If you wait for perfect conditions you will never get anything done.
|A. Cast your bread upon the waters
for after many days you will find it again.
Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do
not know what disaster may come upon the land.
|B.If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain upon the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or
to the north, in the place where
it falls, there will it lie.
|We are unable
The Work of God
|C. If you wait for perfect conditions
you will never get anything done. (LB)
In the Face of
|B. As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a
mother’s womb, so you cannot
understand the work of God
the maker of all things.
|We are Unable
The Work of God
|A. Sow your seed in the morning, and
at evening let not your hands be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that, or whether both
will do equally well.
In his book “The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History,” James L. Kugel relates that Hebrew parallelism was widely used in ancient Hebrew literature. Ken Bailey has studied these widely not only in Hebrew texts, but also in his book “Paul through Mediterranean Eyes,” which is a cultural study of I Corinthians. In this book, as well as his studies in Isaiah and the parables of our Lord, he refers to parallelism as a method of teaching commonly used in the scriptures. In this passage in Ecclesiastes, there is an example of “inverted parallelism,” or “chiasm,” which has also been labeled “ring composition.” In this method of literary composition the climax is in the center, furnishing what we would call “the bottom line,” or the “take home message.” The surrounding verses “A” and “B” are used to “ring” and deepen the instruction offered at the center of the parallelism. In this passage the outer ring (A) instructs us to be diligent (faithful) in ministry. The inner ring relates that there are conditions with which we are familiar but over which we have no control or understanding. The center, then, focuses on the message that we cannot let lack of control or knowledge of what is happening around us to alter our determination to fulfill the tasks given to us by the Lord. We must not become sidetracked by conditions that we think are unfavorable to our task. The NIV translation likens these to wind, interfering with planting; and rain clouds, interfering with our reaping. The Living Bible captures the thought more clearly than other translations and simply states “If you wait for perfect conditions you will never get anything done.”
I doubt that we ever experience perfect conditions for any type of ministry. Not only are they less than perfect; at times they seem to be barely adequate. I recall leading a Bible Study for Physicians at a local hospital in the early 1970’s. One man who joined the study was a Surgeon who showed an avid interest in pursuing discipleship. Due to his schedule, the only time available was for thirty to forty five minutes prior to the weekly study at seven in the morning. We would meet at six fifteen just prior to our group study and explore some Scriptures together followed by a brief time in prayer. The hour was early and our time was crammed in before another study, but we met despite the limited conditions. As I think back over the last forty years, it is with gratitude to the Lord for the time we spent together. I have known of many people who have been discipled through his life since that time.
A patient of mine had, at long last, after giving him several opportunities to look at the Scriptures together, agreed to meet to read the Gospel of John together. Finding a place to meet, however, proved to be a problem. He didn’t want to meet at his office nor at mine. He did not want a public place such as a restaurant and it had to be a private indoor setting where he could bring his lunch. After some searching, I finally suggested the waiting room of a small inner city medical clinic that I had helped start some years before. The staff at the clinic were agreeable to our use of the facility over the noon hour and so we began our study as the morning patients left, had lunch, and finished as the afternoon patients arrived. There was many an interruption during the two years we met. I still remember, however, the time when the Grace of God became evident in his life as we were looking at the fourteenth chapter of John. The conditions under which we read the Bible together were no deterrent to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life!
I also recall an incident several years ago in which we were trying to help an inner city church establish a medical ministry in its neighborhood. Due to lack of funding, the van we used; supplied with medical equipment, the exam facilities, lab and pharmacy were not available for several months over the summer. Rather than halt a ministry that had just started, we decided to keep it going for the summer and use the church kitchen as the Doctor’s office and exam room. I discovered that you can diagnose and treat most things with the use of a flashlight, a stethoscope and a kitchen table! We not only kept the clinic in operation; it is today one of the most frequently attended in our city.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 exhorts us not to wait for perfect conditions. If we do, we will never get anything done. Is the location of your ministry unfavorable? Start anyway. Is the time you have to give to the ministry not as much as you like? Give the time you have anyway. Do you lack resources that would enable you to be more effective in ministry? Do what you can without those resources. Do you not feel up to the tasks you are called to do because you are tired or don’t feel well? Lorne Sanny once remarked that most things accomplished in this world are done by those who are tired and don’t feel entirely well!
As followers of Christ, our task is to be continually vigilant in the work Christ has called us to do. Let us, then, not wait for perfect conditions to be involved in His work, for if we wait for perfect conditions we will never get anything done.
In Christ, Richard Spann