Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. – Proverbs 14:4
When I was in high school, I periodically worked on a dairy farm. This farm was a big operation. I think there was in the neighborhood of 150 milking cows, plus quite a few non-milking cows, calves and a bull.. One of my main responsibilities was to clean out the stalls. These are the small pen-like structures the cows seemed to call their home when they were in the large barn.
All these cows producing all that milk generated a considerable amount of by-product. This by-product, known as cow-pies, cow dirt, manure or some other less acceptable term, needed cleaned out of the barn on a regular basis. Since I was one of the many high school kids working on the farm, cleaning out these stalls and the rest of the barn was our number one priority.
I remember one hot day as I was cleaning out the barn looking up at my boss, “old man Weaver” (not his real name). We never called him “old man Weaver” to his face, but that was how we referred to him amongst ourselves. At any rate, this particular day I was complaining loudly about the smell and how I was standing ankle deep in cow…. stuff. I remember looking up at him as he was sitting on the tractor saying “do you ever get used to this smell?” He didn’t answer me directly, but he did inhale a big breath. Then he said, “I love that smell. When I smell cow stuff (not the word he used), I know my cows are making milk. And if they are making milk, I’m making money.”
Have you ever realized that when you are productive, there is usually a by-product? Sometimes it can be rather messy – even smelly. We usually want our life to be nice and tidy. Not messy or smelly but nice and clean. But that seems to only occur when nothing is going on.
When God is truly working in my life, there is a good chance I am going to face some difficult things. Whether its things in my own heart or something I face as a result of my Christian walk, serving Him most often has a messy by-product.
When we serve people and they begin to understand their need of Him, it can be smelly. When we begin to make serious progress as believers we often end up with some cow… stuff to handle. Serving Him can be messy, smelly and downright unpleasant at times.
But that’s really a good thing. It means we are making a difference. We are having a direct impact on someone’s life.
So instead of becoming discouraged when things get messy in our life, maybe we should expect some by-product of ministry that smells just a little. Maybe “old man Weaver” was right when he said, “I love that smell.” It’s the smell of changed lives. It’s the smell of successful ministry.