SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-26-87 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Sowing and Reaping. We are going to turn the service around, and I am making the appeal that will be implemented at the end of the message, extending the invitation now. When we come to the conclusion of the pastor’s sermon, our people will remain seated, and our choir, standing, will sing our invitation hymn. The appeal will be in two parts.
Number one: first and foremost, that we give our hearts in faith to the Lord, that we accept Him as our Savior; then, bringing the whole family into the fellowship of the church, either accepting the Lord, or coming into the church by letter or statement, or answering an appeal of the Holy Spirit in your heart. That will be first. Then, after God has given us a harvest, we shall have a second appeal with our people remaining seated and the choir standing to sing. And this time it will be that we bring forward our commitment to ask God to bless us in our soul-winning ministries. It carries with it that we will attend the soul-winning class four Sunday nights in May, taught by Brother Proctor of the Home Mission Board; and then, the spirit of asking God to bless our witnessing testimony. And that will be a commitment service with the pastor. When we come, we will kneel and ask God to take what we can, and what we are, and are able to do, and to bless it to the saving of the lost.
Our text is the one that we read together from the fourth chapter of John: "Say not ye, There are yet four months and then come a harvest? behold, look, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest" [John 4:35]. And I can imagine when our Lord said that, He was watching that throng of Samaritans pouring out of the city of Sychar, hungry-hearted, seeking the face and form and figure of our blessed Lord [John 4:29-42]. When we pray, "God give us a harvest," the message from this sacred Scripture is pertinent to that prayerful appeal, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields" [John 4:35].
Then there is something to see: seeing what our Savior saw, looking on that throng of Samaritans coming to Jesus [John 4:40-42]. Our trouble is, our eyes are closed and our heads are bowed and we don’t look, and we don’t see. And when we do raise our heads and we do look, what we see: regulations and taxes and government or business and jobs and payments, or troubles and family and children, or sickness and aches and pain. And our lives are so bound up in the things of this world, we hardly see or have room in our hearts for the things of God, something to see; "Lift up your eyes, and look" [John 4:35]. We live in a vast city, and a multitude of lost families all around us, a veritable ocean of them.
I have stood in the midst of some of the great, vast wheat fields of the plains of mid-America, from horizon to horizon as far as the eye could see, those vast extended fields of waving grain. Our city is like that. In every direction you turn, there are thousands and thousands and multiplied thousands who need the Lord. And this is our adjuration from our Lord: "Lift up your eyes, and look" [John 4:35]. They face someday an eternal judgment. Are they ready? Are they prepared? Are they saved? And what is the real meaning and purpose of their life now? Something to see.
Also, something to feel; our Lord was so conscious of the needs of the humanity around Him.
And when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Then saith He to His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.
Our Lord, "moved with compassion" [Mark 1:41] is His ever and enduring name [Psalm 135:13]. People, lost people, moved Him. In one instance, in the nineteenth chapter of Luke, when He came to the brow of Olivet and looked on the great city, He burst into tears [Luke 19:41]. That’s the exact translation of that, "Jesus cried." He burst into tears. The weight, the feeling of burden, care, compassion crushed His heart. We ought to be like that.
It ought to be a care to us whether people are saved or not. Our Lord, when the disciples came back from Sychar, they said, "Master, eat." His heart was so burdened, so bowed down in care and intercession; "I am not hungry. I have meat to eat that ye know not of" [John 4:31-32]. Bread of heaven, communion with God, interceding for the lost [John 4:34]; we ought to be that way, realizing the eternal worth and value of the human soul, worth more than all the property we could ever possess.
I think of the most unthinkable, I imagine the most unimaginable of all of the developments and providences in life. When Jesus was in Gadara, across the Sea of Galilee and on the east side, they lost over there some of their pigs, some of their hogs, because of demonic possession. And charging the loss of the pigs and the hogs and the slime and the dirt, charging it to Jesus [Mark 5:1-16], they invited Him out of their midst and out of their land [Mark 5:17]. We say, when we think of that unimaginable providence, we say how blind and how stupid and how inexplicable such an evaluation of life, but we’re that way! Compared to the time and energy we pour into the materialities of this life to the sweetness of our service for Christ, we are like the Gadareans. Things are far more important to us than souls.
I see it also in the vast emphasis that we place upon physical being compared to our soul being. I began many years ago, sixty years ago, as a pastor. I was a youth. And in those days I would stay up all night long with a family, attending a member that was sickened unto death. And even as a youth, looking at them, I would often be sensitive to the tremendous interest and burden in behalf of the physical life of a loved member, but no burden and care for the soul that lives forever. Dear God, how the Lord needs to place upon us a care and a compassion and a consciousness of what it is to be lost.
There was a woman in a hotel lobby, seated there waiting for her husband. And a godly man came by and happened to be seated by her. And he talked to her about Jesus and her soul and the life to come. When the husband came and they went up to their room, she was quiet and meditative and thoughtful. And the husband said, "Sweetheart, what’s the matter with you? What’s the matter with you?"
And she replied, "While I was seated in the lobby waiting for you, a man came and sat down by my side and talked to me about my soul."
And the husband angrily replied, "Well, honey, why didn’t you tell him it was none of his business, you and your soul?"
And that dear wife replied, "But husband, had you seen the look in his face and had you heard the tone of his voice, you would have thought that it was some of his business." The care and the consciousness and the compassion that lies back of our interceding for the lost; it is a wonder to me the difference that that will make in a human life and in an appeal.
I one time went to a home to lead a little boy to the Lord, just a lad ten or eleven or twelve years of age, just a boy. And I sat by his side in the living room. And you would have thought he was as hard as a criminal. I talked to the lad. I explained the way of salvation. And the little lad had no inclination or heart to respond at all, absolutely indifferent.
While I was in the midst of the failure of my appeal, his sister, who was just about a year or two older than he, his sister took a chair and set it by his side. And seated in the chair she buried her face in her hands and began to cry, began to weep. And you could see the tears falling from between her fingers. And that little boy looked at his sister and then at me, and back to his sister and back to me. Sweet people, it was no time at all until I had that lad into the kingdom of God and later baptized him. The tears and the compassion of his sister broke his heart.
Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me. And may I ever do my part to win that soul for Thee. Something to feel, feeling what Jesus felt; something to do, doing what Jesus did. It begins, the text does: "And Jesus went around all of their cities and all of their towns and all of their villages announcing the wondrous and marvelous good news of the kingdom of God" [Luke 8:1]. And He was ever doing that. I don’t know how long the night was; I would think a long time. And the Lord is speaking to Nicodemus. Greatest sermon ever preached on the new birth to a congregation of one, just one [John 5:1-21]. That’s Jesus.
Speaking in this chapter, out of which I’m preaching, to this despised outcast Samaritan woman; had five husbands, and the man she was now living with [was not her husband]; she never bothered to divorce anymore, she would just live with one man after another, a flotsam and jetsam and outcast of society. And yet the Lord is there, spending time, talking to that outcast woman and preaching to her, a congregation of one, the greatest sermon that’s ever been delivered on spiritual worship [John 4:5-26]. That’s Jesus.
That’s the Lord, talking to this rich young ruler, inviting him into the kingdom of God, failing [Mark 10:17-23]. We often fail. He failed, but He witnessed. Talking to Zaccheus, a hated, despised tax collector, "This day, Zaccheus, I am to spend with you" [Luke 19:5]. That’s Jesus, everywhere witnessing, speaking, inviting, explaining, pleading, praying. That’s the Lord, His whole life.
"Pastor, I can’t do that. I am all thumbs and clubbed feet and hesitant in speech and not gifted in making an appeal." The Lord knows that. Our gifts so greatly differ. God made us that way. He made us to differ. We have differing gifts. That’s so true. Paul expatiates on that at great length. The body isn’t all foot. It’s not all hand. It’s not all eye. Differing parts of the body make the body useful and beautiful. God knows that. We have differing gifts. And it’s the use of all of our differing gifts that make the body of Christ so facile and beautiful. He knows that [1 Corinthians12:12-31].
But, sweet people, there are some things that all of us can do. We can pray. Every one of us, we can pray. We can weep, the burden that my son, or my daughter, or my family, or my neighbor, or my friends, or my class, that they might be saved. We can use a telephone. We can write a letter. We can warmly clasp a hand. We can say a good word for Jesus. There’s so many things that we can do if we had the heart and the compassion to respond. It’s the cold indifference that chills the invitation and destroys the kingdom of God.
Our Lord so encourages us in that faith, in that way, in that appeal. In the Book of Proverbs, "He that winneth souls is wise" [Proverbs 11:30]. In the Book of Daniel, "They that be wise shall shine as the firmament and as the stars forever and ever" [Daniel 12:3], they that win people to Jesus. In the Book of James, the last verse, "Let him know, that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins" [James 5:20].
God encourages us, "My word shall not return unto Me void," in Isaiah 55:11. You may think that is of no use, or that it fails, or that it’s like beating the air. God never says that. Somehow, someway, in God’s way and day, the harvest will be brought to Him. In the one hundred twenty-sixth Psalm, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall come with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" [Psalm 126:6]. As the apostle Paul writes in the sixth chapter of Galatians, "Be not weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" [Galatians 6:9].
There is a dear family in this church, one of the sweetest families in our congregation. I asked them, "How is it that you came to be in our dear family, in our sweet congregation?" And they answered, "There was somebody from the church that came to our house and knocked at the door, invited us to attend. And the first Sunday after they came, we attended the church, gave our hearts to the Lord, and all of us were baptized." Sometimes it is that way, an immediate response. Sometimes it is years in between. But He says in my text, "He that soweth and he that reapeth someday will rejoice together" [John 4:36], a word you said years ago, a thoughtful gesture you made in days past, bearing fruit unto God in after years. No word ever spoken for our Lord falls in futility and sterility and barrenness to the ground. God somehow blesses it [Isaiah 55:11].
And that is our appeal today. First, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, or to bring your family into the fellowship of the church. And a second appeal: to come and to kneel with me and to dedicate your life, and your heart, and your testimony to be used of God in winning others to the Lord. Now may we pray for the moment?
Dear precious Savior, add Thy blessings to this appeal. Make our hearts tender toward Thee. Give us a sensitivity to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our souls. And our Lord, when we make these invitations, may the Holy Spirit of God do His office work and move our people to respond. Thank Thee, Lord, for the answered prayer and for the gift of souls and families and dedicated lives this holy hour; in Thy blessed and saving name, amen.
Our first invitation: while our people are seated and praying and while the choir stands and sings the song, our ministers are here to receive you. To give your heart to Jesus, or to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer a call from God from heaven; on the first note of the first stanza, in the balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, down one of these stairways, "Here I am, pastor. God has spoken to me, and I am on the way." Come and welcome, while our choir stands and sings, and while our people are seated and praying; come, come.
I. Something to see
A. Lift your eyes and
1. Jesus saw
2. Our heads
down, eyes closed, refuse to see
B. What do you see?
government, troubles, sickness
2. In every
direction are fields of lost who need the Lord
II. Something to feel
moved with compassion (Matthew 9:36-37, Luke 19:41,
the work of the soul, life
More than property (Mark 5:1-20)
The spirit to care
III. Something to do (John 4:36a)
A. Jesus’ personal
B. The text both a
rebuke and entreaty (John 4:35-37)
C. There are things we
God’s encouragement to us (Proverbs 11:30,
Daniel 12:3, James 5:20, Isaiah 55:11, Psalm 126:6, Galatians 6:9)