One way God communicates important spiritual truths is by comparing them to situations in the natural that we already understand. Jesus used parables to illustrate such concepts as forgiveness, the kingdom of God, and how to treat other people. God used object lessons to draw parallels to Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness (Hosea and Gomer) and teach us about compassion (Jonah’s vine). And, throughout the Bible, the concept of the harvest — plowing, planting, and reaping — occurs again and again. But this harvest isn’t about corn and beans. It’s a metaphor for the saving of souls. Matthew 9:38 says, “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” As the church, we are the laborers, and we all have our part to play in the harvest of souls.
It’s a Process
If you get hungry for an apple, do you take a seed out to the backyard and plant it? You would have a very long wait for your snack if you did. And, just as planting, growing, and picking real fruits and vegetables takes time, the harvest of souls also doesn’t happen in a day. Even when we, as Christians, use our lives to shine the light of Jesus Christ and talk to others about Him wherever we go, people aren’t always receptive at His first mention.
Instead, it takes conversations, situations, and God’s intervention to get people where they need to be for them to submit to Jesus as the Lord of their lives. Even if we are the ones who ultimately lead someone in the salvation prayer, it’s never a person who gets the glory for that. It’s always God because He is the Lord of the harvest. He is the one who has orchestrated the process from beginning to end. We are but laborers, each of us doing what we can to help.
The Four Stages to Harvest
Breaking the Fallow Ground
Recently, I had a conversation with a humble young guy from my church named Matthew. We were talking about the two young men who had just been saved from the fast food restaurant where he and his brother used to work. Matthew mentioned how he believed that God had given him his job so that he could provide a way for his brother to get a job with the same company. While Matthew worked there, he never hid that he was a Christian. He tried to live in a way that glorified God. When his brother Andrew got a job there, the two young men were curious. Was Andrew the same as Matthew? They came to him and asked him questions about being a Christian. Andrew’s personality was more outgoing, and He spent more time talking with the young men about spiritual things. As a result, the two young men had come to Christ.
I was commending Matthew for his humble attitude and his ability to see that God uses us in different ways. He then made a comment that just about floored me. He said, “The Bible says one sows and one waters, but nobody talks about the one who broke the fallow ground.” In the metaphor, “fallow ground” is land that has been left idle. It has thorns and weeds overgrowing it, and it had to be broken, the debris removed. Some people are very far from God. They haven’t heard or thought about Him in a long time, and they might even have the idea that living for the world is the only choice they have. As Christians, just being faithful to Christ and His ways is enough to get people to notice that we are different. It makes them curious and may crack the dry ground enough for someone else to get a seed in.
Sowing, or planting, seeds is bringing the gospel message. In the Parable of the Sower, there are four types of soil. There is the wayside, the stony place, the thorns, and the good soil. Some people just aren’t ready to hear the Good News. The soil of their hearts hasn’t been properly broken and prepared. Others, though, have soil that is ready to accept the message and bring forth fruit from their lives.
There are lots of ways we can bring that message. We can evangelize with cards wherever we go. We can speak to people one-on-one at our jobs, our homes, and at social events. And, we can even go out with signs to public places with the explicit purpose of witnessing to people, bringing the message that Jesus saves. However we do it, we must always remember that, just like with real seeds, not every one we plant will bear fruit. We can’t get discouraged when we don’t see a lot of movement for our efforts. The Master of the fields is at work. We must be faithful to plant. God will give the increase in His time.
Watering the Harvest
Plants don’t grow without water, and in the metaphor, we can see that as prayer. We all are responsible for praying for people’s salvation, but some people seem to carry a special burden for it. They find themselves praying for the salvation of everyone they know plus strangers they don’t. They pray for movie stars, politicians, and people in the news. And, they weep for those who will spend an eternity without God. Their heart’s cry is for every soul to find salvation in Jesus.
On the other hand, I think sometimes people can start to treat salvation more like a sales transaction. But, we can’t just pitch Jesus like a used car and expect someone to buy. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father sends him/her. People must be drawn by the Spirit of God to receive Him. Yes, people make a decision to follow Jesus and put their faith in His shed blood for the remission of sins, but God is the one who ultimately decides if and when His Spirit will enter into a heart. He is the only one who can make the dead come to life. We must pray for His mercy and intervention. We must pray for Him to give the increase.
Reaping the Harvest
It’s a blessing when God uses us to bring someone to salvation. But, there are people out there whom God seems to use more than others to close the deal. Expert pickers, they seem to know right when the harvest is ripe. They are often at the right place and the right time to come into other people’s labors with just the words to help people pray the prayer that starts their conversation with God as the Lord of their lives. For some, they are humble servants of the Lord, endeavoring to be used wherever and however they can.
Others, however, can start to get arrogant. They quote numbers of those that “they” have saved over the years. It is often those same people who try to shame others with the words, “When was the last time YOU led someone to Christ?” They say it with the little head tilt and eye-gleam that seeks to guilt you into getting off your sofa and doing something productive for the Lord. These work in tandem with the enemy who whispers that you aren’t doing anything for God if you aren’t the one putting tick marks on the board. But only Jesus saves. We must all be about our Father’s business, humbly serving and seeking to be used by Him in whatever capacity He requires.
Laborers in the Harvest of Souls
As different members of one body, we all have unique personalities and positions that seem to land us in a certain spot in the field more often than not. Some of us break the ground, some plant the seeds, some water the crops, and some pick the fruit. But just because we find ourselves in one position today, that doesn’t mean that God can’t use us differently in the future. It’s up to us to pray faithfully for God to use us however He sees fit. We must also pray for more laborers to the harvest and that our efforts will be fruitful in whatever we do. At the end of the day, though, God is the only one who actually makes anything grow. He is the only one who gets the glory for the harvest of souls.
If you like parables, try A Different Interpretation of the Pearl of Great Price. Or, try Lay Up For Yourselves Treasures in Heaven. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.