Striving for excellence

Rev Dr Kenneth Patterson

26.8.2023 | Mission in Ireland, Farming & Rural Life


In his blog Rev Dr Ken Patterson writes about farmers striving for excellence as they pursue bigger yields and better bred animals, often winning prizes and rosettes at agricultural fairs across the land. He also talks about another prize that the Apostles Paul and Peter write about, an earthly prize that will not last forever, and a heavenly one reserved for disciples of Jesus in Heaven - one “…that can never perish, spoil, or fade…”

How things have changed in agriculture since I first began to work on farms in the 1960s. Take, for example, crop production, when in those days hay was still commonly made and I remember a yield of 100 small bales per acre would have been considered acceptable, but that would not be the case now.

Or think of barley, where one ton per acre would have been OK then, but not now.  And when you turn to beef production, farmers would now like to finish their animals ready for slaughter in about 21 months, while over 2½ years would not have been unusual then.

There are, of course, different factors, which have contributed to this change. For example, with cereals there are new seed varieties, as well as pesticides and herbicides (though we need to keep in mind the effect of some of these on the natural environment). And with beef there are new breeds, feed concentrates, and richer silage, etc.

A desire for rosettes

Another factor in animal husbandry is also clear to be seen throughout the summer months in particular. I refer to the agricultural shows like Balmoral, or the many smaller shows in provincial towns. The desire for rosettes in the different categories helps in the drive for breeding better and better animals, whether for milk, beef, pork, or lamb production.  Therefore, exhibitors strive for excellence.

Winning at shows not only brings great satisfaction on the day, but financial reward, because of the increased value of winning animals. It is, of course, understandable that many farmers put in a large amount of effort in an attempt to be among the prize-winners.

The same is true in the realm of sport, and already athletes across the world are training hard in the hope of being on the winner’s podium at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, or some other major sporting event.

The Apostle Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, when he speaks of runners going into strict training in order to win a prize: but he goes on to say that they do this to ‘win a crown that will not last’ (25). And we know that this is true of everything in this life, and not just prizes in sport or at agricultural shows.

A prize that lasts forever

Everything comes to an end and passes away, including our earthly lives themselves.  That is why Paul goes on to speak of a ‘crown that will last forever’.  He is referring to the hope of Heaven AFTER this life is over, and those, who, by grace, know Jesus as Saviour and Lord, can look forward to that crown. The Apostle Peter describes it in a different way, speaking of an ‘inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, reserved in heaven’ for God’s people (1 Peter 1:4).

Isn’t that worth infinitely more than any prize, or honour, that we might obtain in this world? And shouldn’t we then take time to read the Bible, and give ourselves no rest until we are sure of knowing Jesus ourselves? Then we will be able to look forward to that ‘prize’ which will truly last.


The former GP was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Before becoming a minister Kenneth worked on farms during his student days. As a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery. 

His blog appeared in a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News For the Countryside’, in today’s Farming Life, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. You can look at other blogs in this series here.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at ruralchaplain@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 07938 488 372.

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