and uncertainty bring delay and defeat.
I remember well the first man I was around, as a young evangelist, who did his work with confidence and fearless faith. It was inspiring. He made for me a connection between the workman and the anointing of the Holy Ghost. It reminded me of watching my father work in his garden.
Dad had a green thumb, as they say. He knew how things grew. He knew what it took to bring life and harvest from small seeds. “Drop three seeds here, and push the dirt up like this,” he would say. He knew just how far apart to space the tomato plants. And he knew just how deep or shallow to place the different types of seeds. Amazing.
But it was more than just the specific biological requirements for growing plants that Dad understood. It was something else. I hope I don’t get too mystical for you here, but he “felt” a connection with it all. He had, I believe, a sense of his own relationship to the process or to his role, shall we say. He knew it was all interrelated. There is the soil, the sun, the tiller, and the seed. Later would come the harvester, after the proper cultivation had been accomplished. He knew his place in that process yet never considered himself the giver of life or the maker of the harvest. He was only a player in the wholeness of something much bigger than himself. It was as if he was saying, “let’s plant the seed here in such and such a way and see what the Lord will do.”
The laborer, no matter how dedicated and skilled he may be, is nevertheless at the mercy of higher powers and greater forces. Farmers know this in ways that the Urbanites do not. Rain at the wrong time, drought, mites, fungus, worms, wind, root rot, and a host of other enemies all can wipe out a crop. Regardless of how hard the farmer may work, he is nevertheless only part of something bigger than himself and he does not control all the circumstances. Crops are things cultured, grown, and developed in cooperation with nature. Nature left to itself will not plant cornfields in neat cultivatable rows nor apple orchards in symmetrical order. Because he is not in total control does not mean he has permission to be lazy. He must fight against all the enemies of his harvest and pray that the outcome will include both the reward of his efforts and the blessings of Nature. He knows that drought or disease may wipe out all his effort. If he is wise, he is at peace. He knows that at the end of the day God is in control and he must leave many things in His hands. Because this is true and the farmer knows that this is true, he does his best and is one with the wholeness of the matter, which may include failure and set back. My father had this inner-peace. If loss should come, the only way to overcome is by starting the process again.
The ministry is like agriculture in many respects. We labor in the vineyard of the Lord and fight determined enemies. Many of these enemies are unseen; others come at us in unexpected ways or at times when we are least prepared. Preachers fight the fight when they are tired, lonely, uncertain, under prepared, and unsure of their own personal abilities. But the inexplicable component is that after all this we still are not in control. Our best efforts however noble or praiseworthy are still subject to the providence of God.
In my personal life I’ve learned, and I suspect I learned from my father while following him around, that when you have done the best you can, worked as hard as you can, then put it all in the hands of God and be at peace. All ministers I would argue need to do the same. We are human. We are, in the final analysis subject to the higher power. When we come to the final chapter it will not be what we have done, but rather what God has done through us. Relax.
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