There are many web pages, articles, and instruction books on how to take good pictures. My wife and I like to take a lot (and this site provides an outlet for some of them), but over the years, we have solidified a key principle to getting some great photographs. I’ll share this “secret” with you today, free of charge:
With Great Quantity Comes Occasional Quality
That is, if you take enough pictures of something, there’s a better chance that you’ll get a good one in the end. Of course, following some basic photography rules also helps, as does learning about composition and the rule of thirds, but even professional photographers take a lot of frames to get their best results.
For our family members (who we like), we will often eliminate 80-90% of the pictures that we take, and visually take them through our vacations in less than 100 JPEG .files (For our friends, who – unlike our family – don’t have to still like us if they find us boring, the ratio is often closer to 95-98%.)
The fact is, whether we are taking pictures, picking out new clothes, or growing plants in a garden, it can take a lot of work to get to a respectable finished product. It’s silly to think that we’ll get a perfect shot of a sunset in one take, look good in the first shirt that we grab from the rack, or get a prize-winning pumpkin by just tossing a seed in the ground (although that guy from Jack and the Beanstalk might have been an exception).
In a passage from 1 Corinthians (where some readers were were actually being rebuked for allying themselves with specific teachers of the Christian faith, rather than following Jesus as the main leader of the church), Paul reiterated that serving in God’s kingdom take a lot of steps, as well.
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.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NASB
We might think that the eternal destiny of our friends and family falls squarely – and solely – on our shoulders. Sometimes, I think that we take on the burden for the souls that are lost to sin, and if we don’t see people accepting the gift of Jesus’ salvation after we share the good news with them (whether just once, or many times), we feel like a failure.
People’s relationships with God don’t work that way, though. For one thing, none of us can save anyone. We can tell people about Jesus, and explain how He has made a difference in our lives. We can share how much God loves each person, and let them know that they are special to Him. However, only God is responsible for the ultimate transformation in people’s lives, and He gives each of us a choice – to trust Him, or not.
Discipleship (growing to become more like God wants us to be, after we have decided to follow Jesus) works the same way. A genuine follower of Jesus may still fall back into sin, and struggle with their weaknesses, even if we help them out of the same situation repeatedly. While we are expected to help others, it’s the Holy Spirit’s role to guide them, and to give them the strength (if they will let Him) to overcome sins in this world.
Finally, no matter how we may present the joy of following Jesus, not everyone is ready to hear it. This has nothing to do with the message (although we should work to not represent it poorly), but rather the recipients. Jesus preached a parable about this (see Luke 8:4-15). Note that the sower in this parable didn’t just sow seed on the good ground (although perhaps he could have chosen to). Instead, the seed was sowed everywhere, and the sower isn’t recorded as getting bent out of shape because the birds ate some. We can’t blame ourselves for sharing God’s word with those who don’t let it take root in their lives.
Still, we are called to serve. We are expected to share the good news about Jesus that we have learned for ourselves. We are expected to help followers of Jesus become more like Him over time. We are expected to keep going, even when we don’t see immediate results.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:8-9 NASB
So, keep going. Continue to share the good news. Don’t stop cultivating Christ-likeness in others. Maybe you’ll see the fruit of your labors, or maybe lives will be changed – due, in some part, to your service in God’s plan – in a time and place that you won’t learn about until eternity.
Just remember: our job isn’t always to take the perfect picture, or to become a trend-setter, or to grow the perfect rosebush. Our job is to keep sowing, watering, and harvesting, wherever we are placed. Keep it up, and await your personalized reward for what you’ve done, celebrating with those whose lives were changed by the power of God.