But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest. – John 4: 35-38
Two weeks before the end of his life, George Gennor finally found out that his lifetime’s work had borne fruit. Some 40 years before, Mr Gennor was led to Christ as a young merchant seaman, and his life moved from night to day. Such was the complete transformation in his life because of his encounter with Jesus, that he committed before the Lord to try to tell at least 10 people a day about his Saviour. Almost every day of his life, he would set out for George St in Sydney, and stand there and hand out his little tracts. Not a soul outside of heaven, knew what he was doing.
Mr Gennor would approach passers-by with the simple question, “if you died tonight would you know where you were going?” (it’s one of the same questions we use when we’re out in the streets talking with people, and it really does stop people in their tracks, especially the nominal church goers!). He received many rejections, in fact over 40 years he never saw a single person come to Christ. Yet, in spite of that, he was faithful to his commitment to his Saviour, and he managed to get to George Street most days of that 40 years.
Towards the end of his life, on the other side of the world, a young English pastor began to encounter people who gave their testimony as starting with a funny little man who asked them the simple question, “if you died tonight, do you know where you would go?” and handed them a tract. Over the course of 12 months or so, the young pastor encountered many people, most of whom were now serving the Lord, who had come to a relationship with Jesus because of this George St encounter. Some initially hated the fact that this little man had intruded into their lives, but all in due course came to bow the knee, and acknowledge Jesus as their Lord. He came across pastors in American, missionaries in India, others serving the Lord in England, New Zealand and Africa but all had in common the starting point in their conversion, as this little man on George Street. Nobody even knew his name.
Finally, the young pastor found himself in Sydney and made a point of asking around, did anyone know of this man, who went out onto George St and told people about Jesus, but nobody had heard of him. Eventually, somebody gave him a clue, and he went to visit Mr Gennor in person. Mr Gennor was now very old, and lived alone in a simple apartment in Sydney. He could no longer get out, but for 40 years he testified that almost every day he had stood on a corner of George St and handed out his tracts and spoken to people of Christ. The pastor stood amazed, as this little man told his own testimony, of how the person of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh had so transformed him that he wanted to express his gratitude back to God, and he did so by telling others.
In 40 years, Mr Gennor never heard a single story of anyone he spoke to ever coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
As he and the young pastor spoke, the pastor was able to tell him of the people he had met, who on account of Mr Gennor’s faithfulness, had started a relationship with Jesus and gone onto serve him all over the world. George Gennor wept with disbelief. Two weeks later, he died.
Back in England, the pastor carefully put together all the stories that he had encountered about Mr Gennor, as well as more that he heard since and he came to this conclusion – over his lifetime, George Gennor had been directly or indirectly responsible for leading nearly 146,000 people to faith in Jesus Christ because of his simple actions.
Friends, when we go out of a weekend onto the streets of Sydney and have a dry time; when people seem disinterested, or rude or we simply can’t seem to get the words out, we remember what Jesus tells us. Some plant, some harvest, but all will one day be joyful as they stand in the presence of Jesus, knowing they have contributed to his work. I recall the story of George Gennor, and it motivates us to keep going, because we never know what the Lord will do with our simple obedience. It keeps us humble, when we see fruit and encounter a response, because we are reminded it is other’s work that we have built on, and ultimately God does the final work of transformation.
Be encouraged as you go out and tell. God calls you to be faithful and obedient, but he sees what others, even you don’t see. Think, 40 years without a single clue of success, yet still faithful. Imagine his reward.
The harvest is great, but the workers are few – will you be faithful in the harvest with Christ?