Spiritual Growth: Learn
Understanding the Harvest
When you plant a seed, how does it flourish? While the specifics may differ across the varieties of vegetables, fruit, grains, flowers and trees, the basics are the same. Every plant needs water, food, quality soil and sunshine, and most strongly benefit from weeding and pruning. Beneath the surface of the soil, intricate, divinely orchestrated processes are taking place that we aren’t even aware of. They, however, work on a specific timetable, knowing when it’s the proper time to push forth and show off the plant’s sprouts. Eventually, these processes culminate in a harvest—flowers bloom, fruit ripens on the vine, and trees climb into the forest’s canopy. It’s a bountiful cycle that brings beauty and provision.
But what about the harvests in our own lives? The idea of us reaping a harvest may feel foreign. We’ve all heard about the importance of sowing and giving. We sow seeds into unbelievers’ lives that will hopefully bring about salvation. We sow seeds of good deeds as a way to bless others in our families, neighborhoods, communities and churches. We sow offerings above our tithes according to the Holy Spirit’s leading. We are called to more than sowing, though. We are also called to reap a harvest from what we sow. God means for us to enjoy our harvests. Let’s dive into what God’s Word says about the powerful concept of the harvest.
- Types of Harvest
Before we explore how to call in our harvests, we must first understand the different types of harvest. The New Testament references three types of harvest: salvation, character and blessing.
The most common, and perhaps the most important, harvest is salvation. Jesus spoke of this: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24).
God likens the planting of His Word into people’s hearts to sowing, and their salvation to the harvest. Over and over, we are reminded to be mindful of this eternal reward.
There are also many references to reaping a harvest of character that is sown from the seeds of good deeds. James 3:18 tells us, “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
To enjoy the harvest of peace, joy and righteousness takes diligence and the perseverance to keep choosing God’s way even when our flesh doesn’t want to make those choices.
Finally, there are opportunities to reap a harvest of blessing. Second Corinthians 9:10 explains it this way: “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” Galatians 6:9 encourages us to “not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
God loves His children passionately and has no qualms about opening heaven’s storehouse to bless His kids. When we obey Him through our giving and our actions, He promises to bless us. Of course, we are not simply the receivers of God’s blessings. We are conduits through which God blesses humanity. We are blessed to be a blessing!
- Time of Harvest
Farmers understand that the harvest is a season that happens for certain crops at certain times of the year, and it’s no different in our lives. Every field in our lives—relationships, ministries, dreams, hopes and careers—goes through seasons of sowing and harvest. By examining those fields and yielding to the Holy Spirit, we will learn to recognize when our harvest seasons are near.
James 5:7 tells us, “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.”
Like farmers, we shouldn’t be caught unaware. Prayer, tithing, watching our words, serving others and watering our seeds with thanksgiving and praise are all ways we can prepare to welcome the harvest the Lord brings. These are also valuable in fending off the enemies of the harvest.
- Enemies of the Harvest
Physical crops have enemies like tempestuous weather, disease, bugs, poor nutrition and drought. Our crops also have enemies like laziness and discouragement.
Proverbs 20:4 says, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.” If we’ve never even started sowing, we can’t expect a harvest! And if we’ve only planted, but have never returned to our fields to tend to them, the harvest doesn’t stand a chance. We must be diligent in preparing for our harvests by obeying the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit and by thanking our heavenly Father in advance for His provision and blessings.
The culture in which Jesus lived was more closely tied to agriculture than we are today. While many of us are more removed from physical planting and sowing seasons, we understand the hands-on grittiness that’s required of the farmer. His hands and clothes get dirty because sowing is dirty business.
Sowing into other people’s lives can also require you to get your hands dirty. Discouragement can be hiding around any corner, but we must fortify our hearts and minds against that insidious intruder. Hebrews 10:35-36 tells us, “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”
Discouragement can also distract us from other harvests, too. Perhaps we’re in need of a job, startup money for a new business, medical bills paid, tuition for our children’s school, or money to cover our increased living expenses. The Holy Spirit may lead us to give a special offering (e.g., money, time, gifts, talents) as a demonstration of our faith in God’s blessing. In cases like this, standing against discouragement is paramount. We must remember Jesus’ words: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38). The enemy may work to discourage us, but, using the Word and our confession, we can trust in the Lord’s promises and rest knowing our harvest is coming!
When we understand the type, times and enemies of the harvest, we understand a powerful concept from God’s Word. The Bible says that as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest will remain (Genesis 8:22). We must make the quality decision to sow according to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and trust that He will bring our harvest to us as we are diligent to reap. Then, we will be working with the Lord of the harvest and not against Him (Matthew 9:38). Let’s call in our harvest for His glory!