As we go carrying the gospel the our respective fields we must keep in mind that the results are in God’s hands. We can not manufacture results. We can not produce the fruit. We are called to be obedient, and we are to focus on the process of missions given to us in the Scriptures. That process of missions is: 1. Preach the gospel, 2. Disciple young believers, 3. Train men to do the work of the ministry. Here is the clincher, though: if we are faithful and fervent in our labors God will bring the results. The harvest will come if we have labored throughout the spring and summer.
Paul, writing to the Colossians, said this of the gospel, “Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:6). The preaching of the gospel produced fruit in their lives. That fruit was faith, repentance, love, and hope. How did it? Verse 7 says that these believers had “learned of Epapharas.” The gospel brought fruit because Epapharas had labored. They had learned the Gospel from Epapharas as he labored in preaching and teaching. The product followed the process.
1. Everyone’s product will be different.
Mark 4:8 “And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.” Not everyone will produce the same results in their lives. Men have been gifted according to the Spirit and all have different and varying talents.
2. There will be times of harvest when the fruit is more plenteous.
Peter preaches on Pentecost, and three thousand are converted in one day. Other times that Peter preaches, he is arrested and no one is converted. Both occur in the same city. In Acts 18, Paul preaches to the Jews and is rejected, while Apollos preaches and is able to convince many.
3. We should always labor fervently.
In Colossians 1:29 Paul uses some strong words to describe the ministry. In verse 28 he mentioned that he warns every man in preaching, and imparts unto them wisdom by teaching. His goal is to present every man perfect in Christ. What word would you use to sum up this preaching and teaching? Paul uses the word “labor” in verse 29. Then he uses the word “striving.” Striving, according to Mr. Webster, is “Making efforts; exerting the power of body or mind with earnestness.” Notice that it is exerting the power with earnestness. What powerful words that describe Paul’s ministry! I wonder what words would be used to describe our ministries. Slack? Slothful? Meandering? Notice also that all this labor and striving is done “. . . according to his working.” All our ministry must be done through God’s might and power. The question is are we laboring at all? Are we striving as we should?
4. We should never expect the harvest until after much work has gone into it.
I Corinthians 3:6 “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” The times in which I have seen God move have been the times when I was working. It is foolish of us to think that we will see results when we are being disobedient to God’s commands of work. The product follows the process. At the end of missionary Adoniram Judson’s life there had been 100 churches planted with 8,000 Christians in Burma. This was at the end of a very difficult ministry. It took him seven years to see his first convert, and after ten years of ministry he had a church of a whopping 18 members. He didn’t stop though, and there was a great harvest because of his hard work.
It is encouraging knowing that we go with the promise of success. Let me be clear about what I mean by success. I am not referring to worldly success of fame and powerful ministries, that of big buildings and power. I am referring to Biblical success, that of transformed hearts and transformed lives. It is also encouraging that we go, not based on our abilities, but on God’s. We are “striving according to his working.” Let us focus on the process. Make sure that we are doing it God’s way, and that we are putting everything we have into it. If we do this then the harvest will follow the work in the field, and the product will follow the process.