In 1793, William Carey arrived in India with his wife and son in hopes of spreading the gospel. But opposition to missionary work in India, family loss, hardships, and financial strains arose, seeming to hinder Carey’s mission.
However, Carey continued to faithfully sow seeds and persist despite the lack of evident fruit. In 1800, he moved to Serampore, and finally baptized his first convert who later became an evangelist himself. The fruits of his efforts exponentially multiplied, and by 1821, Carey and his fellow missionaries had baptized 1,407 new believers in India.
Whether you are a missionary or not, every Christian should sow seeds as they strive to become more like Christ and multiply disciples.
It took seven years for Carey to see a new believer accept Christ and be baptized in India. If he let discouragement overpower his faithfulness, he likely would not have reaped the harvest of over a thousand new believers. Whether you are a missionary or not, every Christian should sow seeds as they strive to become more like Christ and multiply disciples.
Faithfully Sow Seeds
The hope of a future, plentiful harvest begs the question of what it looks like to faithfully sow seeds now. In Matthew 13:1–23, Jesus answers that question with the parable of the sower. In this parable, we learn that a seed that falls on good, fertile soil and yields a plentiful harvest refers to someone who hears the Word and understands it.
We are equipped to grow in godliness and have the ability to make and multiply disciples when we build our foundation on God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. This requires us to be prayerful and hearers and studiers of Scripture. It asks us to soften and open our hearts, so we can receive the Word. There must be a willingness for God to work through and for us. This requires us to do the work that he has called us to do now as we wait to see the fruit of our labor.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
After hearing a story from missionary couple Jonathan and Bethan Derbyshire in Thailand, viewing growing gospel seeds as a marathon rather than a sprint became evident. This is especially true with long-term, cross-cultural mission work. The desire to do good, right work takes time and often grit. For cross-cultural missions, learning a new language is not an easy feat.
Bethany is currently in language school. Despite her lack of fluency, she still brings her family to a nearby village to share the gospel as she is burdened for those who don’t know Christ there. One day, she started a conversation with a woman in the village. When Jonathan and their daughter left for a moment, she shared the gospel with this woman. They seemed to be hitting it off, and the woman mentioned that she actually was a Christian. But something appeared to not be quite right. She wasn’t going to church, had little Christian community, and, at best, had a very distant relationship with God.
Knowing that someone with more fluency in the local language could further explain the gospel and dig deeper, Bethany asked Jonathan, who is fluent, to speak with her. After speaking with the woman, Jonathan could clearly tell that she had not truly accepted Christ as her Savior yet. So, he asked her, “Do you feel that you have God’s peace in your life?” The woman immediately broke down, weeping and told the couple that she was struggling with depression. She was Christian in name, but did not have the joy or peace that came with Christ being her Savior. The couple prayed with her and for her family and then connected her with their local church.
Our loving, gracious, and merciful Father gives us a better, more fruitful harvest than we could ever plan for or grow by our own efforts.
This gospel conversation took place because of Bethany’s boldness to begin the conversation. However, she needed someone with more knowledge of the local language to deepen the conversation in order to see true fruit. The missionary task is a marathon that requires things like language, a sense of urgency, and faithfulness. But what should people do while running the marathon? They should diligently and patiently learn and sow the seeds now in preparation for a future harvest.
The Harvest is Plentiful
The reality of waiting often does not sit well with the majority of us. Personally, I am a “go, go, go” person. I prefer when life is fast-moving, and the results come quickly. But Scripture tells us to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).
In his book Galatians For You, Tim Keller wrote,
But we need to realize that there are deeper harvests that happen even when we don’t meet with much outward success. We will find our own character changing deeply through ministry. Our consciences will be clear and our hearts happier, since we’re less self-indulgent. We’ll develop a less selfish and more satisfied character, which will serve us well when we are under pressure. We may not reap quickly, and we may not see all that we reap; but we can know that there is a great harvest for those who sow to please the Spirit.
Reaping often does not come quickly. We will walk through seasons of waiting, trials, and discouragement. It requires us to endure refinement as God draws us closer to himself and shapes us to become more like Christ. It asks us to be faithful and obey God even when we do not yet see fruit. It requires waiting with faith that God will redeem and stitch together the pieces in order to bring forth goodness.
Our efforts are not in vain if we are sowing seeds for the sake of the gospel. God will sustain and strengthen us as we are running the marathon (Isaiah 40:31). We can wait hopefully and expectantly for God to fulfill his promise. Our loving, gracious, and merciful Father gives us a better, more fruitful harvest than we could ever plan for or grow by our own efforts.