In the early 1900’s Dr. William Leslie set out to the African Congo, with a call from God to evangelize the native people. He was a medical missionary with passionate ambitions and deep convictions for the advancement of the Gospel to the far reaches of the world. It is reported that after a decade or so of labor, Dr. Leslie returned to the United States feeling discouraged, disheartened, and defeated. Nine years later Dr. Leslie passed away with a convinced belief that he had failed to make a Gospel impact in the African Congo. In 2010, a mission team set out with the same intentions: to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the native people of the African Congo. The missionaries were astounded at what they found once reaching the area, they described it as a “network of reproducing churches shining like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle.” Dr. William Leslie left this world believing he was a failure. I imagine he must have been shocked when he bumped into a group of Congo natives skipping down the streets of heaven!
Do we not often reflect the mindset of Dr. Leslie? Perhaps it stems from our desire to see visual results. I think it certainly does! How often do you think that unless an altar full of people was produced or unless you personally witnessed a confession, then you must have failed? As a result of this you become discouraged, disheartened, and convinced that you have failed to make a Gospel impact. Thus, you think your efforts at sharing the gospel are now useless. A little ‘Merry Christmas’ in the ol’ noggin eh? I’m right there with you friend. I tell you, there is something that I, Dr. Leslie, and many others have in common, a wonderful truth really that we mere humans tend to forget: God uses seeds that are planted to grow plants. Simple enough, right? The point is that so often I think we, as Christians, tend to think that we are the ones responsible for the seed planting, the watering, and the growing. We convince ourselves that unless we see the plant spring up from the ground, then we must have failed at gardening.
This past spring, Anna and I worked our first garden together. We planted pepper, lettuce, watermelon, tomatoes, cilantro, and basil… all in a little raised box garden. I would go out there every day (because we were lacking sufficient rainfall) and I would water that little garden that had those tiny little seeds underneath the soil. Don’t miss this, all I did was supply the nutrients necessary for the growth to occur. In short, I let nature do its’ work and with the soil I had tilled and the water we were faithful to pour in; nature grew that seed up into a plant. Don’t miss the point; we were the faithful gardeners (no pun intended) but we ourselves had no part in the growing process. Those seeds simply put, could have withered up and produced nothing; all we could do was water, water, and water some more.
Evangelism can be likened to this as well, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:7. Don’t become discouraged simply because you have yet to see results, you just be faithful and keep watering that garden friend. Yes, that is right…you be a faithful gardener and keep in the forefront of your mind…
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Dr. William Leslie was faithful to plant seeds and to water, and though he never saw the growth a garden is now thriving in the Congo. Be faithful to plant seeds of faith and to water those seeds and don’t be discouraged for it is God who gives the growth.