Pyongyang Metro, courtesy of David Eerdmans, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MetroPyongyang.jpg
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-8 (NASB)
I recently had another opportunity to teach a class at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), in North Korea. (For more information on PUST, feel free to read an article I wrote last year, https://sites.google.com/site/christiansandengineering/publications/christian-engineering-society-newsletter/fall-2014-newsletter/opportunities-in-north-korea) I highly recommend the experience, and encourage all of you to consider teaching a short class there!
Each of the times I have taught at PUST, there has been challenge and reward. The challenges include the fact that the daily routines of life are less convenient than life in America, in terms of food, electricity, travel, etc. It is sometimes tricky to avoid political offense in discussions with the students and local staff. There is also the familiar pressure of being a Christian in a thoroughly nonChristian culture. But this is what we are called to, as I’m sure all of you ESN readers would agree, in our daily workplaces. The rewards include the fact that the time away from the American culture allows for spiritual reflection. There is also great fellowship with Christian staff from around the world. I have been amazed at the diversity and multinational nature of the Christian fellowship at PUST. The unity of the Holy Spirit amidst believers from widely disparate cultures and ethnicities is evident and beautiful.
This year, I was again reminded of the importance of waiting on God. God allows us to spend much of our lives without seeing any visible “fruit” from our labor, in terms of seeing our colleagues or students come to know Christ. (And, I might add, often through days of fruitless frustration in our research and academic endeavors!) I think this is because He knows that we are always in danger of becoming proud, of thinking that success and ministry “fruit” is due to our own efforts. God knows that He is the only one deserving glory. So He makes us wait. We work and we pray, and wait for a long time, while He is quietly and secretly working behind the scenes in the hearts of our colleagues and friends. God does this because He loves us.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:5-8:
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (NASB)
Teaching this summer at PUST was a great reminder of this. God does not call us to “achieve results”, he calls us to work faithfully where He has planted us, in dependence on Him. We work, pray, and wait, and eventually God will produce the results. We may never get to see the impact of our prayers and our conversations with our colleagues. Ten years from now, some other person may have the joy of leading them to Christ. But we will receive our reward in the end. As Isaiah wrote,
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)
In what areas in your life are you currently ‘waiting on God’ (continually praying, not yet seeing any answers)?
Dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Thank You that You give us what is best for us, not necessarily what we want or ask for. Thank You that Your timing is better than ours, Your wisdom is deeper than ours, and Your power is infinite. Thank You that You love us despite seeing our sin. Help me today to sow and water the seed of Your gospel in others’ lives, patiently waiting and trusting for You to produce the fruit at the right time. Help me to keep praying and waiting patiently for You to answer. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Tim Gilmour is Assistant Professor of Engineering at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR. He has published scientific papers in the areas of biomedical signal processing and neuroscience, and currently teaches electrical engineering, computer science, and embedded systems. In his free time he enjoys spending time with friends, reading, hiking, music, playing Frisbee and Ping-Pong, learning about other cultures, and spreading the good news about Jesus Christ.