When I share my faith with others I often discover a close friend, relative or an acquaintance has recently spoken to the person about Jesus. It is really amazing to sense the Holy Spirit at work attempting to draw the person toward Himself.
A few years ago, after going to the Gap, a Christian outreach center run by Inverness Youth For Christ, I met two young people who were obviously into heavy metal or grunge music. They were wearing the usual black leather jackets, open checked shirts with T-shirts underneath that had pictures of demons screaming off the front, tight jeans and long hair. They were hanging out drinking beer and they were in the mood for talking. During our conversation we drifted from Jesus, the latest fads, music, the occult, police brutality and back to Jesus. During our time together they told me that one of their friends had just become a Christian and ‘Boy he had changed!’ They went on to tell me various aspects of his life and how they knew he had something they did not have. Evidently he was clear in his challenge for they were pondering the issue of death before getting right with God. They had it figured out much like I had it all figured out before I met Jesus. They had decided to wait ten years or so to enjoy life, after all they were just teenagers, then they’d possibly think again. I left and encouraged them not to wait too long. I also went away encouraged because recognized the hand of God in the situation. Their friend had planted big seeds into their hearts and I came along and was enabled to water the seed. I was certain that God would do what He does best and bring the increase. He uses the conversations, the encouragements, to nudge people toward His Son. Someday some new believer may walk up to one of these young men and share something that touches their heart and they begin to follow Jesus. The new believer might think, ‘Boy I’m some evangelist!’ Little does he know that behind the scenes many people had been faithfully expressing God’s word and the Holy Spirit had been at work convicting of sin and drawing the person to Jesus. The reality, seeds were sown, the seeds grew in their hearts as they were watered and God brought the increase.
This is exactly what happened in my life. I was involved heavily in drinking, drugs and all that went with it. I was in the Navy and stationed in Pensacola, Florida. I was fed up with my lifestyle, yet I cold not find an escape. I was bound. Then Tim arrived—a Jesus person who as the only believer in our unit. He wore Jesus patches and spoke about Jesus whenever he had the opportunity. I talked to him often. He continually challenged me to give my life to Jesus, but I did enjoy some the aspects of my lifestyle and I was not willing to pay the cost of giving up my life to become a real believer. Besides, I’d just wait until the antichrist came on the scene, not take the mark of the Beast on my hand or my forehead, get my head chopped off and enter into heaven. Tim used to say, ‘Why take hamburger when you can have steak?’ In my clouded thinking hamburger sounded better than steak. Getting your head chopped off only took and instant but living a life as a Christian would take a lifetime! I know, my thinking was pretty messed up. Eventually, I stopped talking to Tim.
During the next three months I became very depressed. I was filled with guilt. I could not sleep. I had nightmares concerning the end times and my drug problem was growing. I had to get way. I left Pensacola and went to my hometown in Kentucky to attempt to find some way of escape. I went to a party and took some drugs. It was a bad batch and I overdosed. My nervous system went into overload. I was in bad shape.
The next day I attempted to drive back to Pensacola to return to my work in the Navy. As I as driving through Alabama, suddenly I saw my life pass before my eyes. I realized I was a mess, unloved, full of guilt and yet again overdosed. I somehow began to think about Tim and what we talked about months ago. I knew that if I died that night I would spend a lost eternity in hell. I saw the cost form a different angle. The Holy Spirit began to whisper to my heart. ‘Steve this is your last chance.’ I broke, and began to weep. I pulled the car to the side of the road and prayed, ‘God help me!’ with all my heart. At that instant the presence of the Holy Spirit filled my car and I somehow knew that everything was going to be all right.
Two days later I met a Navy pilot who explained how Jesus could save me and set my life on a new course. He then read:
For God so loved he world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
For the second time in just a few days I began to weep. The answer was at last clear. Later that night I surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus and was saved. Looking back, I can now see the times when the seed was sown and watered in my life, at vacation Bible school as a child, at Catholic boarding school as a teen and Tim. Yet, God the Holy Spirit was faithful to bring the increase. I’m glad He did.
Every person who experiences a saving faith comes to Jesus through the sowing and reaping process. People have to hear the Word before saving faith can become a reality in their lives. Some people connect as soon as the Word is sown yet, most people enter salvation after a long process. The truth…someone has to sow the seed…someone has to water the seed before God brings the increase.
Paul puts it this way,
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they ae sent? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14 -15,17NIV)
In most of Europe many people have never heard how to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This might shock some, yet it is true. Time and time again when I’ve shared the gospel, I ask the question, ‘Have you ever heard this before?’ The answer more times than not is, ‘No’. During a teen’s weekend away I shared the good news with a sixteen year old girl. I asked her the above question and she said that she had never heard that Jesus died for her and could give her a brand new life. At sixteen and had never heard? I question, ‘Why?’ Has the Church missed the mark? Are believers reluctant to share their faith? Are there missed opportunities? Maybe there aren’t enough people sowing the seed? I think so.
After five years of using questionnaires in the streets of Scotland and asking, ‘Do you know what it means to be born again?’ over ninety-five percent answer ‘reincarnation’ and ‘no’ the other five percent. Rarely did we have an affirmative answer. In Europe there is an enormous need for people to sow the seed into the lives of the people in their communities. If no seed is sown how can there be a harvest? Paul followed this principle of sowing and reaping in Corinth. In writing to the Corinthians he made the following observations concerning Apollos and Himself.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul Only Servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God makes it grow. (I Corinthians 3:5 – 6 NIV)
The first observation was Paul’s confident understanding of his position and role in bringing the Corinthians to faith. He, like Apollos, saw himself as a servant of the gospel through whom they came to believe. Their role while in Cornith was to clearly present the gospel so the people of the city could have the opportunity to become believers.
Secondly, they shared their faith as the Lord opened the doors. Their tasks were different. Paul served as the planter of the seeds through preaching, testifying, signs and wonders and serving as lifestyle. Apollos also served by watering the seed. The end result was an increase or harvest. Who was the reaper? God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul went on to say,
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour. (I Corinthians 3: 7 – 8 NIV)
Paul gave the glory to God for the increase. He rightly understood that spiritual increase could only come by the drawing, renewing and the new birth given by the Holy Spirit. (see Titus 3) It is God who makes things grow. This should bring encouragement to anyone who as ever shared their faith with another person. He makes things grow. It is His job, not mine not yours. Our job is to sow the seeds in faith, water them by prayer and life example and leave the results to God. This takes the pressure off and allows us to sow with abandon.
Paul later states, ‘We are God’s fellow workers.’ (I Corinthians 3:9 NIV)
Fellow-workers, it is important to believe He is actively working with us and that when we stop working He remains on the job. The Holy Spirit is always at work attempting to draw people to Jesus. When the seed is sown into the human heart it isn’t dormant it has power within it self to begin to grow and increase. The Holy Spirit is at work. He is on the job showing the person where they are failing in righteousness, they are being made aware of the certain judgement to come and they are being encouraged to yield to Jesus Christ. At the same time the individual is probably connecting with Christians at just the right moment. God is co-working with us. It is important that we believe God is active in the lives we touch and seek to reach.
A lady felt challenged to reach out to the people of her community. After hearing the principle concerning sowing and reaping in evangelism, She prayed, ‘God what do you want me to do?’ She immediately sensed she was to contact a lady who lived nearby. She went and knocked on the door. No one was home. She was fearful and felt totally inadequate and if anyone had offered her two pennies she would not have returned. However, she felt prompted to return. Later that week she once again knocked on the door. After a brief introduction she told the woman why she was there, and shared that God had laid her specifically upon her heart, and that she had come to share the good news concerning Jesus Christ. The woman began to cry and asked her to tell her again why she had decided to come to her home. She repeated her introduction and the woman began to cry even more. It turned out that the lady had recently been fighting serious depression and had just returned from the doctor. In her depressed state she had prayed a prayer of desperation. ‘God if you are there please show me that you are interested in my life and that you care!’ Can you imagine what was going on in the woman’s heart? Can you imagine the impact upon this life? God was co-working with this fearful timid believer. The lady in question did not give her heart to Jesus that night, but I do believe the Holy Spirit used this experience to draw her closer to Himself. Do you think that when this encounter ended that the Holy Spirit stopped His work and was the end of God’s concern and care? No way! `Jose! The Holy Spirit was the scene drawing the woman to Jesus and offering hope.
Bottom line: God is at work. We are co-working with Him and He is the one who brings the increase. All He needs is your willing participation. Your sowing is important!
As Paul says, ‘We have one purpose with God.’ What is that one purpose? It’s nudging people toward faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Moving people toward Jesus Christ is God’s central purpose and it certainly should be ours.
After an outdoor gathering in the town center, a man who was contacted was drawn aside for further ministry. He was dealing with some major issues and was looking for some answers. A friend and I were able to encourage the guy and sensed that something good had taken place in his life. A few months later a pastor from another church in the town mentioned that this man had attended one of their services and had given his life to Jesus Christ. He has hoped that I wasn’t upset because the man was now attending his church. I wasn’t upset. I rejoiced! I praised God that I had a small part to play in the process of the Holy Spirit drawing this man into a relationship with Jesus. I understand the principle of sowing and reaping. Therefore I could rejoice and proclaim ‘It works!’
Jesus shared the principle in the gospel of John and brings more clarity.
Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest?’ I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wares, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps,’ is true. I have sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefit of their labour. (Jn 4:35-38 NIV)
I believe Jesus was not only pointing the white fields ready for harvesting but He was also pointing to the men coming toward him from the town. The men of the city were ripe for harvest, which later proved to be true. The disciples, I’m sure, rejoiced when the men believed. They were partners in the harvest. Jesus had done the hard work by talking to the woman and had done the initial sowing. I’m sure they rejoiced together and celebrated the larger spiritual harvest when the men of the city believed.
Again, our job is to sow seeds in faith, looking to God to bring the increase. We can have a sense of satisfaction and be encouraged when we do our part of planting and watering the seed.
God is looking for people like you and I who are willing to be divine seed sowers, who intentionally fling seeds into the hearts of people we encounter. How about it? Are you up to the challenge? It really isn’t as hard as you think. Simply step out and fling some seeds. Believe me you’ll have a great time!