SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-26-87 8:15 a.m.
Once again welcome the great throngs of you who share this service on radio. You are a part of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Sowing and Reaping.
We are going to turn the service completely around. I am going to make my invitation first and explain it, and then deliver the message. We are going to have a twofold invitation this morning, and we will remain seated while the invitation is presented.
The first, of course, will be to give our hearts and our lives and our homes and our families in faith to the Lord Jesus, to accept Him as our Savior, to bring the family into the fellowship of the church, to answer God’s call in our hearts. That will be our first invitation. And we will sing a hymn inviting you to come and to give your life to the blessed Jesus.
Then there will be a second invitation. This will be for you to come forward and to bring with you this commitment to witness for our Savior. And there will be one of our men on this side and one of our men on this side, and you can come and place that commitment card in the basket that he will hold in his hand. Or just come, because we are going to have a prayer together asking God to bless us as we witness to our generation in this great and growing city.
Now the message is in the passage that you have just read:
Say not ye, That there are yet four months, and then the harvest?
Behold—look!—I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields;
for they are white already to harvest
Something to see, seeing what Jesus saw. Something to see, “Lift up your eyes, and look” [John 4:35]. What our Lord saw was a great harvest field in despised and outcast Samaria. What our Lord saw were those people pouring out of Sychar, coming to Him, hungry-hearted, listening to the word of faith and of life [John 4:29-42].
So many times we have our heads down and our eyes closed. Our Lord invites us to lift up our faces, open our eyes, and look [John 4:35]. Our problem is, what do we see when we look? We see taxes and government and regulation. We see jobs and business and payments. We see family problems and troubles and children. We see our aches and our sicknesses and our pain. What do we see when we open our eyes to look?
I have stood in some of the great, vast harvest fields of the Midwest. And from horizon to horizon there would be waving fields of grain. Jesus says our city and our world are like that. It is a vast harvest field. And we are invited by our Lord to open our eyes, to lift up our faces, and to look [John 4:35]. These are families and immortal souls that someday will stand at the judgment seat of Almighty God. Something to see, “Lift up your eyes, and look” [John 4:35].
Something to feel, to be moved with care and compassion:
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them . . . because they were scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.
Then saith He unto 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 the laborers into His harvest.
Something to feel: feeling what Jesus felt. “Jesus moved with compassion” [Matthew 9:36] is His ever and enduring name. When He saw the vast city of Jerusalem lying before Him, the Scriptures say He wept over it [Luke 19:41]. He was moved by the lostness of that great city. When the disciples in this fourth chapter of John, said, “Why doesn’t He eat? Why doesn’t He eat?” And the Lord answered in effect, “The burden of the lost is too great, and I cannot eat” [John 4:31-35]. O God, that there was such a burden upon our hearts for a lost city!
Something to feel, a realization of the eternal worth of the human soul; worth more than property, more than all of the emoluments and possessions of life—the soul, eternal, immortal soul. I think one of the most tragic of all of the sentences that could ever be passed upon a people, when the Lord was in Gadara; Gadara across the sea on the other side of Galilee. Because they lost some of their pigs through demonic possession [Mark 5:1-16], they entreated our Lord that He leave [Mark 5:17]. What a sentence of unbelievable sterility, and barrenness, and hopelessness, and death; because of some pigs, to invite the Savior out of your life and out of your home and out of your country [Mark 5:17].
But that is a picture of our materialistic world. As a choice between Jesus and things, the world chooses things and denies and invites out the Lord Jesus. God, be merciful to us, that the burden of the worth of the soul might ever press upon our hearts.
When I was a country pastor, frequently I would stay up all night long with a family, one of the members was sick unto death. And even as a young pastor, a teenager, I would marvel at families that would importune all night long in behalf of the physical life of a member, and yet have no burden of heart at all that they might be saved: care and compassion.
I read one time of a dear wife who, seated in a hotel hobby, was waiting for her husband. And while she was waiting there, a man of God happened to sit down by her side and began talking to her about Jesus and about her soul. When her husband came and they went up to their room, he said to her, “What is the matter with you? You are so contemplative and meditative and burdened.” And she answered him, “While I was waiting for you in the lobby, a man came, and seated by my side, talked to me about my soul, and about God, and about Jesus.” And her husband, in anger, said, “Why didn’t you tell him, ‘It was none of your business, my soul or my life?’” And she replied, “But husband, if you had seen the look in his face and if you had heard the tone of his voice, you would have thought it was some of his business.”
The spirit of care and compassion in our hearts; it is a remarkable thing, as I have lived through this pastoral work. It is a remarkable thing how the difference in human life is made by loving care and concern.
I went one time to a home to win a little boy to the Lord Jesus. He was a child, not more than twelve years of age at the most. He was just a child. And as I sat down in the living room by that boy, you would have thought he was a hardened criminal. I could find no response in him, no interest in him. I talked to him, showed him the way of salvation, invited him to the Lord, absolutely indifferent, just failing.
He had a sister who was a year or two older than he, who had been praying for her younger brother. And when it became apparent that I was failing completely, trying to win that little boy to the Lord, she took her chair, and moved it over there by his side, and sat down, and covered her face in her hands, and began to cry. The tears fell off of her face between her fingers.
That little boy looked at her and then at me; and at her and at me. And in no time at all, his heart was melted, the hardness was gone, and he accepted the Lord as his Savior, and I baptized him. Care and compassion and concern; these are the instruments that God uses to remake our souls.
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.
[from “Lord, Lay Some Soul Upon My Heart,” by B.B. McKinney]
Something to feel, feeling what Jesus felt.
A last thing: something to do. Something to do, doing what Jesus did. And Jesus went about, and His disciples marveled at the wonder of our Lord’s ministry [Luke 9:43]. You can’t help but marvel at it also. Doing what Jesus did; I do not know how long at night but it must have been a lengthy visit at night, Jesus talking to Nicodemus, talking about the new birth, about being born again, about being a member of the family and kingdom of God; Jesus talking to Nicodemus [John 3:1-21].
In this incomparable fourth chapter of John, Jesus, talking to that despised outcast Samaritan woman, who had five husbands, finally didn’t bother to divorce any longer, just lived with one man after another—Jesus, taking time to talk with and lead that outcast woman to a new life in Him, Jesus [John 4:6-29]. Jesus, talking to that rich young ruler, failed [Luke 18:18-23]. We also fail. He failed; but talking and witnessing and inviting just the same. Jesus talking to Zaccheus, “This day, this day, I am to spend the day with you in your home” [Luke 19:1-5]; our Lord Jesus, just visiting and talking to the people, opening for them the gates of glory and the kingdom of God [Luke 19:6-10].
“But pastor, what can I do? I’m not able or I’m not gifted or I’m so timid? What could I do?” We can pray. We can ask God for souls. We can intercede. We can make appeal. We can pray. We can weep. We can cry. Jesus wept [Luke 19:41; John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7]. We can cry. God can see our tears and hear our prayers [2 Kings 20:1-5]. We can call on the telephone. We can write a letter. We can say a word. We can present an appeal. We can press an invitation. We can knock at the door. We can care. “O God, what a difference it would make if our people had a burden for the lost and the unchurched.”
Our Lord encourages us thus to respond. In Proverbs He says, “He that winneth souls is wise” [Proverbs 11:30]. In Daniel our Lord says, “They that be wise shall shine as the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. Our Lord says in Isaiah 55, “My word shall not return unto Me void” [Isaiah 55:11]. God will use it somewhere, sometime, for His holy purpose.
Our Lord says in Psalm 126, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” [Psalms 126:6]. Our Lord says in Galatians 6, “Be not weary in well doing: for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not” [Galatians 6:9]. Many times, many times the appeal we make is immediately seen.
I met a family not long ago here in the church who said to me, “Somebody came to our home and invited us to the Lord and invited us to the church. And we accepted the invitation. And we were saved, and we’ve been baptized, and we’ve been faithful, the first time.”
I said, “Do you mean to tell me that the first time someone invited you, the whole family you to the Lord, you came?”
And the family said, “Yes.”
Sometimes it is immediately. Sometimes it is later. Our Lord says there is a sower, and there is a reaper. Sometimes God has to work, but the day comes, our Lord says, when the sower and the reaper rejoice together [John 4:36]. No effort made for our Lord is ever lost. God blesses it somewhere, sometime, in some way, in His own will and purpose. And my assignment is to do what I can; to say a word, to pray a prayer, to be concerned. And God’s Holy Spirit will do the rest [Philippians 2:13].
Now our appeal; while we remain seated, Brother Denny, I want us to sing our first hymn. And in this first hymn, to give your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-10], or to come into the fellowship of the church, or to answer a call of the Spirit in your heart, you come, you come. Then after that appeal for souls, while we remain seated, we’re going to sing another hymn. And when that hymn is sung, come from the balcony, from all over this great sanctuary, want you to stand by me, and we’re going to have a prayer of commitment; that God will bless us in this soul-winning appeal. It carries with it, during the month of May, that we will attend those hours; four Sundays from 6:00 to 7:00 o’clock, when there’ll be a godly man from our Home Mission Board who will lead us in the ways of soulwinning. “And I’ll attend, pastor. I’ll come.”
Now first: to give your heart to the Lord, or to come into the fellowship of our dear church, Brother Denny, while your choir stands and sings and leads us in this hymn of appeal, to answer with your heart and life the call of Jesus, I want you to come and stand with us. “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m coming.” Do it now. Make it now, while we sing, and while we pray, and while we wait.