“WAITING FOR THE RAIN”
August 8, 2009
“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” – James 5:7.
“My brother has a question,” ‘Juan’ interrupted just as I was about to pray. “He wants to know if there is anyplace in the Bible where it talks about the exact day for the end of the world. Some of his friends in Mexico have been talking about some code in the Bible that will lead to discovering the exact time.”
Suddenly the focus of our simple church gathering changed. Earlier I had given a new Spanish language Bible to Juan’s little brother, ‘Jorge’, and also one to their mom. Together with Juan’s fiancée, ‘Maria’, and her family we had been engaged in a study regarding their upcoming wedding. We had just wrapped up the hastily prepared, informal, pre-marital counseling session when the Holy Spirit took us in an entirely new direction. No surprise here; I have learned to expect this sort of mid-course correction during our gatherings, especially with our San Pablo church.
This simple church was begun in the home of the cook from the restaurant in our hometown of Dublin where we meet as the “Church at Table # 2.” For nearly two years we have been regularly making the hour’s drive to Juan’s northeast Bay Area community and enjoying a growing relationship with his wonderful family. Recently, however, it has become increasingly difficult to find a time to meet due to Juan’s work schedule. After months of thwarted attempts we finally managed to arrange a gathering in his home in order to see his mom and meet his little brother, both of whom were visiting from Mexico.
Back in January of this year the Lord made it clear to us that this family was to be a highway through whom many people would reach the Lord. In a stunning example of divine direction, Juan’s future mother-in-law had asked about a verse of Scripture which had been previously prophesied over our ministry. “Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” – Isaiah 62:10. We have taken this improbable circumstance (How could this woman randomly pick this particular verse out of the hundreds of thousands in the Bible?) to portend an important role for this family in reaching the Hispanic community. However, not since early March have we been able to gather together. During the ensuing weeks I found myself often whining at God about the delay. Was something going wrong with this family? Had we worn out our welcome? Had we not heard the Lord correctly regarding this “highway”? Was our own involvement with them one of the “stones” which needed to be removed? Now, four months later, we had graciously been invited back into their company.
During our time together we learned about the decision Juan and Maria made to get married while his family was visiting from Mexico. This announcement brought us to our study topic of the evening. During our discussion of the definition of Christian love, an attribute absolutely essential to a lasting marriage, we naturally put forth Christ as the supreme example, explaining how His sacrificial love moved Him to go to the cross on our behalf. In the midst of our group discussion on Christian marriage, without our even being fully aware of it, the Lord directed the conversation to include an informal sharing of the Gospel with all those who were listening, most specifically, to Juan’s brother, Jorge, who apparently was listening intently. The Holy Spirit then prompted him to ask the question concerning the time of Christ’s return.
“The Bible tells us that no one knows the day or the hour of His return,” I replied. “However, I believe we may be getting close. Regardless of when the end of the age is scheduled to occur, the truth is the end could come at anytime for us as individuals. My wife and I could be killed on our way home tonight. Then again, we may both live to be a hundred. Not many of us will ever know the exact time of the end of our earthly life. But I think you are asking the wrong question.”
At this point I paused briefly for Juan to interpret for Jorge who knew very little English. I also took advantage of the time to listen for the Spirit’s okay to proceed in the direction I was headed. Feeling a renewed boldness I decided to continue.
“The ‘when’ question is not nearly as important as the ‘who’ question,” I declared. “Who will be ready when He comes? This is the question each of us must ask.” Then, looking straight at Jorge, I asked, “Are you ready?”
“N-n-no,” he responded in English following the interpretation. Nervously he glanced first at his brother, then toward his mother; then he fixed his gaze back on me.
“Would you like to be ready?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied again in English, without hesitation.
The firmness in his voice told me this young man was sincere. After explaining what he needed to do we shared a prayer of repentance and Jorge surrendered his life to the Lord.
While I was driving home that evening the Spirit began to download into my mind what had just transpired that day and what had been occurring over the past several months. God was busy working! In fact He had been working all along. While I was wondering if God had been delaying any action toward the construction of the “highway,” He had been busy setting up the events of that evening. Since we first met we had been suggesting to Juan and Maria that they needed to get married. We talked about this extensively the previous time we met together last spring. The seed we had planted in their minds was finally sprouting. Their unwed relationship was one of the “stones” which needed to be removed in order for the “highway” to be opened. Once that particular stone was removed traffic was already beginning to flow. I believe Jorge is just the beginning of the traffic jam which is to follow.
For some reason, when we don’t see any outward evidence of God working on our requests, we mistakenly conclude He is denying our petitions, or delaying them due to some problem on our part which needs to be corrected or a lesson which needs to be learned. While personal problems and spiritual lessons may very well be included in the mix, it is incorrect to assume God is inactive. He is continuously at work in and around us to bring about His will in our lives and our ministries. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” – John 5:17.
In an awesome display of His impeccable timing, God arranged for Juan’s little brother, an individual upon whom He had obviously been working for some time, to be at the gathering in San Pablo (The first and only time he has been in this country) at precisely the time when we would be discussing Juan’s upcoming wedding, a ceremony I didn’t even know was in the offing until earlier that evening, a ceremony the timing of which was prompted by the very fact that Jorge and his mother would be visiting. But wait, there’s more!
The morning of the day of our church gathering in San Pablo, before I even knew we would be meeting, I sat in my office having my daily quiet time. My reading in God’s Word included these verses. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” – James 5:7-8. These verses leaped off the page at me and I paid particular attention to them, meditating upon them and asking Jesus what they meant for me and my ministry. Before the day was through Jesus had answered my question.
Last spring we planted a seed. Even though we were unable to do anything about it other than fervently pray, God had been faithfully watering the seed as well as irrigating another seed thousands of miles away in a neighboring country. Now, barely a month from the beginning of autumn, additional rain had led to the harvest of a valuable crop. The message is one of patience. Allow God the time He desires to miraculously grow His crop, to bring it to maturity. It’s all about His harvest, not those charged with tending His fields. “…This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…” – Mark 4:26-28.
The job of a church planter is to plant seeds and pray for rain. Often there is little more we have opportunity to do. Sometimes God, in His infinite wisdom, prevents us from doing anything else to the seeds while we wait for the time of harvest, learning patience, allowing God to pour out both the autumn and spring rains, assuring that all the glory for the crop is directed toward the Rainmaker.
“You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it.” – Isaiah 45:8.
Bill, a child of God waiting for the rain