Reaping 100 Fold

Matthew 13:23, "But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."  You heard that verse last Wednesday evening and probably many times before that.  What caused me to go back to that verse was that everywhere I have gone this week, amongst those who were in the meeting last Wednesday night, we have ended up talking about this again.  That happens sometimes, but not often enough.  The thought that brought it to my mind was this:  you know, if the only time that we ever thought about these things was in the meeting when we hear about them, we probably wouldn't get much done about it, would we?  So, I was really thankful that these very same things that we had talked about in the meeting were a topic of conversation in all of the homes that we were in afterwards.  I am assuming that it was that way in the homes that we were not in.

What I really appreciate is that, when we speak on things in the Gospel meetings that actually touch something deeper in a person that makes them want to know the reality of it.  I thought about how to apply the word of God in such a way that it actually does something in our life.  I know that if the only time that I think about it is while I am here and meeting, it is not going to change my life much.  But if after I leave the meeting and begin to think about it, and it keeps coming back to my mind, then I would think about what it is that I need to do to make this a reality.  That is where the word of God begins to make a change in a person's life.  That, of course, is what the Gospel meeting is all about - to come to meeting and listen to the Gospel, and we appreciate very much everyone that comes, but if that were viewed as that is my service to God, and that is all God got out of the week of your life and my life, He wouldn't have received very much, would He?  One hour out of a week.  Maybe you went to one other meeting besides that.

The thing about Jesus and His parables about seed, I haven't really counted up the times that He used seed in a parable but three times in this one chapter and there were others besides.  So, quite often His parables that were depicting the kingdom of God were about, we would say, agriculture today.  I got to thinking about it - and I speak about the parable of the sower and the seed just about everywhere I go - and I think every worker does.  I look out at this crowd here and I don't believe that there is one person who is involved in agriculture, may be in some remote way.  I don't think that there are any farmers here.  So I wondered what kind of parables Jesus would use today.  What would Jesus use for a parable if He were here today?

One thought that came to me is a little illustration of the very same parable - I could get the lessons from this parable if I were to get up here and talk about an IRA or a 401K, but 100 years from now no one would understand anything about it.  There would be something different.  An IRA, as I understand it, is an individual retirement account.  I don't have one so I don't know any more about it than that.  I know that a lot of you people do have them and 401Ks, because we hear you talk about them.  The thing that I know about them, one little piece of information that I have is that you get out of them what you put into them.  I remember a man who was very upset one time because he was about to retire and he went in to check on his retirement account.  I'm not sure what type it was.  He wanted to find out how much he was going to get per month or per year, and it wasn't near what he thought it was.  He was really upset because for some reason he had been listening to someone else who was getting a lot; their retirement was going to pay off pretty big.  They were talking about how much a month they were going to have to retire on.  He had a 401k and they had a 401k and he thought that all 401ks were the same, so he thought that he would get the same amount.  He found out that he wasn't going to get near the same.  He had to hear those words, you get out of it what you have put into it.  He didn't realize that he had not been putting much into it.  Well, yes, he had gotten it started but he hadn't been very diligent about what he put into it and he didn't realize that when he went to take out of it, all that was there was what he had put into it as well as the interest and what it had earned of itself.

That is the parable of the sower and the seed.  You get out of it what you put into it.  II Corinthians 9:6, “But this I say, 'He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.'"  In this instance, the apostle Paul was writing these words, and he was just using an old saying. They were gathering for a collection for the Saints in Jerusalem that were having a famine; it wasn't for Paul and it wasn't for the ministry at all, it was for people that were having hardship.  Paul just reminded them that what you put into something is what you get out of it. He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.  It applies to so many things but it most certainly applies in a big way to this matter of spiritual life and the things that we have spiritually.  We get out of them what we put into them.  That is going to be true for every single one of us.

Most of us have some thoughts towards eternity.  For some, it seems further away than for others.  We talk about eternity being a wonderful place of rest and of peace and of joy and those kinds of things, and that is what it is intended to be, but how much of it that there is there for us is going to be very determined on how much we have put into it.  In respect to this, one of the questions that we talked about in the different places was what this 30, 60, and 100 fold is.  I'm glad that got people's attention, and it needs to, because maybe we are counting on 100 fold and maybe the account is more like 30.  Maybe we just woke up to the fact that I have been just going along at average doing what I could do and now later in life, say that you are in your fifties, that is getting pretty old, and you begin to think about that retirement a lot more.  You know, when I was in my twenties, serving God was a very necessary thing but I never looked at it in the light of eternity very much.  I felt that it was the right thing to do but there was so much to live in life that getting to Sunday morning meeting and Wednesday night Bible study, and if there was a gospel meeting around and maybe a few other things that were spiritually recognized, I thought I was doing pretty good.

When I begin to think of it now and in the reality that pretty soon I am going to be working from the other end of this thing, it won't be that long.  Well, I kind of want a big other end and I think everyone else does too.  Had we been thinking in those terms in the beginning of it and as we go along, so I find myself thinking, "I want to get as much as I can out of this."  Well, I don't feel like I have put as much into it as I could have in the past.  So, really I have no right to think that I can expect to get an awful lot out of it, can I?  So here I am now kind of in the middle of it, like maybe some of you are in your IRAs or 401ks, and I think maybe I should be putting more into it.  How am I going to do that?  This is a spiritual thing; you can't come to more meetings because we are not going to have any more gospel meetings than the two a week; besides, just going to meetings isn't what it is all about.

I started asking myself, "What I can find in the Scriptures that might bear out how I can put more into this?" because I am really convinced that that is the only way that I am going to get more out of it.  I found a verse, kind of an obscure verse, although I knew it was there. I have looked at it quite a few times throughout the years.  It is back in the Old Testament in the book of Haggai, a little short book of only two chapters.  Chapter 2:19, "Is the seed yet in the barn?  Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you."  Is the seed yet in the barn?  The Lord's people had gone through some pretty rough times up to this and He had sent His prophet by the name of Haggai to talk to them and to tell His people that He wanted to give them better things than this.  He actually prophesied to them that there would be rain, even the natural blessings that were promised to Israel, which are not promised to us today.  He said, "God has spoken good things toward you," and then at the end of it he said, "Is the seed still in the barn?"  OK, if God has said that He will prosper the land, how come you haven't planted the seed?  It doesn't matter how much rain falls on the ground if no one puts a seed in it, there is not going to be an increase.  There won't even be 30 fold.

What God wanted the prophet to tell His people was, "Yes, it has been a bad time but you brought that on yourself and I am telling you that it doesn't have to stay that way.  I will bless this land but you have to put the seed in the ground.  You've got it in the barn, where is it?  Is it still in the barn?"  Jesus, in the parable of the sower and the seed, made it very plain that the word of God is the seed. That is the seed right there.  You and I, we all have the seed.  It is recorded right here in the Bible, and we have it in our memory, we have it committed to our minds.  Is that the only place that it is?  Is it still in the barn?  If we want a better crop, we are going to have to plant more seed. He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; that is exactly what it says.  It also says that he that sows bountifully shall reap bountifully.  That is as simple as it gets.  It has been that way for thousands of years and it is going to stay that way.  That natural parable is going to keep its meaning for ever and ever.

So, I know this:  if I want a larger crop, then I am going to have to sow more seed.  That is the only way to get a better crop.  Now how am I going to sow more seed?  The seed is the word of God.  One little illustration appeals to me very much. Jesus taught, when He was asked by the Pharisees, “What is the greatest commandment of all time?  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and all thy mind and strength.”  OK, there it is, the first and greatest commandment:  love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  I think all of us believe that and probably all of us would say we are doing that and that we want that and that we are trying to do that, doing it with all that is in our power.  Well, maybe that will get us 30 fold.  But, I want more than that, so what am I going to do next?

How am I going to plant more seed, plant more of the love of God?  It is one thing to love God, but then Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Oh, that is a little tougher, especially depending upon your neighbors.  So maybe I want 60 fold so I will plant a little more seed and so now I will be loving my neighbor as myself.  I would like to think sometimes that I don't love myself but that isn't true.  So, if I am willing to plant that love of God with my neighbor also, maybe that will make 60 fold out of it for me.  Well if I can get 60 fold, I might as well have 100 fold.  Why not?  It is available.  If I am going to have a bigger crop then I am going to have to plant more seed.  I don't know if I can get more neighbors or not and I only have one God, so where am I going to plant more seed?  I don't want any seed left in the barn when my life is over.  I want to make sure that I have planted every single bit of it because that is the only thing that is going to do me any good.

Jesus also said, "Love your enemies and do good to them that despitefully use you."  Now wait a minute...... yes that is what He said; He taught that.  That is seed; it is the word of God.  It is seed for sowing, not for laying up in the barn.  Any seed left in the barn is not going to make any crop.  It is only seed that has been planted that makes any crop.  So, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; that is the word of God.  Love your neighbor as yourself; that is more of the word of God.  Love your enemies; that is more of the word of God.  I am pretty sure that if I can accomplish that then I will make 100 fold.  That just means to me that I have a lot of places to be planting seed.  It is one thing to take the seed out of the barn, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and another thing to take the seed of loving your neighbor out of the barn, but then look at this package of seed that says, "Love your enemies."  Am I going to plant that package too?

There are a lot of packages of seed - I call them packages, teachings of Jesus, specific teachings for human beings.  They are all seed, they are specific and they are all going to produce something.  You know, if all I want to eat is carrots because they grow easy, or radishes, then that is all that I plant.  If I really want a crop then I plant every seed that I have.  You know, we have a lot of seed.  Is it in the barn or is it in the ground?  It is one thing to have it in our mind and it's another thing to have it in our heart.  Jesus made it clear, in the parable of the sower and the seed, that the heart is the soil.  Now I am saying this - the brain is the barn.  You can store all kinds of stuff in the brain but it isn't going to do any good up there.

I remember the very first Gospel Mission that I willingly sat under, under my own accord; I was 19 years old.  There is not much that I really remember said from those meetings, but one thing that I do remember rather vividly to this day was that some people will miss a saved eternity by a mere 18 inches. I thought, "How in the world is that?"  Then he said, "The distance between the brain and the heart."  I don't know if that is the same in everybody; everyone doesn't have the same size neck, but that is approximate.  It isn't very far, is it?  It can be very hard to get it from the mind to the heart.  It is the same as getting it from the barn to the field.  I don't think that there is anyone in this room that is lacking in the word of God, in knowing what the word of God is.  I am sure that there are plenty of things in the word of God that you and I are unaware of, but there is so much more that we are aware of that we haven't done anything with yet.  So, there is one way that I know that I can increase this retirement account that I have.

Then I was thinking, "Is there any other way?"  There are probably many others that I don't know about. Hosea 10:12, “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."  I am not even very familiar with what all was going on in Hosea's day, what the Lord was sending him to tell His people about. But one of the things that He was telling these people was about good times ahead.  He was saying if you want good times ahead, sow to yourselves in righteousness and reap in mercy and break up your fallow ground.

I have gotten in on some of that naturally, breaking up fallow ground.  It is ground that has never been planted; in fact, it has never been plowed.  I remember when I was working for my uncles in the wheat farming part of Montana.  One of my cousins was taking over his dad's farm and I spent quite a bit of time with him.  Things were going pretty good in those days and I asked him about this piece of land that was across the highway.  I said, "You guys used to run horses over there," and he said, "Yes, but there isn't anything being done with it now."  I asked, "Why that isn't plowed up?  Why don't you rent that to me and I'll farm it?"  Oh no, he wouldn't do that.  They had not plowed that piece of ground forever; it was inconvenient; it was clear across the highway and it wasn't that big of a piece and it had a lot of rocks in it. But so did the rest of their ground.  He had all of these excuses for why he hadn't planted that ground.  Well, why don't you rent it to me and I'll break it up?  Oh no, and after harvest was over I left and it was two or three years before I got back.

It was after I was in the work that I got back, and it was all plowed up and planted.  I thought to myself, "I probably couldn't have gotten it done anyway and I didn't have the wherewithal, but that is what provoked him to realize what he was missing out on."  He had lots of farm ground and it was already broken up.  His dad had broken it up years and years before and he was content to just sow away and reap on the ground that was already broken up.  He had a lot of unbroken ground but it was too small or it was inconvenient or he didn't think it was good enough land.  But you know, when he began to make some profit on his place and someone else began to look at what it could be, he realized, "I am missing out," then he jumped in and got busy and he plowed it up and made something out of it.  That is fallow ground, and that is one way that we can increase our harvest in a big way.

How much fallow ground is there in our lives, ground that we have never allowed the seed to be planted on?  We have looked at that piece of ground in the past maybe and said, "Oh, it would be pretty hard to get that ready to plant."  There are a lot of obstacles there.  Places in our heart that we just really haven't allowed God to go.  Maybe we don't even want to go there very much ourselves.  A little analogy that I was thinking of about our service to God that might fit into this was, "I don't think that most of you folks are that way but we could fall into the trap of thinking that our service to God is what we are doing here right now."  We have come to this meeting and we are listening to the word of God, so that is giving some time to God.  In a sense that really isn't true; that is asking God to give us some of His time, is what it is.  We are just learning here what we can do something with later.  We could look at it like that is my service to God.  I read my Bible every morning for a little while or in the evening, whatever.  I pray in the mornings and evenings and that is my service to God.  Well, if that is the way that we think, that is the way that our life is geared that that is our service to God, now I have to get up and go to work and that isn't my service to God.

I have actually heard some men say, "Business is business, it is a hard old world out there and you have to do what it takes to get along or to get by."  Kind of what they were saying is you cannot take godliness into the workplace, no one is going to respect it, it isn't going to work and you are not going to be very successful.  I have seen people do that. Yes, they were content to be as godly as they could be when they were around the friends and those that were godly but when they would get into the workplace, well they just met the world with the world because they thought that that was the only thing that was going to work.  That was all fallow ground.  If they didn't take the seed into the workplace then that was fallow ground, ground that had never been broken up and worked.

The same with you kids at school - if serving God is just when you are at home, well, how much ground is getting left out?  You spend several hours a day at school or several hours a day at work.  If you are not planting seed there, there is no better place to plant the seed of loving your neighbor or even to plant the seed of loving your enemy; that may be where they are at, too.  Fallow ground, places where we just feel that we don't dare plant the seed there, I don't want to make any waves here, I know good and well if I start to break up this ground that there is going to be some rocks come up, there's going to be some things that are unexpected.  Well, probably so, but until you do, it is wasted ground. If you want a bigger harvest, you plant more seed and when you run out of place to plant more seed, break up more ground.  I am certain of this:  every one of us has a lot more ground to break up than we think and a lot more seed in the barn than we think.