Very few people can understand how I could possibly enjoy what is one of my favorite activities. For most folks, it is a terrible chore. But I love doing it! I look forward to it each week and am often sad when it is all done. I love cutting grass!
I myself have tried to analyze this, attempting to understand why I find such satisfaction in it. I know that it reminds me of my country-life childhood – where I regularly did this at my own home and for my grandparents who lived across the road.
But I think it is more than just that. I like the roar of the mower and the solitude that comes with being detached from the rest of the world. The phone and computer can’t get me.
Yet it is still something more than that. I have concluded that it relates to investing time in doing something and seeing the visible fruit of it. When cutting grass, you can see results.
In the work of ministry there are not always a lot of visible results. To some extent there are metrics like numbers of church attenders, people getting baptized, etc. But true and lasting spiritual fruit is difficult to quantify.
As we turn to Acts chapter 17, it looks at first glance like another new city (Thessalonica) on Paul’s missionary journey, another set of angry people, another riot, and another instance of Paul either getting thrown out of town or having to narrowly escape. But there is more than just that …
Acts 17:1 – When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
5 – But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.
Though we see some recorded results of a number of Jews who followed the gospel message along with a larger number of Gentiles (as referenced in 1 Thess. 1:9), it sounds like Paul and Silas were merely there for three weeks before having to high-tail it out of town. This is because of the text referencing three Sabbaths in the synagogue. But we know from other passages that the Philippians (4:15-16) sent a couple of offerings to them during this time, implying a longer stay. As well, Paul spoke in both of his letters to this church about supporting himself there by working at his trade.
In any event, the preaching was done, converts came to faith, and what would prove to be a significant church was planted.
God is going to get His work done. The big idea of this week will be to talk about how our role is faithfulness, while God’s role is giving success to His word through bringing people to biblical understanding and salvation. It is a nice bonus when we can see and experience results.
We all have different places in the vineyard of his service. Some are led to serve in more difficult areas than others. Some are more on the planting and production end, whereas others have the assignment on the fruit gathering end. In both cases, our responsibility is to be faithful where were are.
Ministry is not as simple as cutting grass. It is not as measurable as the profit margin of a business. But God’s Word bears fruit over time as we are faithful to live it and share it with others. And that fruit is always more than just what meets the eye.