By Tom Atema
Truth be known, I love farming.
As a teenager I would go to my grandparents in New Hampshire and work on the dairy farm from sun-up to sun-down each summer. Totally loved every aspect of farming. It’s my dream job. It was in this environment where I learned firsthand “the Law of the Harvest”. All my life, I have read about the harvest in the Bible. I even heard the stories in Sunday School. But hearing it and living it are two totally different things.
The Law of the Harvest goes like this – you will receive what you plant, and you will receive more than you planted.
Easy to read and say. Try living this principle out. It’s really, really hard. It’s why so few people ever engage with this law.
Th3 Law of the Harvest is found throughout scripture. Jesus even spoke of it. You understand that it would be silly to plant corn seeds and expect carrots. What you plant predicts what you will harvest. The Bible puts it this way for us: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
The Apostle Paul made a great promise based on his experience with this. He gives it to us as he writes to the Church in Philippe (Philippians 4:19) which says: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” The phrase “according to” means “in keeping with.” In other words, a supply that is in character with the God who owns it all.
Principle one: The harvest always depends on what & why you plant!
Let me start by defining what I mean by “planting”. This is something we do that lays the groundwork for something that can develop or expand in the future.
Scripture says that when you sow, you will reap a harvest, and the harvest depends on what you sow and why you sow it. Once you determine what you want to harvest, you will know what you need to sow.
The harvest also depends on why you sow. Are you planting so that you can benefit from the prosperity of the harvest or so that God will be glorified? Your motivation is important to God. If you sow because you want to bring Him glory, you will reap great things by His grace.
Principle two: The harvest depends on when you sow!
Where I live, if you want to sow corn seeds you do not plant them in December. You wait until May or June. No matter how many corn seeds you plant in December you will not grow a single ear of corn. Why? It’s not the right season; the climate is wrong. God has, in his sovereign purpose, cycles for everything. There is a right and wrong time to plant/sow.
Principle three: The harvest depends on where you sow.
The seeds must be planted in good soil (Matthew 13:8). When we invest in the kingdom of God, He returns our investment in abundance. We must plant our seeds in fertile ground. Matthew 6:33 tells us that we can maintain the growth of our crop when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
Principle four: The harvest always comes after you plant!
It takes time, hard work, and patience. A ton of patience. Just like on the farm, the corn I planted took longer to mature than the Timothy grass. Different crops demand different amounts of time to grow. If we plant in the spring, we won’t see a crop in the spring. We must be patient and wait for God to bring the harvest in his due time.
Principle five: The harvest is always bigger than what you planted.
Back in 2006, when Camille Melki and I started Heart for Lebanon, we had no idea what God would do; what the harvest would be. All we desired to do was “make disciples”.
The truth is we did not know how we wanted to do it. We knew more what we did not want to do. We did not want to be a niche, normal non-profit that happened to be Christian. Our desire was to be “a faith-based ministry that would build different environments to meet people at the point of their need, unconditionally, and then let those we serve draw us into a conversation about our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. “ We wanted them to see first.
As we helped people with the physical needs they had due to war, and helped the Syrian children receive a high-quality value-based education, we built relationships that allowed us to be drawn into a conversation about our Heavenly Father.
We had no idea this seed sowing (this access ministry) would develop into 87 small group Bible study environments with 1,200 adults in attendance.
We thought this was fantastic; it was and is. We felt a few years back that this was the tip of our ministry. However, we had no idea the seeds we planted and the care we were giving to each person in a Bible Study would push us to plant two churches that today are partnering with Churches around the world, impacting thousands each week. This was for sure the tip of our ministry.
We had no idea that our two Hope Evangelical Churches would have the privilege to invite men and women to be in our Missional Leadership Development Program. A three-year discipleship/leadership course which people need to be invited into, with a curriculum our Team in Lebanon developed. This University level training is and will change the Leadership dynamic in the Middle East over time. This is leading us to a third stream of ministry which will be announced shortly.
Only God knows what lies ahead for this ministry. How is this possible? Because of the seeds we have planted, watered, and patiently waited for God to doHis part. Today, we are reaping a harvest of disciples that many skeptics say is “amazing” and “unbelievable”.
Not really when you think about it. We’ve been following God’s Law of the Harvest.
If you read this and have not engaged in the Law of the Harvest, if this has not been your story, do not be disappointed or discouraged. Principle Six is for you.
Principle Six: You cannot do anything about yesterday’s harvest, however, you can do something about your next harvest today.
When you apply the Law of the Harvest to yourself first, even to your finances, to how you add value to people and your ministry, well, Paul said it best, here is what he told the people in Ephesus.
“God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, and above all, you could ever ask, imagine, or think, according to His power at work in you. To Him be the glory.”
What an encouraging promise. God is able to do way more than you or I could ever even imagine!
Co-founder of Heart for Lebanon