by Allison Dixon
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2
My mom is a teacher. I don’t just mean that’s what she does for a living, although Fred Douglass Early Childhood Center is blessed to have her. She was a teacher long before she graduated with her degree and she’ll be a teacher long after she’s retired from her classroom. That’s who she is. It is not a career choice. I believe it is what she was designed to do, the desire placed inside by God Himself. It is where her talents and strengths intersect with an avenue to bring God glory through her life. In other words, it’s her calling.
With any answered calling comes a burden. It makes you passionate about what you do, and motivates you through the hard seasons. Your burden drives you to see things accomplished, and rightly so. But sometimes you pour out all of your energy and emotions and it just doesn’t seem to be enough. So what about when the results don’t come?
There’s no better illustration than Jesus’ parable of the sower. In fact, that’s where all these thoughts came from. I understand that this was a fictional story, told to convey a heavenly message that Jesus’ hearers could understand. But if this parable were actually lived out, the story that we read in a few seconds would take place over a course of months. Long, discouraging months.
In my imagination, the beginning of planting season flew by in a rush of enthusiasm. The days were long and the work was hard, but the thought of harvest time made the work enjoyable - some days, just bearable. The first sign of trouble came from the sky. The birds thoughtlessly devoured in a moment what he had poured hours into. But there were still more seeds.
The first sprouts of green struggled their way through the meticulously tilled soil. Finally- progress. Until one unusually hot afternoon. The sower was both shocked and heartbroken to realize that part of his field, underneath a deceptive layer of fertile soil, was full of rocks. As quickly as the sprouts had come up, they withered away. But there were still more seeds.
Only two plots of his field remained. The sower daily battled the temptation of apathy. He cared for the plants tirelessly, day after day, knowing that at any moment due to any unforeseen circumstance, they could be gone. Every morning he was taunted on his way to the fields- “What’s the point? What difference is today going to make?” One morning, he nearly gave in. The morning he found the thorns. They were choking the life out of the plants that he had tended so long. Slowly but surely, the plants were dying. And no matter how he tried, it was no use.
After all the work, the sweat, and the tears- only one field remained. His expectations had been so high, and his return so low. The only thing that seems to be growing are his fears. “What did I do wrong? Why can’t I make this work? Am I really cut out for this?”
We take the success of our seeds personally, don’t we? Here’s one thing I know- a sower who encounters failure after failure eventually wonders if they were supposed to be a sower at all.
And so, disappointments have a way of eroding even the core of who we have always believed we are.
I think we would be surprised if we knew how many people live every day genuinely feeling like they are failing. Many people feel like they’re drowning in work that they were once passionate about. Not for lack of effort or motivation, but because they don’t feel like they are succeeding.
Maybe I’m reaching out to a weary Mama, or a discouraged caregiver. Maybe God dealt with my heart about this for a pastor’s wife or bus worker who’s had one too many disappointments. You’ve poured everything you have and usually a little more into your calling, with little to show for it. You’ve scrutinized your every weakness and labeled them the cause of the problem.
You’ve picked apart your every effort, and given yourself less grace than you would extend to a perfect stranger.
You’ve compared your results with those you admire, and decided that probably anyone else in the world could do a better job than you. The pressure to succeed is exhausting, isn’t it?
I don’t know who you are, but I know that God stopped me in my tracks a few weeks ago with these words: “A sower went out to sow.” Tears pricked my eyes as God began to nudge at my heart. I’ve read this story countless times. I knew the disappointment ahead. I already knew that some of the seed would fall by the wayside. I could have told you before that morning that birds would devour some of the harvest, and the scorching heat would take even more.
But that did not change who he was. He was a sower. Just as I knew what was ahead in his story, God knew.
He knew the struggles you would face when He called you.
If you’ve been plagued with a fear of failure, remember that God knew what He was doing. You were placed on purpose.
Before that morning several weeks ago, I wouldn’t have called that sower a success. But I was wrong.
He was not called to manage the weather or the environment. Those things were completely out of his control. He was not called to make the plants grow, surprisingly.
His job was to plant the seeds, and leave the growth to God.
Paul later echoed the principle: It’s God, and only God, that brings the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7).
So how do you define a successful sower? Though it’s tempting, don’t look towards the harvest. Look at the seed bag.
If he’s faithfully poured out all he had to give, he’s a success. The success of a sower is planting in faith when nothing seems to be growing. It’s going back out in the fields today even though you faced some setbacks yesterday. Some days, it’s giving your all when you just really don’t feel like it.
Honestly, success looks an awful lot like faithfulness.
It might do you good to read the end of the parable. A faithful sower will always have a harvest. Eventually, the Word of God that you’ve planted will bring forth fruit. Not because of who you are, but because He is faithful that called you. The sower’s efforts were finally rewarded, but rest assured: he was already a success.
No one who has faithfully done what God gave them to do has ever been a failure.