On May 22, 2010 I posted a blog announcing that I had decided to get back into shape. I was about 50 pounds overweight at the time. Initially, my method of choice was a popular 90-day workout and diet plan. One unique feature of this program is that all the workouts were on video and you could follow along with a virtual room full of muscle bound athletes that seem to chuckle at you condescendingly as you struggle with your first chin up.
A couple of days after I started, my 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, joined by their mother, decided that they wanted to exercise with me and so the four of us together were warming up for a invigorating plyometric workout. We were only about 5 minutes into the video – still somewhere in the stretches – when my son turned to me with great excitement and said, “Hey dad look…you almost got muscles…look at your elbows!”.
My wife and I had a real good laugh. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it doesn’t work that way. Getting out of shape didn’t happen overnight – It took a long time, lots of doughnuts, excessive periods of sedentary inactivity and lack of resolve to become as out of shape as I was. And getting fit, losing weight and building muscle wouldn’t happen overnight either…much less after a few minutes of warming up.
Imagine what it must have been like to grow up on an ancient Israeli farm. The long winter months have reduced the once plenteous pantries to empty shells and the family is now living on meager rations and dreaming about a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven. Suddenly the rain begins to pour and the once dusty fields are becoming rivers. The father says to his young son, “come, it’s time to sow”. Together they walk out to the barn where the father climbs into the loft and pulls down huge bags of grain. “Father” the young boy exclaims, “Now we can make bread!” “No my son…this grain is not for eating. Come I will show you what it is for.” He fills a sack with grain and they wade into the flooded fields. Then the father does the most incredible thing. He reaches into the sack, pulls out a handful of grain and throws it into the water! That night at the dinner table, the little boy eats his paltry portion and wonders why his father wasted so much grain. Many weeks will go by before he understands, but one day the water will rescind and the little boy will step outside and behold a miracle. The fields will be full of tiny sprouts, racing heavenward to produce a harvest of golden grain.
It was this ancient farming technique that Solomon was referring to when he wrote, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” (Eccl. 11:1)
Throwing perfectly good grain into the water is a difficult thing to do, but what is more difficult is waiting MANY DAYS for the harvest. This is why Paul encourages us by saying, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in DUE SEASON we shall reap, if we faint not.”
The laws of sowing and reaping are universal wether learned by a little boy on an ancient Israeli farm or a little boy in the gym with his dad. Unfortunately…these are principles that many adults still do not understand.
When I was a pastor a newly saved church member approached me after the service one Sunday morning. He was obviously disgruntled and wanted a word with me. “Pastor”, he said, “The Bible says to ‘test God’ with the tithe and offering and that’s exactly what I did.” He went on to explain that before he became a Christian and started attending the church his family had been going through a season of great financial hardship. Now that he was learning about the Bible he read Malachi’s guarantee that the “windows of Heaven” would be opened over those who give.
The past Sunday he decided to “test God”. He emptied out his wallet in the offering plate and gave for the first time. But the subsequent week was not as he had anticipated. His financial difficulties continued and he was concerned that there was something wrong with the Bible. He had sown a seed, but had not reaped a harvest.
Honestly, I had a chuckle, much like when my son was examining his elbows for new muscle sprouts 5 minutes into his first workout. I explained to this gentleman that whatever you are harvesting now is not the result of what you planted a few hours ago. Today you are reaping what you planted months ago, even years ago, in a different season. Likewise, the seeds you plant today won’t be ready for harvest by the next day or even by next Sunday.
The amazing and sobering thought is that we are all planting seeds all the time. Sowing and reaping is not confined to putting money in an offering plate. That McDonalds cheeseburger you ate, that movie you watched, that comment you made, that time you spent with your family, that book you read, everything you do is a seed that will produce a harvest (good or bad) in the future. Be careful what you plant in this season, because you will eat it in the next.
Now we are in the first month of 2015. I’ve come a long way since I started my fitness regimen. I have lost about 50 bad pounds and put back on a few good ones. That initial 90-day routine has turned into more than four years of struggling. I’ve failed and faltered a lot. I’ve doubted if I would ever succeeded. But now I am finally starting feel and see the fruit of my discipline and hard work (and you might notice too if you see any of the old pictures of me:-) But I am not sitting back on my laurels and celebrating with a box of donuts. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting here with my gym shoes on, about to head out the door (I can do more than one chin-up now:-). I realize that today, even though I am reaping the good fruit of what I planted in a previous season, I am also planting seeds that I will harvest in the next.
In the end, our lives are a sum total of the decisions we have made…a harvest, if you will, of what we have sown. You can’t change today’s harvest by sowing good seeds today, but if you will determine to sow the right seeds, day in and day out, in “due season” you will reap your harvest if you “faint not”.