In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus spoke of "a sower [who] went out to sow" (13:3) and of a "man who sowed good seed in his field" (13:24). No doubt, those who heard Jesus' words would have had no trouble understanding this imagery. Although this imagery is a little further removed from most of us today, I believe that we can still benefit from it.
1. PLOW IN HOPE.
Someone has described farming as "a profession of hope." I think that this is a great description. Few professions are based as much on hope as that of farming. It is hope that moves the farmer to break the ground while the weather is still cold outside. To the saints at Corinth, Paul wrote, "Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope" (I Cor. 9:10). The farmer that plows in hope and threshes in hope will one day have the satisfaction and joy of partaking in his hope.
2. SOW IN FAITH.
William Arthur Ward observed that "Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn." Like hope, faith plays a key role in farming. The farmer must trust that the good Lord will give him the proper amounts of sunshine and rain to produce a crop (cf. Acts 14:17; Gen. 8:22). In the long ago, Solomon wrote, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days" (Eccl. 11:1). No doubt, it took a lot of faith for sowers of Solomon's day to cast their seed upon the waters so that it could be sown in the rich soil along the river's edge. Today, it takes the same great faith to bury one's seed in the earth so that the Lord can multiply the seed sown (cf. II Cor. 9:10,11).
3. WORK IN DILIGENCE.
Anyone who has ever done any farming or gardening knows that it is not for the lazy. It is hard work. It is accomplished by the sweat of one's brow (cf. Gen. 3:19). Diligent, daily work is required to keep the weeds from winning (cf. II Tim. 2:6). Someone has noted that, "When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it was a valuable plant."
4. GUARD IN VIGILANCE.
Not only must the farmer plow the ground and sow the seed, he must guard the crop. Weeds are not the only thing that can destroy the crop. Beetles, worms, rabbits, groundhogs, raccoons, wild hogs, deer, and a host of other things can also ruin the harvest for the farmer. The farmer must carefully guard what he has planted. If the farmer sleeps on the job, then the harvest will be lost. No doubt, you recall the Parable of the Tares. In the Parable of the Tares, the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat "while men slept" (Matt. 13:25).
5. WAIT IN PATIENCE.
In addition to hope, faith, work, and watchfulness, farming requires patience. In fact, it requires lots and lots of patience. The farmer plows, plants, works, and then waits, and waits, and waits for the harvest. James wrote, "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain" (James 5:7). Few professions require as much patience as farming. I only know of one that requires more--preaching.
6. REAP IN JOY.
The farmer plows, plants, works, watches, and waits, so that he can reap. It is with great joy that the farmer finally harvests his crop. The psalmist wrote, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psa. 126:5,6).
As spiritual farmers today, if we will plow in hope, sow in faith, work in diligence, guard in vigilance, and wait in patience, we will one day reap in joy.
We must never forget that we will reap as we have sown (cf. Gal. 6:7,8). Therefore, we need to be sowing to the Spirit so that we can of the Spirit reap everlasting life. For sure, many in our world are sowing the wrong things. Therefore, it behooves us as Christians to work even harder to sow the right things.
The following prayer, attributed to Francis of Assisi, is a good one for us to pray: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy."