A Lesson from Three Tractors on Longevity

25 May

Three Tractors

My life was given me to spend for God. I have no intention of hoarding it or wasting it, but I do intend to spend this one life wisely. Those who quickly spend the principal in a showy display of sacrifice will have no interest in later years. Genuine martyrs are one thing, but misguided wastrels cut short their ministry in the kingdom.
In my agricultural town, a tractor pull is a big event. The idea is to see which tractor can pull a weighted sledge the greatest distance. The unlimited class boasts behemoths with about as much resemblance to a farm tractor as a dragster has to my Honda. These tractors catch the eye, make a lot of noise, and pull a mountainous weight, but their moment of glory is brief. Sometimes in the midst of a pull the massive engine will dramatically flame out from the strain placed on it. In a moment it is good only for the scrap heap.
In the play yard at our church rests an ancient little tractor embedded in the ground for the children to play on. Long ago it saw its last working day. The spark plugs are fused to the block and the pistons frozen in their cylinders. One day it quit working, and now it is so rusted it cannot work.
On my uncle’s fruit ranch in Washington resides another old tractor. This beat-up Ford gave me rides around the orchard nearly thirty years ago, and it still putters around the orchards, hauling bins of apples and mowing hillsides of weeds.
Thirty years from now, I want to be that Ford tractor. I may not make the noise or even accomplish the magnificent feats of the unlimited-class tractor, but I want my motor running for the long haul. Spare me from the ecclesiastical junk pile. However, may my consecrated negligence never turn to pure negligence and make me akin to the playground tractor. I have fields to work for many years. Let me be that reliable and effective little Ford that hauls apples year after year. I don’t want to burn out or rust out; I want to hold out, to finish the race.

Robbins, P. D. (1985). Vol. 4: When it’s time to move : A guide to changing churches. The Leadership library (159–160). Carol Stream, Ill.; Waco, Tex.: Christianity Today, Inc.; Word Books.


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