While working as a missionary in Mexico, I once observed with intrest (and dread) as a group of pentecostal 'missionaries' breezed into the town in which we were laboring. They were there for only one week. They held services every night with relatively large crowds attending. People were attracted to their meetings by the loud, up-beat music, and by the bold (but false) promises of miracles and healings. By the time they left at the end of the week, they had a thriving work established with a local pastor who had just been converted during their week-long meeting. According to them, it was miraculous.
I must confess that when I saw how easy it seemed to be for them, I felt discouraged with the little I had been able to accomplish. We had been living in that particular town for about two years, during which time, we had encountered political, spiritual, and religious opposition . I was trying to be faithful to pray, witness, and teach the Word of God, but with only occasional visible results. My congregation was small and my converts few in comparison to theirs. I began to question in my heart:" Why is it so easy for those who are, to say the least, mis-representing the gospel, while it seems so difficult for me?" I had no doubt that I was preaching the truth, but hey, it kinda makes ya wonder.
I needed help. However, for me, there was only one source to which I could turn for help...And that was to my Lord and to His Word. He gave me the help I needed from the very same Bible that I was using to teach others. I remembered how Jesus often used agricultural metaphors in His teaching ministry. One of the most familiar ones is found in Matt.13:3-9. In this parable, which He explains in v.18-23, Jesus tells of a Sower, His seed, and the soils. Jesus is the Sower, the seed is the Word of God, and the soils represent the people who hear the Word.
In this parable, all the seed that fell ON unprepared soil eventually perished. Some never took root at all, some sprang up quickly, some even lasted a while, but all the seed on the unworked soil perished. However, the seed that fell INTO the good (prepared) ground, not only survived, but brought forth fruit.
Someone had worked long and hard preparing that soil to receive the seed. It was not over-night success, or even one -week success. It took time, dedication, and hard, back-breaking work. But the work didn't end with the preparation of the soil. In order for the plants to survive and bring forth fruit, they had to be faithfully tended. That means even more time and work.
Here is what I believe the Lord was saying to me: God does miraculously establish His work through the preaching of the Word. But in the words of A.W. Tozer, "The miracles follow the plow." The wilderness and the weeds will grow just fine by themselves, but to have a real and fruitful crop, we must work for it.