With a little break in-between normal articles, I thought that this might be a good time to share some words about my father-in-law, Paul Morvay, who passed away on November 10, 2022, at the age of 85 (obituary). The pastor at the funeral gave an excellent eulogy, along with Paul’s sister and one of my brothers-in-law, but perhaps there is a bit more more to say about Paul’s life lived for Jesus Christ.
God calls His people to do various things, and I think that 1 Corinthians 3 captures some key points about those roles, as I consider my father-in-law’s life:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 NIV
Paul (my father-in-law, not the apostle of the same name who wrote the verses above under the inspiration of God) was a gardener. I don’t mean that he just grew a couple of tomato plants in pots on his driveway, or had a few herbs growing in a window box. He was a gardener, working a massive garden plot on his property, year after year. The garden didn’t take up the full 85 acres that he owned, but probably still covered nearly as much area as his ranch-style house adjacent to it. Paul worked the soil to prepare it, planted seeds (which he knew by variety and manufacturer), kept them watered, rooted out weeds, and harvested the results.
As a result, Paul’s harvest was often bountiful, exceeding his own family’s needs (even with canning and freezing for the winter) and spilling over to share with others. I wouldn’t have minded if he kept all of the zucchini for himself (not my favorite!), but it was unusual to leave his house during harvest season without some sort of produce.
Paul was a gardener in his faith, as well. I don’t know how many people turned their lives over to Jesus Christ at the very moment while my father-in-law was still sharing the good news with them. However, helping people cultivate the word of God in their hearts was a process, and Paul was passionate about many steps in that process (regardless of the state of the hearts into which the message about Jesus was sown – see Luke 8:4-15).
For example, Paul was well-known for handing out “tracts” (i.e., little booklets with a printed summary of the good news about salvation through Jesus Christ). Now, I realize that some Christians prefer not to hand out tracts, in favor of a more personal and relational approach, but we cannot deny God’s power to work in people’s hearts in all sorts of ways, nor do we have any right to refute testimonies of those whose lives were turned around (for the better!) by reading a tract and turning to God. I appreciate the principles described in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, where an apostle sought to do whatever it took to save people. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, reach out to those who don’t yet know Him in whatever way God has equipped you to do so, at each and every opportunity that He provides.
However, for that person whose life was falling apart and read a tract that they found in their pocket when they got home, or found a Bible placed in their hotel room, the person who provided good news to them about a new life in Jesus Christ may never know about the good that it does. Paul never seemed to mind that he didn’t know how much of a harvest other Christians were able to bring to Jesus, due to the seeds that Paul sowed. Like the passage above from 1 Corinthians, he was willing to start seeds and help water them, even if he wasn’t thanked for for helping souls become reconciled with their loving Creator.
In addition, Paul served behind the scenes to help keep the Kingdom of God going. The pastor who gave his eulogy pointed out how Paul made sure that the speaker on Sunday morning had water at the podium. Similarly, it was well-known that Paul regularly kept the lawn mowed at the church where he worshipped.
You may not know who mows the grass at your church, but the pastor at Paul’s church knew. If just one person driving by was influenced to visit the church or have a more positive outlook on Christianity, it was probably worth it to Paul.
In doing these things, Paul glorified the God that he served, providing a witness – a testimony – to his faith, without calling attention to himself. In doing so, he epitomized John the Baptist’s choice to promote Jesus’ ministry over his own (see John 3:30). I suspect that he did so without any of us knowing (here on earth) all of the work that God did behind the scenes while Paul simply did what he felt called to do for the Kingdom of God.
I look forward to learning in eternity more about how the spiritual seeds that Paul sowed and cultivated grew into lives that were changed for the better: the souls for whom Paul’s evangelism and ongoing service was part of their journey to receiving redemption.
Can you say the same about your own life? Have you worked hard for the Kingdom of God? Has your goal not been to get recognition for yourself, but rather to do your part for God’s greater plan? Are you OK with being “just” a planter or “just” a waterer, if God hasn’t selected you to be “just” a harvester? Do you work towards not only planting God’s word in the hearts of others, but helping it to grow and produce more fruit?
Regardless of where you are on your walk of faith (since we each have faith in something), I hope that you will join me in taking a moment to remember a lifelong servant of God, and that we will aspire to the same kind of humble service (no matter what form it takes) that Paul Morvay modeled on this earth, before he left to join his – and my – Savior for eternity.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.