This is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather is perfect – cool nights and pleasant days; Jeanine and I get to celebrate our anniversary and three out of our four children’s birthdays; the new television season begins with a bunch of new shows and returning favorites; the baseball playoffs begin and football returns. Because I don’t need to worry about raking the lawn or cleaning the gutters, I think autumn may be the best time of the year. It is the season when the leaves change colors and the pumpkin patches are overflowing. It is the season of harvest.
Jeanine and I took our three youngest children apple picking on Sunday. While I could have paid much less at Stop & Shop for a bagful of apples, there is something special about climbing up a tree and plucking my own fruit. We were there for about a half an hour and were able to make quick work of our harvesting. The real work was done long before we arrived – the plowing, planting, watering, weeding, staking, feeding and pruning. Months ago, someone prepared for our visit by caring for the orchard and cultivating the fruit. For this I am grateful.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)
Ministry is like working at an apple orchard. Sometimes we are there in the beginning, planting seeds of faith in the soft soil of the heart in a variety of fields – Sunday school classes, VBS, youth groups, small group meetings or church services. Sometimes we are there during the delicate growing season where we are put to use pulling worldly weeds and showering living water. Occasionally we are present when the fruit is ripe unto harvest and we see the blessing that the long season of labor has produced. The funny thing is that anyone can plant seeds and anyone can water; and anyone can be there to claim the ripened fruit. The only one who can produce fruit, who can cause growth, is God. We claim the blessing of what the Creator has done.
“(Jesus) told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Luke 10:2 (NIV)
Ministry is like working at an apple orchard in autumn. There are trees full of fruit but too many apples are falling to the ground. Even though, on the day we went, there were three parking lots full of cars the workers were insufficient for the job. Think of all the pies, ciders and sauces that will never be made because the new television season has begun or the baseball and football games were on. Think about all the labor that has been expended only to have the fruit end up as mush at the base of the tree. Now consider the fruit of the Spirit which has been cultivated in the souls of our family and friends that isn’t harvested because we don’t want to invest the time or money into picking that fruit.
Will you help in the harvest? This is the season to cultivate the crops and receive the blessings of long hours of toilsome labor. God has provided the growth and He’s calling us to work the fields. I pray we all will enjoy the bounty of God’s goodness while there is still time to claim it.