Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sowing and reaping...

Since we no longer live in a mostly agricultural or farming culture anymore, the principle of sowing and reaping is somewhat foreign to many of us. The principle is simple, what you sow or plant in the ground, will allow you to reap and harvest the fruit of what you planted later on. Oh there is a lot that happens in between the sowing and reaping/harvest time to ensure you have a good crop. Water, sun, fertilizer, pulling weeds and a whole lot of patient waiting, in some cases months or even years before you see fruit and enjoy it. Planting a sapling orange tree in the fertile Rio Grande Valley of South Texas where we lived for many years will take about 5 years to produce mature oranges. Some pear trees are the slowest in producing fruit, in some cases 6-12 years of waiting before the first pear is plucked and it’s sweet fruit is enjoyed.

God talks about this principle and through the Apostle Paul, He encouraged the Galatians in Gal. 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” It’s really easy to grow weary in sowing – in the context here of sowing good. Often the good may not seem good to others, especially in disciplining and correcting our children. The kids pretty much hate it; and make it clear they hate it. Consistently witnessing to a lost friend or family member may not seem good to them and they may respond with anger or reject us as friends. That kind of stuff can make you weary. Yet God makes a promise: “in due season, we shall reap…” Notice the harvest, the reaping happens in season. God doesn’t necessarily reveal when the reaping season is, but He promises there will be a harvest. His promise here is contingent on not giving up or quitting. The phrase “if we do not lose heart” is an old fashioned way of saying “if we don’t throw in the towel and quit.” Quitting guarantees the harvest will not come. Briars, thorns, weeds, animals, scorching heat, lack of water – downright neglect of the crop, quitting guarantees there will be no fruit at harvest time. In this context, the fruit produced from doing good, won’t be there because someone lost heart and quit. God’s encouragement is to keep at it. Keep sowing and working that field and in due season, you’ll enjoy the fruit.

I had something happen to me this week illustrating the principle of sowing and reaping proves true once again and it brought me tremendous encouragement. Briefly, it had to do with the church my family and I planted by God’s grace in New England. We labored diligently for 5 years and poured much blood, sweat and tears into that field God called us to work. We saw some great times of harvest as we literally plowed granite in the Granite State and gave everything we had to birth a church with just the 7 in my family. We had much support from our home church, FBC McAllen and my beloved Pastor Bill Sutton, along with many other SBC churches. In those 5 years, we saw old Satan pull out all the stops to try and keep this fledgling church plant from happening. By the grace of God, we eventually saw 130 or so gathering for worship weekly and saw the church beginning to flourish with disciples being produced. Yet there was a problem. God needed to move me out of the way. The reason why is not important for this discussion. In my heart, in spite of my desire to start and pastor the same church for 30 or more years, I knew God was going to move me to another field of service. After a year of praying about it and waiting on the Lord, God spoke clearly and moved us to Houston to labor in the vineyard there.

There was a plan in place for the transition for the church; a seasoned interim pastor was to come on board but at the last minute, his wife became ill and he could not take the position. The lay leaders I had trained and handed leadership over to had some deep struggles internally after we left and sadly Satan got a foothold. From the bits and pieces we heard, the church pretty much shriveled up and for all practical purposes, had died. Many key leaders we love dearly left the church and found places elsewhere to serve. No one really communicated with us so we Greens had no idea what all happened. It was like we fell off the planet and for years heard nothing. Someone told our home church in McAllen the church had closed and that news broke our hearts. I found myself questioning whether it was worth it. My kids were broken at the thought that all those labors were for naught. We grieved as a family. My wife and I have shed many tears together and prayed for that church, wondering if our labors there were in vain…until this past Tuesday.

The short story is I got a call from the original man I called “our person of peace” when we began to plant the church. This gentleman had been so helpful to us in helping us learn the community and avoid some pitfalls. He was un-churched at the time having been hurt in another church. He was a believer who had great leadership in his former church. It took many years but he began attending. In my discussions with him, he shared the church had gone through some deep waters because of poor decisions made after I left and attendance dwindled down to 7 or 8 people. But the church had called a New England native, serving in Arizona to be their pastor and now after 2 years of ministering, they had over 70 in worship last Sunday! At a recent fellowship dinner, they had over 100 attend and needed to cart in more tables and chairs! This man shared he often testifies to the labors and the foundation that was laid by our ministry there. The church continues to support our convention and missions and God is working!

Later on I checked out the church website and was astounded to see the pictures of ministry and gospel witness the church is engaged in with people being baptized, new faces I don’t know, new life, new preschoolers, grade school kids, new praise team. The church not only has a pulse, but it is flourishing! The tears of weeping I have shed in prayer for that little church plant over these years, wondering if we’d failed or misunderstood God’s call, gave way to tears of rejoicing! I shared this news with my family and they wept for joy also. I love what Paul said to the Corinthian church in 1st Cor. 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Praise be to God! Thanks Lord, I needed that! In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build His church. Personally seeing Him do that in the face of Satan and his minions just fires me up!

The lesson is simple: Don’t quit! You will reap in due season, just don’t quit! Keep teaching dear Bible Study teacher when you think no one is listening or cares. Keep working with those little kids in the nursery; keep teaching those grade school children. Keep ministering to teenagers when they wear you out. Keep correcting your children mom and dad and teach them Biblical truth and principles, don’t quit single mom being dad and mom to your children, invest in those grandkids even though they seem to be straying from God. Keep working on your marriage when you think it’s hopeless. Keep loving on that friend, family member or co-worker that is lost and keep sharing Jesus with them. Keep speaking the truth in love to those basket case friends who keep making stupid decisions. Be courageous and just don’t quit working for the Lord! God promises you’ll reap in due season, on His time, if you keep sowing good and do not quit. I’m rejoicing in tears and praising the Lord for the principle of sowing and reaping, from my little corner of the world to yours…

  Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church  

Posted via email from Pastor Ralph

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