VIII. We Cannot Do Anything About Last Year’s Bad Harvest, But We Can Do Something About This Year's Harvest
Today I want to finish the laws of harvest, and I thought it might be good to put up an overhead of each of these laws we have looked at. Let’s just review them quickly.
Law 1 — We Reap Only When There Has Been Sowing
Law one says that we reap only when there has been sowing, and we looked at ten essentials of Biblical sowing. We cannot expect our evangelism to produce if we only pray. We must sow. We can’t expect our retirement account to grow if we don’t invest money in it. We can’t expect our marriage to flourish if we aren’t planting good into the marriage and nurturing it. So there’s got to be sowing. And so we looked at ten principles of what it means to have godly sowing. When things go sour review those ten principles. The likelihood is that one of them has been violated. Actually, it wold be good to review them before things go sour as preventative medicine. But that was law number 1.
Law 2 — We Reap the Same Kind that We Sow
Law two says that we reap the same kind that we sow. Now everybody knows that. It’s almost insulting to teach it, isn’t it? But the reason I needed to teach on this law is that we violate that law all the time. When young people engage in physical foreplay and deny that the harvest will be fornication, they are denying this law. They are saying that you can plant a sexual seed and harvest a pure relationship. We violate this law in economics, politics, marriage and many other areas. That’s why Paul prefaced law two with these words in verse 7: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. You reap the same kind as you sowed. And we applied that law to many different areas and showed how it affects our prosperity.
Law 3 — We Reap a Multiplied Increase of what We Sow
Law three states that we reap a multiplied increase of what we sow. We saw how scary this can be in the area of sowing sin, and how encouraging this law is when we are sowing in our weakness deeds of righteousness. Communists have long denied this law in the area of money. The Roman Catholic church has always denied it. And we saw that this law revolutionized Protestant Europe in the area of economics and took it out of economic stagnation. And it not only impacted economics, but it also revolutionized social theory and scientific optimism. It may seem like such a basic, unimportant law, yet it was an idea which gripped Protestants and had profound ramifications. What you sow into your children’s lives will have a mutiplied increase, whether evil or good. The same is true of what you sow into society, etc.
Law 4 — We Reap in a Different Season
Law number 4 says that we reap in a different season than we sow. We saw how this law presupposes a faith in God’s control of our circumstances, but it also requires us to be future oriented. Apart from future orientation it seems foolish to invest something that you won’t get a return on for months and maybe even years. And we gave some tests to show whether we are future oriented or present oriented, and what difference that would make. If we are to prosper we have got to get rid of present orientation. That means getting rid of the TV, planning, etc.
Law 5 — We reap the full harvest of the good only if we persevere. The evil comes to harvest on its own
Law number 5 builds on law number 4 and sees time as a scarce resource, and calls us to perseverance. Compounded growth over time is unimpressive to the impatient get rich quick person. But this law says, “We reap the full harvest of the good only if we persevere. The evil comes to harvest on its own.”
Law 6 — We Reap in Proportion to Our Diligence
Law number 6 says that we reap in proportion to our diligence. This is the heart of the Protestant work ethic which so profoundly affected Western civilization, but which has been robbed in communist countries. It can be summarized in the phrase “dominion through service.” The customer must be served well if he is going to keep coming back. Those who prosper the most are those who serve the best.
Law 7 — We Reap From the Sowing of Others
Law number 7 says that we reap from the sowing of others. For example, you may not make the decisions of our government, but you will reap from them anyway because you are in covenant relationship with our country. We are still bearing the good fruits of the investments of America’s founding fathers. We reap from the actions of our government, our churches and our families. And verses 6 and 10 indicate that we need to not only be willing to be served by others but also to allow others to reap from our sowing even though they didn’t sow it. It is a call to body life.
Law 8 — We Cannot Do Anything About Last Year’s Bad Harvest, But We Can Do Something About This Year’s Harvest
And that brings us to law number 8.
We Cannot Do Anything About Last Year’s Bad Harvest, But We Can Do Something About This Year’s Harvest (“do not grow weary...lose heart”; cf. Phil. 3:13-14; Heb 6:1)
Don’t be driven by the past
Law number 8 states that “We cannot do anything about last year’s bad harvest, but we can do something about this year’s harvest.” Notice that I didn’t say we can’t do anything about the sowing we have done in the past. You can always pluck up plants that have been producing bad fruit to minimize their perpetual bearing of bad fruit. And for that matter, (unfortunately) good seed can be plucked up as well. In fact, in Mark 4 Christ says that Satan is constantly trying to pluck up the seed of the word that is sown into your life so that it doesn’t bear fruit. He will try to get you to forget it. And you resist by taking notes or by memorizing. He will try to get you to intellectualize it, and the brethren come alongside and challenge you to apply what you have heard. So good seed can be plucked up by Satan, by revolution, by systematic reprogramming, etc.. That’s what happened in Cambodia. They tried to wipe out any of th elearning of the past.
But we need to be in the business of plucking up the bad seed as soon as it lands, not letting it germinate. And the reason for that is that once harvest has come, it has come. If it was bad, we ought not to be discouraged. You can’t do anything about the past, but you can about the present. A more American proverb along these lines is “It does no good to cry over spilt milk.” It’s too late. You clean up the mess and you move on.
And that is what is assumed in the two phrases in verse 9: do not grow weary and do not lose heart. It’s the past failures that make people lose heart, isn’t it. And this too is a needed lesson. It’s so easy to cringe over our past and not try again. You know, during the great depression when many wealthy people lost their entire fortunes, there were a lot of people who committed suicide. They couldn’t handle the total loss from that past harvest. On the other hand, there have been people who have lost everything more than once, and have gotten back up on their feet and started rebuilding from scratch. In fact, some of them rebuilt fortunes. Some people lose heart from their mistakes, others learn from their mistakes. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb said he had to experiment 10,000 times before he succeeded. "These were not failures," he insisted. "I just discovered 9,999 different ways that the bulb didn’t work!"
Turn to Philippians 3. If anyone should have been discouraged and wanted to give up, it would have been Paul. He had previously been a blasphemer, a murderer, a person who had done his utmost to destroy the church and who prided himself in his efforts. And every time he walked into a church he could have easily cringed, wondering if there was anyone in that congregation whose husband or relative he had killed.
Paul could have spent a lifetime of regrets for his years of opposition to the Gospel, and as a result, ended up accomplishing nothing. Think about it. He wasn’t converted till late in life. Think of his regrets for his wasted education. For the most part it was useless rabbinic superstition. Junk. He counted it as rubbish. Think of his wasted efforts to climb the ladder in the Sanhedrin, his wasted time in pursuing ungodly goals. But regrets don’t help a thing. He was not driven by the past. And so, this is the first subpoint: Don’t be driven by the past. Appreciate the good in it, but don’t be driven by it. He brushed his past aside as rubbish and he said in Philippians 3:13-14, this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind.
Now maybe you’ve wasted a lot of years and wonder if it is worth invewsting, or if it is worth doing other things. Your regrets of wasted time are making you stop doing anything now. Think of it this way: If a bank credited to your account every day $86,400 without fail, but stipulated that whatever was not spent by the end of the day was lost and could not be spent the next day, you would use those dollars lest they get wasted, right? Well let’s say that you discovered that the bank had been doing this for the past 20 years. You would kick yourself for not having claimed the money earlier, but you wouldn’t mope around too long. You would get on the stick and start using the income that kept pouring in. Well, God credits to our account exactly 86,400 seconds of time each day. We can never reclaim what was lost. People sometimes sit and stew over the millions of dollars (as it were) that have been lost in the past, but we need to forget that and realize that there are millions of seconds to come. Each one that we use for the Lord will be part of a future harvest that we will reap. I urge you to be sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings and against all desire to begin investing to the Spirit of God.
Some people have a tendancy to think that their past determines their future. I’ve know people who, because they were abused as a child, or were abusers themselves, that they cannot do anything for the future. Or because they were failures in school in the past, it means they will always be failures in the future. What determines your future is God’s future goal for you, not what you have been involved in in history.
The past cannot even explain the future. It doesn’t determine the future and it cannot explain the future. So don’t let past events cloud your vision on what can be achieved.
Here’s some expressions that help to show whether you fall into that trap. When a new idea comes up do you immediately think:
“We’ve never done it that way before.” You are being governed too much by past harvests.
Or what about this expression: “I’ve tried that, and it didn’t work.” OH? How many times did you try it? In what ways? One failure is all it takes for some people.
But this law cuts both ways. It’s not just bad pasts that drive people. Sometimes they stick in a rut because it was always successful before. If it was good enough for me, my kids better do it this way. They are averse to experimentation or change.
The potato famine in Ireland was an example of failure to have a vision for new and better ways of doing things. The same was true of the boll weevil plague in the South and depleted soil. Doctors have historically been slow to accept unaccepted wisdom. The first man to suggest washing hands between patients was ridiculed. Right? This is just human nature. We tend to get stuck in ruts.
Just because a stock was good in the past doesn’t mean that it will be good now.
But I think one of the common ways in which people fail on this law is paralysis because of sunk costs. And this is true whether it is holding onto stocks which are going through the toilet or holding onto a house which is you want to sell, but you keep holding on because it losing value and they refuse to sell because it has gotten below what they say its value is. I’ve known people who have become bankrupt because they can’t bring themselves to cut their losses. Socialism is this way just as socialism neglects other laws of harvest.
Socialism neglects laws of harvest by ignoring the doctrine of sunk costs
Gary North says,
“Today, it is only the Marxist entrepreneur or planner who ignores the doctrine of sunk costs [Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. But anyway, he says,]; the inefficiency of Soviet planning is, in part, traceable to just this ignorance.” (p. 307 of Introduction “ (p. 307) The socialist wants us to believe that capitalism is wasteful because it permits plants to be shut down by owners. [and he quotes their complaint] “Look at all the investment that is wasted; capitalists sank so much capital into those projects, and now it is all lost.”… [Well, here’s his response.] The fact that under capitalism plants lie empty should be seen as a blessing. Capitalism has permitted us to count the cost of continuing any given process of production. It encourages us to abandon the wasteful processes. The market is a constant reminder to us that there are such things as errors of investment. It reminds us that once a plant is built, we must make the best use of it that we can, and sometimes this means doing nothing with it, if doing something with it ties up additional scarce economic resources and wastes them…. Capitalism demands that we make the best of a poor decision in the past; socialism, by keeping plants in operation which are wasting scarce resources, permits men to make the worst of a poor decision in the past. The “unused capacity” argument is utterly fallacious. ‘ An economically irrational refusal to acknowledge the validity of the doctrine of sunk costs has led many people to personal financial disaster. (p. 305) … [He’s basically saying that ignoring this eighth law of harvest leads to personal financial disaster. He goes on…] The man who refuses to let go of the rope at fourteen feet had better be fairly sure that the balloon is not going to carry him even higher. (Introduction to Christian Economics, pp. 305-306)
So first of all, we must not be driven by the past. We must be driven by the future.
Learn from the past (Heb 5:8 – even Christ learned)
Second, we must learn from the past. Even Christ learned from the past according to Hebrews 5:8. We can learn from the mistakes and the triumphs of others. We can learn from our own mistakes. And - we can let others learn from our past mistakes as well. Now it takes humility to admit to others what your mistakes were. But it is a way of minimizing the effects of our bad decisions. We teach others to avoid our mistakes and in the process share in their harvest spiritually because we are helping them to a better harvest. Now that is a neat way of undoing a bad past. You can still get a harvest by helping others to avoid what you did. And as their harvest is consequently increased, so is yours – by way of sharing. So learn from the past and let others learn from your bad past.
Confess the past (1 John 1:9)
The third thing that we can do is to confess the past. 1 John 1:9 says that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness. And once you’ve confessed it, don’t keep cringing over it. Forget it. It’s pride that makes you cringe over past bad decisions. When you see yourself as crucified with Christ, you are not going to worry so much about what others think. You already know that the law has judged you far more than any person can. Confess the past and find your security in your acceptance in Christ. Aganozing over the forgiven past robs you of energies for present planting and a future harvest. So confess the past.
Go forward (Ex 14:5)
The fourth thing that we need to do is to go forward. Paul pressed forward and exhorted us to press forward. Don’t let Satan discourage you. Press forward. If you have fallen 9,999 times, like Thomas Edison, it may be the 10,000^th^ time that makes the difference. We can’t do anything about last year’s bad harvest, but we can about this year’s planting. Let’s plant with faith in God’s providence, hope in future for us, and a steward’s love for His kingdom.
We are done with the eight laws of harvest, but let me remind you that we neglect them to our own hurt. You will prosper if you take them seriously. They are keys to your prosperity spiritually, economically, socially, emotionally, etc., etc. They are universal, and if you just hear them once and don’t put them into practice you are wasting your time. These are principles that need to be reviewed, applied and reviewed again. If you need to review these laws, I hope to have the whole set on tape and eventually on the web. But let’s be a people who have strong faith in God’s blessings and promises of propserity because we have become convinced that His eight laws work invariably, consistently and universally. Let’s be people of faith in a mighty harvest. Amen.
Next time I do it, here are four points from Rick Warren that could be used:
How Do You Start Over Once You’ve Failed?
by Rick Warren
These are four steps to take when starting over after a failure:
- ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN FAILURE. If you've made a mistake - admit it!
Welcome to the human race. Don't blame others. To blame is to "b-lame." Losers love to blame bad luck … the economy … the boss … their spouse … or even God for misfortune. But winners never accuse others and never excuse themselves when they fail. In 1974, after an 88 game winning streak, UCLA basketball lost to Notre Dame in a game they had led by 11 points. The next day's headline read, "Coach Wooden says 'Blame me!'" Wooden was a winner.
"Anyone who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance." Prov. 28:13 (LB)
- RECOGNIZE THE BENEFITS OF FAILURE.
It shows you what doesn't work. Thomas Edison said, "Don't call it a failure. Call it an education!"
It forces you to be more creative. You look for new ways.
It prevents arrogance and egotism. If everything you did was a stunning success, no one could live with you!
It causes you to reevaluate what's important in life. Failure is one way God gets us to reflect on the direction of our lives.
"Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." Pr. 20:30 (GN)
- ASK GOD FOR WISDOM TO UNDERSTAND THE CAUSE.
Why did I fail? Is there any reason I might have set myself up to fail? There are many unconscious reasons we sometimes sabotage our own efforts:
The fear of success: Success may mean handling more responsibility than I want to carry.
Guilt: If you feel you don't deserve to succeed, you may have set yourself up to fail.
Resentment: Some people fail as a way of getting even with those who are pressuring them to succeed.
"If you lack wisdom, ask God, who gives generously to all..." James 1:5
- FORGET THE PAST AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE. Your past is past! It’s water under the bridge. You can’t change it so you may as well stop worrying about it.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on...” Phil. 4:1