I grew up in a condominium in Treasure Island, Florida. We were only a 10-minute drive from the beach. I loved the water and the sun. But had you told me growing up that one day I would become a farmer and that these two elements, the sun and water, would be critical to that endeavor, I would have thought you a bit off! Yet, with that said, I am today a farmer. And I don’t know about your background, but as a follower of Jesus, you too are a farmer!
Let me explain.
Jesus’ parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-15 sheds light on this reality:
And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?” And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
In this parable, there are two constants and one variable. The constants are the seed, the Word of God, and the sower – anyone who sows the seed. The one variable is the soil – representing the condition of a human heart. And as Jesus explains, it is where the seed lands.
Jesus often taught in ways the people could understand. Hence, since Israel was an agrarian society in that time, He sometimes used farming to communicate Kingdom truths. After Jesus witnesses to the Samaritan woman in John 4, He teaches His disciples about the spiritual harvest:
And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors”(John 4:27-38).
As Jesus teaches the disciples about sowing and reaping after witnessing to the Samaritan woman, I find it noteworthy that the Lord tells all the laborers to rejoice together. And there’s a sense of – “Don’t be concerned, humanly speaking, who gets the credit for the harvest. Because ultimately it’s the Lord who should get the credit and the Lord who should get the glory! The important thing is to labor!” For you and I and all God’s people are the church, and our relationship in Kingdom work should be complimentary, not competitive.
Finally, in Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus once again uses the farming motif in teaching about the spiritual harvest of souls:
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
The application for the disciples and for you and me is to sow in God’s field, trusting Him with the harvest. For just as rain and sun bring forth a harvest, so the Lord Himself, who is the living water and light of the world, will bring forth a harvest of souls. For Jesus said, “I will build My Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Mark 16:18).
How do we sow and labor?
First, as noted, we sow by sharing God’s word with others, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). We also sow through prayer, love and good deeds. These are all part of our witness to others.
Just as the farmer is helpless to provide rains needed for the harvest, so we as God’s farmers are helpless to move the human heart from unbelief to belief. This is the work of the Holy Spirit – “One sows, one waters, but God gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
I was in college the first time I heard the gospel. My initial response were outright rejection of that message. However, people kept coming and the Holy Spirit kept working on my heart. People sowed, watered and labored, investing in my life. The Lord used their witness to bring me to Himself, but it took time. Four years passed between the time people began witnessing to me and the day I trusted in Christ in December 1987.
So do the work of a farmer – sowing, watering, and laboring in the “field” – the sphere of influence in which God has placed you. And develop the patience and trust of a farmer, trusting the “Lord of the Harvest” to do what only He can – transform the human heart!
“Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1) – be a farmer!