READ: Song of Solomon 4, John 11, James 5
Missionaries who live and labor in the Arab world face an ongoing tension: We desperately want to see millions of Arab Muslims come to Jesus, and to be discipled and planted in churches that reproduce themselves, yet we see so very little. We read the scripture and understand that to see the glory of God we must believe (John 11:40). We know Jesus can bring life from the dead, that He can make dry bones live. We fight an internal skepticism and unbelief–it is sheer hard work to believe that an Arab Muslim will come to faith when we witness to them. We long to see revival spread across the Arab world even as it has in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, China, and South East Asia. We hear fantastic reports of how God has moved among Muslim peoples, attend trainings on the latest methods, and then find out the reports are exaggerated, supported by Western funds, and the reported churches either don’t exist or are syncretistic. We find ourselves torn–we would rather have five real disciples than five phantom churches, yet we have a raging agony over the millions who perish around us. We house within us a burning desire to see God glorified in hundreds of thousands of reproducing believers from a Muslim background and indigenous house churches.
James uses a farming illustration to warn the unjust rich (James 5:1-6). In this illustration the cries of the unpaid reapers reach the Lord of Hosts. James pivots from that illustration to draw an application of patient perseverance, again using farming for an example of waiting for “the precious fruits of the earth,” which depend on both the early and latter rains (vv. 7-8). James cites Job (v. 11) and then Elijah as men who endured and because they did, they saw heaven’s rain and the earth producing fruit (v. 18). If our payment is in the harvest [our reward in turning a sinner from their ways, save them from death (vv. 19-20)], then we too protest to the Lord of Hosts that our wages are long overdue.
The reality is that someone has to do the hard work. No one on earth reaps without someone prior sowing. No one on earth sows without someone one day reaping. It is not unfair or unfaith to be the sower–it is in fact a privilege. We sow because we believe in reaping. We sow that someone else will reap. The devil ironically uses reaping testimonies to discourage the sower and move him or her away from the critical and fatiguing work of sowing. Someone has to sow. Someone has to beat their God-hardened foreheads against the stone gates of hell over and over again. Someone has to exalt in the privilege of being the first laborers who sweat in anonymity for years, plucking boulders out of the field, digging up stumps, sinking down wells, planting seed in the heat of the day. While it is easier to rejoice in reaping, let us dedicate ourselves to rejoice in sowing. Our endurance prepares the ground for the latter rain.