SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-26-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. We have had as our special guest tonight our silent friends. We have three church services every Lord’s Day in the morning, in the evening. Beside our children’s extended services here in this place under this roof we have two other churches with their pastors.
We have our good shepherd department. It’s a downtown mission really. I call it my good shepherd department. It’s a ministry to the people pressed against the heart of this downtown city. And they have their services in Embry Hall with Johnny Barrett their pastor. And they meet at the same time that we meet. He’s preaching the gospel at the same time I am preaching it here.
Then our other church service is with David Dean, the pastor of our silent friends. And they have their church services in the chapel, in Slaughter Memorial Chapel. And tonight for the first time in a long, long time our silent friends have been here with us. And we have so been blessed by their signing the sweet hymns of Zion.
Now in your Bible turn to the fourth chapter of John. John chapter 4 and we shall read from 31 through verse 38.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas preaching the evening message entitled Sowing and Reaping. It is a message based on John 4:35-38. And we are going to read out loud together verses 31 through 38. If on the radio you have a Bible, open it and read it out loud with us. It was written to be read aloud. Now all together John 4:31-38, reading it out loud.
In the mean while His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master, eat. But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him ought to eat?
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
Sowing and Reaping; "that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that same truth, one soweth and another reapeth" [John 4:36, 37].
Now the context of the passage of course lies in our Lord’s visit to a despised and hated land, the country of the Samaritans. No good Jew would be found in Samaria but our Lord had sown there for whom He was to die. And He made His way up through Samaria, when all of the other Jewish people crossed clear over Jordan and went up on the other side through Perea but not our Savior. There were souls to be won to Jesus in Samaria and our Lord is there.
And it came to pass in a most unusual way in a despised and outcast woman who had had five husbands and finally came where she didn’t even bother to divorce. She changed her husbands as a girl would change her dress and as frequently. And the man that she was now living with was not her husband. In that she said truly, said our Lord.
But He spake unto her of the gospel of Jesus of the water of life and she was saved. And she went back into her little city of Sychar and witnessed all up and down the streets, all over the city of the marvelous, wonderful change that had come into her life from that Man, the Messiah who was seated even then on the well of Jacob outside their city gates.
So the disciples who had looked upon the country as hard and difficult and said, "Let’s go through quickly if we go through at all. There are no additions to be had to the kingdom of God here." When those disciples lifted up their eyes and looked there was the whole city of those despised Samaritans who had been converted and testified to the glory of God in the testimony of that converted woman.
When those disciples lifted up their eyes and looked upon that whole city coming out to the Lord Jesus they were astonished. And then the Lord said the passage tonight, "Why, lift up your eyes. Look on the fields. They are white already unto the harvest. Some of you say it is four months. It is four months. I tell you it is now. It is now. There are some that have sowed that you don’t realize and the day of reaping and rejoicing is come. He that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, one that soweth and another reapeth."
Now it is the great object of the ministry, the true ministry that souls be saved to the glory of God. I don’t think I can define the great purpose of the calling of a preacher and the proclamation of the Word of God more than to say it like that. The great end and purpose of preaching is to glorify God in the saving of souls. That is the great commission.
These children that are brought to me before they join the church, I try to encourage them to memorize the great commission. The Lord sent us out into all the world and to baptize our converts, to win people to Jesus and then baptize them into the body of our Lord.
Well, that was the great call of the apostle Paul. Come, said the Lord. He’s a chosen vessel of mine. Come, said the Lord and I will send them to the Gentile nations of the earth.
He did not come to condemn the world.
He did not come to blame.
He did not only come to seek.
It was to save that He came.
And when we call Him Jesus, Jesus, Savior,
We call Him by His name.
For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind. And the love of the eternal is most wonderfully kind. Lift up your eyes. The whole city of Samaria, coming out to the blessed Lord, you say it’s some of the time. I say it’s now. The fields white unto the harvest.
The other men have sown and the day of reaping has come. Now in our sowing and in our reaping we are always to remember that the results God gives us, the harvest the Lord bestows upon us is almost always the fruit of the labor, and efforts, and love, and devotion of these who have gone before us.
Did you ever look at an automobile and here is a Ford going by and in the days of his life you might have said that is an invention of Henry Ford. He did that. Or a Chrysler goes by and in his days you could say that is an invention of the great engineer Walter Chrysler. Any automobile you ever saw in your life is the product of a thousand different patents and inventions. And these great assembly lines just put together what so many others have already done.
So it is in the reaping and in the harvesting in the fields of our Lord. How many of us, how very many others have sown, and sown, and sown? And when the day of reaping and harvesting comes we just rejoice in those who have rejoiced before us and trust that God would bless His word and honor His testimony.
Sometimes when I go through the length and breadth of our Southern Baptist Convention, especially preaching through state conventions or preaching through state evangelistic conferences and I see the strength, almost the immeasurable strength of the devotion and commitment of our Southern Baptist churches, I think what a phenomenal thing has come to pass. For I have read and been preaching in days past of the heritage of our Baptist people.
I have read of the great and almost disheartening sacrifices of our preachers who lived in generations past. And I have stood in places in Europe where they were martyred, burned at the stake or bound in the river. And I have stood in places in England and in America where they were flogged at the stake and persecuted even unto death.
Oh and what despair did they sow the Word of the seed of the gospel of the Son of God! And they themselves died having looked over a whole earth that was wintry and seared. And the seeds they had sown apparently had died in the cold, in the blast of the winter. It looked as if there was no hope of a resurrection.
But look what God did in a place that they never dreamed of, in a continent they didn’t even know about, in an area of the world that the world then was not even cognizant of. The Lord brought this gracious harvest unto the glory of His name. And when we have a great revival, and when people are born to the kingdom of God, and when our churches are strengthened in the faith it is the reaping of those who have sown the seed of the Word of God even in despair and in death.
We are never to confuse. We are never to confuse with defeat and despair. We are never to confuse disappointment. Personal disappointment as though God had rid us out and the Lord had forsaken us. We are never to confuse the two. Personal disappointment is something all together different from ultimate despair and defeat.
As you know I read so often in the work of the life of Charles Spurgeon, the greatest Baptist preacher we ever produced. And I think the greatest preacher this side of the apostle Paul. In reading of the life of Spurgeon, reading in his sermons I came across this one time.
Spurgeon said that he was in his study and he was blue, and discouraged, and despondent. He was down in his mind and mostly sick in his physical frame. And he was seated there in his study in that state of mind, discouraged and disappointed. And he said on his desk, on his study desk was a mission report and he just happened to pick it up. And when he picked it up he saw his name. And he read the mission report. It was from the West Indies.
There was a mission in San Domingo and a missionary had stood up to give his report, his annual report. And the missionary in San Domingo said, "It has been a discouraging year. It has been a hard year. But," he said, "in the year there has been one bright light." He said, "There came from afar a man from Haiti where they speak French. There came from afar a man from the interior of Haiti and he said to me, ‘I’ve been saved and I want to be baptized.’" And the missionary was amazed. He was an intelligent man and seemingly wondrously converted.
And the missionary said to this man from the interior of Haiti, "Where did you find the Lord and how?" And the man from Haiti said, "There came into my possession a sermon of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, translated into French and I read it and I was saved, and I found the Lord, and I want to be baptized."
Spurgeon said, "I read that. I never dreamed of such a thing. I didn’t know of such a thing. And when I read it I was filled with encouragement and the spirit of prophecy came upon me," and he prepared his sermon and preached again with great and unusual power.
Last Sunday night – and I don’t take your time to repeat these things. I try to keep myself out of it as much as I can. – But I do not know the numbers of times that in discouragement and because the harvest may be small I have stumbled into a man that was saved and I had no idea about it in an appeal that I made. A young fellow who is pastoring a church, who gave his life to be a preacher in an occasion that I had forgotten about and these who I have baptized and a testimony that does not even bring back to me the memory of the time when it happened.
You don’t know. You don’t know. There is sowing and there is reaping. We are to enter into this field of our Lord with great expectation, maybe with tears. Maybe with agony of heart, maybe with soul intercession but always in great confidence that someday, somewhere, if not now, sometime God will bless and honor His word and the testimony.
Jeremiah said in his lament, "O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the slaying of the daughter of my people." Paul lamented saying, "I wish that myself were a curse from Christ for my kinsmen, my brethren, according to the flesh." Ezekiel stood at the command of God, praying and crying, "O the four winds of the earth, come and breathe upon this valley of death and dry bones."
That’s our ministry and that’s our great compassionate commission. And the Lord does not forget. "My Word will not return unto Me void. (Isaiah 55:11) Be not weary in well doing for in due season you shall reap if you think not. (Galatians 6:9) He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless someday, somewhere, sometime come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:6)
Sometimes the harvest of our labor is immediate like it was here. The disciples saying some other day, some other time and the Lord said, "Lift up your eyes. Look." The whole city coming out; the harvest is immediate.
Sometimes God delays it. And it is easy for the servant to be discouraged. "What are you doing here?" said the Lord to Elijah. "What are you doing here Elijah when the great work is up there in Israel? What are you doing here sitting under a juniper tree?" [1 Kings 19:4-9] And Isaiah himself one time cried, "Lord who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" [Isaiah 53:1]
No, wait. Wait. If it isn’t now it will be some time, some glorious time in God’s time; sowing and reaping.
May I take this little word out of my own ministry? When I was in Japan they sent me down to a village. To us it would be somewhat large. It had about 30,000 people in it. But the cities are so large in Japan that they call it a little village. And it was at the end of Kyushu Island, way down there at the end of the farthest place anybody went to preach. And I said to the missionaries, "Why are you sending me way down there?"
And they said, "Because there is a marvelous Baptist preacher and pastor down there. And he has done a great work for Jesus and he has been faithful. And we want you to go down there and hold a revival meeting." So I went down there to the little village of Ichui and I met there a Japanese pastor by the name of Mugino, M-U-G-I-N-O, Mugino. This is the story of Mugino.
He founded that little church in Ichui. And then in the days of World War II he had a tragic experience. He was looked upon as a traitor. He was looked upon as being disloyal to his country. He was a hated Christian. He had the religion of those foreign westerners against whom Japan was battling with all of her lives resources. And he was despised, and spit upon, and hated, and persecuted, and hounded. And it was a tragic time.
But with a little band, a little tiny band of faithful Baptist people around him he stayed true even unto death. Preaching the gospel of Jesus in the most discouraging of all of the situations that mind could imagine.
Then when the United States won the war, the United States began the program under General McArthur of rehabilitating the defeated nation of Japan. And it divided the country into districts and began to pour millions of dollars in aid in order to help the people get on their feet again and support themselves again. And in all of the area down there in the southern part of Kyushu, they chose pastor Mugino to be the administrator of the vast funds of America that was poured into that part of Japan in order to help the people get on their feet again.
Now in most of the countries of the world and even in ours, when a man has in his hand millions of dollars to dispose of so oft times is it siphoned off in corruption, and personal seizure, and aggrandizement. Mugino was a model of honesty and integrity. And he took all of the American funds that were funneled into Kyushu Island. And with justice, and with equity, and with Christian compassion he ministered those funds to the need of the people. And it began to be said from one side of Kyushu to the other, "This is a true man of God; Mugino." I want you to know when I walked down the streets with that man I felt I was ten feet tall walking by the side of that glorious Baptist pastor.
Now I’ve said all that just to say this. In those days of revival in that little town of Ichui and in that church I never preached that I didn’t have at least 150 people saved. Never preached one time I didn’t have at least 150 people saved. Why it is one of the most glorious outpourings of the Spirit of God that mind could ever think for.
Was it because I had done that work and I had wrought that marvelous thing? No. Mugino had sowed for the years and the years and there came a time when the Lord sent a harvester and a reaper. One sows and another reaps. Herein is the same truth that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. We all have a part. We all have a part.
There is a sweet little thing here that I say then I must close. Lift up your eyes. Look on the fields white unto the harvest; something to see. Lift up your eyes; something to see. What do you see? Oh, troubles! Oh, taxes! Oh, what do you see? Fields of souls, children, young people, families – lift up your eyes and look. See what Jesus saw. Feel what Jesus felt.
Master, eat. Master, eat. And He said unto them, "I have meat to eat that you know not of. I have meat to eat that you know not of. My heart is so filled with the gladness of the conversion of these Samaritans I have lost my appetite for physical bread."
Feeling what Jesus felt. A compassionate interest that souls be saved. Doing what Jesus did. Doing what Jesus did. "And He must needs go through Samaria" [John 4:4]. There were lost souls in Samaria and He had come to call them to the salvation H e was born into this world to bestow upon us lost and undone sinners. Doing what we can.
"Preacher, I don’t know what I can do. What could I do?" Oh, so much, so much! We can pray. There is no one of us that can’t pray. Some of you listening on this radio for this minute before it goes off, some of you listening on this radio can never get out of bed, can never get out of your room, can never get out of the house but you can pray to God. You can pray.
We can give out a track. We can call somebody on the telephone. We can go by a house and knock. We can come down here to the church and enter into the heart and spirit of this appeal. If I had opportunity and I haven’t time I could recount to you where men have been saved and turned to Jesus by the sweetest gesture and the humblest invitation of somebody who was timid. But God blessed the appeal. One soweth and another reapeth.
O, bless our people. Bless our people as we give ourselves to the winning of the lost, rejoicing to see lost souls come to the Lord. Our revival begins next Sunday morning and for a whole week we will be here together praying, and working, and rejoicing in the Lord. And even tonight may God spend the spirit of salvation upon our people.
Somebody you, somebody you in the great throng in this balcony round, trusting Jesus as Savior; down one of these stairways at the front or the back on either side, come. And there is time and to spare. The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle, preacher and coming to the front, "Preacher, here is my hand. I give it to you. I’ve given my heart to God and this is the sign that I’ve taken Jesus openly, publicly as my Savior." A couple, a family as the Spirit of God shall lead in the way and say the word make it now, make it now. Come now. Make it tonight. Let this be the glad hour of salvation now and forever for you while we stand and while we sing.