A Harvest of Submission

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“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”  Proverbs 11:24

Giving freely.  I love that idea.  I suppose at first thought it makes me think that I need to have enough to give or maybe a surplus.  And that is the case.  Only it’s not necessarily about having a physical surplus.  Because maybe just having enough or hardly enough, maybe just having any bit of anything, is having enough to give it away freely to someone else who needs it at the time.

The King James Version uses the word “scatters.”  It says there is a person who scatters, and that even though they scatter, this person increases.  And that makes me think of Your words, Jesus.  You shared the parables about sowing.  and the word that was used in Greek for sowing was “speiro.”  And it means to scatter.  Now, sowing or scattering is where it starts, but it’s not where it ends.

Is sowing, or scattering really just about spreading the seed?  Or must the seed and the land be prepared first?  After all, “speiro” comes from the root word that means “sperm.”  It’s the part that contains the new, the beginning.  But every sower prepares the field he is responsible for first.  He must break up the fallow, the hard ground.  He doesn’t just run back and forth to some bag left at the house for handful after handful of seed.  He carries the seed with him.  And he’s carrying a seed that has already been harvested, that has already been tended to, and that has had the parts removed that needed to be removed.  He really knows what condition the seed needs to be in before it’s ready to be planted.  And then he scatters the seed the way it’s supposed to be scattered or planted or sown.  He’s familiar with what he’s doing.  He knows what he’s doing.

How does he know how to do it?  Wasn’t he taught?  By who.  Someone before him.  How did the first sower learn his stuff?  Well, with Adam, the knowledge came from You, God.  You imparted the knowledge to Adam.  So how does the sower in this parable or in Your parables in the New Testament know how to sow?  You, Lord, give us the example.  You, Lord, prepare our seed.  You, Lord, prepare the fallow ground.  You, Lord, instruct us and raise up the seed.  And then You, by Your power, do the rest.  I just have to be faithful to my task and follow it all the way through.

Is Your Word the only thing I’m sowing?  Or am I given the privilege and the awesome opportunity to sow Your Word in it’s power?  I’m not just investing Your Words out into the soil.  I’m investing Your Word and Your Power and Your Truth and Your Ways.  I’m scattering an invitation into New Life, into Christ Himself, into Wholeness, and Glorious Change, and the Power of God Himself.  This isn’t just any seed here.

And I’m not just planting seeds to be invested and performed in other peoples’ lives.  Because this seed, this investment, this performance has already begun in mine.  Because I was not the first sower; You were the first Sower, Lord.  And I am just following Your example.  You were the first kernel of corn that fell and died and from You, I was one of the kernels birthed on that new ear You brought up.  And now I get to experience being part of the process of planting and bringing forth new kernels.

But it’s not just about telling the Word.  It’s about living it out.  It’s about me sharing what You’ve given me with others.  It’s about me dying to my self.  It’s about me investing in others so that they see how You have invested in them and in me.  It’s all about first being about You, Lord, and about Your will, and letting You make me all about those I’m investing in with You.

But it doesn’t stop there.  That’s not the only part of the process.  Sowing is just the beginning.  Scattering is just the start of a wonderful process.   You, Jesus, get our focus right in Matthew 6:26.  “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  Here, You, Lord, show us the whole process.  It starts with sowing or scattering, but then it leads into reaping, and then into gathering.  But it’s all due to Your control over the whole process.

Face it, after sowing, there comes a harvest.  The Greek word for reaping is “therizo.”  Think of “thermal time,” the summer, the time of harvest.  It’s all part of the process.  It’s all a necessary part of the process.  Wheat doesn’t just become bread on it’s own.  It doesn’t hop off the stalk preformed as a loaf of bread. But who grew the wheat or the stalk of corn?  Did I have any control while it was under the ground?  I had a purpose.  I was to tend the soil and water it and help guard against weeds.  But even so, I can’t make the seed grow on my own. You are the “Thermal One” the Sun that makes the ground the right temperature.  You do the things within each seed that causes growth.  I have my part You’ve given me, but apart from You, I have absolutely no power to make that seed grow.  But You do!

I can’t save a person.  I can disciple a person but I can’t make them grow.  Isn’t it funny how there’s not a moment in life when I’m not desperately dependent upon You?  I’m an absolutely dependent sower.  I can’t do a thing without You.  I’m an absolutely dependent harvester.  I can’t do a thing without You.

And it still doesn’t stop there because after the scattering and the harvest comes the gathering.  The word for gather here is “sunago” and it means “to assemble together.”  It’s part of the root word used for the word synagogue.  So maybe we have here the goal of Your work in our lives, to gather us together as one in You.

Why is the gathering important?  Why is it important to bring in the harvest?  What would happen to the “fruit” left to itself out in the field?  I know.  I’ve seen it happen.  It rots if left to itself, if untended and unharvested.  It never completes its purpose.  The tomatoes I leave on the vine rot.  They never nourish anyone.  The corn left on the stalk eventually molds and turns to waste.  It’s good for nothing, like salt without flavor.  Actually, mold becomes dangerous and harmful.

Gathering is important.  It enhances and allows the crop to be at its most useful and most nutritious form.  It brings the crop into a place of protection, into the barn or the silo.  The less exposure to air the less spoiling.  Thus, the protection of the silo and the protection of the closeness of each grain to the surrounding grains.

Here You are, Lord, raising us up in You for each others benefit.  No “seed” is an island.  We need each other.  It’s the way that You’ve designed us.  Just as we are totally dependent upon You and Your power and care, we were designed to be dependent on one another in You.  We are designed to draw close to one another in intimate relationship together in You.  We were designed to protect one another from the evil one.  We were designed to protect one another from the hardness of life around us.  In our closeness, in our gathering, we keep each other safe and sound and pure and healthy and strong in order to serve our purpose in You fully.

It doesn’t take a bird brain to realize that You are the One in control of it all.  You are sovereign over me and over every seed.  This whole process is Yours and by Your design.  And I can submit to eat and reap Your benefits, I can submit to You and see You bring forth all kinds of fruit, or I can do things my own way, hold back from those I don’t think are deserving, or rely on my own resources and power.  I suppose it all boils down to who I see being in control.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer…”  I want to give what wasn’t mine in the first place, because everything I have came from You first.  If I have joy, it came from You.  If I have life, both physical and spiritual, it came from You.  If I have money or clothes or food, it came from You.  If all I have is encouragement in You from Your Word, it came from You.  Whatever You give me, whatever I have, as little or as much as I have, I want to learn to give it freely, not because I want more of it, but because I want more of You and I want others to have more of You too.  I want to scatter what You scattered over me.  I want to scatter as freely and generously as You.

“Another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” The King James Version says that there is one who withholds more than is “meet”.   The sin isn’t in withholding something, but in holding back the portion that is rightfully for giving, for sharing.  Remember, everything we have, we have been given.  God loves a cheerful giver.   Why?  Because it means You know Him.  It means You understand Him.  It means you love Him back.  Lord, keep me conscious of Your generosity to me so that I am ever conscious as I need to be to being generous towards others.  Keep me from withholding that which You’ve given me to give to others.  Because they won’t be the only ones to suffer want.  I will too because I won’t be experiencing the fullness of Your grace, mercy, and love, because I won’t be honoring You as sovereign in my life.

Today, let me summarize with Paul’s word to the Corinthians because he already brought it all together for us so many years ago.  I just hadn’t found it in this light till right now.  So here it is. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others…” (2 Corinthians 9:6-12)

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