Every fall I’m filled with gratitude for my garden. As the leaves on the plants yellow and wither, I think about the beauty that I’ve enjoyed all summer—rose bushes, irises, tiger lilies, and decorative trees. I love my plants as if I had nurtured them from seedlings, but in all honesty, I didn’t plant many of them.
When my husband and I bought our house on a snowy February day, we didn’t really know what the back yard would look like. We assumed there would be grass and maybe a few shrubs. But then spring came, and with it—miracle after miracle.
We all benefit from those who have walked before us. You might be part of a ministry started by another visionary. Or you might be gaining insights from a book that someone spent a lifetime researching. Or maybe you’re sharing the gospel with someone who has already learned some Biblical foundations from another Christian. It’s a blessing to work on a patch of land that has already been cleared and cultivated.
But, most likely, you’re also planting seeds that will mature long after you’re gone. Maybe you’re teaching, mentoring, and investing in tomorrow’s leaders. Or maybe you’re working on a creative masterpiece that will outlive you.
Ministry is a lot like gardening, and we all have a part to play. Sometimes, we’re enjoying the fruit of another’s labour, sometimes we’re handed a shovel, and sometimes we’re passing the shovel to the newest hired hand.
Paul uses the gardening analogy of ministry in his first letter to the Corinthians:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned each task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:5-7).
Take a moment to thank God for the leaders who have gone before you and pray for the leaders who will pick up your ministry when you’re gone. God gives us different tasks—some plant and some water—but it’s only God, in His timing, who makes the seeds grow. We might be around for the harvest—or we might not. Our job is simply to accept the task that the God gives and entrust ourselves to Him.