This series on Sowing and Reaping has certainly taught us one thing - life has consequences both good and bad. That is why those life choices we all make are so significant and critical. They alter and impact our life's quality and its outcomes. I find it ironic, that quite often (and even without realizing it) that those smaller almost casual choices are often the ones that end up having the greatest impact. We make a small decision and then all hell breaks loose as a result of just one small decision. It ends up either significantly exposing us or someone we love to evil, or somehow miraculously protecting us from it. ITS CRAZY... sometimes the little things are so big, and then the big things end up being so small. And all of it driven and determined by that process of Choices Available - Decisions Made - Consequences Faced. (Luke 16:10).
Law 7 of the Harvest, takes us to our final lesson and consideration. What do we do when the harvest of the past has not been good? (Not good as in) we didn't handle our business of sowing and protecting good seed. What then? What about past failure? How do we respond to loss, grief, sickness, failure, betrayal and disappointment? There are lots of paths to choose from there and in that place. Quit, run, hide, repeat the same, push replay, blame, anger, fear, self doubt, resolve, self-evaluate, learn, grow, change, fix and start over - we can go just about any direction from that place of "bad seed, bad fruit, bad outcome." Too often we let the bad harvest our past destroy the potential for a good harvest today and tomorrow.
"Truth is, our human nature is to just let yesterday's negative outcomes keep us from today's positive possibilities."
This where we must learn and embrace Law 7 of the Harvest. We cannot do anything about last year’s harvest, but we can about this year’s. From this law there are four important "harvest concepts" that John Lawrence describes that we will share today.
One - We Cannot Do Anything About Last Year’s Harvest.
Two - We Must Learn to Live With the Consequences of Our Failures.
Three - We Must Commit Ourselves to This Year’s Harvest.
Four - We Must Not Judge Our Harvest by the Standards of the World and Its Ideas of Success.
Harvest Concept One - We Cannot Do Anything About Last Years Harvest
Whatever we did last year, last month, last week, even yesterday is done and past. There are no time machines to take us back so we can change what we did yesterday. Nothing we do today can in any way change the record of what was sown and what was or will be reaped as a consequence. It is either a harvest that will be worthy of duplicating or deleting—or perhaps portions of both—but whatever was produced stands as the record of how we have lived our lives to this point. The greatest challenge as believers and followers is to do as Paul the Apostle said in his writing...
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Here is an important truth - If we failed to produce a crop with a good outcome last year none of our isolation and brooding in self-pity or self-loathing for having wasted or ruined this time will change it. It will only cause us to repeat the same and continue to produce anything good or worthy this year. We can also add to that, producing a good harvest and then in our pride resting and relying too much for too long on a good harvest. The point of the law of the harvest is this - this is another year; and just because the Holy Spirit led and blessed last year, as we were obedient to Him and the Word, does not mean that we automatically will produce anything good this year.
Harvest Concept Two - We Must Learn To Live With The Consequences Of Our Failures
When people believe they are failures or losers and that their wrong or evil sowing will forever ruin their chances for success it tends to define them for life. It twists their thinking and immobilizes any growth and progress, wiping out their ability to use their life and their gifts to do something good with what God has given them.
How Do We Avoid This?
Confess our failures to God. (1 John 1:9) This wipes the slate clean.
Know and trust in this truth... we are forgiven through Christ and can move ahead in life regardless of the past. (Psalm 32:1-8; 51)
Learn from our failures and sin: use them as back doors to future success. (Hebrews 5:7-8).
Move forward from the past with renewed to God's will commitment and press on for the future. (Philippians 3:12-14).
See and use the trials caused by failures and loss as character builders and attitude changers. “The tests of life are to make, not break us. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
As we talked, brooding and isolating in self-pity/loathing for having wasted some part of one’s life will only cause us to fail to produce anything glorifying to God, and good in the time we have ahead. Which leads us to number three.
Harvest Concept Three - We Must Commit Ourselves to This Year's Harvest
How we move forward and press on in our lives is found by continuing to plan prepare and sow for the future and for the God who saved us. Whether we did or did not produce effectively in last year’s harvest, there is no time and no reason to sit around in shame, self-pity or guilt, or the opposite - sitting back and relying on the good harvest of the past. We must press on toward the good and upward call of God in Christ. The following passages give us what we need to do by way of pressing on whether we have experienced victory and growth, or loss and failure.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;
Hebrews 5:11-14, 6:1-8
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we shall do, if God permits. 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
...and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” 34 And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”
Harvest Concept Four - We Must Not Judge Our Harvest By The Standards Of The World
It is hard to face loss and failure because it is so brutal and terrifying, but in our journey of faith and trust in Jesus our losses and failures can become like a ladder to success. We need to be at peace with the fact that the road to victory is often filled with obstacles, detours, and accidents. But in the end - we will win.
Author Erwin Lutzer wrote in his book, Failure, The Back Door to Success:
Perhaps we have forgotten that not many wise, noble, and mighty are chosen by God. We judge ourselves and others by a false standard.
A few noble, wise, and gifted are called. But they are exceptions. God usually chooses the weak, the ordinary, and the despised. Why, then, do so many of us believe we are failures? Perhaps we have a totally false notion of success …
For the true follower of Jesus, good outcomes are experienced through faithful and intentional commitment to our faith and growing Christ-like character. It doesn't always show up in the numbers, names, and noses, or position, power, prestige, and possessions, or activities, abilities, and acceptance by people. If we judged Jesus on the basis of His possessions, acceptance, names and number of noses that followed Him, He would be considered a failure.
But in our over informed and hate-filled world, people typically use the wrong metrics to quantify and measure what is successful and good. They tend to measure success by things like who they know, by comparing Twitter followers, Instagram likes, YouTube views, personal talents and abilities, wealth, notoriety, and fame.
Back when I was in Bible College I remember all of the people majoring in “Practical Ministry" gathering in the hall outside Professor Raymond Brown's Systematic Theology classroom, where he posted the results of our tests. I remember hearing responses like "Hey, I got and A" or me usually... "Wow, can't believe I actually got a C"!!! But with every test there was always this one, "I can't believe Brown gave me an F"! As I think back to those responses I realize they are pretty typical of how most view life. So quick to take credit for our successes, and even quicker to blame someone else for our losses and failure. The big picture reality is that we can have everything that the world thinks makes us successful, and still be a huge failure in the eyes of God.
Here is a final observation on the whole good harvest bad harvest narrative. There is another class of harvest failures: those who mistakenly believe or are delusional about their successful harvest! That too is a bad outcome for our seed and harvest. Best way to avoid it is to stay connected to the gathering community and then find and allow personal accountability through trusted relationships. Enough on that but I hope that the honesty and truth helps.
To finish Law 7, we come back to the same truth we learned in Law 6. To be spiritually and emotionally healthy, to get a good seed good fruit good outcome, we must forgive, forget, and learn from the past and then with hope (promises of God) focus on that which ahead of us. There is an older article from the “Illinois Medical Journal” that supports why this conversation about learning to move forward from the past is so important.
"There are two days in every week about which we should not worry—two days which should be kept from fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its aches and pains, its faults and blunders. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds—but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is as yet unborn. That leaves only one day—Today. Any man, by the grace of God, can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities—Yesterday and Tomorrow—that we break down."
So the truth is, it is not the experience of TODAY that drives most of us crazy—it is usually our regret or bitterness for something that happened YESTERDAY or the fear and anxiety of what TOMORROW may bring. That is why the scripture challenges us to journey just one day at a time.
"Learn from Yesterday - Plan for Tomorrow - Be Present Today"
Actually, by taking care of today we provide for tomorrow—or at least prepare for it. The call of Scripture is “Today, if you will hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness.” The children of Israel miserably failed and wandered about in the wilderness for forty years because they failed to daily take care of their hearts so that they could keep their eyes on the Lord and trust in Him. The trials they faced were opportunities for growth and the glory of God, but because they failed to daily discipline their lives for godliness, they spent their lives going in circles in the wilderness (1 Timothy 4:7).
The “War Cry” magazine reminds us of an important principle. “A loose wire give out no musical note; but fasten the ends, and the piano, the harp, or violin is born. Free steam drives no machine, but hamper and confine it with piston and turbine and you have the great world of machinery made possible. The unhampered river drives no dynamos, but dam it up and we get power sufficient to light a great city. So our lives must be disciplined if we are to be of any real service in this world.”
What are the tests of life? They are tools in the hand of God designed to shape us into the character of Christ. Their design is not to break us, but make us by conforming us into His image. Again, while we should never want to fail, we all do and we need to learn to use our failures as stepping stones to growth and sowing a harvest for the glory of God.
We cannot control the length of our life,
but we can control its width and depth.
We cannot control the contour of our countenance,
but we can control its expression.
We cannot control the other person’s annoying habits,
but we can do something about our own.
We cannot control the distance our head is above the ground,
but we can control the height of the contents we feed into it.
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