Sow Faithfully and Wait Patiently for the Harvest

Recently I preached a sermon on Galatians 6:9-10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We can easily grow weary in doing good and there are various reasons for this. But one reason that we can easily grow weary in doing good is because we sow and sow and sow and sow and we hardly see any fruit, if any at all. And so, we grow impatient, frustrated and weary. And this is why Paul says in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

At the Valiant for Truth blog, I was reminded of this truth once again. One pastor encouraged the pastor and author of this post with the following words,

“Don’t think that Sunday is when people are sanctified. Be prepared for a lifetime of ministry to your congregation, one where you will see them struggle with certain sins and shortcomings for years. Be prepared to labor at great lengths and be long-suffering. Over time, you will see Christ sanctify his people. It just probably won’t happen in one day as a result of one sermon.”

This is so true and yet so hard to remember. Pastors and Christians in general get easily discouraged in doing good to others because of the lack of fruit that they see for all of their sowing. But God’s Word encourages us that “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

In his commentary on Galatians Philip Ryken gives a couple illustrations of this point that have greatly encouraged me in my ministry. He writes,

“The harvest will come. It will come at the proper time, a time determined not by the seasons or the weather, but by the will of God. Whether it comes during this life or when Christ comes again (cf. 1 Tim. 6:15), the harvest will come in God’s own good time. In due season, those who do good will reap their reward. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).

Until the harvest comes, we must keep sowing. A good example of what it means to sow and then to wait for the reaping comes from the life of William Carey, the first modern missionary to India. From the day that he arrived on the subcontinent in 1793, Carey began to teach the Bible to anyone who would listen. This he continued to do for the next seven years without winning so much as a single convert to Christ. Not surprisingly, Carey sometimes got discouraged. On one occasion he wrote back to his family in England: “I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing, and thus I hope; a little time blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either choked with weeds, or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in his strength.” Though he sometimes grew weary in doing good, Carey refused to give up. In 1800 he finally began to reap what he had sown, baptizing his first Hindu convert in the Ganges River. This was the firstfruits of a great harvest among the Indian people.

Or consider another example, this one from the colony of Virginia. It concerns the conversion of a man named Luke Short at the ripe old age of 103. Short was sitting under a hedge when he happened to remember a sermon he had once heard preached by the famous Puritan John Flavel (d. 1691). As he recalled the sermon, he asked God right then and there to forgive his sins through Jesus Christ. Short lived for three more years, and when he died, this inscription was put on his tombstone: “Here lies a babe in grace, aged three years, who died according to nature, aged 106.”

But here is the remarkable part of the story: The sermon Short remembered had been preached by Flavel back in England eighty-five years before! Nearly a century had passed between the sermon and the conversion, between the sowing and the reaping. But a man reaps what he sows, and at the proper time Flavel reaped his harvest.

This is a reminder not to evaluate ministry on the basis of immediate results. Too many churches, especially in America, want to taste the fruits of their labours the day they are planted. Yet most spiritual produce takes time to grow. A long time. Often it takes years before parents, teachers, or ministers are able to see their work pay off. “Be patient, therefore, brothers,” wrote the apostle James, “until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand”” (James 5:7-8).

And so, if you have grown weary in doing good. . .to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 5:9-10), remember these words from the Apostle Paul “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 5:9). In thankfulness for God’s grace to you in Christ, sow faithfully and wait patiently for the harvest.

Patience With Annoying People

Here is my third point and conclusion from a sermon I recently preached on patience:

III. In Thankfulness To God, Be Patient: With People Who Annoy You

If love is patient and patience is being long-suffering and long-tempered, here we might say that love is long-tolerating. In other words, “love is not irritable” (1 Cor. 13:5).

We’ve all been there: your waiting in line at Wal-Mart/Super-store and the check out worker is a rookie in training, the person checking out is a little old lady who doesn’t know how to work a debit machine and keeps hitting the wrong button, and then something doesn’t have a price tag on it so you have to wait for a price check and then the rookie check out person makes a mistake and so he/she has to signal the manager for help, and as you look around for another line to jump into there’s only one or two other lines open and they are all filled up with people and not moving much faster and you get totally annoyed with the situation and the people involved. How do you then treat the check out person when you get up there? Because God has been abundantly patient with you in Christ, you show them patience. Love is not irritable.

And yet, we so easily get irritated and respond in unloving ways when we are at the grocery store, the airport and our flight is delayed, in dealing with government employees who lost our paperwork, in dealing with our not so tech savvy parents when their Skype keeps crashing on their dinosaur of a computer, at restaurants when our food order gets messed up. And the list could go on and on. This is the stuff of a Seinfeld episode. When we are outside the situation it makes for a good funny story. But when we are in the situation, God calls us to patience. He calls us to love people who annoy us and not to be like George Costanza who gets so easily irritated with others.

Love is patient and kind. . .it his not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable. (1 Cor. 13:4-5). Jesus was not irritable and had every reason to be with his disciples who were so slow to learn. And he has every reason to be irritable with us for being so slow to learn from our foolish and sinful ways. We are to bear with one another in love, and to remember that “love covers a multitude of sins,” and annoyances, we might add (1 Pet. 4:8). And so, as I said last week sometimes we need to overlook an offense, whether someone has sinned against us or simply annoyed us with their personality (Prov. 12:16; 19:11). We are to be patient and bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:1-2).

How can we grow in the Christ-like fruit of patience? We must remember that all of our abilities we possess have been given to us by God, so we have no reason to feel that we are any better than anyone else. We didn’t choose the family and life situation we would be born into either. We didn’t create ourself in the first place. We are God’s creation and he has graciously given us what we have. And each of us must confess, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”

Another thing to remember here is that we should practice the judgment of charity towards others, i.e. not imputing motives to them and interpreting their actions in the worst possible light. In other words, giving them the benefit of the doubt. So for example, if someone offends you because they only stuck around to talk to you for a few minutes after church and then left, a judgment of charity would say, “perhaps they were feeling sick and needed to get home because of what they ate at potluck.” Or if someone doesn’t return your e-mail, instead of saying, “this person is ignoring me,” the judgment of charity says, “perhaps it was sent to their spam junk box.” And we could list many more examples of how to exercise a judgment of charity with others. We should always give people the benefit of the doubt and never assume we know the motives of their heart.

And remember, you have made others wait at times. You have habits that annoy other people too (trust me!). And you are still be sanctified yourself and are not yet perfect. These are a few things to remember that will go a long way in cultivating patience with people’s shortcomings, bad habits, and annoying personality traits.

And once again, this doesn’t negate correcting another’s faults or confronting someone about an irritating habit or their sins. But whatever is annoying us about a person, we must first confront our wrong attitudes and deal with our own heart and make sure our desire to correct or confront a person is not from a spirit of impatience but from a spirit of love and concern for the welfare of the other person and with a readiness to forgive others as God in Christ forgave us. Only the gospel can ultimately motivate us to be truly patient and forgiving towards others.

And so, beloved, you are to be patient with others because God is abundantly patient with you in Christ. So in thankfulness to God, be patient: 1. With People Who Mistreat You, 2. With People Who Provoke You, and 3. With People Who Annoy You.

Conclusion

Who is God asking you to be more patient with this week? Is it your husband who is always home late from work, your wife who is constantly nagging you, your teenage or college age son who doesn’t pull his weight around the house, your daughter who complains and is ungrateful, your toddler who breaks things and ignores your instruction, your child who keeps you up at night, other people’s kids, your mom who embarrasses you around your friends, your dad who is inconsistent with rules and lazy, your flaky friend, your co-worker who annoys you or competes against you, your teacher who isn’t fair, your student who is slow to learn or is drama for you, your boss who is overbearing, your government leaders who don’t share your same policies, your church leaders who aren’t running things the way you would, or maybe your pastor who sometimes preaches too long?

No doubt we need more of the love of Christ in our life for all the impatience that is still in our hearts. May God help us by His Spirit to grow in patience because He has and continues to be so patient with us in Christ. Amen!