As the year quickly fades away, we find ourselves in one of my favorite seasons, fall! So many changes come with the season as the temperatures and leaves begin to drop. It’s also the season of the harvest. All of the hard work spent in the spring and summer months plowing, planting, irrigating, and weeding finally pay off as the fruits (and veggies, meat, and grain) of that labor result in the harvest. It’s a season filled with hard work with much needing done quickly, but this work comes along with joy as the results of the work are right in our hands.
Although new technology, methods, and tools are available today to assist in these processes, the basics of planting and harvesting, or sowing and reaping, haven’t changed too much since creation. For this reason, we find many parallels drawn between the sowing and reaping process in the natural and that in the spiritual. This morning, we’re going to take a look at how we are workers in the spiritual fields all around us that God has called us to. We find how we play a critical role in the harvest that God has prepared.
We find first of all, that we all play different roles at different times in the spiritual harvest. Sometimes, we are the ones who plows the ground of the person’s life by praying for them. Sometimes, we are the ones who plant the first seed by sharing God’s word with someone and living it out for them to see. Sometimes, we are the ones who lead them in a prayer to receive Christ’s salvation. Sometimes, we are the ones who disciple and train them to live a Godly lifestyle. Each role is just as critical and important as the other and without any one of them, the harvest cannot take place.
If the ground is not properly prepared, the harvest will not come. If the seed is not planted, the harvest will not come. If the seed is not watered and given adequate nutrition, the harvest will not come. If the field is not weeded and maintained, the harvest will not come.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field.
The first step in the harvest is to plow up the hardened ground in our hearts. The plow that we use for this purpose is prayer. Just as we see time and time again in scripture, we pray that God would test and examine our hearts and show us any areas of hardness or rebellion that we need to allow God to plow up and soften. Also, we should intercede and pray that God would do the same in the hearts of those around us. God alone can prepare the soil in someone’s heart to receive His word so that it will root deeply, grow quickly, and bear much fruit. If we fail to do this step, the seed of God’s word that we sow by sharing it and living it, will get stolen away by the birds of the air and the worries of this world, which are Satan himself. We see this condition of the heart explained in a parable told by Jesus in Matthew 13.
The next step in the harvest is to sow, or plant, seed. God’s word is the seed that we need to be sowing both in our own lives as well as into others. We can sow this seed into other’s lives by first off living out God’s word as well as by verbally sharing it with them. We don’t need to necessarily quote book, chapter, verse, but we should always be prepared and have His word hidden away in our hearts ready to present.
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
So we ought to be prepared both in an out of season to preach the word of God and to do it in a graceful and appealing way. Our desire should be that they taste and see that the Lord is good and not to be as sour as lemons as to drive them away from Him. After all, Christ called us to be the salt and light of this world; let us not lose our saltiness! Christ meant by this that we should live lives that make others thirsty for the living water that He wants to freely pour out into their lives and to preserve their lives, not that we should find the sins and wounds of others and condemn them and make them hurt even worse for the condition that they are in! Scripture calls us to lead people to Christ and be fishers of men, not to shove people to Christ and be cattle drivers of men.
Just as in the natural world, whatever we sow, we will reap. We never plant a corn seed with the expectation to receive a pumpkin plant. However, we often speak poorly of people and mistreat them expecting them to act and become the opposite of what we sow. This should not be! We sow seeds into other’s lives by how we speak about them and to them, our attitudes towards them, our lived example for them, and our actions to them.
We also sow into our own lives by things that we permit, whether it be by means of the media (TV, the internet, movies, music, etc.), other’s words, actions, and attitudes toward us, thoughts that we permit to run through our minds and hearts, and of course, our actions.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
We must always be desiring to please the Spirit and looking for opportunities to do good for others. We must never give up doing good and by doing so, sowing good seed into other’s lives!
The next step in the harvest is to make sure that the field that the seed has been sown in is properly irrigated and that adequate nutrition is made available. In the spiritual harvest, this living water is the Holy Spirit whom God freely gives to all who have accepted His salvation and God’s word is the nutrition that feeds us.
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival (feast of tabernacles), Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
We who believe in Him have rivers of living water flowing from within us; God, the Holy Spirit Himself. As we build relationships with those who we have shared God’s word with, our lives should water and refresh them. Our words should be in agreement with God’s own and therefore should speak life and hope to them. This, of course, requires us to remain in His Spirit and in His word and stay filled up ourselves.
This also means that at times, dirt in our lives that needs to be removed will be revealed. So long as we remain humble and hungry to be transformed into Christ-likeness, this will also be a refreshing and welcomed process. It will bring great freedom and relief from heavy burdens as they are washed away and we become purified.
The next step in the harvest comes the process of weeding. In the spiritual harvest, this process is called discipleship. It’s one of the most significant processes, yet is the one that is easiest to neglect because it takes the most work and constant monitoring. However, if this process is neglected, weeds are sure to grow and could even overtake the good seed that was planted in our lives. We must be willing to grow constantly and to change in our lives by getting rid of everything in our lives that God did not intend to be there. Through this process, we trust that He is our Creator and that He knows what is best for our lives. This is where we become a new creation. We allow God to shape and mold us into the person that He created us to be and allow Him to take us into the plans and purposes that He had in mind when He created us. This means that parts of our lives that we’ve allowed to identify us and define who we are might need to be weeded out as we find our true identity in Christ. This is a continuous process that needs to take place in our lives in the same way as it takes place in the fields in the natural harvest.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Finally, comes the day of the harvest. The field has been prepared, the seed has been planted, the seed grows into a mature plant, and finally, the plant bears fruit ready to be harvested. Jesus has already done so much work for us, that often the fields in the spiritual are already ripe for the harvest waiting for the workers to go out and reap the benefits of their labor.
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
It’s time for us to rise up, go out, and work the fields that Christ has prepared to harvest. The work that He has called us to, He has already equipped us for. We need not be biblical scholars or have reached some sort of super spiritual maturity to do the work. In fact, Jesus told us just how simple and easy it can be to work His fields. Let’s stop bucking and fighting Christ like a goat going the way that we think is best and start following His lead like a sheep who knows that His shepherd cares more than anyone else for them and knows the best way for us!
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
So we see that the work that Christ has called us to is not that difficult. We are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, hospitable to strangers, clothe those needing clothing, to look after those who are sick, and to visit those in prison. These are all things that any one of us can do and when we choose to do them, we do them not to those who are in need, but to Christ Himself. When we choose to do these things, we proclaim the love and salvation of Christ in the most powerful and effective ways. Of course, when we choose not to do them, we buck and fight Christ like a goat and also choose our destiny. When we say, ‘That person is just getting what they deserve!’ and fail to look on them with compassion and grace, but rather choose to look on them with condemnation and judgment; we choose to have Christ look on us in the same way that we have looked on them. After all, Christ chooses not to treat us as our sins deserve. Remember, we reap what we sow.
Let us rise up this morning and be a generous people. Let us never grow weary doing the good works that Christ has called us to. Let us pray that He shows us the fields ripe for the harvest all around us and give us the desire to work them. Let us pray that He show us the opportunity that surrounds us every day of our lives and how to take full advantage of those opportunities.