In years gone by, when the opportunity afforded itself, I would plant a garden in my back yard. Between the planting of the seed, and the reaping of the crop there are certain things that I had to do, like tilling the soil, keeping the weeds out along the way, and applying water in the absence of sufficient rain. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he too made a distinction between the planting and the watering: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). With this year’s mission trip to India now complete, we give thanks for the opportunity to have been involved in this great work for our Lord. It is not uncommon for the fruits of our labor to continue to grow far beyond the work we do during these two and a half weeks work. As long as the seed we have planted in India is properly watered by brethren living and working in that area there will continue to be fruit from our labors. Think with me about what is involved in spiritual watering.
First, there is the sheer importance of watering. God, in His marvelous design, arranged the natural order of things so that a seed planted in the ground must receive water in order to sprout and grow. Deprive the seed, and/or the plant of water, and it will die. So it is with God’s spiritual seed, the Word of God (Luke 8:11). The soil may determine the amount of care required to bring the seed to full fruition. But without water, there simply can be no growth.
Second, there are the specifics of this spiritual watering. One important feature that will enhance the growth of the word in a good in honest heart is the example we set before others. A good example is essential to nurturing the seed. A good example must be provided by the teacher, as well as those who claim any association to the message of that teacher. If brother Jones takes the time to teach some lost soul, it is imperative that he set a proper example. Teaching coupled with action is the golden key that unlocks the vault of influence. But it is also important that each member live a life that is exemplary to the message and hope to which they have been called. Hypocrites in a congregation most certainly render a negative influence upon those contemplating attendance or obedience. Yes, a good example is important. Then there is the need for additional teaching and instruction once the seed has been planted. Paul introduced the Corinthians to the Gospel; Apollos did the follow up work. Seldom does a soul obey the Gospel after just one lesson (though there are exceptions). Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years of encouragement and instruction. As long as a man is willing to learn, let us provide him with the “sincere milk of the word,” and pray for his obedience.
Third, let us realize that ‘planters’ and ‘waterers’ share in responsibility and reward. The planting is of no greater or lesser importance than the watering. It takes both. The ‘planter’ may include those who visit and set up studies, conduct cottage classes, teach and preach the word publicly and/or privately. The ‘waterer’ may follow up with encouragement, a visit or call on the phone, or a prayer in behalf of those who have heard yet not obeyed. The ‘planters’ do their job well, and the ‘waterers’ contribute to the completion of the work, and both share in the reward. Let us not forget, “for as his share is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarrieth by the baggage: they shall share alike” (1 Sam. 30:24).
Fourth, it is important that both the ‘planter’ and the ‘waterer’ be versed in the scripture. A successful gardener must have a knowledge of gardening. On occasions I have actually pulled out precious flower plants because I thought they were weeds. Someone might accidentally poison a plant if he is ignorant of what chemicals are good and/or bad for the care of his garden. And so it is with planting and watering. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commanded us, “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What constitutes a “shining light”? Is my example beneficial or detrimental to the well being of those who are watching me? Am I using scripture properly in the exhortation and encouragement that I lend to others? How can you be certain if you know not God’s word?
Finally, we must share the bounty with others. My first local work was in a farming community. Summer’s harvest, though planted by others, was shared by the many. It was not uncommon for us to receive so many potatoes, tomatoes, and onions that we simply could not eat it all. Waste is wrong and one’s bounty was passed along to others. God’s bountiful harvest is to be shared with others. The Gospel is for all. The Great Commission is not the Great Permission. Those who refuse to share what they enjoy with others are guilty of selfishness. They are like the lepers who discovered the goods in the abandoned camp of the Syrians: “Then they said one to another, We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, punishment will overtake us; now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (2 Kings 7:9). Brother, do not horde your blessings. Give to others that they too might live.
As we labor together may we recognize the fact that, although some are “planters,” and others are “waterers,” our goal is the salvation of the souls of men to the glory of God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son. One more observation before I close this article. Seed often planted will produce a crop through more than one season. While living in Talco, Texas we planted a garden in the plot of land next to our house. We reaped the benefits of our labors that season, but due to increasing time away for mission trips I decided not to plant a garden the following year. As it turned out, some of the seed planted the year before took root, grew, and produced a crop, though somewhat smaller than it might have been had I properly tilled and cared for the garden. Still, the seed planted a year earlier continued to produce a harvest well beyond what we might have expected. The point is this. The seed you plant today will reap a harvest. The good you do (or even the bad you do) may not produce a crop immediately; but it will produce a crop. Thus we are reminded by the apostle Paul: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).