SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-25-70 7:30 p.m.
Now on the radio, whether you believe it or not, this is the First Baptist Church you are listening to, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Sowing and Reaping. I want you to turn in your Bible here, and you who listen on the radio, I want you to turn in your Bible to John, the fourth chapter of John; John chapter 4, and we are going to read verse 31 through verse 38. John chapter 4, verses 31 through 38. Now, everybody sharing his Bible and all of us reading out loud together, John 4:31 through 38, now together:
In the meantime 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 aught 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 labor: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors.
Sowing and reaping: this is God’s heavenly assignment for His people in the earth. It always has been, that to the glory of God we might win souls, bring a harvest to lay at His gracious feet. That was the assignment in the Great Commission: going, make disciples, make Christians, baptizing, teaching. The only imperative with those three participles is make disciples [Matthew 28:19-20]. We’re to win people to Christ. That was the great assignment to the apostle Paul: “For this cause have I raised you up, for this cause did I born you: that you might open the eyes of the Gentiles; preaching,” as he said, “the unsearchable riches of Christ to the nations of the world” [Acts 9:15; Romans 9:17; Ephesians 3:4-8].
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 Iēsous, Savior, Jesus,
We call Him by His name
For the love of God is greater
Than the measure of man’s mind
And the love of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
[“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”; Frederick William Faber 1862]
Sowing and reaping: now the preaching of the message is how the Lord said that, “One soweth, and another reapeth” [John 4:37], not necessarily the same one. “One soweth, and another reapeth.” Any tremendous spiritual visitation is ever and always the result, the summation, the repercussion of many, many moral and spiritual factors, dedications. An automobile, who made it? Well, Ford made it. Chrysler made it; Olds made it. Buick made it. Oh no, there’s not a car that is driven but that in it are a thousand different patents!
There were men who discovered this: maybe the spark plug. There were men who discovered this: maybe the battery. There were men who discovered this: maybe the transmission. There were men who discovered this: the brakes, the internal combustion of the engine. There are men who discovered this: the steering apparatus—thousands of things, from the tires, to the tubes, to the electrical system, to the gasoline system, to the steering—to everything about it, even the different ball bearings that are used. There are thousands of patents that enter into the construction of a car. So it is in any great spiritual movement and result: it is the result of many, many who have labored, who have sown, and others reap.
I think of our own Baptist people and our own church in these terms. Oh, as you read the story of our people, how fraught it is, and how filled the pages are with martyrdom, and persecution, and heartache, and tears, suffering. I stood at the place where they said in that exact spot Felix Manz was drowned in the Lamont River that flows out and through the city of Zurich, Switzerland. There was he drowned. “He said he needed water, he needed water,” sarcastically referring to his baptizing his converts. “Well,” they said, “let’s give him lots of water,” and they drowned him in that spot.
And in beautiful Vienna, there can you go and in that place Balthazar Hubmaier was burned at the stake. And there in that place his wife was drowned in the Danube River. The first church we had in the South came bodily, organizationally, from Maine, moving down to Charleston, South Carolina, hoping to escape the terrible persecution of our Baptist people in New England. The reason: Roger Williams founded the Baptist church at Providence, Rhode Island, and gave it the name Providence, was to escape the terrible persecution against him and the Baptist faith in Salem and Boston, Massachusetts.
Think of Obadiah Holmes, and think of the Baptist preachers in the Culpepper jail in Virginia, and a thousand other things that enter into the story of our people. Oh, how they made a way! How they sowed the seed. How they opened the door into which we have entered in. “One soweth, and another reapeth” [John 4:37].
Now, a corollary, a concomitant, we’re not to identify disappointment or frustration with failure and defeat. We are never to do it, never to do it. Things don’t always turn out as we could hope for, as we could pray for, as our hearts desire and ask for. People don’t always respond as they should and as we could ask God that they would. But we’re not to identify our disappointment, and sometimes our tears and heartache, we’re not to identify our disappointment with failure and despair and defeat, no. “One soweth, and another reapeth.” It may be another time. It may be another day. It may be some other hour in another service, but we shall wait and trust in God.
Reading Spurgeon, he said, “Upon this day,” he was in his study, seated at his desk, he said, “I was sick and discouraged.” And he said, “I sat down at the desk and I thought, ‘Oh, how can I preach? I am sick and I am discouraged. How can I preach?’” And as he sat there at the desk, sick and discouraged, he said, “I noticed on the desk a mission report.” He said, “I picked it up and it was a missionary who was reporting on his year’s work in the Dominican Republic.”
And he said he looked through the report, and the missionary reported that, “We had a hard year. We had very few souls. And I don’t have much to report.” But he said, “There was one glorious conversion.” He said, “There was a man who came from a long distance, from Haiti on the other side of the island, there was a man who came from Haiti, and he said, ‘I’ve been saved, and I want to be baptized.’”
And the missionary said, “You’ve been saved? Where and when and how?” And the man replied, “I came upon, I found a sermon by the London preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, translated into French,” which is the language they speak in Haiti, “translated into French.” And he said, “I read that sermon, and I was saved. And I have come all the way over here to the Dominican Republic, I heard of you, wanting you to baptize me.” And the missionary said, “That is the bright place in my report for the year.” And Spurgeon said, “I read that,” and he said, “When I did, the Holy Spirit of encouragement and strength came upon me, and I prepared the sermon that I am preaching today.” That’s the way Spurgeon began that message. You never know. You never ever know!
Why, I could not take the hours to tell you, even on the radio here, people who have been saved driving down the highway listening to the sermon—pull over to the side of the road, bow their heads over the steering wheel and give their hearts to Jesus—and tell me about it, write me about it. Sometimes, riding over in an airplane, listening to the service on the radio; one of the most marvelous letters I ever received in my life was from an army pilot flying over Dallas, going west and out to the Pacific. Wrote me a letter and said he picked up the message east of Dallas, listened to it flying west of Dallas and there in that cockpit gave his heart to Jesus, and wrote me a letter about it. You never know. You never know.
And some of the ministers who are in pulpits today were men who gave their lives to be preachers in these services that I’ve had—conducted all over this nation—and I knew nothing about it at all. I met a missionary in Africa, and the missionary said to me, “You never heard of me and you don’t know who I am, but I gave my life to be a missionary in a service of dedication you conducted in Oklahoma.” You don’t ever know. Sowing and reaping, sowing and reaping; and we’re not to be discouraged or frustrated, ever. In God’s time, God will do it.
I think sometimes of the lamentation of the apostles and of the prophets. Jeremiah, “Oh that my eyes were fountains of water, that I might weep day and night for the lost of the daughter of my people” [Jeremiah 9:1]; the apostle Paul, “For I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my people, my kinsmen, according to the flesh” [Romans 9:3]; or [Ezekiel], standing before the dry bones, “O breath of God, come and breathe on this valley of dead bleaching dry bones” [Ezekiel 37:9-10]. They knew frustration, and discouragement, and tears, and heartache, but God said, “My word will not return unto Me void; it will accomplish that whereunto I have sent it” [Isaiah 55:11]. And the psalmist sang, “He that goeth forth with tears, bearing precious seed, shall come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” [Psalm 126:6]. God doesn’t fail, and God will not let us fail; sowing and reaping.
I held a brief meeting in Ijuin, in Kyushu Island, down there in Kagoshima province, way down at the end. Oh, you should have been there, “a’sitting in the kingdom, just to hear Old Jordan roll,” three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. When I gave the invitation, toward two hundred people accepting Jesus as their Savior; gave the invitation the next night, something like two hundred people accepting the Lord as their Savior. Gave the invitation the next night, something like two hundred people accepting Jesus as their Savior, oh! it just looked like God was doing things that He never had done before in my presence!
So I asked the missionary, Bill Medley, I said, “Where could such a thing come from? It just overwhelmed me!” And Bill Medley said, the missionary said, “Did you know Mugino, the pastor, Mugino? He’s been here all these years.” And he said, “When war broke out with the United States, they looked upon Mugino as a traitor because he was a Christian, and they looked on him as a subversive because the United States was identified as a Christian nation.” He said, “They watched him and they hated him and they mistreated him; but all through the years of that war, Mugino prayed for the people and loved the people and walked as a saint of God. And he kept on praying, and he kept on preaching, and he kept on teaching, sowing the Word. Never had a convert, never had a response, never had anybody come forward, never had anything except suspicion and hatred because he was a Christian. But he sowed the seed of the Word.
And the missionary said to me, “That’s where the reaping came from; from the godly life of that dedicated Christian-Japanese pastor, Mugino.” God didn’t let it fall to the ground; He never fails, never. “One soweth, and another reapeth.” Sometimes the reaping is immediate, “Say not ye, There are four months, and then cometh harvest? I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, look at that whole city of Sychar coming out.” Sometimes the reaping is immediate; they just are here. Down the aisle they come, the response is right there in that moment. The family comes; immediately sometimes it is soon, sometimes it’s delayed. You have to wait. You have to pray, but God never lets us fail.
Something to see, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, what do you see? “Oh, I see taxes, and I see troubles, and I see aches, and I see all of the things that belong to the discouragements and frustrations of life!” Oh, we all have them, we’ve all got them! Our aches and our pains, and our disappointments, and all of the things that enter into daily life, but my, my brother, there’s more to see than that! There is God, and God’s work, and God’s people; “Lift up your eyes, and look!” [John 4:35]. There are folks to be won to Jesus. There are families to be encouraged in the faith. There are children to be taught. There are young people to be guided in the mind of Christ. That’s the reason that it is so difficult for me to understand why it is that people of means and ability will dedicate their lives and give their lives to the futilities and sterilities and emptinesses of life. They’re out there doing a thousand different things that matter nothing at all, wasting the days and the hour and the years when God needs us. “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields,” something to see, something to feel. When you see all of the people, the families, the children, the youngsters, does it do something to your heart? O Lord, that they might be won to Christ, that they might be a glory to Thee; something to feel. Lord, lay some soul upon my heart and love that soul through me. And may I ever do my part to win that soul to Thee; something to feel, wanting to see people saved, to introduce them to the Lord. Something to do, something to do: to sow or to reap.
But can’t reap, won’t respond. Saying a good word for Jesus; I can pray. I can invite. I can hand out a tract. I can make a telephone call. I can knock at a door. I can be there at church. I can offer my life to God for however God could use me. And that’s all God needs is that wonderful yielded, surrendered willingness to offer ourselves unto Him. Oh, do it! And see the blessed favor of God upon this work. I wish I had time just to say some of the things that happened down here before your very eyes; sowing and reaping. Do you remember a few Sundays ago, there was a dear wife down here by the side of her husband, been praying for him forty years, she said. Forty years? Sowing and reaping. God will bless, and He will remember. He answers. It’s just for me to be faithful.
Lord, hands, and heart, and life, such as I have and can, Lord, I dedicate it all to Thee. Bless, Lord, the word I speak. Hear, Lord, the prayer I pray, the hand of help I offer. God sanctify and hallow this dedicated effort.
And just see if God doesn’t sanctify, multiply, and bless. And tonight, in this invitation hymn we sing, to give your heart to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? To put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, would you come, bring your whole family? “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming tonight.” A couple of you, just one somebody you giving your life to the Lord, coming into the church to be with us in this sweet and precious fellowship, offering to God the highest, noblest, best, come tonight. In the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, into the aisle, somebody you, while we sing this song, come. Make the decision now in your heart, way down deep. You, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Up into that aisle, down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I’m coming tonight.” Do it. While we stand and while we sing.
SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-25-70I. Grand specific object of the Christian ministry
A. The glory of God in the salvation of the souls of men
1. Commission of the disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)
2. Commission of Paul (Acts 26:17-18, Ephesians 3:7-9)II. A result is often the product of many varied influences
A. Making of an automobile
B. True in spiritual things
1. Our Baptist forefathersIII. Disappointment not necessarily evidence of failure
A. May be another hour
B. Lamentation over Israel (Jeremiah 9:1, Romans 9:3, Ezekiel 31:1-14)
1. God’s promises (Isaiah 55:11, Psalm 126:6)
C. Pastor MuginoIV. Lift up your eyes and look
A. Something to see
B. Something to feel