The Hard Working FarmerMay 16, 2007
Already in 2 Timothy 2, we’ve learned that a pastor mustn’t be distracted from his devotion to Jesus Christ (the good soldier), and that he must live according to the dictates of Jesus Christ (the law abiding athlete). Now we learn that he must also work hard for Jesus Christ. This lesson comes from the picture of the hard working farmer, whom the pastor is like in two respects.
i) THE HARD WORK WE ENDURE
Paul doesn’t describe any kind of farmer, but a “hard-working” farmer. There are hard working farmers and there are lazy farmers; just as there are hard working pastors, and lazy pastors.
But God doesn’t appoint us to be lazy. He appoints us “work hard among” (1 Thes 5:12) the flock. We, of all people, should “never be lacking in zeal, but keep [our] spiritual fervour serving the Lord.” (Rom 12:12). Indeed, we should literally ‘labour to the point of exhaustion’, as the term “work hard” denotes.
If pastors are faithful to their calling, they should be hard-working men and find much affinity with the farmer. John MacArthur can write, “I understand the point Paul made. I have known the thrills of the ministry pictured by a teacher, soldier, and athlete. But much of the ministry is routine: you plow, sow, tend, reap, wait, and hope. That requires a willingness to work hard without thrills…. I often tell young men that if they desire a successful ministry, they will need to be committed to working to exhaustion–and often alone without any encouragement from others.”
Brothers, let us be so commited. Let us draw inspiration from the faithful ‘farmers’ of the past and present in God’s field. When we feel the weight of the number of speaking engagements in a given week, let us draw our inspiration from George Whitefield, who wrote: “Preached nine times this week and expounded near eighteen times. I am every moment employed from morning till midnight. There is no end of people coming and sending to me, and they seem more and more desirous, like newborn babes, to be fed with the sincere word of God.” (Pollock, p78). Or when we feel the pressure of another day stretching out before us, and feel sluggish to start, let’s look to such as John Stott: “…Stott is remembered as arriving to lead the group [bible study] at 7.00 having already dictated twenty letters.” (Smith, Early Years, p262). Brothers, are we willing to work so hard?
ii) THE HARVEST WE EXPECT
The wonderful promise, however, is that when we have laboured hard, the harvest will come. “The hard working farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” First, notice what you might overlook. “The crops” will come! Though the road to fruitful ministry is hard, it is not hopeless: the harvest will arrive.
Second, ponder the nature of the harvest. What will it be? John Stott suggests that two harvests could be in view, or maybe both together. The harvest of holiness (Gal 5:16; 6:18) or the harvest of converts (Mat 9:37; Jn 4:35). In both cases, only hard work will lead to the reward.
Can holiness be achieved without hardwork? It cannot! “I should as soon expect” writes JC Ryle, “a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible-reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays.” (JC Ryle, Holiness, p 21)
Or converts? Should we expect to see them without our diligent labour? We should not! “Souls are…won for Christ, not by the slick, automatic application of a formula, but by tears and sweat and pain, especially in prayer and in sacrificial personal friendship.” (Stott)
So fellow-labourers, will work hard for the harvest?
* A preacher who recently died in Wales whilst giving a sermon
* Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology audio update
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* Rebecca Writes takes note on Don Carson’s “Preparing for Suffering and Evil” seminar
* Recently I interviewed Vaughan Roberts. Through www.10ofthose.com you can purchase Vaughan’s new book for a stunning £3.50 including postage and packaging! This is available (thanks to Jonathan Carswell) to the first 20 people who email email@example.com, giving the reference blogadamsVR.