The heavens were turned to brass. God had fled to warmer shores. And Tony's once shining hopes lay corroded and defiled in the ache of his unending failure. Opening his journal, Tony poured out his reflections on the day, his frustration palpable in every anguished stroke.
“Father God,” he penned, “I've had enough. For five long years I have lived a lie. The fields are white unto harvest, you said. Thrust in the sickle, you promised, and reap. But none of it has come true. Your words fall on ground so barren, so desolate, I fear that the Summer is already past and Winter is hard upon us. Forgive me, Lord, but I can't bear the mockery any longer.”
Slamming the book shut, Tony picked up the glossy brochure that had prompted his pathetic declaration. The photo showed a group of smiling brown faces; underneath the caption read: “Ten thousand born again in one night's meeting,” followed by the name of a popular revival preacher. “We desperately need your support,” it continued. “Your donation of €50 could help see another 100 souls won to the Kingdom.”
At least someone somewhere was bringing in the harvest, Tony observed sourly. Without conscious direction his fingers crumpled up the pamphlet and tore it slowly into pieces. Tony felt his shoulders sag, despair licking at the torn shreds of his heart. It was all so unfair. Was the Lord blind to all his labour?
The town of Saintfield desperately needed Jesus. That was why Tony willingly gave up every Saturday afternoon as well as two evenings a week to proclaim the gospel in its streets and squares. Working with Christians from across the denominational spread, he had for the last five years preached the Word, shared his testimony, presented well-rehearsed dramas, made a fool of himself with puppets, thrown paint on sketch-boards, and distributed countless tracts inviting people to receive the Saviour. Yet as the years rolled by and the harvest remained ever so elusive, the number of workers had dwindled. For the past eighteen months Tony had pressed on alone, casting spiritual seeds in hope, then watching in anguish as every single one shrivelled and died.
Tony looked round in surprise. He had thought he was alone. The door was indeed closed, the window sealed shut against the April cold.
It must be the Lord, Tony reasoned. He didn't actually believe in visions or heavenly voices— all that Pentecostal mumbo-jumbo. God should only speak through the sealed canon of Scripture, that's what Tony had always believed. And yet...
The recollection whittled away at the periphery of his memory. General William Booth, wasn't it? Some Salvation Army captain had written to complain at the lack of progress and Booth had telegrammed back, “Try Tears.” Wasn't that something similar to what the Psalmist had said? “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.1”
Suddenly the dam burst. All of Tony's rage, doubt and recriminations came flooding out. He blamed God, he blamed the Devil and he blamed himself. For a full two hours the tears poured and at the end he looked up to Heaven with new resolve.
That following Saturday as Tony bowed his head outside the shopping mall, he wept for the souls of the people walking past— men and women ignorant of their spiritual condition, snared by sin and deceived by the Devil. The majority of his leaflets were still refused or cast into the gutter. But with renewed vision he noticed those who were moved by his words: the old woman who smiled at the picture on the front of his tract; the hooded teenager who stood and listened to every word of his sermon; the harried mother-of-two who gripped his arm in passing and whispered a heartfelt “thank you.”
What was it that the Lord had said? “Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.2” Nothing tangible had happened as yet; no one had bowed the knee in the sinner's prayer. But Tony understood that something fundamental had altered. His tears had thawed the barren ground and even now his seeds were beginning to sprout. The harvest was still some way ahead: people took time to come to saving faith. But Spring had arrived. New life was bursting forth in Saintfield.
1 Psa 126:5 NIV
2 Jn 4:36 NIV
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