October 7, 2012

Sowing and Reaping

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Galatians Scripture: Galatians 6:6–10


Sowing and Reaping

Galatians 6:6-10
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Pastor Randy Smith

As a parent there are many universal principles that we must teach our children. If they fail to learn these principles while in their youth, they are destined for greater failure as an adult. One of the principles is the universal law of cause and effect.

"Maybe your grade would have been higher if you had started studying earlier!" "Maybe you should have known that a $10 digital camera wouldn't last very long!" "Maybe your stomach ache is a result of eating a large bag of cookies!" "Maybe you can't sleep because you drank a large caffeinated soft drink just before going to bed!"

Cause and effect - The Bible teaches this reality. At the end of verse 7 of Galatians 6 we read, "For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." It is a farming metaphor that is still easy for us even in an urban environment to understand. If I sow an apple seed, I will reap an apple tree and on the end of the branches will be apples, not automobiles. And if I sow a pumpkin seed, I will reap a pumpkin patch bearing pumpkins, not porcupines. What we sow is what we will reap. Cause and effect.

Now as much as God has ordained these physical laws for the universe, His primary concern in this passage is sowing and reaping from a spiritual perspective. In other words, the spiritual success of this church and our own personal lives is not based upon luck and chance. It is a direct result of the choices we make as we operate, as we have been learning in Galatians 5, in the flesh or in the Spirit.

Sowing seeds to the flesh is like a farmer planting seeds that give birth to weeds. He may appear busy, and the field may immediately be filled with green plants, but when it comes time for the harvest, the farmer will be greatly disappointed.

In the same way, much of the heartache we see in the church and in our lives is because Christians act too often like this foolish farmer. We reject the teachings of Christ; we sow seeds to the flesh and then wonder why we have brought so much misery into our lives. And while we should be compassionate to the pain of others, oftentimes when the story unfolds and we get beyond the emotions, we discover that personal choices were often made that sent the boat a few degrees off course causing it to miss the harbor and crash on the rocks. Even believers are not exempt from this reality. Personal pain is often (not always) the result of poor choices.

As the beginning of verse 7 says, we should "not be deceived" ("planao" - wandering off course) about this reality. Spiritual choices will have a direct bearing on spiritual effects. Or I can say, our spiritual harvest will be directly related to what we choose to sow. So don't be deceived!

Now there are many forces seeking to deceive you. Hollywood promotes sin without consequences. Satan covers the evil of sin with a veneer of attractiveness. And even your own heart reasons and justifies and endorses wrongdoing. "She seems to be getting away with it!" "Just a little won't hurt anyone!" "You don't need to be fanatical!" "Think for yourself!" Don't be deceived. The verse says, "God is not mocked." God is not obligated to play along with your games. You see, we mock Him and treat Him with contempt when we imply we are wiser than He and ignore the teaching in His Word. You will reap what you sow in your life! It's that simple!

This morning as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Table, I'd like to examine from Galatians 6 three areas of spiritual reaping that will be directly affected by the type of sowing we choose do.

1. Our Pastors

The first example is found in the context of the church and it comes directly from verse 6: "The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him."

Though I believe this fits in with sowing and reaping, some have connected it into the prior verses of burden-bearing. But no matter how you connect it to the context, it always comes back to say the same thing - Take care of your pastors! 1 Corinthians 9:14, "So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel." The gist is this: if a guy spends the majority of his time serving the church, give him the money he needs to support himself. You see, fifty hours a week doing church business with a family at home doesn't leave much time to consider a second job to pay the bills! God commands pastors to devote themselves to the Word and prayer and shepherding and commands the churches they shepherd to give them what they need to survive with a moderate living somewhere between a lobster diet and ramen noodle diet.

Now I feel uncomfortable talking about this as your pastor so I'll share what I often witness in other churches. You've got a guy, newly married and maybe a couple kids under his belt. He works hard to make it through seminary with his own money. All he cares about is faithfully serving the Lord. He takes a position at a church and not only gets eaten alive by them with unnecessary burdens and false expectations, but also is not given enough money to get by. He is required to get a second job just to pay the bills and break even. He is exhausted, rarely sees his family and finds no joy in the ministry. What kind of pastor would that church have? How long do you think that pastor will stick around? Sowing and reaping!

As verse 6 says, there is a responsibility of pastors to teach the word. A priority of the early church is still a priority of the church today, the preaching of the word of God. And if a church wants pastors who take this work seriously, who devote the time and prayer and study into the preparation, it is only natural that God would expect the church to free them up for the ministry. And I stress that last line - Free them up for the ministry, not pay them to do the ministry. Big difference!

So with that said, how are we doing here? Speaking for myself, Julie and I are very blessed with the ways this church has cared for us financially. We are set in that regard, but the point has definitely arrived that we could use some help. When I first arrived, this church had a few dozen people who generously supported me as their pastor. Now, roughly 550-600 call it home. Since that time we have only added one additional staff pastor. There is only so much we can humanly do. We work as hard as we can, but often grieve at the ministry (especially the shepherding) that is not performed to our satisfaction. So it comes back again to sowing and reaping. The offerings each week should not only be seen as enough for the adequate supply our two pastors, but in a sense the deficiency of an amount needed for two additional staff pastors that this church definitely needs.

We need to move on…

2. Our Destiny

The second area that pertains to our sowing and reaping deals with our life's destiny. Let me read verse 8 in its entirety and then I'll break it down for explanation. "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

The difficulty in interpreting this verse deals with the words "eternal life." Is Paul talking about eternal life as in the fullness of joy and peace we experience in this life as we walk with Jesus or is he talking about eternal life as in heaven or hell as a future home?

Both can be defended, but I am leaning toward the former. I think Paul is talking about the quality of life we can experience as a believer here and now. And I believe this explains the difference why you find believers that are complainers and others that are filled of peace. Why you find believers that are bitter and others that are filled with love, believers that are selfish and others that are filled with goodness, and believers that are unreliable and others that are filled with faithfulness.

Hasn't this been our context? At any given moment a believer can be walking in the flesh or walking in the Spirit. Sowing to the Spirit (in 6:8) is the same as walking in the Spirit (5:16), being led by the Spirit (5:18) and living by the Spirit (5:25). So as verse 8 teaches, sow to the flesh and reap corruption, all those awful deeds listed in 5:19-21. Sow to the Spirit and reap the present benefits of eternal life, all those beautiful fruits listed in 5:22-23. Sow to the Spirit so you can experience all the blessings of eternal life.

Think of it again as a farmer. What kinds of seeds are you sowing? If you find yourself angry or despairing or anxious or perverse or grumpy or useless or selfish or lazy or addicted or jealous or divisive and the list continues, you are reaping the fruits of sowing seeds to the flesh. On the other hand, if you are walking in the Spirit and found reading your Bible and praying and faithfully attending church and serving with your gifts and sharing the Gospel, you are sowing good seed and will reap the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [and] self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). These are the fruits of eternal life and the evidence that one truly possesses eternal life. Again it's cause and effect. It's sowing and reaping. What you put in is what you get out!

I like to think of it this way, are you sowing in such a way that will bring you the greatest joy not only now, but also 10,000 years from now? I encourage you, my friends to not seek the false joy of the world and not take your cues from them as to the seeds you sow. We are bombarded with thoughts from the media - the drunks are always the life of the party. I personally can tell you what it is like to live with an alcoholic parent, see people affected by alcohol related illnesses and attend the funerals of three different drinking and driving accidents of young friends that all resulting in fatalities (two hit by drunk drivers and one a drunk driver himself). To the world, sexual immorality is always romantic, glamorous, exciting and air-brushed. Forget about the venereal disease, unwanted pregnancies, split families, single parent homes and broken hearts. Divorce is always a happy ending for all. Slander is funny, coveting is promoted and abortion is ignored. To the world, sin never has any downside. Everybody does it and everybody seems to get away with it and everybody appears to be happy. Don't fall for the lie. Don't be deceived. As we have learned, crucify the flesh. What you sow is what you will reap. Pursue what will glorify God because what glorifies God will make you the happiest!

3. Our Neighbors

So our sowing and reaping will affect our pastors, our personal destiny here on earth and lastly, our relationships with our neighbors.

Verse 10, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."

Let me make this as clear as possible: the Christian life is about people! One day, this building will be destroyed as will your car, stamp collection, family pictures, garden and 80 inch LCD flat screen TV. People will live forever and that this is why we as Christians should be making primary investments in the lives of those around us. If we sow the Gospel in the lives of others, we will reap people coming to Christ. If we sow love and kindness and joy in the lives of others through both our attitudes and actions, we will reap the blessing of cheerful families and usefulness to God and fulfillment in this life. Didn't Jesus say, "It is more blessed to give than to receive?" (Ac. 20:35). Selfish people who care only for themselves are always miserable people and when they die few if any seem to really care. Sow goodness into the lives of others!

So as verse 10 says "while [you] have opportunity," which is the time you have on this earth, "do good to all people." Be like Jesus, Acts 10:38 who "went about doing good." Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit and it should be displayed to "all people." But as Paul adds, "[do good] especially to those who are of the household of God." The primary area where your good deeds should be displayed is to those who are members of God's family.

So that is why we have fellowships, so you can better get to know God's people, and the more you get to know God's people, the more you will be able to meet their needs. And that is why we do "Ministry Fairs," to make you aware of ways you can formally serve this body. The more you serve this body, the more you are doing good to those in the household of faith.

So this sermon is all about sowing and reaping. Sowing what is good to reap what is good. We all want to reap a good harvest. Often we are not willing to take the sowing part seriously.

I love tomatoes. Come this time of the year, I wish I would have planted a tomato garden. Then why don't I? Because a tomato garden is hard work and I do not want delayed gratification - Sowing in April and reaping almost a half year later. I consider it in the Spring, but I rarely follow through. So there are no tomatoes to be harvested in my backyard this year!

That is why as we close I need to say one word that needs to be mentioned when we consider this topic. That word is perseverance. On paper I can't imagine any Christian not agreeing with this principle of sowing and reaping. The difficulty comes when we apply this principle, sow as expected and seem to reap no harvest. "I prayed for a week and nothing changed." "I shared the Gospel and no one got saved." "I taught those three year olds and no one seems to care." "I served my wife and she still nags on me." "I disciplined my kids and it's not making a difference." "I gave sacrificially to the church and all it resulted in was less money in my wallet." I could go on for weeks with this list. "I didn't see any results so I quit. Might as well go back to sowing to the flesh!"

God promises you are harvest, but He never says what exactly the harvest will be and when exactly the harvest will arrive. Perhaps that is the case so that we will keep our eyes more on Him and not the reward. He simply calls us to be faithful and to know that through our faithfulness we are honoring Him and allowing Him to bless us when and how He deems best, even if the blessings come in a time and way we did not predict. It comes down to the question. Will we take God's Word at face value and trust Him for the promises He provides? Will we persevere to sow good seeds?

Recently I was talking with one of the instructors at our health club. He said the organization does not make their money on the low prices of the memberships. They make their money on the multitudes that get a membership, come out for a few weeks, fail to get the immediate results they expected and then never return. They fail to persevere.

That's why Paul said in verse 9, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Finish strong! Even believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ as He dispenses rewards to His people. What are you going to have to show Him? Your Fantasy Football victories? Your children's sporting awards? Your vacation pictures? Your beautiful body? Your 500 friends on Facebook? Your shell collection? What you sow is what you will reap. As we learned today, are you caring for your pastors, pursuing personal godliness and doing good to others, especially those in the church? Persevere, don't grow weary, and you won't if you walk in the Spirit and live by the Spirit which enables you to sow seeds to the Spirit. Keep persevering! Keep doing good! You will reap God's promises if you do not lose heart and grow weary!

other sermons in this series

Oct 14


Harvesting Peace and Harmony

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Galatians 6:11–18 Series: Galatians

Sep 23


The Spirit-Filled Church

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Galatians 6:1–5 Series: Galatians

Sep 16


Crucified Yet Deadly

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Galatians 5:24 Series: Galatians