A Covid Winter and the Spring Hope of the Gospel
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. I begin to dream about outdoor projects in my garden and yard. I take more walks and attempt running, unsuccessfully. This Spring is especially sweet because of what I was able to do in November of 2020. During the Fall of last year, two different people handed me trash bags full of flower bulbs. They told me what kind they were, but I forgot what type of flowers they were almost immediately in the excitement. Some bulbs were large and others small. I began to plant them all around my house in flower beds and other creative places in my yard. The chipmunks and I had a brief war as they continued to dig them up, but I eventually won, I think. Anyway, in the winter months, I would occasionally think of the Springtime with hopeful anticipation of what was growing under the surface and where it would grow in my yard. In the past month, the bulbs have pushed through the dirt, producing the first flowers of Spring. It is exciting to see where they popped up, mainly because I forgot where I planted them. It is also disappointing that some bulbs did not produce or were the victims of those wicked chipmunks.
I am sure you are wondering why I would share all of that with you. Well, I believe there is an excellent parallel to Gospel ministry in a Post-Covid-19 society. Galatians 6:8-9 says, "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." We face many temptations in our sowing and reaping. If we fail to sow, we cannot reap much at all. If we sow but fail to reap, what is the point of sowing?
When hardship enters the "winter of our discontent," as Steinbeck once penned, the first temptation is to focus inward and remove all outward threats to maintain any sense of comfort and peace. When pressed or afflicted, many engage in survival mode and develop tunnel vision. When physical or spiritual pandemics hit, we can too often be like a dog who seeks isolation to lick his wounds. However, this kind of behavior should not be true of believers in Jesus when we face difficult seasons. We are called to "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). Later in Galatians 6, the Scripture says, when we sow seeds of the flesh, we reap corruption. Conversely, when we sow seeds of the Spirit, by engaging in gospel ministry, we will reap a harvest, and eventually we can embrace eternal life (Gal. 6:7).
The second temptation is that those sowing to the Spirit will grow weary in their good work. We are living in a time when people are hungry for God. Jesus said it this way: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Brothers and sisters this is not a time for laziness or to give in to weariness. We must be up and doing so that we do not bring shame to our Father in Heaven. In Proverbs 10:5, Solomon warns of the danger of sleeping when harvest work remains. It says, "He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame."
Giving in to either of these temptations is dangerous. On the one hand, if we only focus on ourselves, we reap corruption. On the other, if we grow weary and stop sowing seeds of the Gospel, we will have less to show to our Savior when we see him face to face. We must embrace the reality and brevity of our lives and acknowledge the supreme purpose by which we are called; to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Longfellow’s statement in “A Psalm of Life” comes to mind. He writes:
Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.
Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
I hope personally and pastorally you were able to continue to sow seeds of the Gospel in your church and community in the past year, especially during the dark cold that Covid-19 caused in many communities and churches. We are not out of this season yet, but as Spring has come to the planet, the church will enter a new post-covid world. We must work together in the coming years by sowing seeds, watering seeds, and harvesting souls for the glory of God. This idea of planting, watering, and harvesting is present in I Cor. 3:5-9. There Paul, Apollos, God, and the church are observed in an organic connection. Paul writes: What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
The end of the matter is this, plant and harvest what you plant until you cannot plant anymore. And when your strength is gone, you will enjoy an eternal harvest from the hard work you spent on earth planting seeds of the Gospel.