Chinese proverbs are common and often have stories behind them. The proverb “pulling up a crop to help it grow” is about an impatient man in the Song Dynasty. He was eager to see his rice seedlings grow quickly. So he thought of a solution. He would pull up each plant a few inches. After a day of tedious work, the man surveyed his paddy field. He was happy that his crop seemed to have “grown” taller. But his joy was short-lived. The next day, the plants had begun to wither because their roots were no longer deep.

In 2 Timothy 2:6, the apostle Paul compares the work of being a minister of the gospel to that of a farmer. He wrote to encourage Timothy that, like farming, making disciples can be continuous, hard labor. You plow, you sow, you wait, you pray. You desire to see the fruits of your labor quickly, but growth takes time. And as the Chinese proverb so aptly illustrates, any effort to hurry the process won’t be helpful. Commentator William Hendriksen states: “If Timothy . . . exerts himself to the full in the performance of his God-given spiritual task, he . . . will see in the lives of others . . . the beginnings of those glorious fruits that are mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23.”

As we labor faithfully, we wait patiently on the Lord, who makes things grow (1 Cor. 3:7).