Episode 1. Sowing Seed During Drought
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Let’s face it – we all want to get the most out of life. We want to reap a harvest. But so often, life feels more like a drought. So where’s the harvest?.
Why don’t you join Berni on Christianityworks as he looks at sowing seed during the drought.
Let’s face it – we all want to get the most out of life. We want to reap a harvest. And in fact that’s exactly what God wants for our lives too. He promises us an abundant harvest. And yet so often, life feels more like a drought than anything else. In those times, we’re left asking ourselves … So, where’s my harvest?
Well, welcome to Christianityworks again this week and we are starting a new series called, “Reaping God’s Harvest in My Life”. What is it that you want out of your life? Health, happiness, family, a job, career, a reasonable level of comfort, joy and peace, we want our kids to grow up and be happy, we want to have a happy fulfilling marriage, we want to have friends, we want to have balance, we want to have a good life, don’t we? We have different variations, we have different permutations; the things that you are going to enjoy in your life, well, maybe I won’t enjoy in mine and vice versa, because we are different people, we come from different backgrounds, in different circumstances and different outcomes will satisfy us.
But there are the basics aren’t there; the things that I spoke about before that we all want in our life? We want a life of significance, we want a life where we’re part of a family, we’re part of a group, we’ve got friends, we’ve got joy and peace. Those things are important to us and we expect to put in the effort and to reap the reward. We expect to reap some sort of harvest from all the hard work. What sort of harvest, is a different question, sometimes we get our expectations and our desires and our needs out of whack.
You know, I spent a lot of my time before I became a Christian, chasing money and success and career. All of those things are good things, but when we get them out of balance, when they become the main thing; when they dominate above all the other good things in life, well, then we can end up looking for the wrong things, striving for the wrong things, hurting other people to get there and we reap a harvest, that frankly, is the harvest of our own selfishness.
On the other hand, if we do good, if we get up every day and say, “Well, you know something, God, I know I’m not perfect, I know I am going to make some mistakes but my heart, Lord, my heart is to follow you today. My heart is just to do good things for other people and for myself.” Well, we get up and do that every day and we are going to reap, by and large, a good harvest.
Well, over these next four weeks, today and the following three weeks, we are going to take a balanced look at “reaping God’s harvest in our lives”. The problem is that most people can’t really describe what that harvest looks like; exactly what do we want?
Let’s just take a look at our own lives today. The bits where we don’t have a harvest, you know, normally look across our lives and there are some areas where we are getting a great harvest – the results are good, they’re satisfying, they’re fulfilling – but so often there are one or two areas in our lives and we look at them and we go, “Wow! You know, I’m not getting a harvest here, in fact, I’m nowhere near to getting a harvest and I’ve made such a mess of my life. I’m never going to reap God’s harvest in that area. Why would God ever even bother with me? No, God’s harvest isn’t for me. No! Harvest? No. it’s a drought, it‘s parched, it’s hopeless, it’s devastating. The dam is empty, the crops are dead.”
We can have such deeply entrenched patterns of behaviour that they rob us of the harvest. Sometimes we take on the weaknesses of our parents. We might have generational sin. A man, whose father was a gambler, may well end up being a gambler. A person, whose parent was alcoholic, could end up being an alcoholic. We take on the good traits and the bad traits of our parents and sometimes we look at our circumstances and we look at our failures and we think, “Aw, it can never work.”
We are going to look today at the story of Isaac in Genesis chapter 26. If you’ve got a Bible, grab it, open it. It’s right at the front of the Bible; the 26th chapter of the first book of the Bible and it’s a story about Isaac, the son of Abraham and what he did in the middle of such a drought, this is what it says:
Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines. And God appeared to Isaac and said, “Look, don’t go on down to Egypt; settle in this land that I’ll show you. Stay here as an alien and I’ll be with you and I’ll bless you because to you and your descendants I’ll give these lands and I’ll fulfill the promise that I made to your father, Abraham. I’ll make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and I’ll give your offspring all these lands and all the nations of the earth will gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge and my commandments, my statutes and my laws.
So Isaac settled in Gerar and when the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She’s my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She’s my wife,” thinking, “Well, she is so good looking, the man of the place might kill me because of Rebecca, because she is so good looking.” When Isaac had been there for a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of his window and saw Isaac cuddling his wife Rebecca and Abimelech called Isaac in and said, “She’s your wife, isn’t she; why did you say that she is my sister?” and Isaac said to him, “Well, you know, I thought I might get killed because of her,” and Abimelech said, “What have you done to us? One of the people might easily have slept with you’re wife and you would have put guilt on us all.”
So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Who ever touches this man or his wife will be put to death.” Well, Isaac sowed some seed in the land and that same year, he reaped a hundred fold.
So here’s Isaac, he’s in a land that’s not his own; he wants to run off to Egypt because Egypt seems to be much more prosperous and God comes to him and says, “No, stay here, I’ve got a promise on your life and this is your land, stay here as an alien”. So Isaac makes the decision to stay. It can’t have been an easy decision; there was a drought, there was a famine and he stays in this land. But then he makes a huge blunder. He puts his wife out there and what a dangerous thing to do, this is something that his father, Abraham, did twice to his Mum. Unbelievable! Imagine, putting your wife out there, saying, “She’s my sister.” Someone else could have taken her and slept with her.
We man are supposed to protect our wives and he blows it, completely; he just repeats the generational sin of his father. He is in a land that’s got a drought that’s not his own, life is an absolute mess and then it says, “Isaac sowed seed in that land.” That’s amazing! We are going to look at what happened when Isaac sowed the seed.
Sow the Seed
We all want the most out of life, don’t we? And sometimes the odds are stacked against us. Like that story we were looking at – the story of Isaac. Here was Isaac in a land that wasn’t his own and his dad had made some serious mistakes and Isaac was just reliving those; that same pattern of generational sin that so often happens in our lives. We seem as though we can’t control it, so dad has made a mess of his life, in a sense, and the drought is causing a famine. There’s no harvest, there’s no … How can there possibly be a blessing for Isaac, yet God promised him a blessing? God appeared to him and said:
Look, don’t go down to Egypt, stay here; stay here as an alien and I’ll be with you and I’ll bless you because to you and your descendants, I will give these lands and I’ll fill it and you’ll be blessed.
When you look at that, you know you see God making a promise to bless you on the one hand and then you look at your own circumstances; the circumstances of where we live, our own failures and we think: there’s no harvest, there can never be a harvest. Isaac was in the middle of a drought and a famine. He deceived the King, he hung his wife out to dry, he made a big mistake. I don’t know what he was thinking, but he did something radical, in the middle of that mess. It says in Genesis 26, verse 12:
Isaac sowed seed in that land and in that same year he reaped a hundred fold.
Now farmers don’t sow seeds when there’s a drought. You know, when there’s a drought, they look and they wait for rains and they wait for rains, because if you just put seed in dry land and there’s a drought, not only won’t you get a crop but you’ve wasted all the money that you’ve spent on the seed. So we think about that – it was a radical thing. I don’t know how much the seed cost but in a famine, in a drought, you can bet your life it would have been really expensive. So here’s this reckless thing, where he just takes the seed which cost him a lot of money and he puts it in the ground.
The business risk, well, if you or I were doing it, would we have done it? Probably not; and the drought is so depressing. I mean, I have never been part of a farming community, but I know from what I’ve read and spoken to people who have lived in farming communities – when there’s a drought going on, it’s really depressing on the whole community and here it wasn’t just a drought, it was a famine. People were starving and Isaac was planning to go somewhere else; to run away – to Egypt.
It’s not unreasonable he wanted to run away from the drought, but God said, “No, I’ve got a plan for you here, stay in the famine, stay in the drought,” and sometimes God calls us to stay. The thing that Isaac got right is he obeyed God. That tug in his heart; that word from God – he’d made a key decision to stay – probably against his better judgement. Ok, great – he stays. I’ve got a promise – “I’ll bless you here”, says God and then what?
Well, he makes this huge blunder; he lies to the King about his wife and she could have been taken to bed by someone else, frankly. So you’ve got the drought, you’ve got “I want to run away”, you’ve got “God says stay”, you’ve got this blunder, probably because of what dad handed down to me. You reckon he was confused? He should have failed; he blew it but God had made him a promise. God had said, “Stay here and I will bless you.”
So Isaac – we see it in verse 12 – Isaac sowed his seed in the land. Takes a lot of faith to put seed in the ground when there’s a drought. Even if there wasn’t a drought, it’s still an act of faith. You know, a farmer puts seed in the ground, there could be locusts, there could be drought, there could be flood, there could be fire, there could be disease. It takes faith to put seed in the ground, especially in a drought, and even when you’ve blown it. So what happens? Isaac sows the seed in that land and in that same year he reaps a hundred fold – the Lord blessed him and he became rich – he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.
Now the Philistines had stopped up and filled with the earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Get away from us. You’ve just become too powerful for us.” So what happens? He takes one seed, he plants it in a drought and he gets a hundred back. He takes two seeds, he plants them in a drought, he gets two hundred back. He takes a hundred thousand seeds and plants them in a drought and he gets a hundred times a hundred thousand back. And you read the rest of that chapter, chapter 26 – God just kept blessing him – He blessed his socks off and his son Jacob as well.
Sometimes we think, “You know, I’m carrying sin around, I’m carrying this thing around, it might be sexual, it might be gambling, it might be any sort of other addiction and we know that it’s been handed down from our parents – it’s sad but true. And we think, “Oh, God can never bless me. I can never break this and I look around and I see this famine and this drought and things around me are going badly.” God’s promise is to bless us! God is a God of blessing. But the promise didn’t grow a harvest until Isaac planted the seed during the drought.
Let me say that again. The promise didn’t grow a harvest until Isaac planted the seed during the drought. So what’s in that for us? Maybe you are looking around at a situation of drought and famine and failure and sin? What’s in this story for us?
What’s in it for Us?
Well, we have been looking at this story of young Isaac, who was living in a drought and a famine and he made a mess of his own circumstances and he should have had failure written all over him. He wanted to run away from it all and now God says, “stay”. Someone today is listening, maybe it’s you, and today you want to run away from your circumstances and every now and then God does call us onto something new. Every now and then God says, “It’s time to leave this church and go to another; it’s time to sell this house and move on to another but most of the time God wants us to bloom where He has planted us. If God is calling you to go – go! But if He is telling you to stay – stay!
And if your “go” is maybe leaving your wife or your husband or your children, let me tell you, God is not calling you to do that. There are some very extreme circumstances and I say this with all compassion because I have traveled the road of divorce; that’s where I came to meet Christ. There are some very extreme circumstances of violence and abuse and God’s plan isn’t for us to be in those – I’m not talking about those. But so often we replace the ‘until death us do part’ with ‘until something better comes along.’ And we think, “Oh, well maybe God means for me to move on?” No, God does not! God wants us, most of the time, to stay where we are and to be a blessing to those people around us.
And so, here we saw Isaac stayed where God wanted him, even though there was a drought; even though he went on to make a huge blunder with his wife. And there are so many circumstances in our marriages, in our jobs, in our church or in anything, where we would look at them through human eyes and we think, “They’re never going to change – this is never going to get better,” but we see things in the natural but God’s not natural – God is supernatural and supernatural literally means “above natural”. He is so far beyond natural and He sees – He sees our circumstances, not from the natural perspective, not from the human perspective but from God’s perspective; from the supernatural perspective.
And God is a God of the harvest; God is a God of blessing and sometimes we have to do what Isaac did and stay in that place even through there’s a drought and a famine and stay in that place even though we go on to make mistakes, and just plant some seed. One that is absolutely, one hundred percent for certain – if we do it God’s way, whether it’s to stay or to go – if we follow God’s call, we will make boo-boos along the way, you know, we will make some mistakes but God honours those who honour Him. If God says, “I know you’ve got a famine in your land. I know your circumstances are just rotten and awful, but I want you to stay there, amidst that drought and famine and if we stay we honour God. God sees that, God honours what’s in our hearts and He forgives what we do with our hands.
God is a good God. Ok, so we stay, we do it God’s way, then what? Then we plant seed in the drought, in the face of our own failure. Boy, is that counter intuitive or what? We want to give up by now but God says, “Plant seed.” Seed? What is seed like? Well, maybe you’re in a job; in your work situation and you just hate your boss. I know that’s a strong word but some people do. The boss is so oppressive, so unfair; promoting other people around you, victimising you and all we want to do is run away and God says, “No, actually, I’d like you to stay here. This is where I’ve planted you.”
How can we plant good seed? Well, we can excel, we can say, “You know, I’m going to work hard anyway; I’m going to bless that person anyway. I’m going to do so well at this job, in the face of what this boss is doing to me, people are going to sit up and notice.” We can sow good seed into bad situations. Or in a marriage; maybe your husband or your wife is driving you nuts. There’s pain and there’s tears and there’s anguish and we can say, “Well, I’m just going to ditch them,” but God’s calling us to say, “No, stay here and sow good seed.” We can try and run away or we can stay and sow good seed.
We can be the best husband or the best wife that we can possibly be. We can choose to bless and to honour and to love our husbands and wives. We can just be such wonderful people amidst the most difficult circumstances. Sowing seed is always a step of faith because we can’t see the harvest when we sow the seed. Maybe your finances are a mess – your credit cards are up to the limit, the overdraft is up to the limit – and we just hear God saying, “Just stay there and become a good steward; cut back and become a good steward; cut back, manage your finances, give to the poor,” and I bet you that God will ask you to sow.
Now sometimes when our finances are bad and we just think we have to save it all and we just have to stockpile it all and pay the debt off but I’ve seen it happen, time and time again – when God deals with our finances – one of the first things He does is calls us to give off the top, to Him; to the poor.
It’s about sowing seed and seed is a scary thing to sow because we can’t see the harvest and we have to pay for the seed to sow it, before the harvest comes along – it is a step of faith. God is calling us to listen to Him; to obey Him, to take risks that He calls us to take, which aren’t really risks but they look like risks, in faith. Isaac sowed seed and reaped a hundred fold. That’s a lot! He couldn’t control the weather. You and I can’t control the outcomes, all we can do is to stay in the place that God’s calling us to and sow the seed and it’s God that gives the increase, it’s God that brought the rains, it’s God that blessed Isaac’s step of obedience and faith.
In our ministry – you know, in this ministry of Christianityworks – when we started taking programs to air, we had to sow seed. We had to start recording and producing programs before even one station had said, “Yes, we’ll take the programs.” We had to spend money that, I’ll tell you, we didn’t have a lot of it, but we knew God was calling us to this. We knew that this venture was God’s venture and God has blessed it so wonderfully and blessed so many lives through it but if we hadn’t sown the seed, the harvest wouldn’t have come. God gives the increase; it’s His harvest. It might be our drought and our famine and our failure and our fear, but it is God’s opportunity to be God and God’s promise is to bless us. God doesn’t just say, “Go out there on your own and do it,” God says, “Here’s where I want you to do it and this is the sort of seed I want you to sow.”
God is so personal. You know, when I pray and I ask Him, “Lord, what seed can I sow into this relationship?” Bang! He always, straightaway says, “Do this or do that,” and sometimes it doesn’t make sense but we sow the seed and God blesses us. You see, it’s in the middle of the drought that God wants to sow the seed, and the harvest is His. God is the God of the harvest. Is that scary to you? It is to me and I think it should be some days because faith … we don’t need faith if it’s easy but the harvest that comes from faith, the blessing that comes from faith, the enormous, hundredfold increase that comes when we sow the seed that God calls us to, in the drought that God calls us to, well, that’s an awesome blessing and it’s God’s blessing. That’s God’s plan!