Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

When the Grain Ripens

Wheat field

by Dennis Pollock

While God is extremely creative, and the way He works in each of His children is unique, there are certain basic patterns we can identify in His dealings with men and women. These patterns are His ways, and they are very much worth learning. Know them well and you can cooperate with the great Potter as He fashions you, his clay, according to His own pleasure and purpose. One of Jesus' favorite illustrations to demonstrate the way in which God's kingdom works in the earth and in our lives is the concept of seed planting and harvest.

In the fourth chapter of Mark our Lord gives us the details. He begins by saying: "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how" (Mark 4:26,27). He tells us that God's work is accomplished in us by seeds that are planted in our spirits. In another parable He identifies what the seed symbolizes: "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11). Whenever God desires a harvest – in the earth, in a nation, or in an individual –  He starts by planting a seed, in other words by speaking a word to us.

Where does a garden begin? It starts with a trip to the seed store. There you must decide which seeds you will plant. Will it be cucumbers and squash? Will you plant corn or beans? Will it be the cheapest most common seed or the more expensive hybrid seeds? Finally, you make your decisions, and go home with various bags of seeds. Your future garden sits there in those brown bags of seed. Now you can start plowing. You can get about the business of creating a garden. You have the essence of it in hand.

God’s Effective, Powerful Word

James tells us: "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). God's word, implanted in us and received by us, is able to save us, strengthen us, and to equip us for every good work desired by the Father. God always begins and accomplishes His work in our lives by His word. And His word is highly effective! In Isaiah He declares: "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). People who expose their hearts to the word of God receive all sorts of miraculous impartations from God. Blessings, gifts of the Spirit, open doors, answers to prayer, the desires of their hearts – these are all given to men and women whose hearts prove to be fertile ground for the seed of their Creator.

The ultimate blessing, the born again experience, is given through this very process. Peter writes: "having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…" (1 Peter 1:23). It is not warm, fuzzy feelings or determined resolutions to live better that save us; our salvation comes through words that have issued from the mouth of God, words about Jesus Christ His Son and how He died on the cross for our sins and rose again. These words may come by way of a neighbor or a book or a sermon, but if we are to be saved we must hear them. The angel told Cornelius to send for Peter, declaring, "(he) will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved" (Acts 11:14).

Seeds contain life. The earth has no power of itself to produce any living plant of any kind. When you drive past a corn field with its tall stalks of corn swaying proudly in the air, or a melon patch with its beautiful melon vines running in every direction, you can be sure that those plants didn't get there by accident. The farmer did not just plow up a field and hope that the ground would automatically produce corn or melons. He methodically planted row after row (or mound after mound) of seed, knowing that without the seed, the ground would always remain barren. Every field filled with ripened crops ready for harvest is a testimony to some farmer who spent money and worked diligently to insure that the soil would encounter the appropriate seeds. While farmers have no ability to create life or force plants to grow, they can place seeds where they will grow. Seeds on a shelf remain only seeds. Seeds in a bag, same thing. But when seeds are placed in moist, rich soil, amazing things happen.

Lots of Seeds

Jesus spoke of the farmer "scattering seed" on the ground. He does not say he placed one or two seeds in the earth. The farmer who wants a large harvest must scatter much seed. How foolish to purchase 100 acres of land, plow it all up, and then go out and carefully place one kernel of corn in the lower 50 acres, and one more in upper. A big field calls for lots of seeds, thousands of seeds liberally scattered throughout the field. If we want the purposes of God fulfilled in our lives, we must expose our hearts to much of His word. To get all our heavenly seed from one thirty-minute sermon we hear each week at church is not enough. Search the annals of Christian history and you will find that the men and women who were used by God in the greatest measure were the ones whose Bibles were worn out by use, those whose Bibles were dog-eared, marked and underlined, and even stained by an occasional tear. Such individuals will always produce continual divine harvests in their lives. The harvests aren't all the same. A field of pineapples doesn't look a thing like a field of corn. Just as there are all sorts of seeds and all kinds of crops, so in Jesus Christ we will produce differing harvests in accordance with the calling and gifting of God, but we will produce a harvest. Jesus declares, "He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit" (John 15:5).

In this parable Jesus says that after the farmer has planted the seed, he will "sleep by night and rise by day." Why mention sleeping and rising? The farmer, having planted the seed, doesn't need to do much further. The seed has power and life in itself to bring about growth and maturity. In the crop-raising business, most of the work is done in two concentrated periods of time: the time of planting and the time of harvesting. During planting season the farmer works furiously to get the seed in the ground while conditions are ideal. He may work long 12 to 16 hour days to insure that the seed is planted in that small window of time most suited to insure a great crop. But once the seeds are all planted he takes it easy. He has done his part. Now its up to the seeds, with some help from the rain and the sun and the soil. Those seeds know what to do. They will soon send their shoots breaking through the soil and into the light of day. Later, when the plants are ready for harvest the farmer will be hard at work once again, but for now he is content to allow the seeds to do their thing.

As Jesus goes on with the parable He says, "For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head" (Mark 4:28).  What an interesting thought: "the earth yields crops by itself." Earth is perfect for seeds. Soil has everything necessary to produce a harvest once seed has been planted. Of course Jesus is talking about human hearts here. Our hearts are the field; God's word is the seed. We were made to receive the word of the Lord and produce in our lives a rich harvest of righteousness, love, and good works pleasing to the Father. The only thing lacking in the heart is the word of God. Let God's word be planted there and good things are bound to result. But good seeds are not the only seeds that can be planted in human hearts. Corrupt, evil seeds can be planted there as well. When children grow up being told that they are worthless, when men spend hours lusting over pornography, when people expose their minds and hearts to books, TV shows, and movies which continually bombard them with ungodly attitudes and godless perspectives, a terrible harvest is sure to result. Hosea writes, "They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7).

The Time Factor

One huge factor in the process of planting and harvesting is time. Harvest is never an instantaneous event. The farmer must sleep and wake for many days, while the seeds are doing their work. While the farmer works on his tractor, the seeds are growing. While he sips his coffee in the morning, goes down to the diner at noon and jokes with his buddies, while he watches television with his wife, and goes to church on Sunday morning, the plants are continually growing and maturing. They take no days off; they doggedly pursue their goal of maturity without ever letting up. On rainy days and on sunny days, on holidays and on weekends, while the farmer sleeps and while he is awake, the mysterious life that was begun with those small seeds is ever increasing.

When it comes to aging, we say that time is not our friend, but in the matters of the kingdom, one of the best friends we have is time. Impatience is always due to ignorance. So often we think God to be far too slow for our liking. If only He would bring this dreary season of our life to an end! If only He would grant us our request today, and not keep us waiting day after day and month after month! James tells us: "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:4). We would never demand that an artist complete his masterpiece in twenty minutes; yet we demand the heavenly Craftsman to finish His work in our present season by tomorrow. This is not the way of God. He does exceedingly fine work, but He will not allow us to hurry Him. He will take His time.

Finally the day arrives. The farmer who has been keeping an eye on the crops now sees that they are ready for harvest. Jesus tells us, "But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:29). Every word of God that comes to us is meant to result in some kind of harvest. I love the word "immediately." It tells us that God is eager to put in the sickle and bring about His desired harvest. He takes no pleasure in having His children go through tough and painful seasons as they await the maturing of the divine seeds planted in their spirits. But he knows that crops harvested prematurely yield little fruit.

Brought Out Quickly

When Joseph was dragged to Egypt and made Potiphar's slave and later imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, divine seeds were maturing in him. As he learned Administration 101 under Potiphar, and went on for his doctrinal studies when he was put in charge of the prison, the seeds continued to grow. Finally Pharaoh awoke one morning with a strange and vivid dream. When Pharaoh's butler told him about the Hebrew young man in the prison, Pharaoh had to see him immediately. The Bible says, "They brought him quickly out of the dungeon" (Genesis 41:14). The grain had ripened and God immediately put in the sickle. Joseph was not going to spend one more night in that miserable prison.

Seedtime and harvest, sowing and reaping – this is the way of our God. Jesus Christ was the ultimate example of this. He was the grain of wheat that fell to the earth and died, to be raised from the dead three days later, in order that God may have a harvest of souls that He may fellowship with and enjoy throughout eternity. And the book of Revelation reveals that in the last days before His return, Jesus will hear a voice telling Him, "Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Revelation 14:15).


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