We like results. We measure success. We talk about yields and outcomes, we predict returns on investments. There is something comforting in the idea that we can make a plan, see it through and make real the vision we had. There is something powerful about thinking, becoming, doing.
That’s why we make goals. We make contingency plans and prepare supplies to get us through any unforeseen circumstances. We buy insurance; we save for a rainy day. There’s something in us that wants to control what happens in life.
When we come to the times that nothing we can do or say will make a difference, what then? Or worse, what happens when what we say or do has some impact which gives us hope but then it isn’t enough which takes away hope?
As much as there is a flood of warnings and bad news to overwhelm us, sometimes it is the opposite that discourages us. We have some glimmers of good news but we crave more, we expected more to come from our sacrifices and our service.
Have you ever planted a garden that didn’t grow? Or one that was eaten by the rabbits when bright green seedling gave such joy the day before? The parable of the sower isn’t that he wasted seeds. But that he was willing to plant them.
Even knowing there would be so few that would take the opportunity to transplant themselves to better soil and endings, the sower didn’t waste his time or effort, he went ahead because that was his character and nature. To love all and give to all, even when unappreciated and understood.
What seems foolishness to man would be that God would sow everywhere. Churches today concentrate on their best prospects, their thriving ministries. What would happen if seeds were sometimes sown to the places that had little or no chance to grow? That pathway might grow in. That rocky path given seed year after year might develop cracks and the soil made finally fertile. That weed patch might finally be overcome. But even if they don’t become productive, are we still called to try? God refines our character by the very things that discourage us most.
Day after day we take in the scraps of encouragement and give as much away. Sometimes in the wilderness, we must acknowledge that we cannot make a difference on our own. Sometimes we have to remember that the difference we make we may never see. Like ripples that come back much later, we can almost forget the source of the first one.
This is the step by step Christianity that finally sheds our self-reliance and turns to God. We get to love as Jesus loved, selflessly without expecting returns from our fellow man. We get to treat others not just as we would like to be treated because that would somehow imply that they will treat us as we like. Instead, we get to treat others as Jesus would like us to treat them. No matter whether we get any response or even a negative one.
So many times in the Bible we are reassured that we can store up treasures in heaven and we will be blessed later for what we do now. Spiritual milk for us to grow until we are no longer looking for the return on our investments. Baby steps until we can run to the Father for him and not what he will give us.
Our hope and trust are in God. Our returns are to him. This is the result of faith and the nature of love. Our highest yield is not about producing. We do not look to our own self-interest in even wanting God to show us if we are making a difference in the world. For our step forward is to know it is finally about God making a difference is us.