The “takeaway” from our time in South Africa … July-August 2015
Concerning the work of God …
Frances and I lived and ministered in South Africa for 13 years. In July-August of 2015, we revisited the whole of the country, ministering and enjoying fellowship with our many friends there. The time could not have been more perfect! God and His people were so faithful to bless us in every way – the fellowship of friends, the ministry of the word, generous material provisions and accommodations, all in the context of the cultural diversity and beautiful scenery which is South Africa.The purpose of our trip was to “Look, Listen & Learn”. Some of what we saw and heard encouraged and inspired us. Some of what we saw and heard challenged us. Some of what we saw and heard made us think and discuss what we were seeing and hearing.
All in all, I believe the purpose was fulfilled – we learned at every turn.As I try to communicate what God communicated to Frances and I during our visit to South Africa, I can only hope that you will understand that my intention is not to talk about ourselves and our ministry, but rather, about God and His work – to simply try to communicate what God communicated to us. We were INCOMPREHENSIBLY blessed by it, as it was affirming and confirming; but it was also instructional and enlightening for us.
It seems the best way to communicate this would be to launch off from these words written by the apostle Paul regarding his understanding of the work of God:
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but (it is) only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.”
1 Corinthians 3:6-14 (NIV)
As we traveled throughout the provinces of South Africa during July and August, visiting and sharing with our friends whom we had not seen for 18 years, we were blessed in a way which God has not guaranteed to those who serve Him – that is, to see the fruit of your labor in His field and building. We may hear later, “Well done good and faithful servant”; but occasionally one is blessed to be able to see the fruit of their labors here in this life.
I can tell you of a certainty that, when we left South Africa in 1997, I felt like Elijah under the juniper tree (1 Kings 19) – I definitely could not see the fruit of our labors there for 13 years. The Spirit of God told me – people told me – but I could not see it. And that is why I can share what I have to share here with no pride what so ever – because, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that “(it is) only God, who makes things grow”.
As we had fellowship with our South African friends, two things clearly emerged – that is, two things were repeatedly spoken to us by God’s Spirit, as well as, spoken to us by God’s people: During our years of living in and ministering throughout South Africa 1984 – 1997, we had PLANTED THE SEED and we had LAID A FOUNDATION.
With certain people, it was affirmed that we had PLANTED THE SEED of God’s word, which later sprouted, blossomed, and grew to bear fruit that still remains today.
And with others, it was confirmed that we had LAID A FOUNDATION of Christ, which, having been built upon for decades, still stands today.
So, that is what our friends repeatedly communicated. And that is what the Holy Spirit repeated showed us in ways that are not “unbelievable”, but INCOMPREHENSIBLE, because we know this is not something we could accomplish, but “(it is) only God who makes things grow”.
We feel enlightened by God regarding His work, as well as, instructed regarding apostolic ministry and spiritual parenting – lessons, which are also timely for us in the parenting of our natural adult children as well.
This is the “takeaway” from our recent travels in South Africa: “Keep saying what I have given you to say – keep doing what I have given you to do. With those whom I have given you for it is bearing fruit which remains.”
23 “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:23-26
“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his.” 2 Timothy 2:19
It was affirmed once again “the words that Jesus has spoken are spirit and they are life”. (John 6:63 NKJV) “The word that God speaks is living and active”. (Hebrews 4:12 AMP) “He is watching over His word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12 NASB) – “it shall not return to Him void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which He pleases and purposes, and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 AMP)
But it was also confirmed to us once again that it is not our words but our lives which have the greatest and most lasting impact on others. And we realize that it is a God-given responsibility for us “to run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2) – to have a faithful testimony from beginning to end (Hebrews 3:5-6, 14; 10:35-36) – as an example and encouragement to others – particularly our children and our spiritual children. Truly, the work of God extends to even the third and the fourth generations.
God is good! And His ways are perfect!
“The love of Christ possesses us,
therefore we have determined
to no longer live for ourselves
but for Him Who died and rose again for us.”
[2 Corinthians 5:14 paraphrased]
In the love of Christ,
Bill & Frances