John 4:38 “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
There are certainly many different functions in the Body of Christ and the kingdom of God. Paul talks about this several times, probably most famously in 1 Corinthians, both chapter 3 and chapter 12. We aren’t supposed to be doing the same things! At the same time, we aren’t to be dismissive of things that we don’t necessarily consider “our job.” Paul told Timothy to “Do the work of an evangelist,” (2 Timothy 4:5) even though that was apparently not his gifting. Perhaps the most striking example of that is Moses, who was tasked with leading the entire people-group of the Israelites when he was obviously not gifted in administration. The whole point is to be submitted to God and do whatever He assigns to us. Harvest work is joyful, as the Bible mentions many times, but we should also find joy and satisfaction in planting and watering, and for that matter, in tilling and preparing the soil. The problem is, we often don’t see things that way, and get envious of those with high-profile jobs and grumble about our own “grunt work.” When that happens, we have lost sight of the reality that the high-profile stuff couldn’t happen without the “grunt work” having been done! Actually, none of us work in isolation, regardless of how isolated we might feel. Our work is connected to those who have gone before us, and will in turn connect to those who come after. We need to remember that God is the Lord of the harvest, (Luke 10:2) and trust Him to know what needs to be done by whom.
Just yesterday I was talking with a close friend, a recently retired Japanese pastor, about this very thing. He brought up the missionary who led him to faith, and how we continue to see fruit from the labors of that man and his wife, though he has retired to the US and his wife is in heaven. Particularly in a field like Japan, tangible results can be hard to come by. Often we feel like quoting Isaiah: “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” (Isaiah 49:4) I need to remember that God sees the whole picture, and that my seemingly fruitless efforts may bear abundant fruit at a time and place I can’t see. I’m not to resent putting in hard work, but neither am I to feel I’m the only one who can do things. My doing too much has been a problem for this church over the years, because I have failed to train people up by entrusting work to them, feeling instead that I could do it better. That has been a major failing on my part, which I didn’t recognize because I was focused on me. Even at this late date I need to learn how to step back and let others fulfill the functions God has for them, before God takes me out of the picture all together and they find themselves untrained and unprepared.
Father, thank You for this strong and timely Word. Thank You for the Word through Michael Cho to be using the messages this month to clarify our understanding of what Your Church, and this church, is supposed to be. I pray that when we come to the business meeting next month that we will all be prepared to hear from You through each other what You want us to be doing, individually and corporately, for the joy and satisfaction of each believer and for the advancement of Your kingdom, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!