Apollos Watered

by Tom Wacaster

In 1 Corinthians 3:6 the apostle Paul, by divine inspiration, penned these words: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” The last time I attempted to grow a garden was in the late 80’s. I had never had very good luck with growing potatoes, but thought I would take a shot at it again. I purchased 10 pounds of potatoes, cut out the “eyes” and carefully planted them in my garden. We had a wet spring that year, and it seems like every time I wanted to get into the garden and do some weeding, it was too wet and muddy. For whatever reason, I ended up with a yield of 8 pounds of potatoes for all my labor and toil; two pounds less than the bag of potatoes I originally purchased. It was sort of like some my attempts at fishing where I would buy a license, worms, and minnows. The amount of money I spent for each pound of fish I eventually cooked, far outweighed the amount of money it would take to go to Red Lobster. But that’s a topic for another time.

Jesus would often use a real life situation to teach an important spiritual truth. In the field of agriculture, our Lord spoke of the word of God as a “seed” (Luke 8:11). Carefully planted in the heart of a good and honest soul that seed, like its physical counterpart, will not only produce a harvest, but an abundant harvest, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt. 13:23). Also like its physical counterpart, a seed planted into the soil needs to be nourished and cared for. Part of that care for the newly planted seed is the watering thereof. Consider the following.

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. Water activates the chlorophyll molecules in the seed so that photosynthesis can begin. Water also has a neutral pH which balances the soil pH and makes the soil surrounding the seed favorable for seed germination. The water also dissolves the minerals in the soil so that they become available to the seed. Inside the seed is a tiny embryo surrounded by stored food and when the seed is planted, and watered, it begins the growth process. 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 watering. If a freshly planted seed is placed in the ground, too much water will do more harm than good. Care must also be given with regard to how the water is to be applied. If water is applied in an overly forceful way you can actually wash the soil away that surrounds the seed and hasten its death. Care must also be given as to how we water the spiritual seed freshly planted in the heart of a good and honest soul. Too much spiritual “water” could drown the soul. It takes a lot of time, patience, and compassion to properly water the newly planted seed. A good example is another 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 in the local congregation 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. 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 do not know God’s word?

Finally, we will all share the bounty with others. My first local work was in a farming community in south central Oklahoma. Summer’s harvest, though planted by others, was shared with the many. It was not uncommon for the famers and avid gardeners to produce an abundant crop. They would take what they needed, and then bring the excess bounty to the congregation for all to share. There would be 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.  So it is with God’s bountiful harvest. It 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. 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.

"How Can I Be Sure?"

by Tom Wacaster

Over a span of now more than 44 years of preaching, I have frequently been asked, “How can I be sure that I am saved?”  I have no doubt that those asking the question were sincere, and in many instances those asking were among the very ones whom I considered to be some of the most faithful workers in the church. Why is it that otherwise strong Christians sometimes have this nagging doubt about their salvation? Why is it that we are prone to doubt when the Bible clearly tells us that we can know we have salvation? I wrote on this a couple of months ago, but I’d like to expand on those thoughts here.

In one sense questioning one’s status in life is healthy. Likewise a regular spiritual “check up” is good for the soul. It seems that humility may play a part in doubts that arise from time to time, but caution must be exercised that we don’t go to the opposite extreme and run from a proud spirit to one of self debasement and fearful doubting.  The following is attributed to an Egyptian king by the name of Akhenaton: “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.” Another expressed the wisdom in doubting like this: “How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!” (Alexander Pope). Even some of the strongest of Bible characters had their questions and doubts. Abraham doubted God’s promise that he would have a child in his old age through whom the Lord would bless the world and sought instead to have Ishmael fill that role. Thomas would not believe the Lord had been raised from the dead until he could see it with his own eyes and touch the Lord’s side with his own hands. Even John the Baptist had some very serious questions about the Lord when he (John) was facing the closing days of his life in prison. You see, doubt should drive us to deeper investigation and self examination. Doubt becomes dangerous when we began to question God’s promises. What, then, is the answer to our doubts and fears regarding death, salvation, and that spiritual realm wherein our hope resides as an anchor of the soul (Heb. 7:19)? There are at least three factors that affect the depth of our confidence: faith, facts, and feelings. These sustain an important relationship to one another and play a vital role in developing assurance in the heart of the child of God.

Consider this word faith.  To have faith in some thing or some person is to trust the object of that faith. I have faith in the local back to protect what I have deposited up to and including the point at which I desire to make a withdrawal. It is because of my faith in that institution that I can fully expect the funds to be there when I need them (of course the FDIC helps in this area, but then again I have to have a certain degree of faith in that branch of government as well). Solomon told us, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:3).

Now we turn our attention to the facts. The Hebrews writer defines faith as “assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). The KJV reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I am interested here in the Greek word translated “assurance” (ASV) and/or “substance” (KJV). The word denotes support for something; something upon which a hope is based. Biblical faith is not a blind faith, but rather one that is founded upon evidence that is brought to bear in any situation. Barclay points out three distinct areas in which faith and hope find application: (1) It is belief against the world; (2) It is belief in the spirit against the senses; (3) It is belief in the future against the present. Or as one author put it, “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and achieves the impossible.” I believe in God because of the “facts.” The KJV sums it up with the word “evidence.” When a jury sits in judgment upon an accused, they do so based upon the evidence (i.e. facts) that is presented during the court proceedings.
Now we come to feelings. Feelings, or emotions, in and of themselves, are good. God created us to feel, to be moved with compassion, to shed a tear over loss, whether ours or that of someone else. If man had been created completely void of emotions and/or feelings he would experience no sorrow; but then, neither would he experience joy and happiness. It is important to note that God warns us against the deceptive nature of feelings. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 16:25). The sad truth is that the largest majority of people base their spiritual status on how they feel with little or no consideration as to what the Bible teaches on the matter.

Now with all that said, it seems to this humble scribe that the absence of assurance among those who have obeyed the gospel, and who are doing their best to live a faithful Christian life, is due to the failure to keep faith, fact, and feelings in proper relationship. Fact: God has promised forgiveness, along with a home in heaven, to those who obey the gospel and live a faithful Christian life. Faith: I believe what God has said because of the evidence that supports that promise. Feelings: I rejoice in that assurance, knowing that, though I fall far short of what I should be, God has promised to save me to the “uttermost” through the cleansing power of the blood of His Son. It is when men take their eyes OFF of the facts, and allow their faith to falter, that their feelings kick in and they no longer “feel” as if they are saved. Remember, “faith comes by hearing…the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Or as one put it, “Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door.”

A pilot is instructed to always trust the instruments in the plane rather than the way he feels. Feelings can be deceptive. The same rule applies spiritually. Trust the instruments that God has given to us in the word. His promises are sure; the evidence incontrovertible. If the instruments contradict what you feel, then it is your feelings that are wrong and not the instruments! If you walk by your feelings rather than trust in the word of God you will rob yourself of the joy and happiness that comes with God’s promises. But worse yet, you will never rid yourself of doubt, and you will continue to be plagued by the unanswered question, “How can I be sure?”

I originally wrote the following more than 20 years ago, and expanded it to its present content in 2008. I ran it in the bulletin three years ago, but by request have included it in this week’s column.

I Am The New Year
by Tom Wacaster

I am the new year; three hundred and sixty five days of unspotted, unspoiled, and unused time. I am a clean slate of opportunity, a reflection of what MIGHT BE rather than what HAS BEEN. I am the youth of an ageless tomorrow bidding farewell to the hoary head of the fond memory of yesterday. I am the fresh breeze of opportunity that blows across the fields of yesterday's broken and forgotten promises. 

To some I will be nothing more than a fleeting resolution that will blaze across the pale sky of self determination and fade into the midnight of lost hopes and forgotten dreams. To others I will usher in a new day of optimism, hope, and genuine change. My diary contains unlimited resolutions, once made in earnest and then broken in haste.  My features are a mystery, for no one can tell what is in store for tomorrow. Each day brings new insight as to what I will be after I have completed my journey.  I am the opportunity to achieve those things which for some reason or another were left undone in the previous year. 

To the financier I am interest accumulated at a fixed percentage rate. To the student I am that one step closer to graduation. To the small child I am another summer camp, Thanksgiving holiday, or Christmas wish. To every parent I contain the joy of watching a child grow and mature for another fifty two weeks. To the young I am dreams and hopes dressed in daily determination.  To the child anxious to open another present under the tree, I come too slowly; to the aged, I come too often.

For some, this year will bring unparalleled opportunities. For others it will bring disaster and ruin. To all, it will bring us twelve months closer to eternity.