“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).
You do not know which will succeed. You do not know if both will bear fruit. Or perhaps neither will succeed.
You will not be told.
“Was it worth it?”
Disciples of Jesus Christ must never try to calculate the cost/benefit of some act of ministry.
Our assignment is to obey. To be faithful.
We have no idea how God will use something we do, whether He will, or to what extent He will. We do the act and leave the matter with Him as we move on to our next assignment.
We are His servants.
Every pastor will identify with the following scenario….
A family member in your congregation is facing critical surgery in another city. You get up at 3 am and drive the distance, and have prayer with the patient just before he/she is wheeled into surgery. You sit with the family and do whatever you can (prayer, conversation, witness, sharing Scripture–or none of these things, depending on the circumstances, on the prompting of the Spirit). Then, you drive home.
You have devoted your entire day to this one act of ministry.
Invariably, someone will ask the critical question.
“Was it worth it?”
Perhaps it was your spouse who asked. It may have been a colleague or a friend. Or just as likely, your own accusing heart raised the issue.
You answer, “God knows.” As indeed He does.
And He’s not telling.
For all my adult years, I’ve been a sketch artist. I draw people wherever I go. When I preach in churches, the host will usually encourage the people to come early and/or stay late so I can draw them. They set up a table and provide chairs for me and the subjects. The drawing takes two minutes or less, and I can go three hours without a break. Sometimes, I will drive long distances to draw only but not to preach. Several times a year, I’ll do wedding receptions and conventions.
What am I accomplishing with all this drawing and sketching?
Honestly, I don’t know.
A family member used to observe me dragging home late at night after a full evening of driving, sketching, and speaking. Voiced or not, the question was always there: “So, why do you do this if it makes you so tired?”
In most cases I was too tired to answer.
Some possible reasons might include: I love doing drawing people, it seems to bless people, they pay me (often, not always), and when I stand to preach, the people I’ve sketched listen well. The personal connection we established at the table seems to bond us and cause them to want to hear what I have to say.
I do high school programs on “lessons from drawing 100,000 people.” I’ll sketch the kids before and after the program (teenagers love this), then draw the principal and coach during the session and deliver my 12 minute presentation. Often, a few classes want me to come by and sketch them or give a talk to the art students on cartooning. Finally, after several hours, the host pastor has to take me by the hand and lead me out of the building and toward a restaurant for nourishment, I am so drained.
And what did we accomplish?
There is no way to know. And here’s the thing: I don’t need to know.
I do it because God has gifted me with this love for people, a talent for sketching them, and a delight in using the gift.
So, what is accomplished? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s nothing more than to add a smile to someone’s day. A little joy. Or, to build a memory into their lives, when they find the sketch years from now. And was that worth it? Again, I do not know.
I do not need to know.
But I will keep on doing this as long as the invitations keep coming in, the fingers keep working, and the eyes and brain don’t give out. The occasional bout with arthritis is a problem, but thankfully it’s rare and light.
None of us know
We preachers could ask the same questions about the sermons we preach and the ministry we give. What was accomplished? Was it worth the many hours of study and prayer and work? The many miles driven? God knows.
And we’re good with that. Scripture commands: “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Whether we render a solo in church, serve a meal at the nursing home, preach a sermon in the jail, or sketch a few people in the mall, we do this “unto the Lord,” and leave the results with Him.
My Bertha bakes loaves of banana bread and crochets afghans which she gives away throughout the year. Jim, a deacon and a friend of 25 years, gives away chewing gum, thousands of pieces a year (the sugarless kind, he is quick to point out). Stephanie takes her violin into nursing homes and hospital rooms and plays for people.
And when people ask, “Was it worth it?” or “Why did you do that?” we might just smile, but what we are thinking is something like “Ask the Lord who told me to do it. It was for Him.”
“When the Son of Man comes,” Jesus said, “will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
Those who serve Him in ways large and small without knowing what He will do with their efforts know the answer.
“Be thou faithful unto death,” said our Lord, “and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).