Sowing and Reaping
January 28th, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
SOWING AND REAPING
1-28-73 10:50 a.m.
And all of us rejoice in this glorious choir. The song that they sang today is especially and particularly appropriate when we remember that this is the first day that our nation has found peace in over a decade. And to have Allan Steelman, our representative in the United States Congress, to be with us this day in thanksgiving and praise to God is most encouraging and acceptable to men and angels. The long and weary and drawn-out war in Indonesia has found a cease-fire. And we pray in the repatriation of our prisoners and in the solution to the political animosities that have found expression in bombs and bullets, that somehow they may work out an enduring, a just, and a lasting peace in that unhappy and encrimsoned land. So altogether in keeping with the prayer of Lance Birks, our intern from Spurgeon’s College in Great Britain, that we pray with him our praise and words of thanksgiving to God. For they rejoice in the British Isles no less than do we; no less than all the other free countries of the world in our hope that we have found achievement in this quest for peace.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor, bringing the message entitled: Sowing and Reaping, the law of the harvest. In our preaching through the Book of Galatians, we are in the middle of chapter 6. And the reading of the text begins at verse 6 and concludes with verse 9. Galatians chapter 6, beginning at verse 6:
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
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.
Therefore let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
We have heard that passage quoted about sowing and reaping all our lives. Because this is an expository sermon, we present it therefore in its context and as Paul gave it meaning in the inspiration of God. What he’s talking about is supporting the ministry, giving to the church, "Let him that is taught in the word," let the congregation of the Lord, "communicate unto him that teacheth" [from Galatians 6:6], supporting the church, supporting the ministry. The word translated here "communicate." That’s a Pauline expression used several times in his letters by which he refers to liberality, to giving, "communicate." The Greek word is koinōneō. Koinōneō, "to participate, to share," a koinōnia is "a sharing." Sometimes it is translated "a fellowship." Sometimes it is translated "a communion," it is a sharing. Koinōnikes is the word for "liberal." Someone who is koinōnikes is liberal. A koinōneōs is "a partner, a sharer."
So what the apostle is writing to the churches of Galatia is that these who belong to the church and who are blessed by the word of God, let them share what they have. Let them be liberal in their response. Let them support the ministry and the congregation. Then he writes a word of universal law, "For whatsoever a man soweth," talking about his giving, "that shall he reap" [Galatians 6:7], talking about the harvest, the blessing that comes from it. "For he that soweth to the flesh," to the world, "shall of the world reap its disintegration, its corruption; but he that soweth in the spiritual things of God shall reap a life," in degree, in kind; that is, aiōnios, "everlasting" [Galatians 6:8].
"Do not let us be weary in this ministry; for in due season we shall certainly reap," the law of the harvest, "Let us not faint" or be weary in it [Galatians 6:9]. One could say, an objector:
Surely this is not applicable in the spiritual world, this law that we seek in the natural and physical world, of sowing and reaping. "For whatsoever a
man soweth, that shall he reap," it is certainly true in the physical, mundane, terrestrial world, but it is not applicable in the spiritual world.
Just the opposite! I could not think of a finer argument for the one great Creator of things visible and invisible, of things spiritual and physical, than what I see and what we experience in this one great, unified workmanship of God. It is the same there as here. It is the same seen and unseen.
The same plan, the same design, the same intelligence runs through all of it, the natural and the supernatural, the spiritual and the physical. The Lord God, when He laid down the plan for the creation of His physical universe, followed the same laws and the same plans and the same designs as have been in existence ever since God Himself has been, which is from eternity. It is the same workmanship. It is the same mind. It is the same God. What we find in the spiritual world is the same kind of wheels and workmanship that we find in the physical world, only there it is without clothing of iron or substance.
I used to say there are two great books that God has written. He has written a book that we call the natural world, and we see the hand of God in it. Then He has written a book called the spiritual world, and we see the hand of God in that. Having thought that more carefully through, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one book, just one, written by the finger and hand of God. And its two chapters are separated only by the narrow demarcation of our five senses. Whether it is natural or supernatural, visible or invisible, whether it is spiritual or natural, it is the same. And whenever you touch God’s work, when you get beyond the rudiments, beyond the primary; there you will bump into everything else that God has done. It is one system built on one plan, guided by one intelligence, and laid down according to one design. And you can never escape that.
For example, suppose a man gives himself to the study of agronomy, agriculture. It isn’t long until he’s in botany, the study of plant life. It isn’t long until he’s in zoology, the study of animal life. It isn’t long until he’s in the study of chemistry. And it isn’t long until he’s in the study of meteorology, the atmosphere, the moisture, the rain. As he studies agronomy, he’s beginning to bump into everything that God has done. There’s no exception to that in the study of anything where we look at the workmanship of Almighty God. It is one universe, one world, one law, one great design, one mighty intelligence, one for God who’s done it all.
So the laws that I see in the physical world are the same laws that I meet in the spiritual world. And one of them, Paul refers to here, the law of sowing and reaping. Our Lord, the master teacher, saw that clearly. And seeing the connection of things, the interrelatedness of things, He would take the plain, humble, spiritual things and illustrate them by what He saw in plain, humble, physical things. They’re just the same whether it is here or there. This will illustrate that and that will illustrate this. It’s the same. Just seeing birds fly, and one might fall to the ground [Matthew 10:29] – or seeing the wild flowers grow, the lilies of the field [Luke 12:27-28]; He would see in that a great evidence of the watchful, guardian care of Almighty God.
Paul did that. And if a minister is a fine, true minister, he’ll do that today. The language that he uses may be very simple – rural, in fact, such as sowing and reaping –but what he’s actually talking about is the law of compensation, or the law of retribution, or the law of cause and effect. It is the same, whether there or here, visible or invisible. So the apostle, speaking of us and what we do in our lives, and what we give ourselves to, and what we love, and the efforts of our hands, and the desires of our hearts, he uses a plain, simple, natural law, illustrating the spiritual law of sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting.
And he speaks of it in two ways: one, in kind; and the other, in degree. First, in kind, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Galatians 6:7]. Not something else, but that: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap. It’s for sale, and you pay a price for it and buy it; but you buy that, whatever it is. The student, it is knowledge. The soldier, it could be fame. The workman, it is money, compensation. But whatever you buy, you pay the price for that. So it is in our planting and in our harvesting. Whatever we sow, we reap that. A man would be surprised if his harvest were something else and different. If he sows wheat, he does not expect sorghum. If he plants an acorn, he does not expect a magnolia. If he plants the slip of a little elm, he expects a great big elm tree someday, "What a man soweth, that does he reap." Here is a young man who goes to school and he’s trained in medicine, that is: he’s not a skillful farmer, he’s trained in medicine. Or here’s a young man who goes to school and he – and he’s taught law. Therefore, he’s not a skillful engineer. What he sows, he reaps that; what he gives his life to, the harvest is that.
So it is in the spiritual world: the apostle avows, "What a man sows, that does he reap." And if he sows to the world, if he sows to the flesh, if the energy and the outreach of his life is for things mundane, terrestrial, fleshly, carnal, worldly, then the harvest ultimately is inevitable decay and loss and corruption. That’s an astonishing thing! For when a man gives himself to the world and he sows to the flesh, his harvest can be money, affluence, success, pleasure, freedom from hunger and cold and heat; in how many things can he find a harvest, sowing to the flesh, sowing to the world. But the apostle says there is also a harvest in it, and that harvest is corruption, decay, loss [Galatians 6:8].
The apostle says that there are no spiritual rewards; there are no spiritual harvests when the man sows just to the flesh and just to the world. For example, money; money can buy a bed, but not sleep. Money can buy food, but not appetite. Money can buy a house, but not a home. Money can buy medicine, but not health. Money can buy amusement and pleasure, but not happiness. Money can buy gifts, but not love. Money can buy a crucifix, but not a Savior. When we sow to the flesh, to the world, when our vision and dream is down here, terrestrial, carnal, fleshly, the harvest is corruption, loss, decay.
One time a man with another man was driving by and through a beautiful estate. It was crowned by a lovely mansion and the fertile fields falling away from it. And the man asked his companion, "What is the value of this great estate?" And his friend replied, "I cannot tell you the value of it, but I can tell you what it cost its possessor." And the other fellow said, "What? What?" And he replied, "It cost him everything that he had. It cost him his soul."
The vicar of a church, an Anglican church in Great Britain, in England, was kneeling by the side of one of his wealthy parishioners, and he was pleading with the man to give his heart to God. And he said to him, "Sir, if you will give your life to God, your soul to God, your heart to God, take my hand." And the man refused. And the vicar pled with him, "Sir, the end is drawing near. Life is fleeting. Death is nigh. Giving your heart to God, the sign of it, take my hand. Take my hand." The man refused. And when he died, his cold, pulseless hand relaxed. And in it, the pastor saw the key to the safe, as though he could take it with him. "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption" [Galatians 6:8]. There is not a Mason here or listening over television or radio but could never forget, ever, one of the most dramatic parts of your induction into the Masonic Lodge. When Hiram Abiff is slain and the man seeks to raise him from the dead; and he takes his cold, dead, corrupting hand and seeks to raise him up, and he turns and says, "I cannot raise him. I cannot lift him. For the skin slips from his corrupting hand."
There was a man, a wealthy man, who had given his life to the world and not to God. And in his last illness became obsessed with his hands, with his hands. And his wife called his friend of the generations, the years and the years, and said, "Come and talk to John. Maybe you can help him. He’s obsessed with his hands, the aberration in his mind." So Jim came to see his old friend whom he’d known and loved through the years. And as he visited by the side of his stricken friend, Jim finally said to him, "John, there is nothing wrong with your hands. There is nothing wrong with your hands." And John looked at him and said, "Jim, Jim, look, look! My God, Jim, they’re so empty! They’re so empty." He that soweth to the flesh, to the world, shall of the flesh reap emptiness, corruption, decay, loss. "My God, Jim, they’re so empty! They’re so empty."
Death, inextricable and inevitable, death to the one who sows to the flesh, who sows to the world, is a mockery; a ghastly, ghostly apparition; a horror. It is not the gate to paradise. It is not the gate to heaven. It is not the gate to glory. He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, loss, disintegration; leave it all behind. That’s sowing in kind.
Now sowing and harvesting in degree: "Let him that is taught," these who belong to the congregation of the Lord, koinōneō, contribute, share, "support him that teacheth," the church, the ministry [Galatians 6:6]. "For he that soweth in the Spirit" of God, in the things of God, supporting the work of God, "shall of that," same God, the Holy "Spirit, reap," a harvest, in degree; elevated, multiplied, aiōnios, "everlasting" [Galatians 6:8]; quality as well as duration: Oh, Paul would write so much about that! "This I say," he writes in the second Corinthian letter, chapter 9:
This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, not under coercion, not by force of necessity: for God loves a man who loves the work of the Lord and supports it triumphantly, gloriously, liberally.
[2 Corinthians 9:6, 7]
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you in degree, sowing in the name of God for the work of the Lord. But the harvest, O dear Lord, how full and how rich, how blessed, how precious, how triumphant! The law of the harvest, spiritual harvest, spiritual reward, spiritual blessings, sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting. Rather than expatiate on that, let me illustrate it. Many times people ask me, "Did you ever know Dr. Truett? He stood here forty-seven years behind this very desk, preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. "Did you ever know Dr. Truett?"
I reply, "Not like that. I never knew him as a pastor or as someone that I had seen frequently or intimately. I just knew him as a younger man. I would go to a Southern Baptist Convention or a great convocation and listen to him. I knew him just like that." But the effect he had upon me, as upon everyone else, sometimes almost indescribable.
Here’s an instance. At one of our conventions, the convocations of our people, he was describing his preaching to the cowboys in West Texas. Every summer, every summer, he would go out there and preach to those cowmen. Upon a day, after a morning service, one of those ranchers who had vast acres and vast herds, said, "Dr. Truett, would you walk with me?" So the pastor and the cattleman walked and walked and walked, until finally came to a lonely, isolated place. The cowman stopped and turned to the pastor and said, "Sir, today, today, for the first time, today, have I come to realize that these thousands and hundreds of thousands of acres of ranch land are not mine. They belong to God, and I am the steward. "For the first time today, I have come to see that these great herds of cattle are not mine. They belong to God, and I am just His steward. And all these vast possessions that are supposed to be in my name, are not mine at all. They belong to God. And I am to use them for His good and glory."
"Now," he said, "Dr. Truett, I want you to kneel down here, and I by your side, and I want you to tell God for me that today I give Him all of my lands, and all of my herds, and all of my cattle, and all of my possessions, and that I will try to be a good steward, using them for the glory of God. You tell God that for me." So they knelt down, and the great pastor, with bowed head and humbled heart, by the side of that big cattleman, dedicated to God everything that the man owned with the promise that he’d use it for the glory of the Lord.
In describing it, Dr. Truett said he supposed that that was all. It was a prayer of consecration and dedication of what the man possessed, and he, God’s steward, to use it wisely and well. But when he got through praying, the cowman was not done. When the pastor finished the prayer of dedication, the rancher put his hand on his arm and said, "And now, Dr. Truett, and now, having given God everything that I have and having promised God I’d use it for His glory, now, Dr. Truett, may I also give to God my wayward and prodigal boy? And may I ask God to save and bring back that wayward and prodigal child? Would you ask that from the Lord? Would you pray that to God?" Oh, I not only found myself melting in tears, but I saw for the first time the truth of God’s blessing upon us.
We have a right to ask. Having sown in the Spirit [Galatians 6:7], having dedicated in the flesh, having consecrated in the world, we have a right to ask of God a harvest, a blessing. And according to the immutable, inexorable laws of the Almighty, the harvest is true and certain. When I sow in the Spirit, when I sow in prayer, when I sow in dedication, I have a right to expect in kind and in degree a harvest from His gracious hands. Therefore, the apostle makes the appeal, "Let us not be weary therefore" [Galatians 6:9], don’t quit praying. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be downcast, never: for in due season, in God’s time, ye shall reap, we shall reap, sowing and reaping, dedicating to God the love, and heart, and interest, and commitment of our souls and life, and expecting from the promise of God Himself answered prayers, grace for grace, blessings a hundredfold. That’s God! That’s the Lord that made us and the universe in which we live. Ah, what more precious blessedness, what more tender, gracious sweetness than to give to God the issue of our lives, the dreams of our hearts, the prayers of our souls, and then expect from God, not disappointed, the harvest of His rich grace and loving presence and everything else that we could frame in godly prayer.
In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, you, to give your heart to Christ, would you come this morning? A family you, a couple you, or just you, if you’re seated in the last seat of the topmost balcony, there’s time and to spare. Down one of these stairways, come. If you’re on the lower floor, into the aisle and here to the front, come. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. Do it now. And in a moment, when we stand up to sing, stand, into that aisle or down one of these steps, "Here I am, pastor. I make it now."
There are thousands of you, hundreds of thousands of you that are watching this service on television, that are listening to this service on radio. Are you in your home? Are you in the living room? Are you in the bedroom? Are you driving along in the car? Where are you? Wherever you are with us, would you just say, "O, God," all over again, "I give myself and everything that I am to Thee? Bless me, Lord. Bless me, Lord." And if you’ve never taken Jesus in your heart as your Savior, would you say, "Lord Jesus, come into my life. Come into my heart. There’s room and enough for Thee." As God shall say the word and shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, and do so this morning. In a moment when we stand to sing, stand up, into that aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor. I’m coming now," while we stand and while we sing.