Bible Book: Mark  4 : 26-29
Subject: Soul Winning; Witnessing; Evangelism

The word ‘harvest’ means much less today than it did in times past. Think about the First Thanksgiving. Our High School history text and class taught us that the first feast, while not particularly called “Thanksgiving”, was a celebration of the crops being brought in. When this nation was more agricultural in nature, people understood the joy of the harvest. The harvest carried with it a dimension of survival, it was not just a good idea but rather, it was an indication of how you might eat during the next year.

Jesus loved using agricultural stories to illustrate spiritual principles. In Mark 4 He tells 3 stories from the Ag department which illustrates principles of the Kingdom. He begins with the story of the sower which points our hearts to the truth of the seed, the soil, and the sower. Next, He teaches us about the principle of the “growing & harvest” which is to be expected. Finally, Jesus tells a story to illustrate the potential of the harvest. (screen) This is our last week to focus on GPS so we conclude with “Stage 4, the harvest.” Keep your Bibles open and let’s connect the dots.

In verse 26 Jesus begins with these words, “The Kingdom of God is like this.” Do those words pique anyone’s attention besides mine? Candidly, I have a burning desire to Know what the Kingdom of God is like, so every time I read these words, my heart is to dig in and discover the meaning therein.

Jesus uses these Ag illustrations because we understand the principle of sowing and harvesting so let me offer four requirement of the harvest!

I. Harvest Requires Planning

In Luke 14 Jesus says, “Who builds a house or goes to war” without proper planning?” Some people think it’s unspiritual to plan, yet Jesus says, “Make plans and count the cost or you may find you embarrassed and/or suffer defeat.” So consider 3 questions;

A. What Are You Planting?

Stated in the language of today, “what is it that you hope to get out of the garden?” Many times I have offered the words of Steven Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” Never forget the laws of the harvest that you’ll get exactly what you sow! To understand this truth is to take charge of one’s directions and plans. I suggest that far too many of us give little thought to the seeds which we have planted in our lives until the crop starts coming in. What are you expecting, wanting, and desiring in life?

B. Where Will You Plant?

The scripture tells us that the sower put the seed on the ground. The word for “on” is translated in many ways, “about, on, to, at, upon,” but the one which seems to fit is “IN.” That is, in the soil. The farmer planted the seed in the place he knew it would grow. It takes no imagination to know that the farmer prepared the soil to insure that he yielded a great harvest. We better plant in a place where it will grow.

C. When Do You Plant?

The farmer always plants in the right season of the year. For the sake of time, let’s consider the what, where, and when questions altogether. If we desire to make a difference in our world we have to plant the right seed which are the seed of faith, the seed of a change life, and the seed of Christlikeness. We have to live for Him and like Him every day and in every way. We prepare the   ground to receive the seed of our lives as others see our lives and are convinced that we know the Lord. But in order to do this, we must plan how we will live. Actually, we need to embrace the plan which our Lord has for us.

II. Harvest Requires Process

May I offer an unpopular observation in the 21st century SBC church? There exists a need for us to stop seeing our faith through the lens of “programs” and to see it through the lens of “process.” We do not need a program to make us what God wants us to be anymore than we need a program to help us grow from a kid to an adult. Within our body a process is at work to mature us, and all we have to do is eat right, healthy and hearty; resulting in processes taking over. What is the process needed to reach people for Jesus? It has 3 parts which work together.

A. The Right Seed

Everything begins with the seed. Is it healthy or good? To sow bad seed is to harvest a bad crop. If we are to see a spiritual awakening in this land, the seed we must plant is the Word of God. It is His word which can healing, help, and hope. It may start out small like a mustard seed and then grows huge because it is His word. The Bible says that the “grass may wither and the flowers may fade, but the word of God stands forever.” Just as surely as we must plant beans, peas, or even tomatoes to receive these fruits, we must have God’s word and understand it to be the seed of life, time, and eternity. The very reason we memorize scripture is to “hide this seed in our heart so that we may not sin!” A substitute will not do, we must possess the right seed. On a personal note; to have the right seed means that you have invited Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, into your life. According to John 1, Jesus is the eternal, incomparable, and personal word of and from God. Here is how it works: The seed of the word of God is spoken and/or lived out and thus, planted in a life. The Holy Spirit of God then nurturing that seed until it begins to bud in that heart that has no connection to God. As the seed comes to full bloom in a heart there comes an understanding of the need for forgiveness, a fresh start, and a relationship with God through Jesus. At this point, You Are Responsible for your decision. God has invited you to know Him. Have you done this?

B. The Rich Soil

By the way this brings us to the 2nd part in the process. I call it the “Rich Soil.” In gardening, we refer to ‘rich soil’ when the soil is good, soft, and conducive to growth.

At times the gardener will break up the soil which does not contain the things necessary for growth and work with it. He may add fertilizer, water, nutrients, and other things, which will change the character of the soil. In changing the character of the soil, he makes it rich & ready.

Hold the thought of the Rich soil for just a moment & see the 3 part;

C. The Reliable Sower

Earlier I said, “If we are to see a spiritual awakening in this land, the seed we must sow is the word of God.” While the seed must be right, the sower must be reliable. I submit that, “To sow His word means to show His word.” We have to be reliable. God has given His wonderful, life changing, and soul saving word and entrusted us to sow this seed. Is this seed being sown by you and me?

Please get a handle on this process: Those of us who have received and thus, possess the word of God are not identified in scripture as the keepers of the word (God can keep His word), but we are repeatedly identified as the sower of the word. God expects us to faithfully and consistently sow His word. Next year as a part of the GPS Across Alabama, along with sister churches, we will be called on to deliver a gospel message to every household in our town! We want no one to be missed.

Watch this; Scripture tells us that the “Word of God is powerful, sharper than any 2-edged sword, penetrating so as to divide the soul, spirit, joints, & marrow. It is the judge of the ideas and thought of the heart.” We sow the seed to every household (just hang it on the door-knob). Then a non-believer reads a little of it (not even all of it) and the seed has been planted. Remember I told you to not forget the soil being worked by the gardener? With the seed of God planted in that cold, dark, and estranged heart, the Holy Spirit comes in to garden that heart. Because we have planted the good seed, He is able to work the soil and bring the heart (the fruit) ready to harvest.

III. Harvest Requires Picking

I know this sounds a bit trite and certainly not the deeply intellectual concept which we hope to get from the pulpit. But while it might seem trite, it is still true (and required). There are times when the seed is planted, the soil is worked, and the harvest is ready, and no workers show up to bring in the harvest. The results are devastating.

A. The Timing

“When the crop is ready.” To begin this series we visited in John 4 talking about the woman at the well. After that encounter do you remember what Jesus told the disciples? “Do not say the Harvest is four months away, open your eyes and see the fields, they are ripe for harvest.” Make no mistake, when the fields are properly seeded, the harvest will be ready! There is something interesting about the timing of harvest, not all fruit is ready at the same time. We must stay focused on the fields and the expected fruit to be ready for the harvest.

B. The Tools

“He sends for the sickle.” Most of us know the design of a sickle and what it’s used for. (Picture) It has a small handle (maybe 6-10 inches), adjoined by curved blade. As I understand it, the harvester takes the sickle in one hand while holding a bunch of the harvest in the other hand (or with a wooden stick) and swipes at the stalks to bring in the harvest into his bag. When I see the picture of the sickle and think about the motion which is required I envision much imagery about spiritual matters. First, the Sword of the spirit must do His sickle like work of cutting the lost soul loose from the things of   this world. Next, the shape of the sickle, when used gently, can be use to embrace and collect. We don’t have to be the hard swipe of conviction and conversion, the Holy Spirit will take care of that. We can then collect the fruit, embrace it, and take it out of the field into the barn and take care of it.

C. The Take

“The Harvest has come.” In the next 6 months, hopefully, we will sow seed more than we have ever sowed. Candidly, the harvest we receive today, in large measure, is from the sowing of others. But don’t forget to “see the fields which are ripe and ready.” If we are alert & ready there is a harvest to receive today. By the way, Jesus says the harvest is always abundant, plenteous, and plentiful. The problem is the “take” (harvest) is limited only by the number of willing workers. Think about the ramifications of this truth. Few workers mean wasted fruit.

IV. Harvest Requires Preserving

We live in a day when many are trying to preserve a great number of things, some good and some bad. In the matter of the harvest it is important that we do some ‘preserving.’ Let’s see why?

A. The Agricultural Picture

This is the natural and what we call normal model for farming. We take care of the seed so that we can have food for this year but also for planting next year. When I was a boy, my papaw had a garden behind his wood framed house. One year I confiscated an ear of corn, took care of it, and used the kernel to plant the following year. Candidly, because of where I planted the corn, it brought him in a good harvest. The seed and soil was good and the sower simply sowed.

B. The Spiritual Process

There is so much more at stake in the spiritual than in the agricultural. If we mess us in the Ag some food will not be harvested. However, if we mess us in the spiritual, souls are lost for eternity. We have already visited the process but, the right seed of the word of God is planted in the heart of a person which represents the soil of the soul. The Holy Spirit tends to the soil by the seed which is planted therein. And the Lord calls His workers to become the sickle and bring in His Harvest. The results are staggering. (Words to “My House is Full”)

Will You be the one? The first one?