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Patience and Ministry

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I recently came across these words from Dr. John Dreisbach, a long-time missionary, in an open letter to GFA missionaries. Dr. Dreisbach is a senior statesman in the area of missions and has given his life in the cause of Christ.

In the following "open letter" he reminds the younger missionaries who he has the opportunity of encouraging about the need for patience and hard work in ministry. I have thought much about similar thoughts in recent days and thought I would pass on these thoughts. (Italics are in the original - this is borrowed from a booklet on family devotions for February 1995 from Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, SC)

How many of us have used or heard used the following familiar passages? The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few (Matthew 9:37). Behold, I say unto you, Life up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest (John 4:35).

We are often led to believe that we will find people out on the mission fields of the world with open arms to receive us, eager to respond to the Gospel messages we have come to preach. Most of the time this will not be the case. As we lift up our eyes, we will see fallow, untilled fields full of rocks and choked with weeds.

Our first task - and often a lengthy one - will be to remove the rocks, pull up the weeds, and break up the fallow ground. I quote from an old book "addressed to missionaries only" in reference to new missionaries: "There they are with a scythe in their hand, when it ought to have been a plow. A basket for their fruits instead of a bag of seed." We should remember that it was seven years before Carey baptized his first convert in India: it was seven years before Judson won his first disciple in Burma: Morrison toiled seven years before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ: and Moffat declares that he waited seven years to see the first evident moving of the Holy Spirit upon the Bechuanas of Africa. Many other missionaries have toiled for many years without evident fruit at all, and yet they faithfully carried out their ministries. There needs to be that breaking up of your fallow ground (Jeremiah 4:3).

Then follow the words of the Psalmist, They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. The lord concludes his parable of the sower and the soil with the words, bring forth fruit with patience. James instructs us to be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient.

Patience does not mean inactivity, but rather it is the faithful planting and nurturing of the seed of the Word of God and allowing the lord of the harvest to, in His time, bring the increase. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:9).

As a young man in ministry (I still consider myself a young man - although, now that I am over 35 some may start to dispute that), I find that this area of patience is one that is often a struggle.

The eagerness that is in me can get discouraged that I can't just look at the lives of everyone at our church and see that not all of us are spiritual giants (myself included). The eagerness in me can get discouraged when I look out before me on Sunday morning and see many chairs that are not filled. Even though we are growing (numerically and hopefully, spiritually) as a church, the eagerness in me wants to see much more growth and can easity get discouraged when that growth is not at a level which I would desire. God, however, does not promise a time table on when fruit will be ready for harvest. Instead he instructs us to plant the seed and to water that seed with our tears.

So, if you happen to be struggling with not seeing the progress you have wanted to see, remember that God's time table is not ours and that God's requirement is faithfulness not numbers.

Just my thoughts,



Andy Rupert said...

Thanks for the good reminder, Frank. We have seen ups and down here in Mentor and the downs have been discouraging. But I believe that God will bless the work as we faithfully do it. (Gal. 6:9)

Abby said...


I knew you at Mt. Calvary back when I was in high school, I believe.

Anyways, just wanted you to know that your quotation here from Dr. D is a blessing. I'm working on his biography and did not have this excerpt in my materials, but it's precious. Thank you.

Abby (Merkle) Huffstutler

Frank Sansone said...


I remember you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting - and for bringing it back to my attention by doing so.

By "working on his biography" are you indicating that you are writing a biography of Dr. Dreisbach? If so, that is great. I will look forward to reading it some day.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone