I love the books of Timothy and while I am still exploring the concept of Flourishing, I was reading 2 Tim 2:1-7, where Paul is exhorting Timothy to be strong in the Lord and in the work that he is doing. He uses three images to point out a life attitude to Timothy: soldier, athlete and farmer. In the passage Paul says that a believer is like a farmer: (verse 6 AMP)
The hard-working farmer [who labors to produce crops] ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
Right from creation, we know that Adam and Eve were farmers (Gen 1:29) and God speaks to his people using farming analogies throughout scripture. (Deut 11:13-15) The most interesting thing about the farming metaphor, is that just as tending your field and waiting for rain, results in a harvest, so too in the spiritual life:
God’s word will bring an eternal harvest in the lives of those who tend their hearts and absorb the rain.
Meditating on farmers, I have 10 insights to share with you:
1. The farmer works the soil: Jesus in the Parable of the Four Soils (Matt 13) talks about Preparing the soil of our hearts. He makes it really clear that He is speaking about the spiritual condition of our hearts and whether our hearts are ready to receive the seeds of the Word of God. It is clear that for a farmer: the sowing of seeds is just as important as the preparation of the soil.
We are responsible for our own hearts, and the condition of our hearts. We are responsible for preparing our hearts for the Word of the Lord. It requires that our soil be prepared, ploughed, fertile, ready, protected from birds and weeds. Preparing our hearts is a spiritual work of farming.
We are responsible for the receptiveness of our hearts to God’s teaching and this implies that we determine to a great extent the spiritual harvest in our lives.
2. A good principle for life is that hard-work has its own reward, and no more relevant is this than: “a farmer deserves a harvest for his work.” Going right back to Genesis, we see that God appointed that seed time will be followed by harvest, and in Galatians 6:7 we are warned never to be deceived and think that sowing will not produce a harvest. The words are:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
- Notice who does the sowing, the farmer does the sowing, to please the Spirit. It is not God that sows the seed into our hearts, He makes it available to us, and provides it, but we sow it into our hearts.
- Who causes the seed to grow: the Lord! He promises to provide the rain. (Job 5:10; Acts 14:17, Heb 6:7, James 5:7). Notice (pay special attention to this) that the farmer through prayer has an influence on the rain (James 5:17-18)
- Who reaps what they have sown? – the farmer.
3. A farmer often tends to work in isolation, he has to be willing to work alone without any external recognition for the sowing, cultivating and harvesting work that is being done. Farming is a life-long commitment. It requires personal discipline, daily effort and perseverance not always observed by others. Farming can feel dull and boring, very everyday, with no real companions, but then again, so can life!
4. The farmer practices contentment, first, to work, and, then, to wait. More than any other workman, the farmer has to learn that there are no such things as quick results or quick fixes. God usually works little-by-little, step-by-step, moment-by-moment.
5. A farmer is prepared to work anytime and long hours – In the harvest time we can see farmers at work in their fields, even till midnight, as long as light is left. The farmer knows no hours and neither must there be a time limit to the task of spiritual farming in our own lives. Farming, just like spiritual growth is a day by day growth, not a sudden burst of activity, followed by days of neglect. It takes diligent labor to bear fruit in eternity.
6. The farmer farms … to harvest. All of his work and effort has a harvest in mind. He expects fruit. As much as we understand that God expects us to be fruitful in our lives, we need to expect to be fruitful as well.
Gal 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We should expect to see this kind of fruit being produced in our lives.
“Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matt 7:17-20)
Our fruit indicate the type of farming we have been doing in our spiritual lives, how well we have ploughed, planted, cultivated in order to produce fruit. People can tell the quality of our spiritual farming, by the fruit we produce.
7. There may be times that the harvest seems to have failed, and all our efforts of farming are not producing the harvest we are expecting (a little bit like parenting I think). But the Lord is sovereign over the harvest. We cannot determine the size of the harvest; we merely determine the size of our sowing. It is dangerous to be so focused on the harvest, that we are not mindful of just doing the work of a farmer. The Lord is the one who provides the rain and determines the timing and the size of the harvest. A Farmer, recognises the sovereignty of the Lord.
8. The farmer is the first partaker of the fruit that is produced in his life. You are the first that benefit from the work of the Spirit in your life. If you have planted and cultivated truth and right living in your life, you will be the first to harvest the blessing of a life lived on truth and righteousness. If you have planted a giving heart, you will receive. If you have planted patience, people will be patient with you. If you have planted encouraging words, you will receive encouraging words. If you have planted faith, you will harvest from faith.
9. A farmer experiences the joy of harvest, which is so much more than a financial reward. It is also the secret joy of trusting in God’s providence and then experiencing His constant goodness. It is this “joy of the Lord” that is the farmer’s strength.
10. The farmer does not just farm for himself. The nature of the harvest is that there is more than enough for the farmer and his household, which makes it available to others. Gods work in our lives is never just about “me, us and mine”.
God always has others in mind and if there is a harvest of fruit in your life, it is not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others too.
Lord teach me to be a farmer in my spiritual life, to be constantly about the business of bringing about a harvest in my life. I know Lord that my spiritual life translates into my physical life, so help me to mind my activities of farming in my spiritual life, so that I can see a harvest of blessing in all areas of my life. I confess that I have not had the attitudes of a farmer in my life, instead I have been impatient and neglectful of my duties to sow for a harvest. I know Lord, that Your Kingdom works on the principle of sowing and reaping, help me to start putting seed in the ground. Help me to look to the Lord of the harvest for the rain and to wait patiently until I see my harvest.