GIVING: Partnering With God to Produce a Great Harvest!
GIVING: Partnering With God to Produce a Great Harvest!
What do you want from your life? Some people say – I just want to be happy. Other people say – I just want to be loved. Those are both good answers – but they don’t quite reach the level that God teaches us is the highest level. God says the highest level of life – is to produce a great harvest of real life, to grow a crop of eternal life.
God lays out the contrast between growing a harvest of weeds with your life compared to growing a harvest of real and eternal life. Think about the ways that you can see the difference in people’s lives around you.
Some people’s lives are just a big mess. They make bad choices. They commit horrible crimes. They tear apart their families. They hurt a lot of people. Their lives are full of pain and disappointment. When we see lives that are a big mess – it is easy for us to say – that is definitely not the kind of life that I want to live.
Other people are focused on surviving. They aren’t doing bad things. But they have a hard time believing that their lives are really important. It’s hard for them to see that anything they do with their life is going to have lasting significance. Their goal is survival. I lived. I died. I didn’t do anything horrible. That’s the best I can hope for.
This morning – God wants to help all of us to reach for the highest level of life – to produce a crop of real life that leads to eternal life. You can see the difference – can’t you – when someone has confidence. I believe that my life is a gift from God. I believe that I can bless other people. I believe that I can build a legacy of love that will endure – it will last forever.
How you look at your life – determines the kind of crop you are going to grow from your life. If you see yourself as being no good and hopeless – it’s easy to give up. It doesn’t matter what I do – I am doomed to failure. If you see your mission in life as just survival – you don’t have the motivation and strength to invest your best in trying to build something that is going to last. But if you see yourself – as a child of God who is deeply loved and you trust that God is working with you – it gives you the courage and strength you need to invest your very best effort to build loving relationships. To give your best to your work and community. Because you can see that God is at work in your life – to help you produce a great harvest with your life – that will endure for all eternity.
Look at how powerfully God illustrates the impact of our vision for our lives – through the first principle of what the Bible calls the Law of the Harvest.
Galatians 6:7-8 (TLB/MSG) Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it! A person will always reap just the kind of crop they sow! If a person plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others — and ignoring God! — they will only harvest a crop of weeds. All they will have to show for their life is weeds! But the person who plants good things in response to God’s blessings, partnering with God’s Holy Spirit — They will harvest a crop of real life, a crop of eternal life!
The Law of the Harvest that teaches us – that every person will reap what they sow. The Law of the Harvest challenges every person to decide – what am I going to do with the seeds of life that God has given me?
I can tell you that I first got serious about studying Jesus’ plan for life and gradually making a decision that I was going to follow Jesus’ plan – was when I saw the Law of the Harvest being lived out right in front of me. The Law of the Harvest became clear for me – when I went away to college at Texas Tech University. For the first time in my life – I began to see more clearly and understand the importance and long-lasting impact of the choices people were making with their lives.
I saw the students who were focused on partying and having a good time. And I will admit to you that I experimented some with that path. I am thankful – that the more I saw where that path of focusing on having a good time was leading – the more I came to realize it might be fun for a little while but long term it doesn’t produce anything with lasting value. Actually, I began to see that it did produce something – a mess.
My life started changing when I started going with my grandparents to Saint John’s United Methodist Church. At the church – I could see the long-term impact of choosing to follow Jesus. It was obvious that it wasn’t automatically as fun to follow Jesus – as it was to go to a party. But long term – it was actually a whole lot more fun to build things that have lasting value. To build a healthy marriage. To raise a loving family. To feel good about the things you were accomplishing with your life.
Seeing the Law of the Harvest right in front of me – helped me to make up my mind. I had been drifting – but God helped me to decide. I realized – I did not want to come to the end of my life and only have a crop of weeds. I decided, what I really want is God’s crop of life. I want to build a good marriage. I want to raise a loving family. I want to give something positive to others.
God wants to help all of us understand the Law of the Harvest – to help us turn away from producing a crop of weeds. And to know that everyone can do choose life. Everyone can produce a crop of real and eternal life – because no one has to do it alone. God is eager to help everyone to grow a fruit-filled life.
God Is EAGER to HELP You Grow a Fruit-Filled Life!
It’s easy for anyone to say that they want to build a great life. The hard part – is showing up every day to keep cultivating the seeds of life God has given you – so that they will eventually produce and keep on producing good fruit.
If you did a survey of 20 people and asked them, Would you like to have God’s fruit of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, and Self-Control, growing in your life? How many of them do you think would say, Yes, that is exactly what I would like in my life? I think everyone would say yes. Everyone would like to have God’s fruit growing in their lives.
Wanting the fruit is the easy part. The hard part is making the commitment to partner with God. To declare, I am willing to do my part – to help cultivate that fruit. The first part of the Law of the Harvest teaches us that we will all reap what we sow. Jesus shows us that the second part of the Law of the Harvest – is that you can only reap what you sow – and what you are willing to keep cultivating.
In John 15, Jesus explains that the first step of producing a great harvest with your life – starts with the choice to plant good seeds instead of bad seeds. But that’s not the end of the process is it? What happens if a farmer works hard to prepare their soil, makes sure they have the very best seeds, do a great job of planting those seeds – and then they walk away from those seeds and don’t come back until 3 months later? What kind of a harvest will you reap – if you plant the seeds and then walk off and forget about them? The answer is obvious – if you don’t take good care of the plants that sprout from those seeds – you will end up back in the weeds.
Jesus explains the second part of the Law of the Harvest with the picture of the Vine and the Branches. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We know that the fruit only comes out of the branches. We also know that if the branch is cut off from the vine – it stops growing – in fact it starts dying and can no longer produce anything.
Jesus shares the good news with us – that God is on your side. God wants to help you to produce great fruit with your life. But God isn’t going to do it all for you – because if God did it all for you – He would actually be weakening instead of developing your life. Instead of doing it all for us – God prunes us – God challenges us to get rid of the things that suck life out of us so that we can concentrate our energy into things that build life up.
The second part of the Law of the Harvest – Cultivation – is where people decide very quickly how important is the harvest of life to me? Everyone likes the fruit. Lots of people are willing to plant some seeds. Almost no one likes the hard work of cultivation.
I admit that I like the fruit a whole lot more than I like the work of cultivation. I like the fruit of having a great relationship with my wife. But I don’t always enjoy the cultivation of putting her needs ahead of my needs, taking the time to really listen to what she has to say, or to be willing to go shopping with her instead of just ordering everything on Amazon. I would like to have a fun and loving marriage – without having to invest any time or effort in cultivating my relationship with my wife. But it doesn’t work that way – does it? If I want to have a great marriage – and to keep my marriage growing stronger – I have to be willing to keep following the Second Principle of the Law of the Harvest and keep on cultivating my marriage.
This second principle of the Law of the Harvest – Cultivation – applies to every area of our lives – doesn’t it? If I want to have great relationships – I have to keep cultivating those relationships. If I want to have great health – I have to keep cultivating my health. If I want to have a great job – I have to keep cultivating my job.
God offers to be my partner – to give me the seeds I need, to give me the energy to stick with it and keep cultivating the plants that come from those seeds. But God never offers to do it all for me. Because God is a loving Father – Who understands that doing it all for me – would not be helping me, it would actually lead to destroying me.
What happens when a parent does the homework for their children, lets them eat junk food all the time, stay up all night watching television and then writes an excuse for them? At first the child might think – this is great! They are making my life so easy for me! But are they really making life easy for them?
When our sons were young – they called me a slave-driver more than once. They didn’t like me requiring them to do their part and cultivate their abilities. But now, almost 30 years later – they appreciate the harvest that all of that cultivation is making possible in their lives. God wants to help all of us to experience the joy of cultivation – developing the abilities we have been given.
John 15:8 Jesus said, When you produce a lot of fruit with your life, you are My true disciples. Making the most of the life you have been given – brings great joy to my Father!
As a church family – we all want a great harvest of people being saved, people building holy lives, and celebrating people growing awesome loving relationships. God wants us to know that He is on our side. God gets excited when we produce a lot of fruit with our lives. God gives us the seeds we need to plant. God gives us the strength we need to keep on cultivating the plants. And God challenges us to decide if we want to do our part or not. Are we willing to let God keep pruning us – and are we willing to give our best to God with a positive attitude.
Your ATTITUDE is ESSENTIAL — Generous People Get More Joy Out of Life!
Have you ever experienced the difference between someone giving you a gift because they felt they had to – compared to someone giving you a gift because they really loved you and were excited to be able to bless you? I don’t know how you feel about that – but I can tell you that I feel like telling the person who is only giving me something because they feel obligated to – Look, we’d all be better off if you just kept the gift.
God shows us that He doesn’t want anyone to give out of a feeling of obligation. God also warns us that stingy people – can only produce stingy lives. The issue for God is never about how much money we give to support His work in the world. The issue for God is our attitude. God only wants us to give what we can give cheerfully.
2 Corinthians 9:5-7 (NLT/MSG) Your gift needs to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. Remember: A stingy farmer who plants only a few seeds will only get a small crop. A generous farmer gets a generous crop. You must each decide in your own heart how much to give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
Do you think God has it right? Do generous people get more joy out of life than stingy people do? Look around you. Who would you say is happier? Stingy people? Or Generous people?
Learning how to have a more positive attitude and celebrate generosity has been a hard lesson for me to learn. It’s not always easy for me to be generous. My family tells me that I tend to be cheap. So, I’ve been trying to make some progress. In the past I would calculate the bare minimum for a tip that I should leave at a restaurant. Penny has been helping me to add to the calculation – how can I be a blessing to this person?
God wants to help us grow in producing a great harvest with our lives – by helping us to see that our attitude is essential – and to help us to push through the challenges to live generous lives.
The CHALLENGE to LIVE Generously
You Have to Sow Before You Get to Reap!
The Bible says that the biggest challenge to living a generous life – is that you have to sow before you reap. You have to study and work hard – before you get a job. You have to invest sleepless nights and years of discipline – before your children finally grow up and become responsible adults. We would all like to get the fruit before having to do the work – but Jesus shows us that you have to sow before you get to reap.
Jesus explains that the quality of our lives – is in our own hands. You get to decide how much generosity you are going to experience – based on how much you are willing to give to others.
Luke 6:38 (NLT) Jesus said, Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — given back with a bonus and a blessing. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. Giving, not getting, is the way to a growing life. Generosity produces more generosity.
At first it seems impractical. If I am generous – I’m afraid that I am going to lose out. But over time you see that it really works.
It works in businesses the same way that it works in life. What happens to businesses that decide to give only the very minimum they can get away with – compared to businesses that decide they are going to give their very best?
Do you want to go to a restaurant that gives you the bare minimum quality of food and the bare minimum level service they can get away with? Or do you want to go to a restaurant that you know is going to give you the best level of service they can?
God wants to help us grow through the challenge to live generous lives – by showing us that when we step up and make the choice to give our best – that is when God is able to bless our lives.
2 Corinthians 9:8-9 (MSG/LB) God can pour out His blessings in astonishing ways. God is able to multiply your resources – so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.
As we are working to build each other up and to do all that we can to build up the people in our community – God wants to help us to see that giving our best is what opens the doors for God to give us His best and to pour out His best for our community.
This morning – as you think and pray about God’s Law of the Harvest – take some time to consider What kind of seeds am I planting with my life? Is it possible to harvest good fruit – if I plant bad seeds? How well am I doing in Cultivating the plants God has given me? What kind of an attitude do I have? Am I Stingy? Or am I generous? Do I want to grow in becoming more generous? And the last question I want you to consider this morning – is How much do I want to see God’s harvest grow in our world?CELEBRATE God’s HARVEST — Your Generosity Makes the World Better!
God created the universe – so it is obvious that God doesn’t need our money or our help. What God does need and want – is for you and me to make our decision that we want to be God’s partners in producing a great harvest of the fruit of God’s Spirit.
Just as parents know that they are not helping their children – if they do their homework for them or let them watch TV and eat ice cream all the time – so God our heavenly Father knows that He wouldn’t be helping us if He did all the work to produce the harvest of Jesus’ love.
God invites us to be His partners. You are not in this world to be a spectator. God put you in this world to be His partner – so that you could celebrate the joy of helping the harvest of Jesus’ love to keep growing.
Malachi 3:10-12 (NLT) Bring your tithe to God’s House – so there will be enough food for everyone. If you do this… God will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight!
Do you think it’s exciting when Christians put their faith into action and feed the hungry, build hospitals and universities, help people recover from hurricanes and floods?
Do you think it’s exciting when our church helps to build God’s harvest by helping to provide food, shelter, and medical care as partners in Canandaigua Churches in Action? Do you think it’s exciting when our church provides free concerts, takes the Cross down Main Street, or provides a Live Nativity or Living Last Supper? Do you think it’s exciting when our church goes to the Jail and provides follow up care through Spiritual Pathways to rebuild broken lives? Do you think it’s exciting when our church helps to provide an education and homes for children in Nicaragua?
I hope and pray that you get excited and stay very excited about partnering with God – to produce the Great Harvest of Real and Eternal Life through Jesus Christ. I want to close this message by inviting you to join with me in reading 2 Cor 9 – to celebrate the awesome privilege we have to be God’s partners in producing a great harvest.
Read with Me: 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NCV) God is the One Who gives seed to the farmer – which produces good harvests. God will give you all the seeds you need and make them grow so there will be a great harvest from your generosity. …And your giving will cause many people to give thanks to God.