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Sent into the Harvest
"Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe...Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision" Joel 3:13-14.
Two revelations will change our attitude to evangelism:
There is a harvest
"Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest" John 4:35.
There is a sense of urgency at harvest time. Nothing else takes higher priority. God wants to open our eyes to see the harvest the way He does (Ecclesiastes 11:4).
There is a Lord of the harvest
"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest...to send out workers into his harvest field" Matthew.9:37-38.
The harvest field belongs to God, not us. He is called "the Lord of the harvest." He doesn't want the harvest trampled down by careless workers. So He trains His workers and He sends them out. As God's harvest workers, we must obey His directions.
Four Stages of Harvest
"...This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come" Mark 4:26-29.
As the Lord of the harvest, God has a way of doing things in His harvest field. The harvest can be at one of four stages:
"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground..." Hosea 10:12 (see also 1 Corinthians 9:10).
The plowing stage is a picture of people who are not yet ready to receive the seed of God's word (Ephians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4). This may be due to grief, hardness or ignorance. In Jesus' parable of the sower (Matthew13:3-9,18-23) there were four types of ground:
- Hard ground - hearts that are hardened against the Gospel
- Rocky ground - hearts whose response has no depth
- Thorny ground - hearts entangled by worldly cares
- Good ground - hearts that respond to the Gospel
A properly prepared harvest field should always have more good ground than hard, rocky and thorny ground. The hard ground in the parable was the pathway that ran around the outside of the field. Likewise, the rocky and thorny grounds lay at the edges of the field. If the main part of the field is hard, rocky or thorny, then plowing is needed. It is the plowing which makes the ground ready for the seed of the Gospel.
"When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way"
We plow with our prayers and our lives. But there is one more thing which God can use to plow a person's heart - the circumstances of life. Problems and difficulties can prepare people to receive the message of the Gospel.
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" 2 Corinthians 9:6.
The sowing phase is important because this is where the harvest eventually comes from. When you sow a seed into someone's heart, you may not see immediate results. But the sower is still a vital part of the harvest process. In times of the moving of God's Spirit, the reaping can even overtake the sowing and plowing.
"'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills'" Amos 9:13 (see also Galatians 6:9).
"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow" 1 Corinthians 3:6.
The watering phase of the harvest falls between sowing and reaping. At this stage, the seed may be dormant in the heart of an unbeliever. But with watering, the seed will begin to sprout. Watering is a reinforcing of the witness already given.
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him" Psalm 126:5-6.
Reaping is a time of great rejoicing. But when we lead a person to receive Christ, we must remember that we are just one of the workers in God's harvest field. We are reaping what someone else has sown, just as we have sown and another may reap.
"Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 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" John 4:37-38.
We must recognise what stage of harvest an unbeliever is at. We then cooperate with God in His work of harvest. Whether we sow or reap, we need to remember that we are only one part of a team of many harvest workers. There can never be competition and selfish ambition amongst the harvesters.
"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field" 1 Corinthians 3:7-9.
God's burning desire is to reach a lost world. He wants to see a great harvest, not only among our own people, but also beyond - to other peoples, languages and tribes around us who have not yet heard the Gospel. He wants us to join Him in the harvest.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" Matthew 24:14.
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