O Ye of Little Faith
No sower is satisfied with sowing for its own sake. The real joy in sowing seed is the prospect of reaping a harvest. Indeed, the only reason for sowing at all is the harvest which every sower naturally anticipates.
A Natural Link
Sowing and reaping have been inseparably linked since the earliest days of man’s history. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest…shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). And down through the ages, they stand out as the most vital, yet most satisfying occupations of the human race. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Ps. 126:5). “He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:6, R.S.V.) Little wonder that sowing and reaping have been used so extensively in the Scriptures to illustrate cardinal spiritual truths.
Engaged continually in sowing the world’s best seed, every Sunday School teacher stands to gain immeasurably in skill and effectiveness by studying carefully all of the Scriptural parallels drawn between physical and spiritual sowing. But the primary and most obvious lesson to be learned is the fact that, in the Bible, sowing and reaping are constantly associated with one another, not only in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual.
Sowing To Reap
This intimate association is clearly inherent in the nature of things; we sow in order to reap! And if we forget this plain simple fact, we are liable to be found guilty of excusing our barrenness, claiming that we are responsible only for sowing the seed and that God is the One Who gives the increase.
It is perfectly true that God alone can give the increase, in both the physical and spiritual realms (1 Cor. 3:7). But only a most peculiar sower would fail to look for the trouble if sowing produced no harvest! Surely none of us can take smug satisfaction in merely sowing the seed of God’s Word, while reaping little or nothing for our labours!
When Paul said that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” he was not simply intending to teach explicitly that “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:7-8); rather, he was at the same time implicitly underlining the fact that sowing and reaping are naturally and inseparably bound up together!
The Lord’s Teaching
The same can be said of the Lord’s own teaching; for example, in the classic parable of the sower and the seed (Matt. 13:1-23). In the order of nature, as we now know it, not all the seed sown can be expected to bear fruit. At the same time, it is equally true that we can certainly expect some of the sowing to result in reaping!
The Lord’s instruction is clear and completely unambiguous: sowing and reaping are correlative activities, both with literal seed and with the spiritual seed of God’s Word. And if we think for a moment that sowing is entirely an end in itself, our thinking is both contrary to all that is logical in nature and inconsistent with all that is spiritual in Scripture!
The necessary connection between sowing and reaping is stressed elsewhere in the Lord’s teaching as well; for example, in the parable of the good seed and the tares which were sown in the same field and left to grow together until the crop was harvested (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). Also, in discussing the will and the work of God with His disciples, the Lord reminded them that “one sow-eth, and another reapeth,” but that both sower and reaper should rejoice together (John 4:36-37). Once again, He plainly implied in this discussion that sowing and reaping are inevitably related to each other.
As to the spiritual sowing done in the apostolic preaching recorded in The Acts, Luke’s story is one of continual reaping by various sowers. “Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ’ … Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:38, 41). “Repent ye therefore, and be converted’ … many of them which heard the word believed” (Acts 3:19; 4:4). “And believers were the more added to the Lord” (Acts 5:14). “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ … And in those days … the number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 5:42; 6:1). “And the Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
“They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake” (Acts 8:4-6).
Paul spoke to “Lydia…whose heart the Lord opened” (Acts 16:14).
“And Paul…reasoned with them… And some of them believed” (Acts 17:2-4). “Paul and Silas…went into the synagogue…many of them believed” (Acts 17:10-12). “Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill…certain men clave unto him, and believed” (Acts 17:22, 34). “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed” (Acts 18:8). Paul taught for two years in the hall of Tyrannus, “and many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds” (Acts 19:9, 18).
The Scriptures leave us no ground whatsoever for resting satisfied with sowing that leads to little or no reaping, either in work with adults or with children, for “God our Saviour…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4, R.S.V.). Furthermore, “the Lord is not … willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
Sowing In Faith
Of course, God’s will can only be accomplished through His Word, for every Christian is “born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23, R.S.V.). So the Sunday School teacher’s most important job is obviously the sowing the seed of the Word in young hearts.
At the same time, “as the rain cometh down … that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void” (Isa. 55:10-11). Therefore, if we think that we are sowing the seed, but find that we are reaping little or no harvest there is only one possible conclusion: the seed of God’s Word is not going forth as from the Lord Himself! In other words, there is something radically wrong with our sowing: most likely we are not sowing in faith!
Sowing with no subsequent harvest is a tragedy; but, for a Christian, sowing with no expectation of a harvest is ridiculous in the extreme: a thoroughgoing betrayal of a complete lack of faith! No wonder there is little reaping if there is little faith in sowing, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).
Finally, let us not be guilty of thinking that a harvest cannot be reaped amongst young children in the Sunday School. The Lord said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mk. 10:14).
“According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29).