During my year as a teacher, I have continually come back to a particular subject. In conversation, in personal Bible study, in sermons that i've heard... I have seen God continually bringing me back to the subject of HARVEST.
As I gather my thoughts, I'll begin in the book of Matthew.
Matthew 13 -- v. 3, The sower went out to sow.
He went out.
Chill with me on that thought for a second. Okay.
He sowed see in the rocky places.
He sowed seed among the thorns.
He sowed seed in good soil.
We know how the story goes.
The seed in the rocky places is quick to spring up, but it has no root and is scorched out by the sun.
The seed among the thorns is choked.
Yet, the seed on the good soil bares crops 30, 60, and 100 fold.
Since childhood i have always had the same outlook when reading this passage. I have seen this as merely an illustration of how different people will respond to the gospel. But in addition to that, lately I have begun to look at if from a slightly different perspective. I have begun to see it from the perspective of the sower himself.
The sower went out to sow. He didn't go looking for the good soil right away, and then only sow there. He sowed everywhere! In the good soil and the bad. Looking at it from a farmer's perspective, this might seem crazy. it is a waste of time, energy, and seed. A "successful" farmer would sow in only the best soil. But not this one. This sower sowed everywhere.
Sometimes, as believers, we can be tempted to go for the "easy ministry" where we think we might have the most "success" because many people will believe in Christ. And, of course, we are tempted to measure that success by the number of people who become saved. Sure, if for example, I worked at a summer camp all of my life with camp fires and alter calls, I might have hundreds of people accepting Christ on a weekly basis, and have lots of "success" in my ministry. But if I were working with an unreached people group, I could go a lifetime with only a handful of people believing. in comparison, would I then be "unsuccessful"? By no means.
Did the sower in Matthew 13 count his success only by the harvest? I think not. If he did, then why would he bother sowing in rocky and thorny places?
Harvest is glorified, and exciting. It is what people want to hear about. I've lost track of the number of times I have been asked this year of how many people have gotten saved. Honestly, not many. But by no means does that say that my work here in Thailand has been unsuccessful. There can be no harvest if there have been no seeds planted. My ministry here is more of planting than of reaping. and i plow and plant in hope of a harvest to come. The soil here is dry, thorny, and rocky, but i plant seeds anyways, and i plow the fields in hope to better prepare them to receive seed.
The hard part though.... Well... A farmer's work is indeed hard, but is all becomes worth it in the end when he bring in his harvest. But in the Christian life, we may not always see the harvest. Hebrews 11 speaks of saints who never did receive the promise after suffering for their faith. The majority of my work here is sowing, and plowing fields. We have had a few people this year put their trust in Christ, but by no means has it been a huge revival. But the important thing to remember is that our work here is far from ineffective. On an unprepared field, maybe one or two seeds may sprout up, and like the sower in Matthew 13, those fields should not be overlooked. and yes, the good soil does produce a greater harvest, so of course that field should not be overlooked either.
In Thailand, most of the soil is rocky, and thorny, and dry. Maybe one or two seeds will sprout, but even those, if you want them flourish, you must tend the ground. If you do want an eventual harvest, you must plow and prepare the fields, making them into good soil that is ready to receive the seed. This has been the majority of my work here.
But now we're back to the thought that a farmer's work is worth it in the end because he gets to bring in a harvest. Like I said, in the work of a Christian, you don't always get to see the harvest.
In John 4, Jesus is talking to his disciples about this very thing, but from the opposite perspective. They are given the job of harvesting, but as Jesus points out, they are harvesting in a place that they did not sow. Other people had sown, The woman from the well had sown, Jesus had sown. But the disciples who had not sown here would bring in the harvest (v.38). But backtracking up to v. 37, and then to v. 36 we see that one man sows, and another reaps, and they can REJOICE TOGETHER. I will be going home very soon, and will not be able to continue to cultivate these seeds that I have sown. Someone else will be teaching my students and interacting with these people. I won't get to bring in this harvest. Someone else will. And I pray for the person who will get to do that. I don't even know if I will get to hear about it when harvest time comes (while I'm on this side of heaven at least), but I sure hope I do get to hear about it, because as a sower, I LOVE THE SOIL.