"It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." -- 2 Timothy 2:6
I've never really enjoyed farming, mainly because I think I'm allergic to manual labor. In all seriousness, farming is difficult because you rarely see immediate results. A farmer has to till the soil, plant the seed, water the ground, and then hope that his effort is rewarded several weeks later when his crops begin to grow. Except there's a catch...
The farmer can't make his crops grow. In all of his sowing, tilling, digging, planting, watering, and fertilizing, he can't make a single seed sprout from the ground. He is completely dependent on God to bring forth fruit from the earth. But that doesn't mean he should ignore his responsibility as the farmer to actually do the hard work of planting seed. He farms by faith, but his faith is never without hard work.
The Apostle Paul used the farmer's work as a picture of discipleship. Earlier in 2 Timothy, Paul had instructed young Timothy to "take what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses and entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul was keen on passing the teachings of the Christian faith to the next generation. However, the fruit from this work of discipleship would never be instantaneous. It would require patience, hard work, and sowing lots of seed, much like the farmer.
"The farmer cannot do what only God can do, and God will not do what the farmer should do."
The farmer cannot make his crops grow (only God can ultimately do that), but God will not sow the seed and till the ground for the farmer. In the same way, discipleship never happens by accident. Only God can cause a person to grow and mature in their faith, but God will not share the gospel for us. Each of us have a responsibility and divine call to teach others what we know.
This may be a long process that requires patience, but the promise of Scripture is that the farmer who works hard will enjoy the first share of the crops. The Christian who sows bountifully into the lives of others can expect a great harvest later. But God will not disciple others for you. Be encouraged today that your investment in the lives of others is never in vain. He who promised is faithful. Now let's get to work!
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6–7)