Laws of the harvest
No gospel worker anywhere fails to thrill when individuals make decisions for Jesus Christ that embrace eternity. The idea of having one thousand days of a special emphasis on reaping souls is tremendously exciting to any person involved in giving the gospel message. Yet most of us know well that we can have no harvest to reap unless we have spent sufficient labor beforehand preparing for that time of reaping. No farmer would be foolish enough to think he could have success merely by running a combine through his fields! He knows that he must invest time, effort, and planning in preparation for the harvest he hopes to reap. The soil must be prepared, the seed must be planted, the young plants that spring forth must be nurtured and cared for. Only then, at the proper time, can harvesting take place.
This is true also of the harvesting of souls. "The same laws that govern earthly seed sowing govern the sowing of the seeds of truth."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 33. What are the laws for successful spiritual harvesting?
The law of preparing the soil. Before any seed is planted, attention must be given to the soil in which it will be placed; the heart must be receptive to receiving the seeds of truth. In order for the seeds of truth to fall upon receptive hearts, the Holy Spirit uses human agents to create an atmosphere of acceptance. Prejudice and preconceptions are some of the greatest obstacles we face in presenting God's closing message of mercy to the world. But acts of kindness and a genuine interest in the well-being of those around us can cause prejudice to melt. Disinterested benevolence is fishing without hooks, touching the lives of those around us, not in the name of religion, but in love. Such preparation of the heart's soil may require very little to be said about one's religious belief. Planting the seed comes later when the soil has been prepared by a developed trust and confidence.
The law of planting the seed. The seed can be a piece of literature, a missionary magazine, a Bible course enrollment card, a question, a testimony, or any means by which a person is prompted to think about spiritual things. We can plant, but the Holy Spirit causes the seed to sprout. Some seeds may lie dormant for many years; others sprout fast. We spiritual farmers get into difficulty when we try to place pressure on making the seed sprout. We need to remember that our work ends temporarily with the planting of the seed and begins again when the seed has sprouted. (Read Christ's Object Lessons, p. 63.) While the Holy Spirit works, we can do nothing but continue to prepare the soil, plant seeds, and watch for interest to sprout. When the seed sprouts, then we can help nurture it to full growth.
The law of nurturing. If a young plant is to grow, it must be cared for, and our job is to make growth easy. Obstacles, like weeds, need to be cleared away. Growth must take place at the proper rate if the plant is to mature. We often are impatient for instant maturity and harvest. That itself can be an obstacle to growth. Too much nourishment can cause death as surely as too little.
Well-trained teachers need to work with the growing plants, giving Bible studies and encouragement. The church should be conducting programs to help those giving Bible studies bridge the gap between home and church. All this is a part of nurturing as we work side by side with the Holy Spirit in bringing about the growth of a small seed to a young plant. Remember, growth cannot take place any faster than the convincing power of the Holy Spirit is heeded.
The law of harvesting. A harvest takes place only when the fruit is ripe. Harvesting too soon wastes the fruit; waiting too long can produce no fruit at all. The harvest of the ages takes place at the Lord's return, but we can have the pleasure of seeing people make decisions for eternity now. Asking for decisions is the key part we play in harvesting; the Holy Spirit brings to fruition the decision made. Our church services, public meetings, and Bible studies all should have times when definite decisions are asked for. Failure here could mean failure to harvest that which the Holy Spirit has prepared.
The law of preserving the harvest. After all his labor to obtain a harvest, no farmer would leave the precious crop uncared for. He goes to great efforts to preserve the harvest. We can do no less with the harvest of souls. Every church should have a program of continued seed sowing for added growth, as well as regular times when the results of that growth are harvested. This can be done through sermons, special study groups, fellowship groups, and other church activities. Every new soul has talent and should be assigned his duty and taught to work for the harvest of others, thus making strong the growth they have achieved.
In putting these laws to work, our harvest will be plentiful and our reaping joyous.
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