My garden is a continual source of encouragement for me. Every year, what looks like an impossibility becomes a reality—an expanse of bare (or worse yet, weedy) ground, transformed into an abundant harvest that feeds us all year long. Every spring, as I pick rocks, chop up dirt clumps, and try to pull out stubborn weeds, I wonder what are the odds that each tiny seed will somehow get through all the obstacles and survive to get above the ground, never mind grow to maturity!
It’s no wonder that God put the first man, Adam, in a garden. It’s a place where miracles happen every day, and yet where faith and patience are daily challenged. And it’s no surprise that the Bible is full of analogies comparing the work of God to agriculture.
Often as I work in my garden, I think about the parable that Jesus told, of the sower who went forth sowing the seed—“and the seed is the Word of God,” Jesus said. Some of the seed was plucked up by birds, or scorched by the sun, or choked by weeds—but some of it resulted in new life, and fruit so abundant that it made up for all the disappointments.
The analogy is continued by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” We hear quite a lot in Paul’s other letters about that planting—about the things that he suffered for the sake of sharing the good seed of the Word of God. And we readily acknowledge that God causes the growth—every gardener knows how helpless he is to make the seed grow. But often we forget about that little phrase, “Apollos watered.”
I was watering the other night, and thinking how much I respect the people who are God’s waterers. There is something exciting about planting a seed—all the labor of preparing the soil culminates in that action of dropping the seed in the ground so that the miracle may begin. True, it is hard to believe that anything can come of that tiny seed. But to water, day after day, when nothing can be seen but bare ground and the beginnings of weeds, requires enduring faith and perseverance.
The sower’s work is done when the seed is nestled in the soil, but the work of the waterer continues, not just until the seed sprouts, but long after, until the roots grow deep and strong. Just so the spiritual waterer continues to nourish the seed of God’s Word sown in a person’s heart, until it brings about new life—and then he continues to nurture that flickering bit of life until it has learned to draw its strength directly from God. When the fragile tendrils of green poke above the soil, he will be there, watering gently so that the tiny plant is not disturbed. As the hot months continue and the seedling grows—oh, so slowly!—he will continue pouring out, pouring out, into soil which greedily drinks up every drop. Truth administered wrongly can be destructive, as the wise waterer knows. And yet, it is vital to spiritual life, and so he goes on, encouraging, exhorting, explaining and re-explaining, until spiritual understanding and strength develops.
If it was not for the assurance that “God causes the growth,” he might be tempted to give up. But there is one thing that keeps him going, and that is the assurance that the seed is good seed, and the fruit will be sweet, and that the Owner of the garden is worthy of his diligent labor.
So if you’re one of God’s waterers, please don’t give up. And though you may feel like you’re mixing an awful lot of blood, sweat, and tears in that watering can of yours, take heart. The Lord knows, and perhaps somewhere in heaven He is making a little note with your name in the place of Apollos, “He watered.”