How many reading this post would raise your hand or maybe both hands for an extra helping of harvest right now? Harvest, as opposed to plowing and planting, at home, work, and church is more fun but often an elusive reality that keeps us busy (main reason for a few months off from fresh blog posts). As spring is in full bloom outside, I am grateful that right now inside my life is occurring the rare season of supernatural harvest on multiple fronts including:
- Finally seeing our church plant purchase its first building after 8 years of repeated searching followed by disappointment followed by more searching…I think you get the idea.
- Finishing up seminary degree that I have been working on for almost a decade now.
- Experiencing some opening doors in the counseling ministry that I have been itching to walk through since I sat overwhelmed with inadequacy during my first counseling session over 15 years ago.
- Making progress on multiple fronts in my personal life that Heidi and I have been praying about and seeking the Lord on for years.
While I am not claiming to have it all figured out, may I share just a few universal observations as I reflect upon where God is getting glory in my life right now?
Here are several laws that repeatedly have been affirmed in my life and the lives of my mentors:
Harvest does not just happen…period.
This should be obvious, but sadly I have often forgotten this principle. You need to abandon your que sera sera view of harvest on any front. It takes prayer and labor to bend the ear and clear the air for the Lord of the harvest to show up in your life. Solomon summarizes, “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Pr. 20:4). Stop overfeeding upon the fruit of others’ labor; ask God to use every ounce of your faith, prayer, study, and just plain-old sweat equity to work up a fresh, anointed harvest for His glory and honor!
Rarely does harvest happen in the shape of a grand, punctuated event; it tends to be gradual and progressive.
The perfect example of this would be our church building situation. I have been praying for an expansive tract of land and sprawling campus with a driveway long enough to require a proper name. Instead God miraculously gifted us with an adequate building, but it’s not perfect with a tenant still finishing up their last few months of lease and being somewhat landlocked by available but expensive land. What I am finding is that God gives us what we have a sanctified longing for but often in manageable bites. This law, therefore changes how we review each day. In a recent podcast, one leader said, “We are involved in an ‘infinite game’; it is not about did I win or lose today but did I get better today.” Divine harvest does involved God’s demonstrative power, but that power is most commonly manifested in gradual process-have your naked eyes without the aid of technology ever actually seen a plant grow? Today is a part of the harvest but nothing more and nothing less.
Somebody else’s broad harvest started long before the sunrise of your limited at-a-distance observation.
One of the greatest hindrances to our own harvest is the wandering of our eyes to the “larger, easier” harvest of another. As someone tweeted this week, “The grass is only greener on the other side of the fence because you aren’t tending your own garden.” If the first two laws hold, then the harvest you observe occurring in “that lucky guy or gal’s life” took place as the result of epic loads of effort over a lengthy period of time.
To get more of your longed-for harvest requires a willingness to plant more failures.
I will admit that I have struggled with this law more than almost any other in my harvest field. Like most, I want to only get and stay involved in things that are highly successful. Just a few years ago, we had a new church planting endeavor out of North Life that didn’t make it…but at least we tried and learned much for the nonnegotiable next time. Much of the harvest we miss is due to being gun-shy in the barren plow rows of our last failure. No one challenges this hesitancy more than Winston Churchill who once quipped, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Our pride often distances us from the place where not only will we be associated will rotted seed but abundant harvest…if we just stayed through the initial flops.
No matter how long or non-pragmatic it feels don’t abandon the field of conviction in which God placed you.
This principle has been most applicable in my prolonged pursuit of the recent seminary degree. Without my wife’s gentle, persistent encouragement and willingness to edit much of my writing, I admit I probably would have bailed. Between the personal budget constraint of church planting and amount of time already committed to study, I uncovered multiple quitting places that appeared perfectly justifiable at the time. I am so glad I did not…not because the advanced degree is the harvest but because it is the seed in which Spirit-led, biblical counsel will germinate in the traumatized hearts, homes, and ministries to whom I continue to influence.
Allow past and present harvest of significance to fuel passion/seed for new ventures not prop up comfortable but unsustainable atrophy.
Too often, if we are completely honest, we only long for the harvest to kick back and coast with our “full barns” of temporal accolades, connections, and perks for self-inflating agendas. The driving motivation of this blog post is to NOT do that with the dynamic working of God in my life! Anything we learn is to teach better. Anything we gain is to give better. According to Albert Einstein, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” As we will get to in moment, the harvest is not the end but the means!
Emotions will never sustain you under the weight of the plow; they’re designed simply to make the harvest sweeter.
I am sure you have heard the analogy, “Emotions are meant to be the caboose not the engine of life.” Nowhere is this more applicable than in spiritual harvest. If you wait until you feel like it, you will never start. If you keep going only as long you feel like, you will always quit. Too many start with only the husk of emotional fervor and crumple under the load of the day-to-day grind. Your emotions will never carry enough sustaining power to reach harvest season; God’s expansive harvest comes only to those sustained by the bread of His Word and zeal of His Spirit.
You have a small, required part in the eventual harvest, but God alone gives the increase.
With the convicting laws that speak to our personal responsibilities, I gently remind you that really our part is such a small component in the grand scheme of things. A number of years ago, the Associated Press released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of the farmer’s labor, required 4,000,000 lbs. of water, 6,800 lbs. of oxygen, 5,200 lbs. of carbon, 160 lbs. of nitrogen, 125 lbs. of potassium, 75 lbs. of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical. It was estimated that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man. If we were honest, we’d have to admit that the same is true in producing spiritual fruit. That is what is so frustrating, humbling, and yet…promising. It is not about our performance with the plow or seed; it is about the promise of the God above! As Hudson Taylor said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
In the midst of harvest, encourage others around you to celebrate and renew…but then begin planning the prospect of planting again together.
The only thing worse than an individual who mishandles harvest is a God-assembled group that does so. A probing question would be, “How do others interpret a heaven-sent harvest as a result of your response to and stewardship of it?” If we are not careful we squander financial resources and time, over sharing “atta-boys” when we should be buying up new ministry real estate to plant. Personally and publicly, I try to consistently practice the principle of planting again before the harvest season is over. The way to tighten up the voids between waves of harvest is not by adding more celebratory events but more sun-up-to-sun-downs in cultivating and planting. It is key to note that both physical and spiritual harvest from God always contains new seed with latent growth that can only be stewarded properly by putting it back in field.
The greatest harvests are not substantive before men but soul-level before God.
Would you be honest enough to admit that much of the prospective “harvest” in your mind right now tends to be tangible and temporal by nature? I am still learning this principle, but it is possible to always grow a harvest no matter how difficult the context where you are planted by God. In contrast with the prosperity gospel charlatans of our day, planting for God does not always lead to a bigger car, house, family, office, etc. It may be that the Lord’s greatest harvest for me and you, in the days ahead, will be found in our intimate fellowship with Him. Remember Christ’s words to Martha, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lu. 10:41-42). The stuff you accomplish in “the field” will only go so far; a growing intimacy with the Sovereign of the Cosmos will position you for eternal dividends that will not dissipate. As one theologian challenged all of us workaholics, “What you are before God, that you are and nothing more.” By the way, this soul-level harvest occurs not only in you but in the heart-soil of those you evangelize and disciple. It is less about “what” and more about “who” is growing as a result of your fieldwork.
What season is it right now-spring? I think it is time we abandon every shred of our commiseration in past harvest let-downs and egotism from past harvest bumper crops. It’s planting time! Ready your submission to the plow of God’s Spirit. Disperse generously and broadly the seed of God’s Word. And then…count on the God of the rain and Sun to honor a “harvest law-abiding servant” like you and me!
Ga 6:7-9 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”