"Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. In the mormng sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." Eccl. 11:1, 6.
It is evident that "waters" as here used represents the sea of humanity, the inhabitants of the world. "Bread," in our text, obviously means the bread of life, the Word of God, the gospel seed. The gospel seed is to be "cast" over the world in anticipation of a harvest. It has been suggested that Jesus' parable of the sower is drawn from the custom of the farmers along the river Nile, who sow grain from boats as the waters recede toward the channel. The seeds disappear in the water and sink into the muddy soil, and "after many days" produce a bountiful harvest.
Gospel seed sowers must be at their task "in the morning" and "in the evening" and all the time between. They are commissioned to work all day long, early and late, from dawn to dusk, with the same diligence required of successful farmers. There is no assurance of success to indolent sowers. In seed sowing the reaping is in proportion to the amount of seed sown. "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly ; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully," is the divine and unchangeable rule of seed sowing. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," applies to the quantity as well as the quality.
This principle applies with equal force to the sowing of the seeds of truth. The minister who preaches the most sermons and makes the most contacts with the public through Bible studies, visits, and the use of gospel literature, will reap the largest harvest in souls saved, everything else being equal. The Bible instructor who is the most diligent in her divinely appointed work will present the most persons for baptism. The colporteur who puts in the most hours and makes the most exhibitions will report the highest sales and scatter the most seeds of truth. There may be a few exceptions due to certain conditions, but this is the general rule. On the other hand the workers who are not getting results are usually lying down on the job of seed sowing. Some have a great burden to minister to the saints, making no effort whatever to convert sinners and bring them into the church. Thus the church membership dwindles under their ministry. A scanty harvest is always the result of indolence.
The reason we should be diligent in seed sowing beside all waters, early and late, in youth and old age, in sunshine and rain, in all kinds of soil, under all sorts of conditions even where prospects of results seem hopeless, among all classes and races, is that "thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that." There is no way of knowing whence the results from gospel seed sowing will come. There is an element of uncertainty that makes the work interesting. Sometimes we get the best results where least expected, in fields that seemed the most unpromising.
In the parable of the sower the seed was sown everywhere. We should be encouraged by the fact that some of the seed always falls "on good ground" and brings forth a harvest. In every evangelistic effort there are both disappointments and happy surprises. Some on whom we count the most will fail to take their stand-, and others who were hardly noticed will be among those who join the baptismal class. Some who do not make an immediate decision become obedient "after many days."
In seeking for souls every gospel worker should have the diligence and vision of Christ. We are told that "in every human being, however fallen, He beheld a son of God, one who might be restored to the privilege of His divine relationship." —Education, p. 79. Christ continued His interest in men and women when they seemed "as hopeless as if they were dead and in their graves." In His estimation every human being was a potential candidate for heaven.
Absolute Certainty of Harvest
The absolute certainty of a harvest as the result of gospel seed sowing is indicated by the statement, "For thou shalt find it after many days." Just as the grain sown in the water or soil disappears from sight and is apparently lost or forgotten, and then "after many days" reappears again in a bountiful harvest, so the seeds of truth are hidden in the hearts and minds of hearers who are sometimes apparently uninterested, but after many months or years the seeds take root and transform sinners into saints.
The divine promise is: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Ps. 126:5, 6. There is no doubt about results when the sower is diligent and in earnest, for no seed sowing is in vain. There is bound to be a harvest. But results require time and patience. "See how the farmer waits for the precious crop of the land. . . till he gets the autumn and the spring rains ; have patience yourselves." James 5 :7, Moffatt. Patience alone is not enough, however. There must be diligence in seed sowing. Some ministers have more 'patience than ambition and zeal. Patience in waiting for a harvest is useless unless diligent labor has prepared the soil and broadcasted the seed. "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep," may indicate patience, but the results will be poor.
One of our greatest faults as gospel workers is that we are in too great a hurry for a harvest. After sowing the seed we want an immediate harvest and are not willing to patiently wait till "after many days." The success of men and women is often judged on the basis of quick results, but the final ingathering will show that some who have the largest and quickest results in baptisms will have fewer sheaves than others who have faithfully preached the truth to a more stable class, and waited "many days" for results. It is often the "stony ground" hearers who are the first to respond and the first to fall away after the evangelist moves on.
We must remember that it takes centuries for the giant redwood to reach maturity, and that the most valuable trees and shrubs and flowers are of slow growth. Mushrooms spring up overnight, but they are of little value. Likewise the more desirable class of people are more deliberate in making decisions. They are not controlled by their emotions. They carefully count the cost before making important and far-reaching decisions. We need a long-range program that builds for future results. It is true that some good results are obtained quickly, but this is usually due to former seed sowing or other influences that have prepared the way for quick decisions. More often than we realize we enter into the labors of others.
We are now in the seed-sowing time, and the chief part of the harvest is still future. It will come "after many days," and mostly during the latter rain. The chief concern of Christ during His earthly ministry was to sow the seeds of truth. In fact, He did not seem to be much concerned over results. He did not refuse to conduct public meetings and preach to the multitudes, because His hearers could not be properly dealt with by a large force of helpers. "Follow-up work" did not seem to be His major problem. We are, told that after one of His greatest sermons "from that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him." John 6:66. Even the twelve were tempted to forsake Him.
Christ's earthly mission ended in apparent failure on the basis of immediate results. But when Pentecost came and the refreshing showers of the early rain fell upon the seeds of truth He had so diligently and faithfully sown, there was a glorious harvest. We are told that the Pentecostal harvest was largely the result of Christ's labors as the great Sower. This was the follow-up work in which He was most interested and on which He largely depended for results. He knew that the Holy Spirit would do a perfect work of following up every interest He had created. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the only One who can bring the convictions that lead to right decisions. Jesus did not beg or urge immediate decisions.
Refreshing Showers of Latter Rain
Many statements in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy indicate that we are now in the sowing time and that the chief part of the reaping will come as the result of the refreshing showers of the latter rain:
"The Lord . . . commands His servants to present the last invitation of mercy to the world. They cannot remain silent, except at the peril of their souls. Christ's ambassadors have nothing to do with conSequences. They must perform their duty, and leave results with God."—The Great Controversy, pp. 609, 65o. (Italics mine.)
"The good seed sown may lie some time in a cold, worldly, selfish heart, without evidencing that it has taken root; but frequently the Spirit of God operates upon that heart, and waters it with the dew of heaven, and the long-hidden seed springs up and finally bears fruit to the glory of God. We know not in our lif ework which shall prosper, this or that. These are not questions for us poor mortals to settle. We are to do our work, leaving the result with God.''—Testimonies, Vol. III, p. 248. (Italics mine.) (See also Education, pp. 205, 206.)
"The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit. The publications distributed by missionary workers have exerted their influence, yet many whose minds were impressed have been Prevented from fully comprehending the truth or from yielding obedience. Now the rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. . . . A large number take their stand upon the Lord's side."—The Great Controversy, p. 652. (Italics mine.)
Those who take their stand during the latter rain as the result of previous seed sowing are described in Prophets and Kings (pages 188, 189) as "a firmament of chosen ones" whom "God has in reserve" "among earth's inhabitants, scattered in every land," who "have not bowed the knee to Baal" but will yet "shine forth when darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people," "revealing clearly to an apostate world the transforming power of obedience to His law." Then follows a solemn warning for modern Israel not to make the mistake of Elijah in trying to number God's people. During the latter rain "every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth."—The Great Controversy, p. 522.
Archaeologists digging in the sands of Egypt uncovered a mummy with a bulb of a plant clasped in his bony fingers. The bulb had been there two thousand years, but when it was planted and watered it came to life and blossomed again. In the tomb of another was found some grain, which when sown produced a harvest after lying dormant for more than two millenniums. Recently rain fell in Death Valley and what had been a lifeless waste was quickly transformed into a Garden of Eden in beauty. Seeds long buried in the dry sand literally leaped into life, and the botanists who hurried into the valley found and classified 136 varieties of plants, the seeds of which were only waiting for the coming of the rain.
If we are faithful in sowing the seeds of truth throughout this waste and desolate earth, the coming of the latter rain will produce a glorious harvest and diligent sowers will be abundantly rewarded. That will especially be the reaping time for the literature evangelist and the radio broadcaster. As the radio speaker sends out his message to an invisible audience he knows not what will prosper, this or that. He will have many happy surprises when he reaches the kingdom. Contacts and follow-up work with the majority who hear the message are impossible, and he must not be too much concerned about immediate results but leave the consequences with God. Many of the best class of hearers will never indicate their interest, but they will be found among the innumerable multitude who will come to fruitage when the refreshing showers of the latter rain water the seeds of truth.