A few moments ago I took time to look through posted photos of the destruction left in the wake of the West Virginia floods. There were homes scattered like lawn toys in their neighbor’s yards and lying in heaps of rubble. Cars and trucks were submerged in Main St. ponds or lying at the bottom newly formed sink holes, resting in impossible positions by any normal standards. “Those poor people” I heard myself whisper. Perhaps it’s not a quiet whisper that this carnage requires but rather a thunderous cry toward the heavens that poured its fury out on these desperate lives. “Oh Yah! Will You not show mercy and grant deliverance for these suffering souls?”
This viewing of West Virginia’s devastation was followed by a seemingly unrelated conversation with my wife about disappointments and deemed failures at attempts to accomplish significant ministry. We have tried hard to leave deep footprints in our efforts to touch people. We want to do more than go through the motions of teaching, leading worship, writing, administrating, or organizing Feast Day celebrations. We want to see people’s daily lives producing more of the heart and character of Y’shua, where they also are making impact on the lives of co-workers, family members, and neighbors. When you don’t see obvious results the conclusion seems to be that “We must have failed somehow. What have we done wrong or not done right enough?”
At this point you might have well meaning friends seek to encourage you with reminders of how seeds planted take time to germinate and break through to produce fruit. Well, after seeds have had almost 35 years to produce something, you would think results would be seen by now! And they have. We’ve had solid successes that we can look back at and rejoice over for years to come. As much experience as we’ve gained however, impatience and frustration still mark the more recent plantings which have not yet produced. Because the current crop yet lies dormant, one might assume nothing has been done. Of course, that is a failed way of determining results.
In Yochanan/John 6, Y’shua has just finished an incredibly insightful and yet stern teaching in which it seems He intentionally offended everyone who had any targeted sensitivities. He stated, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Adam and drink His blood, you possess no life in yourselves.” [The Scriptures, 2009] In verse 60 we read, “This word is hard, who is able to hear it?” The result of His teaching is found in v.66 “From then on many of His taught ones withdrew and were not walking with Him any more.” Wow Y’shua. You just preached a sermon that ripped Your congregation wide open! Y’shua looked at the remaining 12 and asked, “Do you also wish to go away?”
What do we want to do? When efforts are not producing desired results, we might easily walk away and leave the field abandoned. Y’shua chose to follow His own teaching in Yochanan 15 about pruning to gain more and higher quality fruit. He knew these people were mainly following Him for miracles and free meals instead of fully recognizing Him as Ben Elohim and accepting the call of His coming Kingdom. He knowingly pruned the crowd down to the ones who chose to stay with Him saying, “Master, to whom shall we go? You possess words of everlasting life.” The crowds were not His fruit. These 12 men were and then only 11 would prove faithful. Actually only 1 would follow Him through His trial and subsequent death. But, these frail pieces of fruit proved to be enabled to turn the world upside down with their report of Him.
So then, should “those poor people” I saw from West Virginia look at the mess and destruction and determine to walk away to some other place to start over again? Should they leave their friends and neighborhoods because the task appears overwhelming? Or should they remember the generations who survived storms before them and the pleasant memories of living in their towns, while rolling up their sleeves to start the clean up process? It’s natural and predicable to overwhelmed and in shock. It’s heroic and fruit bearing to start over. You can’t reap what you fail to sow.
From their plight I take a personal lesson. When I’m disappointed in the lack of apparent fruit, frustrated with people’s lack of participation in my efforts to minister to them, or wishing for greater results, I need to offer praise for what has already been accomplished. If I take time to offer thanksgiving for all the successes and benefits I can see, lives changed, paths recognized and taken. If I thank Yah for my family, my home, my health and strength, my friends and partners, my congregational family, my tools and means of getting my jobs done, my transportation, my gifts, callings, opportunities, and the rest of the list, I may have much less to ask Him for. My home is not in the middle of a newly formed lake on Main St. My neighborhood is intact and mostly at peace. My family loves each other and desires to be together. After 33 1/2 years, Laura and I are still in love and wanting to stay together. Yah has been good and gracious, and merciful, and faithful. He has also granted me fruit for my efforts. He has provided seed for new attempts. He gives the rain and the sun of His Presence to grant new results. I can offer no other response than “I am most thankful O Yah, especially for the fruit I can’t see; yet!”