By Steve Riggs
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
My wife Becky displays this quote in a prominent place in our living room. As we live our daily lives, praying and longing to see French people come to Christ, this quote reminds us the little things we do and say are important. God can use a tiny seed planted in someone’s life. The seed may be something as simple as baking cookies for a neighbor, sending a card to a friend, or giving a needed hug. Sometimes, just listening demonstrates you really care. Other times, a spoken word plants a seed. I don’t imagine Stevenson penned the quote with this intent, but it reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s Spirit-guided words: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God
gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
I confess, often when I hear about a pastor or church reaping a great harvest, I feel a little jealous. Well, truthfully, I feel a lot jealous. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. I once heard Joseph Stowell (former president of Moody College) say, “I sometimes wonder what it would be like to minister in a place where there is little harvest. Would I still be willing to serve?”
I recall thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to minister in a place where there is a great harvest!” I suppose both situations have their own risks. One could lead to jealousy, the other to pride. When asking his question, Stowell sought to remind us, whether we reap a great harvest or plow hard soil, we are all called to obey Christ and serve others. The results are in His hands. Wherever we live, everything we do and say plants a seed in someone’s life. One day, in God’s perfect time, those seeds will produce a harvest. When it does, God alone will receive the glory.
Not long ago, I had a unique opportunity to plant a seed. I love to play golf, and the Lord has allowed me to make many friends on the fairways of the little nine-hole course in Châteaubriant. One friend has a Protestant background. However, saying you are Protestant in France is often the same as saying you are Catholic. For many people, these are just cultural labels. Only an estimated 10% of French Catholics attend church. Likewise, of the roughly 2% of the French population who call themselves Protestant, many never attend church or
even claim a personal relationship with Christ. That is true for my friend. Recently, his mother passed away, and he asked if I would officiate the funeral. Grateful he had the confidence to entrust me with that ministry, I began to pray the Lord would give me the right words to share.
At the beginning of the service, one person in particular grabbed my attention. She was the companion of the deceased woman’s grandson. When introduced, I immediately sensed she was not pleased by my presence. The masks we wore because of COVID-19 did nothing to hide her suspicion bordering on hostility. Frankly, this is frequently the way French people look at Evangelicals.
During the service, I noticed the young woman sat alone (perhaps a COVID precaution) and rarely looked up, yet she seemed to listen closely. Afterward, the family and friends gathered in front of the stone church and silently watched the attendants load the casket into the hearse. I stood to one side to give the family privacy. Unexpectedly, the young girl walked up to me. She politely thanked me for the “homily.” Then, lowering her mask as if she wanted to ensure I would not misunderstand her, she somewhat forcefully stated, “But I want you to know I am not a believer!”
Her energetic delivery made me smile as I responded, “Well, that is certainly your right.”
Her next comments expressed the views I have heard many times in France. She voiced her belief that religion, all religions, only generate violence and war. Though a false assumption, it’s one we often hear, especially given France’s history. However, she went on to say she thought Jesus was a really neat guy. She considered Him an anarchist who tried to show people a better way, but it didn’t work. She said His way doesn’t work because “It’s like there’s just something inside of everybody that makes us mess up.”
I listened intently as she spoke, then hazarded a response. I agreed religious people, even Christians, too often have committed terrible acts in the “name of God.” I added, “But I think you’re overlooking the fact Christians have also done a whole lot of good in our world. Think about the first hospitals, schools, orphanages, feeding the hungry, caring for the homeless, etc.” I told her what struck me most from her comments, was that she actually affirmed what the Bible tells us about sin. She was right. Something in all of us makes us mess up. I, too, have to fight against sin every day of my life. And, while I also agree Jesus was a “really neat guy,” to me He is much more. He is my only hope to keep from “messing up.”
The brief conversation ended, and I accompanied the family to the cemetery. As on so many occasions like this, my heart broke. Broke to see a family at the graveside of their departed mother, wife, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Broke with the sad realization this young lady’s thoughts reflect what most of them believe, that Jesus is a “really neat guy” but nothing more. Broke because religion has such a bad name, they won’t even consider giving Him a try.
It is unlikely I will see this young lady again. I don’t know if she will ever become a follower of Christ. I am praying she may one day see her need of Him and how He can help her, like me, keep from “messing up.” I hope someday to hear her say, somewhat forcefully,” I want you to know I am a believer!” If I never hear she has given her heart to Christ, I believe a tiny seed was planted. And I firmly believe it will result in a great harvest one day. Much greater than any of us can even imagine. On that day, none of us will be jealous or proud, but each of us will give praise and thanksgiving to God. Praise for what He has done. And thanksgiving He used us to simply plant some seeds.
About the Writer: Steve Riggs and his wife Becky have served in France for more than three decades. They are parents of four adult children, two of whom live in the States and two in Europe. Steve brags they have the “two best grandkids in the world, hands down!”