In John chapter 3, Jesus, speaking to Nicodemus, said that the Holy Spirit is like the wind—He is not One who can be controlled. We see the effect of the wind on the trees when the wind blows, but where it comes from or where it goes, we do not know.
Jesus was making an important point here. Lasting conversions come about as a result of the power of the Spirit, not by a slick-sounding, win-the-argument approach. How often have we won the argument but lost the battle as we endeavor to win others to Christ? Lasting, deep-down conversions are very rarely ever hasty. But you never have to worry about the waiting period between the scattering of your seeds of generosity and what is going to take place once the Holy Spirit begins to shape people’s hearts in a profound way. That’s God’s prerogative. All we need to do is to keep scattering the seeds and nurturing the plants—that is, living and teaching a lifestyle of change, generosity, and compassion. Sooner or later your crops will come in and lasting conversions to Christ will happen.
We all are aware of the devastating impact of Superstorm Sandy on the coastal regions of the state of New Jersey and in New York City. However, in the midst of the devastation, youth, students, young adults, and adults were given a golden opportunity to scatter the seeds of compassion to the communities hit hard by Sandy. And they did. Scores of youth and young adults reached out to the people of New York City with supplies and resources to help in a time of dire need. Surely, when the time comes this year to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through the New York 2013 (NY13) initiative, we believe there are many who will positively respond to the call of Christ’s good news.
There’s a time for scattering seeds of compassion, such as what is being done in New York right now by our youth and through what has come to be known as the Compassion Movement. There is also a time to water the seeds that have been planted through Bible study and evangelistic meetings (more than 400 meeting sites are planned for 2013 in New York City).
But not all seeds germinate and grow fast. Different plants have different rates of growth. Therefore, we must wait. This is where the Holy Spirit makes its profound impact. We may be used as God’s instrument to do the scattering and watering, but God does the converting. Therefore, we must practice the art of waiting and praying for the harvest.
And surely the harvest will come, because God promised it (Revelation 14:15). Sometimes we just have to wait. As we go forward with the NY13 initiative this year, let us pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit will attend the scattering and watering of the Word, that hearts will be touched, and lives changed, as we await the soon coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in power and great glory.
Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College, Inc., Board of Trustees.