Anyone who has ever worked on a farm knows that a farmer’s work is never done. No matter how many hours you labor, how well you plan, how large or how small your operation, there is always something urgent that still needs to be done.
To be successful in farming, you get up before daylight and work till after dark. At night, you grab a quick bite and then settle in to do the bookwork, catch up on phone calls and emails, make plans for the next day, weeks and months: booking feed, seed, fertilizer, checking cattle markets so you can plan your weaning and feeding programs, planning cattle matings, lining up additional hired labor for special projects (if you can find potential hourly employees who are willing to do that kind of work), and the list just goes on and on. Sometimes, just as you are finally getting ready for bed, you get to put your boots back on to go round up the cows that a neighbor called and told you were in the road - then you spend a couple hours fixing the fence with a flashlight. Other nights, you may go out one last time to check the first calf heifers before going to bed and inevitably find one that needs your help. If nothing else, an alarm will go off at one of the chicken houses because something there has gone haywire - all this without any overtime pay and without any comp time so you can sleep in the next morning.
Farming is a great way of life, but it requires a lot of hard, stressful work and the outcome is completely out of your hands. When livestock is involved, you know you are in for a seven-day work week every week.
Not only is farming a hard and risky business, the need for successful farmers is more critical than ever before as the world’s population and the demand for safe food supplies are growing at record numbers. More and more people are facing hunger and malnutrition, all the while more and more young people are leaving the family farm and the average age of the American farmer is at an all-time high. The demand for a steady food supply is rapidly growing while the farming workforce is aging and steadily diminishing.
Ministry is the same way, especially worldwide mission work. The need is so plentiful and as Jesus Himself stated, the workers are so few. Wars, natural disasters, famine, disease, corruption, abuse, neglect, illiteracy, poverty and terrorism are all on the rise, and more and more people are hurting around the world - mostly as a direct result of the sinfulness of mankind. Never have the stakes been higher or the need greater for the world to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and experience the transforming power of His Holy Spirit. The workload is growing, but, like in farming, the numbers of those willing to work or to give of themselves and their resources to help with the work are rapidly shrinking.
We have already thought about how we feel that our work is never done, but can you imagine how Jesus (holy, loving, compassionate God in the flesh) must have felt as He saw all the sinfulness, brokenness, hurt and need in the lives of the people He encountered on a daily basis? Not only could He see their outward need, He could look into their hearts and minds and see the total depravity of mankind others could not see. From a mere human perspective, the burden of seeing needs only He could meet would be overwhelming.
I am reminded of the occasion recorded in John 5 when Jesus came upon the man at the pool of Bethesda who had been crippled and unable to walk for over 38 years. It was on the Sabbath day when Jesus was passing by. Seeing the man who had been suffering for so long and who had lost all hope of getting any better, Jesus healed him on the spot and told him to stand up, pick up his bed and walk, and immediately he did just that.
Now the Pharisees (the most religious of the day) saw the man walking and carrying his bed on the Sabbath and they were outraged. Undoubtedly, they had passed this man by many times throughout the 38 years he had lain by the pool waiting for a chance to be healed. They had seen him suffering day after day, month after month, and year after year, but evidently had shown little or no compassion for his condition. Instead of being thankful and celebrating his complete healing and a new chance at life, they only saw he was breaking their manmade rule for the Sabbath by picking up and carrying the bed he had lain on for so long in his miserable condition.
The Pharisees had witnessed both the miracle of a miraculous healing and a broken rule. Instead of focusing on the miracle, they focused on the broken rule - not God’s rule, but their own. Instead of wanting to bless and thank the One who had healed the man, they wanted to know who He was so they could punish and kill Him for breaking one of the rules they created to give themselves power over others. They asked the man who healed him, but he did not know who Jesus was.
Later, Jesus found the man he had healed in the temple. Jesus said, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more…." Jesus had healed the man physically, but he had a greater need and that was to be healed spiritually - to have his sin forgiven. The man was elated to be physically healed, but Jesus told him he had to repent and seek God’s forgiveness to be healed spiritually.
When the Pharisees confronted Jesus because He had broken their rule and healed on the Sabbath, He replied: "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." Jesus was teaching that there was never a wrong time to do good for others nor a right time to stop doing good. The Bible teaches in Genesis that after creating the heavens and the Earth, God the Father rested on the Sabbath, but this does not mean that He stopped doing good.
Our work on the farm will never be done, but we need to make sure that we do not get so busy tending to the urgent that we neglect the most important needs. Taking the time to nurture our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and showing His love to others must be our priority, regardless of what it costs us. Other urgent things may have to go undone, but the Kingdom work is more important than any other work we do and it will produce the only harvest that will last for eternity.
It is far more important that we feed the world spiritually than we feed them physically. The good news is, if we put Jesus first in our lives, we can do both!
Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.