Lesson 5

CHAPTER FIVE

RUSTY SICKLES, EMPTY FIELDS

OBJECTIVES:

Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

C Identify things which prevent harvest in the natural world.

C Apply these natural principles to spiritual harvest.

KEY VERSES:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7-8)

INTRODUCTION

Part One of this course introduced the vision of the harvest. Part Two identified the purpose behind the vision. This section , Part Three, deals with "Objectification.” It presents the plan which leads to "Expectation", the fulfillment of the vision.

This chapter examines reasons for poor spiritual harvest. It is just as important to know how NOT to do something as it is to know how to do it.

Thomas Edison, a famous inventor in the United States, conducted 1,500 experiments which failed before he discovered electricity. When asked about these experiments he said they were important because "I learned 1,500 ways not to produce electricity." He did not have to waste future time and effort in unproductive methods.

You do not have to experiment with spiritual harvest. God has identified the reasons for poor harvest in His Word. It is important you understand these so you do not waste spiritual effort . That is the subject of this lesson .

The next two chapters concern "Strategies For Harvest", principles which result in effective spiritual harvest. Chapter Eight, "Reaping For Results", identifies the methods and tools for spiritual harvest.

THE "IF-BUT" PRINCIPLE

There is an important principle in God’s Word called the "If-But" principle. God has given many promises to His people and most of them are based on the "If-But" principle. Deuteronomy 28 is one example of this principle . God promises:

And it shall come to pass, IF thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. (Deuteronomy 28:1)

The chapter lists the blessings God’s people will experience IF they will serve Him. Among those blessings are promises of abundant harvest in the natural world:

…and blessed shalt thou be in the field…

Blessed…shall be the fruit of thy ground… (Deuteronomy 28:3-4)

But verse 15 warns:

BUT it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and his statues which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. (Deuteronomy 28:15)

Among the curses for turning from the ways of the Lord is poor harvest in the natural world:

Cursed shalt thou be in the field…cursed shall be the fruit of thy land.

Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in…Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes, for the worms shall eat them.

Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit…

All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume. (Deuteronomy 28:16,18,38-42)

This chapter in Deuteronomy illustrates the "If-But" principle. God’s promises are conditional upon our response.

NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL PARALLELS

The Bible reveals principles which will result in abundant harvest in the natural world. It also warns of ruined crops and poor harvest if these principles are not followed.

These principles apply to actual sowing and reaping in the natural world but they are also parallels of great spiritual truths.

Understanding these principles will result in a harvest in terms of reaching the world with the Gospel. But applying these principles in every area of life will also result in the blessing of God financially, materially, physically, and emotionally.

SATAN’S INTEREST IN THE HARVEST

Satan has an interest in spiritual harvest. Jesus said to Peter:

Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. (Luke 22:31)

Satan wants to sift all that is good from your life so that only waste remains. He does not want you to reap a spiritual harvest.

To help you identify strategies Satan has designed to sift the harvest from your life, God warned of things which prevent spiritual harvest.

In order to apply strategies for effective harvest it is first necessary to eliminate things that prevent harvest in your life.

You must deal with these negative factors. It is like preparing the ground for planting in the natural world . The ground must be broken up and the rocks and thistles removed before it is ready to receive the seed.

REASONS FOR POOR HARVEST

These are reasons for poor spiritual harvests:

DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD:

The passage from Deuteronomy 28 previously discussed illustrates one reason for poor spiritual harvest: Disobedience to God’s Word. God promised abundant harvest IF His

people would observe His commandments. BUT if they would not, then the harvest would perish.

In Isaiah chapter five God speaks of Israel as a vineyard . Through disobedience to His Word (verses 13 and 2 0) they became unfruitful. When you disobey God’s Word it results in spiritual famine:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land,
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the
Lord:

And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they
shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. (Amos
8:11-12)

FORGETTING GOD:

Another reason for poor harvest is forgetting God by not acknowledging His rightful place in your life :

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants and shalt set it with strange slips:

In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. (Isaiah 17:10-11)

It is not enough to know about God , you must know God. You must accept His plan of salvation , and acknowledge Him as Lord of your life .

If you do not rightfully acknowledge God you can work night and day and yet not bring forth spiritual harvest. Israel was an example of a people who forgot God:

They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel.

They forgat God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt. (Psalms 106:13,21)

Because of this, Israel suffered both in the natural and spiritual harvests.

As many who forget God, Israel did not recognize the reason they were experiencing poor harvests:

And they shall eat up thine harvest…they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees…And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the Lord our God all these things unto us? then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours. (Jeremiah 5:17-19)

Amos clearly described the reason for poor harvest in chapters 4 and 5 of his writing:

And also I have witholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to harvest; and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city…and the piece whereupon it rained not withered…

I have smitten you with blasting and mildew; when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them; yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
(Amos 4:7,9)

In addition to identifying the problem Amos gives the solution:

Seek ye Me, and ye shall live… (Amos 5:4)

IMPROPER SOWING:

God warned His people:

Thou shalt now sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.
(Deuteronomy 22:9)

…Therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:

In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish; but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. (Isaiah 17:10-11)

In these verses God speaks of "mingled seed" and "strange" slips [small plants or seedlings]. He said they would appear to be growing but in the time of harvest would be cursed.

The New Testament calls the "seed" the Word of God. What you sow in your life affects spiritual harvest. If you sow His Word you will have abundant harvest.

If you consider the traditions of man, organization, or denominations more important than

or equal to the Word of God, then you are mingling seed. Many denominations look like healthy spiritual plants . They have large congregations and beautiful buildings in which to conduct their meetings. But they have mingled God’s Word with their own traditions or revelations. Their spiritual harvest is cursed. This is how cults begin. They "mingle" the seed of the Word with their own ideas . In the end the harvest is a sorrow .

The Word of God is the incorruptible seed which brings forth the harvest of the new birth in the lives of men and women:

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (I Peter 1:23)

UNCONCERN:

Proverbs speaks of a son who sleeps during harvest:

…but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame. (Proverbs 10:5)

The harvest is a very busy time. It is the most important time, for if the harvest is not gathered rapidly it will rot in the fields.

In the natural world in Bible times every member of a family assisted in the fields during harvest. A son who spent his time sleeping during this period was a shame to his family.

We are in the most crucial time of spiritual harvest as we near the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet many of the children of God are sleeping . They have not joined the Body of Christ in the harvest fields . Their sickles are rusty and the fields are empty.

Proverbs speaks of the results of such unconcern:

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;

And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man. (Proverbs 24:30-34)

Unconcern results in spiritual unfruitfulness.

Jeremiah speaks of leaders destroying the harvest because of their unconcern:

Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion underfoot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness…the whole land is made desolate because no man layeth it to heart.

(Jeremiah 12:10-11)

Unconcerned leaders result in unconcerned followers. The vision of the harvest must be communicated by our spiritual leaders or the fields will lie desolate because "no man layeth it to heart.”

SELF-EFFORT:

You cannot bring forth spiritual harvest by self-effort. Observe the results of self-effort in the following verse:

In the day shalt THOU make THY plant to grow, and in the morning shalt THOU make THY seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. (Isaiah 17:11)

Chapter One stated that the vision God desires to give cannot be brought forth by self-effort. The only way it will come is by eliminating things which prevent spiritual harvest and applying God-given strategies for harvest.

Hosea spoke of poor harvest resulting from self-effort. Israel had trusted in their own way and their mighty men (Hosea 10:13). As long as you depend on your ways, methods, or your "mighty men" you will fail to see spiritual harvest. You must do God’s work in God’s way.

CURSED REPRODUCTIVE PROCESS:

One of the results of the fall of man into sin was that God cursed the reproductive process of the natural world . Women bring forth children in sorrow. The ground brings forth thorns and thistles and it takes much work to make it produce fruit (Genesis 3:16-19). These curses on the reproductive system were the result of sin.

In the spiritual world when you are living in sin there is a curse on the spiritual reproductive process of your life. It is only by salvation from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ that the curse will be lifted . You cannot claim the blessings of spiritual harvest as long as you are living under the curse of sin.

REGARDING CIRCUMSTANCES:

The circumstances of life can prevent spiritual harvest:

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. (Proverbs 20:4)

He that observeth the wind shall not sow: and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

In the natural world if the farmer waited for perfect conditions he would never sow or reap. Regardless of the wind, the clouds, or the cold, the farmer works his field.

In the spiritual world if you wait for perfect circumstances to enter the harvest fields you will never go. The circumstances of life…your problems, your financial situation, your lack of education…must all be ignored .

UNDIRECTED EFFORT:

You can spend all your life busily doing good works and never do the work of God . This is undirected spiritual effort:

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. (Hosea 8:7)

There are many good works and worthy causes in life. People will misuse your talents and abilities for these causes if you permit them to do so.

But in order to bring forth a spiritual harvest good works are not enough. Jesus said:

My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

The key to spiritual harvest is not busily doing good works but it is doing the work of God. Your spiritual effort must be directed towards His divine purpose or it will be like seed sown in the wind which is carried away and gives no yield.

PESTS AND DISEASE:

In the natural world there are pests and diseases which attack plants and destroy the harvest. Pests are things which attack the plants from the outside such as bugs, grasshoppers, weeds. Disease attacks plants from the inside, destroying the root and growth systems.

Believers also face pests and disease in the spirit world. Satan attacks from without through circumstances of life and from within through the mind which affects the will and emotions.

Farmers find it necessary to prune their fruit vines. They cut off the growth that has come from within the vine which saps its life. They do this to make the vine more fruitful.

This is also necessary in the life of believers. There are things that come from within that prevent us from being fruitful (Mark 7:15). God prunes these things to increase our fruitfulness. John chapter 15 tells of this process.

The real problem with spiritual pests and disease is actually not the circumstances or the thought processes in the mind. The problem is with the spiritual powers behind these:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

In the natural world, plants are sometimes treated with chemicals to kill the pests and cure
the diseases. In the spiritual world, the armor of God protects the spiritual harvest of your
life :

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

IMPROPER HARVESTING:

Improper harvesting ruins the crop:

Does he who plows for sowing plow continually? Does he continue to plow and harrow his ground after it is smooth?

When he has leveled its surface, does he not cast broad the seed of dill or fennel,

and scatter cummin [a seasoning], and put the wheat in rows, and barley in its intended place, and spelt [an inferior kind of wheat] as the border?

And he trains each of them correctly, for his God instructs him correctly and teaches him.

For the dill is not threshed with a sharp threshing instrument, nor is a cart wheel rolled over the cummin; but the dill is beat off with a staff and the cummin with a rod by hand.

Does one crush bread grain? No, he does not grind it continuously, but when he has driven his cart wheel and his horses over it, he scatters it-tossing it up to the wind-without having crushed it. (Isaiah 28:24-28, The Amplified Bible)

There are proper methods for preparing the ground and for planting the seed in the natural world. There are also various methods for harvesting depending on the crop. Fitches and cummin come out of the husk easily, so only a staff and rod is used. Bread corn requires more force so a threshing instrument must be used.

When you are harvesting the lives of men and women for the Kingdom of God, some will come easily to knowledge of the Lord . Others will take more effort to harvest.

Improper harvesting ruins the crop. Too much force bruises the tender plants . Too little effort fails to bring forth other crops . The same God who gives wisdom for reaping the natural harvest will provide wisdom to harvest spiritual crops.

UNCULTIVATED GROUND:

If the ground is not properly prepared, the harvest will be poor. Read the parable of the
sower in Mark 4:1 2-2 0, Matthew 13:1-23, and Luke 8:4-15. In these parables the Word of
God is compared to seed in the natural world. The Word is sown in the hearts of men and
women.

The thing that varies in these accounts is not the sower, the seed, or the method. The thing that affected the harvest was the condition of the soil . Some of the ground is not cultivated but is full of spiritual stones and weeds such as the cares of the world, riches, and lusts of other worldly things. The harvest from this uncultivated spiritual ground is poor.

But some of the seed is sown on good ground which represents hearts spiritually prepared to receive it. The result is abundant harvest:

And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the Word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an

hundred. (Mark 4:20)

The seed of the Word sown on fertile soil brings forth the greatest harvest.

Some people are receptive to the Gospel while others are resistant. If you are not experiencing harvest, uncultivated soil may be the problem . It must be properly prepared. The prophet Hosea commands:

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow
ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon
you.

Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. (Hosea 10:12-13)

Uncultivated ground in the spiritual world represents unrighteous ground . Hosea tells God’s people they have reaped iniquity because they have plowed wickedness into the spiritual ground of their lives. The wickedness sown which results in a harvest of iniquity includes:

Discord:

…A wicked man…soweth discord. (Proverbs 6:12,14) Iniquity:

He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity… (Proverbs 22:8)

Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. (Job 4:8)

Strife:

A froward man soweth strife… (Proverbs 16:28)

Flesh:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting… (Galatians 6:7-8)

Now the works of the flesh are…these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. (Galatians 5:19-21)

To assure proper spiritual harvest, you must break up the spiritual ground of your life and remove these hindrances. As Hosea recommended , we must "seek the Lord until He comes and rain righteousness" upon us.

UNRIGHTEOUS FOUNDATIONS:

When there was a poor harvest in the natural world, the prophet Haggai told God’s people to examine their ways:

Ye have sown much, and bring in little…Consider your ways…Ye looked for much and lo, it came to little. (Haggai 1:6,7,9)

God’s people had sown much seed but the harvest was little. Haggai told them they must rebuild both in the natural and spiritual worlds in order to have a good harvest.

Why was rebuilding necessary?

In the natural world , Israel had delayed building God’s house and emphasized building their own homes. They had put their own concerns ahead of God’s command.

In the spiritual world, the foundation of their lives was wrong. They had been sowing and reaping in the spirit world with unholy hands :

…So is this people, and so is this nation before Me, says the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there on the altar is unclean because they who offer it are themselves unclean. (Haggai 2:14, The Amplified Bible)

A right work or sacrifice offered by unholy hands is not acceptable. The foundation was wrong. God said to Israel:

Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me? (Jeremiah 2:21)

Because of this improper spiritual foundation God cursed the harvest:

I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands. (Haggai 2:17)

The Living Bible states that the result of unrighteousness was that "everything you did went wrong."

Haggai told God’s people that the foundation of the Lord’s temple must be relayed. He said if they would rebuild in both the natural and spiritual worlds God would bless them :

But now note this: From today…and from this day onward, I will bless you. Notice, I am giving you this promise now before you have even begun to build the Temple structure, and before you have harvested the grain, and before the grapes and figs and pomegranates and olives have produced their next crops: From this day, I will bless you. (Haggai 2:18-19, The Living Bible)

From the day that Israel began to rebuild the temple in the natural world and the foundation of righteousness in the spirit world God started to bless them. The result was abundant harvest in both worlds.

If you will rebuild the foundations of your life on righteousness, from this day God will begin to bless you. You will reap abundantly in every area of life.

Harvestime International Institute offers a course entitled "Foundations of Faith", dealing with the importance of proper spiritual foundations in the Christian life.

The subject is so great that it cannot be covered here but it is important to note some basic principles because they affect the spiritual harvesting process. The proper foundation which brings abundant harvest is:

Built On A Rock Which Is Immovable:

He is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. (Luke 6:48)

That Rock Is Jesus Christ:

There is no other rock; I know not any. (Isaiah 44:8)

The Foundation Is Based On Righteousness:

The uncompromisingly righteous has an everlasting foundation. (Proverbs 10:25, The Amplified Bible)

It Is A Good Foundation:

Laying in store for themselves a good foundation…(I Timothy 6:19) It Is Eternal:

Laying in store for themselves a good foundation for the future [eternal] so they may grasp that which is life indeed. (I Timothy 6:19, The Living Bible)

It Is Based On God’s Word:

God’s Word stands firm like a rock [foundation]; nothing can shake it. (II Timothy 2:19)

The Foundation Stands On Two Principles:

But the firm foundation laid by God stands sure and unshaken, bearing this seal and inscription: The Lord knows those who are His and let everyone who names himself by the name of the Lord give up all iniquity and stand aloof from it. (I Timothy 2:19) The Amplified Bible

The two principles upon which the foundation stands are:

1. Redeemed men: ± The Lord knows those who are His.

2. Living redeemed lives: ± Let everyone who names himself by the name
of the Lord give up all iniquity and stand aloof

from it.

This is the proper foundation for spiritual harvest.

FEW LABORERS:

If there are few laborers in the harvest field, the yield will be poor. The harvest will rot before it can be reaped. Jesus said:

…The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the
Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest. (Luke
10:2)

THE RESULTS

Things that prevent harvest have tragic results in the spirit world:

The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.

Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.

The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field are withered. (Joel 1:10-12)

In the natural world, poor harvest results in sadness…

And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting…
(Isaiah 16:10)

In the spiritual world poor harvest also results in a loss of joy and gladness:

Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? (Joel 1:16)

If we wonder why there is no joy in our lives, if we question why singing and the victory shout have vanished from our churches… it is the result of poor spiritual harvest.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

We have identified the factors which prevent spiritual harvest. We have discovered the reasons for lack of spiritual joy and victory.

What can you do to reverse the cycle of poor spiritual yields and bring abundant harvest in your life?

When the natural harvest was poor in Israel, Joel told God’s people to:

Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God:
for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness… (Joel
2:12-13)

You must turn to God in repentance for disobedience to His Word and unconcern over spiritual harvest. You must ask Him to remove the spiritual pests and diseases which have prevented fruitfulness.

You must repent of self-effort and ask Him to direct your efforts to the fulfillment of His purpose for the nations of the world.

You must break up the uncultivated ground and rebuild the foundation of your life on righteousness.

Joel advised the spiritual leaders to repent and call a fast:

Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar…Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord. (Joel 1:13-14)

If you are a Christian leader and your church has not been reaping spiritual harvest take the following steps:

-Call an assembly of your elders and your membership .

-Come together before God in fasting and repentance.

-Ask God to give you a vision of abundant spiritual harvest. -Then unite in purpose to fulfill that vision .