I’m not very patient. It’s not that I don’t desire this fruit of the Spirit. I do. However, it’s often borne through perseverance in adversity, so it admittedly hasn’t been top on my prayer list. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
We live in an age of fast food. We’ve come to expect next-day delivery. We want instant results.
This expectation can influence our Christian witness. Recently I’ve heard several Christians ask,
“Does it really do any good? We just don’t see the results.”
It’s easy to become discouraged and give up.
What Chinese Bamboo Can Teach Us About Witnessing
I believe God gives us pictures in his creation to teach us. One that I’ve been fascinated with is Chinese bamboo. After planting, it takes five years before you see any evidence of growth. This is because the growth during this time is unseen—beneath the surface. In the fifth year, however, this bamboo grows dramatically. In 6 weeks, it will grow an average of 90 feet. That’s over 2 feet per day!
That picture is particularly important to remember as we reach out to Mormons. Ex-LDS members have repeatedly told us that they concealed their faith crisis until the day they left Mormonism. Their doubts and questions were increasing. Internally, the supports for Mormonism were crashing down. However, because faith in Mormonism is determined by the measure of your personal confidence (instead of what we put our faith in, i.e., Christ), they couldn’t share their struggle. Later they describe how different Christian witnesses made significant impressions along the way. Yet, like bamboo, the impact was unseen—beneath the surface.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. We are, after all, dealing with spiritual matters. Faith can only be seen by God.
Remember the Real Power Source
I’m not claiming that it is easy to have patience. That may be especially true when the one you’re trying to reach is your spouse, your child, or a dear friend. You want to see immediate results. I could share more than a few examples of well-intentioned Christians who became impatient and burned bridges along the way. Desperate for results, they trusted in their own persuasion rather than the power of God.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow”.1 Corinthians 3:6
Like links in a chain, God uses different people along the way. Whether you are near the beginning or closer to the end, there is joy in being a part of that process. Each time the Word is shared, it goes out with power. Some plant seeds. Some water. God ultimately makes that seed come to life.
You may see growth, or you may not. You may not even see results until heaven. Yet, each time you can step back in eager anticipation of what God will do next with his power.
So plant cheerfully because God works wonders through our humble efforts. Water with patience because his word does not return to him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Witness with great courage trusting that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).