15 December 2017

Sowing & Reaping

This October, during our time of harvest celebrations, let us take a close look at the idea of ‘Reaping the Harvest of Righteousness’. It’s a God thing, a God harvest, an abundant harvest in fact! And yet a harvest that so many people miss out on in life, even people who love God and believe in Him still somehow miss out on the plentiful nature of His harvest.

Paul the Apostle, writing to his friends at the church in Philippi back in the 1st century, puts it like this,

“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and the praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)

What is this ‘righteousness’? Well, it’s not a word we use so much in common day-to-day language anymore. ‘Self-righteousness’ is maybe the only time we really hear this word ‘righteousness’. So what is it? What does it matter? And why does it produce a harvest? They’re all good questions.

Well, if God has a harvest waiting for me, I for one want my share of it, don’t you? What if it turns out that this whole righteousness thing is a matter of cause and effect? Let’s take a look …

I believe we all have some understanding of the word ‘right’. We have a basic ability to tell right from wrong. If it’s right, it’s right. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. To be honest, it doesn’t always seem so black and white these days, there’s lots of shades of grey between what people consider to be right and wrong. That line between right and wrong is a bit like the shifting sands. Nevertheless we all have some sense of right and wrong.

But the word ‘righteousness’, well that’s more of a legal term. It has to do with the law. In the sense of God’s righteousness, it has to do with God’s law, which is what we find in the Old Testament. The best way I’ve found to understand it is in terms of our law today.

Let’s say someone does something wrong, whether it’s a minor traffic infringement or a murder, once they’ve done that and it’s proven, they stand condemned by the law. By and large, so long as justice is done, we as a society don’t have a problem with that. We understand that we have to stop people from speeding in their cars right through to stopping them from committing murder.

So, we do something and, as the saying goes, we find ourselves on the wrong side of the law. Then there’s a debt to be paid, whether it’s a £60 speeding fine or 25 years in prison for a murder, the law demands justice. That justice acts both as a penalty and hopefully as a deterrent, but also it gives society a sense that justice has been done.

Once the penalty or debt has been paid by the transgressor, whatever you and I may think of them, they are free because they now have a right standing according to the law. A murderer, after serving their term in prison walks out that gate a free man or a free woman, with precisely the same standing according to the law as you and I. They’ve served their time, they’ve paid their debt to society and they are now back on the right side of the law.

In a legal sense, they stand justified (and here’s the word) and righteous. They are back with a right standing according to the law and that is what ‘righteousness’ means. To be in right standing with the law.

So, if we do something wrong we cause ourselves and others pain because we find ourselves on the wrong side of the law. Once we take our punishment and serve our dues we are righteous again in the eyes of the law. Cause and effect.

And it’s like that both in our relationship with God and in life generally. This is something the Apostle Paul talks about with his friends at the church in Galatia back in the 1st century AD. Have a listen, “Don’t be deceived: God isn’t mocked. For you will reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh you will reap corruption from the flesh. But if you sow to the Spirit you’ll reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let’s not grow weary in doing what’s right, for we will reap at harvest time if we don’t give up.” (Gal 6:7-9)

In other words, don’t kid yourself, stop trying to get around God. Whatever you sow, you’re going to reap. Cause and effect. Sow rubbish, you’ll reap rubbish; sow goodness and you will reap goodness.

So even though things are tough, even though it sometimes feels as though the whole world is against us, even though it sometimes feels that nothing, absolutely nothing, is going our way, Paul’s saying here (in fact God’s saying through Paul), “Sow goodness” – don’t get tired of doing that. Sow goodness, sow in God’s direction, sow in God’s way, sow into His Spirit and just at the right time you’ll reap a harvest. A harvest of righteousness. Sowing and reaping. Cause and effect.

But right now, in a world where the maxim of our day is, ‘Anything Goes’, I feel we need to debunk that lie. It’s a patent lie. ‘Do what feels good and anything goes, it’ll be fine’. No it won’t! It won’t be fine! Because there is this law of cause and effect. As you sow, so shall you reap. Sow goodness and you’ll reap the harvest, the abundant blessing of righteousness, a right standing with God. A God who loves us beyond what words we can say. A God who wants to bless us, literally bless our socks off!

And the thing that I want to encourage you with this Harvest time is this: that doing good doesn’t always feel good.

Let me say that again because it’s important. Doing good doesn’t always feel good.

Loving difficult people. Turning the other cheek. Putting others before ourselves. Buttoning our lip when we want to argue. Being humble. Being a servant. In fact often it hurts, it is tough and we want to give up. This being righteous, this living out God’s goodness, is really hard work sometimes. Be encouraged – Jesus knows this because it cost Him being nailed to the cross.

We reap what we sow – that’s the universal principle. As you sow so shall you reap. So, “let us not grow weary in doing what is right for we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” (Gal 6:9)

Don’t give up. The harvest is an abundant blessing of righteousness. A blessing from God that is absolutely beyond anything that we can imagine right now – a harvest of

Berni Dymet