Farmers think differently. Though I have worked on a dairy farm in southwestern Wisconsin, I am not a farmer. Growing up among the corn and bean fields of central Illinois, I had the privilege of getting to know a lot of farmers. Farmers think differently. Students think in terms of semesters and summer vacations. Business people think in terms of quarters and fiscal years. Politicians think in terms of election cycles and legislative sessions. Children think in terms of Christmas and birthdays, the prime present-getting seasons. Farmers, however, think in terms of planting and harvesting. If we are to effectively plant new kingdom works and churches, we need to begin to think like farmers.
For farmers, seasons are everything. Growing up around farmers, every March and April, I began to hear discussions about when to plant. The farmers I knew always seemed to be in a hurry to get their crops in the ground. At the same time, they understood that they needed to be patient and wait for the final freeze of winter to pass and for the spring rains to give way a bit so that the ground was ready. Their passion for getting the planting done was honed by patience and wisdom that looked for just the right time. Around September and October, similar discussions kicked up about when to harvest. Again, the passion for the harvest was preceded by patient deliberation about when the best and most opportune time would be. At least twice a year, every farmer I have ever known lives out a “hurry up and wait” kind of moment.
In our desire to honor God by bringing “wholeness to the world through healthy biblical communities of holy people multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and churches,” we must begin to think and act more like farmers. Before we can ever plant new works and churches, we must hone our ministry passions with patience and prayer. Before we win the souls and bring the harvest, we must discipline ourselves to wait for the quiet and slow work of God’s Spirit. Passion is not a fruit of the Spirit, but patience is. If we cannot wait well, we cannot plant well. If we cannot wait well, we will not harvest well. If we cannot wait well, we cannot lead well. Consider some “hurry up and wait” moments from the scriptures.
Exodus 2:11-12 says, “One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”
In his passion for his people to be treated justly, Moses kills the Egyptian. He is forced to flee to Midian and only after “a long period” (Exodus 2:23) does the king of Egypt die and a new opportunity for Moses to liberate his people emerge. This time rather than acting out of passion, Moses humbly follows God’s direction. His passion is honed by patience and a prayerful encounter with God.
Acts 1 finds the disciples staring up to the heavens where Jesus had just ascended. They were so excited because they thought that since Jesus had been resurrected, now was the time when he would “restore the kingdom to Israel.” They were excited about the chance to lead and to rule with Jesus. Before they could reign with Jesus, they had to wait to receive power from the Holy Spirit. They had to go and be witnesses. The disciples are in a hurry to lead, but before they can lead, they have to wait. After Jesus ascends, we are told that they gathered, male and female disciples alike, and devoted themselves to prayer. Before the power and the preaching of Pentecost, came the prayerful waiting. Before reigning with Christ in glory, came the patient work of attending to the Spirit and bearing witness to the resurrection. The confused passions of the disciples were honed by patient and prayerful waiting.
Consider Jesus in Matthew 3. In one awe-inspiring moment as he comes out of the waters of baptism, the heavens open, the Spirit descends, and God’s voice says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”
After this amazing encounter and with His divine identity clearly established, you would think that Jesus would jump right into the mission; right into the preaching, the healing and the demon busting. Matthew 4 shows us that before the passionate practice of His earthly ministry, the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Patience in the wilderness looked like fasting and being famished. Waiting meant not settling for the quick fixes of stones turned to bread, the fame of doing the spectacular, or the fortunes of this world. Jesus’ proclamation came only after the humility, prayer, patience and discipline of the wilderness. As with Jesus, it is with us His followers.
As we seek to plant, lead and harvest, may we be a people who can hurry up and wait just like my farmer friends, Moses and the disciples, and Jesus Himself. May we become a people who wait well, giving God our full attention. My hope is that our white-hot ministry passions can be hammered into shape, by Spirit-empowered patience.
Tyler Boyer is the senior pastor of Knox Knolls Free Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois.
- Can you think of a time when your passion called you to hurry up, but wisdom called you to wait?
- What ministry desire has the Spirit been forming in your heart?
- Are you waiting upon the Lord faithfully and attentively for his timing and provision?
- In what ways is waiting upon the Lord, shaping you to be a better disciple and a more fruitful follower?