When Summer Has Ended!

Bible Book: Jeremiah  8 : 20
Subject: Procrastination; Laziness; Witnessing; Time
Introduction

In most areas of the country, school is about ready to begin a new year. The summer break is coming to an end. Thinking of this brought me to a passage in the Bible that I want to share with you today. The passage is a sobering one found in Jeremiah 8:20.

This passage carries with it a message of glorious opportunity, but it also contains a sad refrain. God’s Word is like that. Many Bible passages are like a coin with two sides. Think of John 3:16. This verse tells us of God’s love but it also reminds us that it is God’s will that all come to repentance and enjoy salvation. It tells us that God gave His own Son to save us, but also speaks of perishing. Our passage today reminds us that there is a harvest time - a time when one can enjoy the blessing of salvation. However, our verse today reminds us that without Christ one is lost now and in eternity. Romans 6:23 carries a similar message, but in reverse order: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord." One side of the coin tell us of the wages due because of sin; however, the other side reminds us that those who have Jesus Christ as Lord enjoy eternal life as a gift."

The verse we are looking at today speaks of the summer of opportunity, but it also reveals the danger of wasted and lost prospects. We are reminded in Jeremiah 8:20 that summer is temporary. I don't know about you, but I love the summer season. I like the long days with a lot of sunshine. The Bible declares in Revelation that there will be no night when we get to heaven. Summer is time with the most light, and to me, it is the most like heaven on earth as far as seasons go. Oh, I know, some of you don't like the hot weather, so you prefer spring and fall. I remember reading what some children thought about dying without Christ. One child said something like this: If you don't know Jesus when you die, you go to a place really hot - like Florida! I'm sure people living in Florida don't feel that way about it! And I'm sure some of you choose winter as your favorite time of year - but, then, some people are just weird. I'm kidding, of course!

Summer is the time when crops are growing, birds are signing and children are splashing about in swimming pools. It is a wonderful time of year for most people. I remember summers when we picked tomatoes right off the vine and ate them on the spot. I loved it when mom picked cucumbers and squash and prepared them for supper in the evenings? And peaches, they are wonderful when taken right from the trees. Summer is a time of opportunity. It is a time when families go on vacations. When my family starts to reminiscence about days gone by, we always turn to summers in the mountains or on the beach in Florida. Yes, summer is a wonderful time, but summer does not last forever.

In our text today we note that the idea of lost opportunity, in a spiritual sense, is set before us. Just as we have time in the spring and summer to plant, grow and harvest crops, we have the opportunity in life to do that which will bring forth eternal fruit during the summertime of our spiritual lives. There is a time, a summer of the soul, for us to get things right with God and do the right things for God. That time will pass and summer will end. One who throws away the open door of opportunity with God is making a sad, and perhaps, eternal mistake.

In the poem, Maud Muller, John Greenleaf Whittier penned:

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

I moved to a pastorate down east in South Carolina early in my ministerial life. I met a man who was not in the best of health, had lost his teeth, and lived in a home without running water. Amazingly, he was an affable and wonderful Christian. He talked with me shortly after I arrived at the church and told me his story. He had been in the industrial construction business for years and had made a lot of money. Sadly, he had taken to alcohol in those days and had begun gambling. He drank away and gambled away a fortune in income. His health failed and he was unable to work. At this point, with the summer of his life coming to an end, he turned to Jesus and was gloriously saved. He made a commitment to the Lord to do all he could night and day to serve the Lord before he died. He offered to visit with me, to work on the church buildings, and to aid in our outreach to families. I took him with me to make many visits. He would sit there and tell his story of wasted opportunity. I had the chance to lead many people to Christ through his testimony. Some time later, he passed away. What a home going it was for that man! He almost let summer pass him by, but he was saved in the last days of summer, he poured all he had into those shortening days of life that followed before his death.

Some people here today are wasting your spiritual-summer days. Perhaps you have never accepted Christ into your lives. Others are saved, but your wasting your chance to serve the Lord. Be sure of this, summer will pass and winter will come. Your chance to make a difference and use your gifts for Christ will be lost.

Let’s take a brief look at Jeremiah 8:20 and gain from it some immediate and eternal assistance.

I. The Pictured Summer

How wonderful it is to live in the summer. I can remember as a boy, looking out the window of the schoolroom and thinking of the coming summer season. I knew I would soon be playing Little League baseball, going on vacation with the family and having picnics in the mountains. When I was a boy I was involved in Royal Ambassadors, a Southern Baptist Convention ministry to boys - something like a Christian Boy Scout organization. Every summer we went camping and held conclaves. I learned a lot about the Bible and about Jesus during those days.

Wow! I loved the summer season. Just thinking about that now brings a smile to my face. Summer is the time of warmth, fun and opportunity.

But, the summer doesn’t last forever. Soon the days shortened and become cooler. Cold weather set in and summer was past. Let me suggest some important things about summer living.

A. The Summer for Faith

There is a time when God speaks to the heart and mind. It often occurs in the spring and summer of one's life. In fact, statistics show us that most people who come to faith in Christ do so between the ages of 12 and 30. Yes, some people are saved when they are older - much older - but it is rare. You see, when we are young are hearts are sensitive to God's voice, but once we begin to refuse Him our hearts grow hard and cold. If you hear the Lord calling you to salvation or to service, you must answer quickly. If you wait too long, your heart can grow cold and you will be unable to hear or respond to His voice.

The human heart is much like the human ear, especially when it comes to hearing the voice of the Lord. They tell us that human hearing begins to decline at about age 13. I know you parents of teenagers understand that. You know full well that your kids cease to hear what you say when they are between 14 and 19 years of age! Seriously, as we age, our hearing weakens. The same is true of your heart. If you refuse the Lord in your youth, when your heart is tender and vibrant, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to hear Him call you once you grow older.

Also, refusing to heed His voice limits later opportunities. I have sat with numerous people who said, often with tears, "God called me to do something for Him when I was young, but I ran from that call. Now I am too old and can never do what God planned for me to do. I can't possibly go to seminary and become a pastor in my old age. I can't go to the mission field and give a life of service to God now that I am older." I always answer this way: You can do what you can do with what you have where you are and let God judge the results! But, in many cases these people are correct. Wasted opportunity is a sad reality.

Whether it is a call to salvation or a call to service, answer it now - answer before the summer of life has ended and it is too late!

B. The Summer for Family

Just as summertime is usually family time, we who are living right now are in the summer of life in God’s family. We ought to be sure that we are committed to our family in the houses and our family at the church.

Family life in our homes is not faring well these days. We live in a throw-away world. We have paper cups, plastics spoons, disposable bottles and other items that we just toss away. Sadly, many are doing the same with marriage and the family. I read recently that half of all children in America live in a home without two parents present. Throw away marriage is ruining the summertime of life for many families. Too many men father children but do not want the responsibility or privilege of being a daddy to those children. This is a sad truth in our day. Only time will tell the awful consequences this will have on our society. We are already seeing some of the results now!

Church family life is also suffering. Many churches face division and conflict. Many churches are closing their doors and many others state that attendance and giving is dropping instead of rising. Disunity in our churches is having a negative effect on winning people to Jesus and church growth. Who wants to attend a church where people are arguing and fighting all the time? People have enough problems without dealing with conflicts at church. We must be faithful within a local church family, and we must do all we can to maintain a loving, caring attitude in our worship and work in God’s house.

Listen, this is the summertime of life. You are living in it. The sun will go down on your life one day, and you will regret not loving your family at home and your family in the local church.

Some years ago, a man came to see me who had left his wife to marry another woman. He sat in my office and wept. He was in his fifties, and it seemed sad to me that a man had reached this point in life and was so sad about his decisions. He said, “Pastor, I have failed at something I can never correct. I left my wife, created a divorce and married someone else. I love my wife now. I love her very much; however, I can see that my marriage to her is no different than my marriage to my first wife. My first wife was not the problem, I was. I was looking to find the right person rather than trying to be the right person. I hope you will tell married couples this.”

I never forgot the conversation with that church member. He was simply telling it like it really is! And, let me say, in your home and in your church, stop looking for perfect and start seeking to be the person you are supposed to me. It is summertime – if you fail, the winter will come and you will sit in tears like the man in my church did in my office that day and weep over lost opportunity. I never met a man in my life, or a woman, who came to the time of death and said, “I wish I had not been so faithful to my spouse. I wish I had caused more trouble at my church. I wish I had been harder to get along with in life.” But, I have talked to some who have said, “Preacher, if I could go back over my life again, I would love my family more. I would be more faithful to the Lord. I would work harder to be the right kind of person, if I could do it all over again.” You don’t have to die with regrets. Do something about that now, while you are in the summer of life.

II. The Past Harvest

A. The Harvest Days

We are also living in the days of harvest. Those of us who are saved, are living in the days God has given us to reach those who are lost. It is our turn to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Others lived before us and they shared their faith. In fact, if someone had not shared with you, you would not be saved today. You say, “Oh, but my parents taught me about Jesus.” Sure they did. But, who taught them? And, who taught or witnessed to the ones who taught the ones before them? Don’t you see that this is our harvest time? If we do not share, how will others coming behind us ever come to faith in Jesus? This is harvest time for us!

In John 4, Jesus talked to His disciples about harvest time. The disciples had gone into the city to get food. Jesus stayed out by the well. A woman came out to get water and Jesus witnessed to her of saving faith. She ran back to the city and brought the people out to meet Jesus. He went into the city and many of the people believed and were saved. It is interesting to note that 12 disciples who had been walking with Jesus, learning from Jesus and watching Jesus, went to town and did not mention the Savior to anyone - at least as far as we know they said nothing about the Messiah being out by the well at Sychar. Perhaps they did this because they thought that Jesus wanted to be alone. It is more likely that were silent about Jesus because they were preoccupied with getting groceries. But, one woman, who turned from a life of sin, went back to the same town and brought the people out to meet Jesus. She did what the 12 disciples did not do. So, Jesus pointed this out to His disciples. He told them, “The harvest is ready!” Indeed, it is.

When we become absorbed in our own welfare and search for daily needs, we forget that we are harvest workers for Jesus. The day will come when the harvest is past!

B. The Harvest Daze

It is possible to fall into a daze, a sleepy-eyed attitude that misses the opportunities around us. When I was a boy, I used to pick cotton to get extra money to go to the county fair. I lived in Cleveland County, North Carolina and we had the largest county fair in America at the time. I didn’t know that till I was reading a history book one day and found that the Cleveland County Fair was the largest county fair in the nation for at least 15 years. I only knew one thing back then; my parents weren’t going to waste good money at the fair. Sure, they went to the fair and they gave me some money to spend. However, they were frugal – which means that they didn’t have money to waste! So, when the cotton turned white, I went to a nearby farm, got a “sack” and picked cotton to earn a few extra dollars. I wasn’t going to let the harvest pass and leave me empty handed. Sadly, there were times when I picked just enough cotton to lie down on. Yep, I spread that cotton out and laid my head on the fluffy white stuff and rested. But, then I started to think about the fact that cotton picking time was passing. I hopped up, got my sack and went back to work. Some of us need to get off our .... cotton ... and get to work! Time is racing past us. Souls are in the balance. We don't have time to waste!

We are in the days of harvest now for the kingdom of God. We must wake up and stand up for the Lord right now! Are we doing what we can and ought to do to reach the lost with the gospel? Are we resting or picking? Will you be empty handed when you meet Jesus? One day we will stand before the Lord and give account of our lives. I don’t think that there is a reward for doing just enough to get by. Oh, dear friend, don’t let this harvest time pass without reaching out through your witness to bring people to Christ.

III. The Pitiful Cry

There is someone here today who has never accepted Christ. This is your day. Now is the time to place your faith in Christ. You see, it is summertime for your soul and the harvest has already begun. Jesus is saving people all over the world today!

A. A National Cry

I know that this passage from Jeremiah contained a factor related to an actual harvest of the Jewish people. It spoke of God's people and their nation. They had wasted the opportunity to save the nation, and now they were in trouble - deep trouble. This is a warning that we must not waste the opportunities that God gives us. There was a time in the life of God's people when they could have come back to God. They listened to false prophets who spoke of peace when there was no peace. Are we doing that today? I'm sure many of you feel that we are at a tipping point as a nation in America. Perhaps there is a summer of opportunity left for us to turn back to God and experience a spiritual awakening. But, I think you know that once we go too far over the edge, there is no turning back.

B. A Personal Cry

Not only can a nation realize that are beyond salvation, but so can an individual. In this passage, we read these words: “…we are not saved.” They let the harvest pass them by. How sad! Do not let this harvest time pass you by. Jesus died for you at Calvary. He loves you. He rose to assure you that your salvation will be secure in Him. The church doesn’t save you. The preacher doesn’t save you. Your own life has no chance whatsoever of saving you. But, Jesus saves! If you wait too long, your heart will harden and you will never come to Christ. Do not let this summer of opportunity pass you by.

I went to hospital to make a visit some time ago. The family of a man who was very sick had asked me to make the visit because they feared that the man was not saved. I arrived at the room, walked inside and was surprised at what I saw. There was a man lying in the bed with a tube coming out of his side and emptying into a container. The lights were low and the man seemed to be asleep. A nurse stood on the other side of his bed. I told her that the family had asked me to talk to this man about his faith. She looked down and the man, who had his eyes closed, and said, “Preacher, I think you better come back tomorrow, he is not doing well today.” I started to leave when I noticed that the man’s mouth was moving. I said, “Nurse, he is trying to say something.” She leaned down close to him and listened, and then with tears in her eyes she looked up at me and said, “He wants you to talk to him today. He said that tomorrow might be too late.”

I leaned down and talked to that man about Jesus. I took him down the Roman Road in the Bible. When I finished, I asked if he would place in faith in Jesus, turn from his sin and be saved. The man acknowledged that he wanted to do that. He prayed the sinner’s prayer with me that day in that hospital bed. He was gloriously saved. I could feel the peace that had entered that room as the man asked Jesus to come into His life and be his Lord and Savior!

Conclusion

Listen, my friend, that man did not let the harvest pass him by. He will never have say, “The harvest is ended and we (I am) are not saved.”

Someone penned the following words:

"When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ

And He shows me His plan for me;

The plan of my life as it might have been

Had He had His way, and I see

How I blocked Him here and I checked Him there

And I would not yield my will,

Shall I see grief in my Savior's eyes;

Grief though He loves me still?

Oh, He'd have me rich, and I stand there poor,

Stripped of all but His grace,

While my memory runs like a hunted thing

Down the paths I can't retrace.

Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break

With tears that I cannot shed.

I'll cover my face with my empty hands

And bow my uncrowned head.

No. Lord of the years that are left to me

I yield them to Thy hand.

Take me, make me, mold me

To the pattern Thou hast planned"

I read a story many years ago about a man who was playing a guitar on the street to earn money. He had his guitar in hand and the empty guitar case sitting at his feet into which people could toss some coins as they passed by. He was playing and singing hymns. He had a sign around his neck that read, "The Sun Is Shining And I Am Blind." This blind man was doing what he could to earn money for his livelihood. But, what a sad sign he wore. Listen, the summer sun of God's grace is shining right now for you. You don't have to remain blind.

How about you? Will you come to Christ today? We are in the middle of life’s summer right now. The harvest is in full force. But, winter is coming soon. Your opportunity will pass. Trust Him now!

Let me ask those of you who are Christians, are we watching our churches, our homes and our nation slip over the edge of lost opportunity? Will you recommit your life? Will you yield to his pattern for your life? Will you bow down before God and plead for Him to give us time to turn back to Him as a people? How sad it will be to one day say, "The harvest is past and we are not saved!"