Waiting for the Harvest
By Richard Tatum
"Hey Danny! Danny!" I wasn't Danny, of course, but I paused and searched the darkness outside my apartment, looking for the source of the voice. There I saw him — at the edge of the dimly lit parking lot leaning against the open door of his pickup, a beer in his hand.
"Hey, come on over." I paused a moment, but since I had already made eye contact with him I couldn’t easily slide away. Besides, something inside urged me to forge ahead and cross the moonlit distance.
I found myself facing a troubled man on the other side of the truck’s battered red door. His face echoed the beaten, ravaged look of the truck. Years have passed since that night, but I still remember his face. I remember his despair. I remember his anguish.
"Oh, you’re not Danny. Sorry, man. Hey, wanna beer anyway?" I rejected it. I didn't like the stuff, and besides, I told him, I wasn't even thirsty. This man was lonely and I could tell it wasn’t a drinking buddy he needed, he needed someone to talk to. He needed someone who would listen. I prepared myself for an interesting evening.
"So, what man do you follow?" He learned I was a Christian and he started searching for a handle on me. Or, maybe he was just trying to goad me. Crud, I thought. What am I supposed to do now? I’m not old enough, big enough, or mean enough to get this guy’s respect. To him I’m probably just some little teenage punk still battling zits and lost term papers.
I quickly thought back to some of my previous attempts at witnessing to people in need. Before, I might have actually tried to argue with him. But it dawned on me that tonight it wasn’t reason he needed but compassion. I prayed a quick breathless prayer to th. The only one who wouldn’t ever lead us astray.
"Aw, those evangelists are all full if it, and you probably are too. If God is really out there, then why does He let things get so screwed up?"
Another tricky question, but I began to see that hidden under all of his troublesome questions lay a soul troubled by a really important, eternal question, "Is there any hope?"
So, I started asking a few questions of my own, making conversation, earning his trust, helping him open up to me. I learned he was facing a prison sentence for a DWI conviction. He was afraid of what he would face there. He was afraid of what he would become. He was afraid. I showed him how Christ could answer his deepest questions — that Christ could replace his fear with hope and peace. He asked me to pray for him. I did. Right there.
"You know, what’s to stop me from just hauling off and knocking you flat right now?" I lifted my head and looked him in the eye and realized that this was a spiritual battle. I realized that witnessing wasn’t simply a battle of ideas and emotions. A light seemed to come on somewhere inside my head and I saw that winning people to God was more than simply passing out a tract and then blazing a trail elsewhere. In that moment I realized that witnessing is hand-to-hand combat with the Enemy and all his influence.
The Lord answered his question for me, "You won’t lift a finger against me. I know this because God sent me to speak to you. It is no coincidence that I just happened to be here at one o’clock in the morning while you thought I was someone else. God won't allow you to even touch one hair of my head. And even if you did hit me, it wouldn’t matter because you know deep inside that all I have said to you is true." I couldn’t believe my own ears. My new friend didn’t have anything to say.
So, amazingly, we talked some more. He asked me to pray for him again. But, as I prayed, I stopped to look up at him. He was staring at me as though I were some interesting but entertaining creature.
"You know, you don’t have to let me do all the work for you," I said. "God will listen, why don’t you tell Him about your need?"
"Aw, He won’t listen to me. Go ahead. Keep praying." I prayed again, briefly, and invited him once more to pray.
"I can’t. I’m drunk," he patiently explained to me. It didn’t matter, I told him. God would know his heart and would hear him. He objected some more, but he finally prayed. It wasn’t an earth-shattering prayer. The heavens didn’t thunder and a golden light didn’t shine down from the heavens. He was still a sinner, and he was still drunk — but now there was one important difference. He knew that there was Someone he could turn to. He knew that there was Someone who would listen. He knew God was personal and alive.
Obviously, this was no time to press for a decision--my friend wasn't capable of making very many rational and informed decisions that night anyway. But he could remember me later as I remember and pray for him today; and he could remember that important lesson. And the soil of his heart received the seeds of the Gospel. If the seeds didn’t take root that night, I know that the next sower God sends his way will carefully till his heart’s ground just a little bit more, and the next laborer after that will tenderly brush a few more seeds on the soil, and God will be faithful to send yet another to water.
In His time, and in His season there will be fruit and the one the Lord finally sends to reap His harvest will rejoice with the angels that the seeds of the gospel did not return fruitless.
I must be careful then, to labor faithfully — tilling the barren soil of lost hearts, constantly sowing, sometimes watering, and sometimes rejoicing in the harvest. It turns out my friend wasn’t the only one who learned a lesson that night. I learned several.
But I gotta head out to the fields now. There's a lot to do before the harvest comes!