I still own my grandfather’s large push plow. And it may sound strange, but I loved pushing it through rows of Pinkeye Purple Hull peas, okra, Silver King corn, Big Boy tomatoes (I’ve got to stop, I’m making myself hungry).
Why would I love pushing that plow through the rich soil of South Alabama under the hot sun of the Gulf Coast? Two reasons: First, I dearly loved my granddaddy and I loved spending as much time with him as possible. He was amazingly wise and masterfully encouraging. Second, I knew from experience our harvest would come if we were good at planting the seeds and faithful at tending the field.Those sweet memories cultivate a great hope for the future when I read I Corinthians 9:10. “For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: he that plows should plow in hope … .”
Between my nearly 20 years as a Tennessee pastor and six years as TBC executive director, it has been a joy for almost 26 years to meet thousands of great pastors and ministry leaders across our state faithfully pushing the gospel plow. Many are in the midst of planting life-transforming seeds. Some are breaking up some very hard and tough ground, preparing to plant. Others are in the midst of reaping a great harvest of spiritually lost people becoming saved, baptized, and set on the road of discipleship.
And I know why you great servants of God are doing what you faithfully do. You love your Father and you have been promised a harvest. However, as you know, God doesn’t promise we’ll have easy days working in His field. Farmers deal with drought, storms, crop disease, critters that slip in and graze on their crops, and a host of other challenges. Being a cultivator of God’s people and working His fields is equally challenging. But like the diligent farmer, we must faithfully weather each season and celebrate when the harvest comes in.
The great news is that our all loving and all wise Heavenly Father walks with us and encourages us each step of the way as we plow ahead. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
And He gives us the sacred and sure promise of a holy harvest. “He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).
Being in ministry, especially pastoral ministry, can sometimes be exhausting. Guard yourselves. Look to the Lord and His Word to revive you. Recognize you’re in a season and pray God will send spiritual rain when you need it in the dry season. But whatever you do, dear friend, do not throw in the towel. Don’t stop plowing and planting. And wake up to a new day knowing you’re one day closer to a harvest because you’ve planted well and faithfully tended the field.
And don’t forget about the feast we’ll enjoy one day as we see Jesus face-to-face. I also have a vivid memory sitting around my grandparents’ supper table talking, laughing, and visiting … and really enjoying the Pinkeye Purple Hull peas, fried okra, creamed corn, and Big Boy tomatoes.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.