We Planted, Others Will Water

by Tom Wacaster

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). 

In Search Of Lost Souls

By Tom Wacaster

I wrote the bulk of this article in 2013 under a different heading. As I considered our Lord’s observation that “many are called, but few are chosen,” it was the “calling” aspect of that statement that impressed me on this particular occasion. Since men are called by the Gospel, it is imperative that God’s children be actively involved in making that ‘call’ available to as many souls as is humanly possible. Unless men hear, they cannot believe. The servants were sent into the highways and the byways. Another way of putting that is, “They were sent into every little nook and cranny, looking for precious souls.” I have not been able to travel to India now for almost three years, but the fond memories I have of past journeys still thrill my soul, and remind me of heaven’s commission to go preach the word to every creature, in every nation. Here is just one such memory that still lingers in my mind.

Everyday traffic on the small streets of India is a challenge to even the most experienced of travelers. The lorries (equivalent to our 18 wheelers back home), large buses, automobiles, and an over-abundance of motorcycles can turn even the smallest of traffic jams into a nightmare. The driving habits of most of the motorcycle owners is more like a dog-eat-dog world on two wheels. Words simply cannot adequately describe the mind-set of a motorcycle diver on the public thoroughfares of India. Thursday evening we were making our way to a village meeting and, due to construction on the main road, had to take a detour down what you and I would call a small country dirt road. In front of us was what appeared to be a large tour bus something akin to a Greyhound. It took up a good 3/4 of the road.  Coming from the other direction was a lorrie, which also took up 3/4 of the road. In order for these two oversized vehicles to pass, they had to hug the shoulder of the road on one side, concrete walls and buildings on the other side, and slowly inch by one another while by-standers, wanting to get this traffic cleared from in front of their house as quickly as possible, helped watch the half inch to 1 inch clearance between the bus and truck to make sure they did not lock up or that no damage was done to either. The optimum words here are “slowly inch.” Cars were backing up behind both the bus and the truck, waiting for them to successfully maneuver past one another. Add to this equation the impatient motorcycle drivers, and traffic almost came to a complete standstill. Rather than line up behind the automobiles following both truck and bus, the motorcyclists would go around the cars, and attempt to squeeze into whatever “crack” might be available for quick passage. Of course, with the dozens, if not hundreds of motorcycles attempting to pass our car and beat the next guy to what small opening might become available, they filled in the space in front of the truck coming the opposite direction so that the truck could not “inch forward.” At the other end the same had occurred with regard to the motorcycles and the bus we were following.  So, there we all sat; the bus in front of us and the truck coming the opposite direction, side by side, unable to move because of the motorcycles, and the motorcycles unable to move because the truck and bus blocked the way. And then the honking of horns begins; the incessant honking of horns. I have, for years wondered if there would ever come a time when a traffic jam would be so back logged that it would be impossible to make any progress at all. I thought I had witnessed such on this particular occasion. It took about 30 minutes to finally clear the log jam, and we were on our way.

Two days later we were in Palakole. The citizens of the state of Andre Pradesh were demonstrating because of a decision by the Indian government to split the state into two parts. This has produced large gatherings of people who pour into the street to voice their opposition to this government decision. With the agitation and strikes, we had to take some back roads in an attempt to get around the city.  When I say back roads in India, I mean “back roads”; they make our country roads seem like super improved highways. These narrow, often bumpy, pot-holed laden back roads, wind through the villages and rice patties of India. I asked Nehemiah if the local preacher who was with us was familiar with these back roads. Nehemiah assured me that brother Prabudas was quite familiar with these back roads because he had travelled these roads many times in search of souls. I thought about that statement, its implications and sobering reminder that we are to go about in search for souls.

In Luke 19 we read of our Lord’s encounter with Zacchaeus. After Zacchaeus had promised to restore four-fold anything he had improperly exacted from the people, the Lord made the following statement: “To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Since the gospel came to India in the late 1960’s, the growth of the Lord’s church has been nothing short of astonishing. There are villages that are so far removed from the main stream of society that it astounds me that the gospel has reached so deep into these remote parts of India. Seeing that the church is the body of Christ, should we not be about seeking and saving those that are lost? Should not our search be as diligent as was our Lord’s? Consider the following.

First, the word used by Luke and translated with our English word “seek” means “to seek in order to find; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after.” There is an intensity and urgency in that word. That same intensity and urgency was suggested in the Lord’s parable of the lost coin. “Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it?” (Luke 15:8). Not only did this woman seek for that coin; she sought diligently. So urgent was this woman’s desire to find the lost coin that she would not leave any object unturned, or any corner of the room unswept in order to find that coin. After ten years of making trips into India and travelling the back roads with brother Gootam, one thing I have learned is that these hard working brethren have diligently searched out the lost souls in these villages.

Second, a thorough search takes time and energy. If you have ever lost an object around the house, and needing to find that object, you know what time and effort it can take to find the lost article. It takes time to get to these villages. It is not unusual to travel two hours to get to one village. In the early days of the church here in India transportation was limited. Some of the preachers we help support are still very limited in their travel capabilities. Last year one preacher told us he would catch the bus to his next preaching appointment; and quite often he would have to walk. On occasions he simply cannot make the bus connections, and by the time he gets to the next preaching appointment the crowds have left. I wonder how many of us in America would be willing to take five hours out of our week to make just one visit. We are so time-conscious and impatient that a two-minute wait in the line at Walmart is intolerable.

Third, seeking lost souls in India is, to be quite frank, quite inconvenient. Sitting in a traffic jam while two oversized vehicles attempt to pass one another is inconvenient. The heat, bumpy roads, lack of sanitation, and a thousand other inconveniences will literally wear a body down. The preachers we support bear up under all those inconveniences and more, for no other reason than the fact that they love the souls of men. The physical discomforts that go with getting to, preaching, and getting home from a night in the village will test any man’s stamina. The western world has become so saturated with labor saving devices that we have in many instances forgotten what it is like to labor. Perhaps we need to take a lesson from the brethren here in India.

Finally, seeking lost souls is very rewarding. Someone once asked me if I enjoyed writing. I answered them with something a brother said to me: “I enjoy having written.” Any worthwhile task is laborious, and often filled with frustration and setbacks. But in the end, having achieved the desired task, one can enjoy the fruits of his labor. So it is with seeking lost souls on the back roads of India (or anywhere for that matter). There is a joy in knowing you have assisted someone to come to a better knowledge of God’s word, or having taught and watched as a precious soul confesses the good name of Christ and is baptized for the remission of his sins. This is why I enjoy going to India. The sheer magnitude of obedient souls overwhelms the heart and makes every inconvenience, every traffic jam, and every difficult moment worth all the effort to seek and save the lost.

As for the many lost? It seems to me it boils down to the choice as to whether or not to embrace what one has heard. Multitudes in those small villages throughout India will still be lost. Because of the diligent efforts of the dedicated and determined men who are taking that ‘call’ to the people, the lost will not be able to say they are lost because no one cared.

God's Eternal Kingdom

by Tom Wacaster

Having just completed our summer series on the church of our Lord, you might be tempted to take this article as a rehash or review of some of the same topics we studied during our Summer Wednesday night series here at Handley.  While I would not for a moment discount or diminish the wonderful lessons we learned from that series of study, I wanted to use these three words in the title of this week’s article in a little bit different context.   It is Monday morning, the time when I usually sit down at my desk to write an article for the weekly bulletin.  The only difference at this moment is that I am sitting in Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport awaiting my 15 hour, non-stop flight to Dubai (whew! It makes me tried just thinking about it).  After a three hour layover in Dubai, I will fly to Hyderabad, India, where I will spend the night before my last leg to Kakinada.   Over the years I have logged a lot of air miles traveling to Africa, Russia, India, Ethiopia, Ukraine and who knows where else; but I have also logged a lot of hours just sitting in terminals like this one, watching people, and making observations about life that can be used as teachable moments.  So it is with this day, this precise moment, and this location.

About ten feet away from me stand four young men, none of which could be more than twenty years of age.  They are well dressed in black suits and ties, and each one with a back pack thrown over his shoulder.  They are looking at the display board showing the various flight numbers, the time of departure, and the gate for boarding.    I knew immediately that they were Mormons, confirmed by a quick glance at their name tags that appeared just above the left pocket that read, “Elder.”  They were evidently on their way to some far away destination to propagate a doctrine that promotes a false concept of the Eternal Kingdom of our Lord.   My heart ached inside me because I know they have been taught error, embraced that error, and from a sense of devotion and zeal (though without knowledge) are going forth to propagate that error to lost souls.  I wanted to take each one of these young men and try to point them in the right direction.   These four men represent false religion in our own land; a religion born of the fertile imagination of one single man, and nourished in a once isolated region of our country by his predecessor.  Theirs is a religion that has twisted and perverted the true concept of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the eternal kingdom we read about in the Bible.  

Not far away is a television monitor providing up to date information of the unfolding events in Syria.  The politicians, news reporters, government leaders and official statesmen and ambassadors have their hands full trying to decide what to do with a mad man who controls a country on the other side of the world and would use chemical weapons to keep his citizens in subjection.   History simply repeats itself.   Be it Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, Korea, Cuba, or any other of dozens of rogue countries that seem to have not the slightest idea of the value of life in general, and how to run a country in particular; all such powers are nothing more than worldly governments that come and go with the passing of time.   Two-hundred-fifty years seems to be the limit of worldly powers.  The United States is living on borrowed time.  Like all these other countries of the world, time and chance run their course, and great powers eventually find themselves relegated to dust bins of ancient history with only a sad epitaph on their grave: “They forgot God to their own demise.”  All of these nations represent a world that is caught up in power, prestige and political achievement.  For the most part, they are completely apathetic to the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ our Lord.

International airports also serve to remind me that this world is made up of dozens, if not hundreds of national and ethnic origins.   The sheer magnitude of racial differentiation is no where more apparent than in the lobby of some international hub such as DFW, London, Frankfurt, New Delhi, and the like.   The looks and the languages serve to remind us that God once cursed the earth, divided our languages, and scattered us across the world.  Incredibly, many of those nations still remain in ignorance of the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ.  I count myself truly blessed to live in a country where a person can search for the God of heaven, and where, in many respects, we have a head start on most of the world about us.   Our history, parentage, location, education and opportunities are such that finding God is much easier than other parts of the world.   In his commentary on the Gospel of John, B.W. Johnson made this observation:

Take a map and delineate those countries which are most enlightened in bright colors, then shade others more and more as you approach barbarism and ignorance. Then make another map in which the countries that most truly receive the Bible and Christ are represented in bright colors, shade those lands that have a corrupted Christianity, shading according to the degree of corruption, and put those in darkest colors where nothing is known of Christ. Then compare the two maps. It will be found that there are not two maps, but two copies of one map (Johnson, page 32).

Many of the countries where I have done mission work are still classified as third world countries.  But even if a country is progressive, educated, strong militarily, and has an excellent financial footing, they remain in darkness if they know not God. 

I headed for my gate, and along the way I passed a Starbucks Coffee shop.  Who, in his right mind, would spend $3.75 for a small cup of coffee; yet Starbucks is standing room only in airport terminals.   A leather goods store seemed to be doing big business in spite of price tags that stagger the imagination.    The variety of shops in an airport terminal attest to the reality that mankind continues to be enamored with things; things that appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life (1 John 15-17)   All such things will perish with using, but the eternal kingdom of my Lord will never perish, it will never fail, it will never decay.  

The plane is boarding now; the next 24 hours will test the stamina of any world traveler.  But unlike so many of my fellow travelers, I have a final destination in mind that cannot be reached in a Boeing 777, nor can it be located on a map or a travel brochure.  It is of far greater value than any physical place, and will endure throughout eternity.   It is God’s Eternal Kingdom.  And it is to that place that I hope someday to arrive after the various stops I may have to make along the way.