Ed.: If you have been receiving our newsletter for seven years or more, you may have already read this article. However, it is one of our favorites and seems especially appropriate in this season of sowing.
Many people who try to witness are disappointed in the results—and their disappointment often discourages them from trying again.
What would you think of a person who decides to become a farmer, buys a huge field, then goes down to the seed store and asks for the smallest amount of seed possible? When the seed merchant asks why he is buying so little, he replies, Well, I want to test the seed and see how it grows before I do much labor.” He then goes home, takes one seed, puts it in the ground, waters it and over the next few months does his best to prepare it for harvest.
By the time such a person would know whether the one seed would produce fruit, the growing season would be past. Yet there are Christians who witness in the same way. They won’t invest themselves in witnessing to many or sowing much seed until they feel sure of being successful.
God guarantees the quality of the gospel seed, but even so, not all of the seed sprouts. Some seeds are snatched away by birds, others are not positioned deeply enough to take root and still others are choked out by weeds. Nevertheless, as we sow much seed in the field, there will be much return and we need not be disappointed.
Further, our disappointments are sometimes God’s appointments. He who arranges all things can weave innumerable small events and seeming “coincidences” into a series of impressions to win the hearts of those He is wooing. We might plant a seed, and that seed might lie dormant for a long, long time. Long after we have given up, another might come along and water it and still another might harvest it.
Our hope when it comes to witnessing should not be pinned on our own planning or presentation—our efforts must be based on the sure and certain knowledge that it is God Himself who does the winning. His desire to see people saved is even greater than our own, and He usually allows many people a part in a series of instances that He orchestrates to win any particular individual. That doesn’t mean we are not responsible to pray, to plan and to participate in a witness to the lost. We just need to recognize that though we have a part to play in a person’s salvation, it is just that—a part.
It might be hard for a believer in Jesus to accept the fact that at best, in any person’s process of conversion, the most he or she can hope for is to play a small part because God uses many others not only to make impressions but also to give force to those impressions through prayer—the kind of prayer that moves mountains and rips blindfolds from the eyes.
Now, our faith does not require us to believe that every seed we plant will sprout, grow and become fruitful. What our faith requires is the understanding that if we sow enough seed, there will be a harvest.
We cannot allow ourselves to become disappointed if we don’t see the first or even second seed we plant grow and sprout. We just need to sow more seed. Many of those seeds have sprouting, growing and fruition appointments with God. Likewise, those of us who have witnessed over the years have encountered people who resisted the Word of God, then desisted from listening—some even blistered when they understood what we were saying. Then much later, to our surprise and joy, we discover that through other means, they came to faith in Yeshua.
It is human nature to want to be the principal party in another’s conversion, but God seldom gives anyone that role. He’ll use a funeral oration, or the verse on a Christmas card, or classical music like Handel’s Messiah. He’ll even use a few phrases from a street preacher who everyone thought was a fanatic whose ravings made no sense. He’ll use a series of people, some of whom witness intentionally and others who do not know that a word or action made an impression. Each impression is a gospel seed. The person’s heart is a “field,” and though that heart might be hardened, all of us have seen granite cracked by the seed of a tree that lodged itself in a crevice. Thus, we can understand the proper prayer for the witnessing Christian is: “Lord, may you send more seed to fall on the hearts of my friends, may they take many impressions of you. Open their hearts and open their minds that the gospel seed that you are sowing through so many of your servants might take root.”
If we sow much seed, we won’t run out. The more we sow, the more we have. The more we have, the more we plant. The more we plant, the more we grow. And the gospel is a perennial crop that reseeds itself with each harvest.