John 4:35-38 MKJV Do you not say, It is yet four months, and the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white to harvest already. (36) And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit to life eternal, so that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (37) And in this is the saying true, One sows and another reaps. (38) I sent you to reap that on which you bestowed no labor. Other men labored, and you have entered into their labor.
The Samaritans are flocking out to see Jesus, an “easy” revival as the woman’s testimony crystallizes a growing realization that the time for their Messiah had come. Two illustrations from my studies in Chemistry may help here. The first is a super-saturated solution in which a single speck of the crystal can precipitate a shower of crystals. The second is an acid-base titration (where you add acid to a beaker containing alkali and litmus indicator) when after many drops a point of sudden change is reached and a single drop turns the solution from basic to acidic, and the litmus from blue to red. That single bit of crystal added that causes the crystals to form is just a speck of dust and the single drop of acid that causes the change is just another drop of acid. Even though they “cause” great changes they are quite insignificant in themselves. They are no different to the previous crystals or the previous drops of acid that went in from the burette.
So it is with evangelism, many laborers add their “drop of acid” to the solution and bit-by-bit they accumulate and change things until one last “drop” of prayer or witness is added and the revival comes. In such cases “One sows and another reaps”.
We labor in fields where many have labored before. Beside me I have Leon Morris’s excellent commentary on John, and a Greek New Testament and Reinecke’s Linguistic Key to the Greek NT and other such books. People much smarter that I have done the hard work and I just turn the pages and read the footnotes. I am a midget standing on the shoulders of giants.
We should not neglect the great work of the Reformers or the Church Fathers or the great theologians who have mined God’s Word as best they could and presented us with much truth for us to then build on.
Jesus built on Moses and the prophets, Peter built on Christ, as did Paul, Augustine built on Paul, Luther and Calvin built on Augustine; Wesley built on the Reformers and so on until today. So when you pick up a work such as Millard Erickson’s Christian theology is a compilation and condensation of tens of thousands of great minds prayerfully thinking about God for over two thousand years. But the foundation for all is Christ.
Thus, with the exception of pioneer missionaries, it is almost impossible for anyone to point and say “these are my fruit alone, the result of my labors”. For instance I cannot say that your spiritual growth is solely the result of reading Eternity-DBS, you have pastors and friends and disciplers and prayer partners and family members who may have all had a very significant impact on you. If a particular devotional ministers to you powerfully it is just “another drop of grace” that fell at the right time.
We are all co-laborers for your growth – me, your pastor, your prayer partners and so forth, we all serve you and want to see you become like Christ, we are yours and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. One plants, another waters, and yet another gets the harvest. Together we all contribute to the glory of God and we can all rejoice together in your edification.
Thus there should be no rivalry in the Kingdom for we are all contributors to the one great process. One convicts of sin, the other leads to Christ, yet another follows up yet all should rejoice in the salvation of the sinner. Paul said, “I did not come to baptize” – yet many think that baptism is where the most glory is. Paul preached the gospel but let others do the baptizing. He knew his place in the process of the Harvest.
We are all part of the grand process of Christ being revealed in His Church to the glory of God. If God has you pastoring a small church in a remote area, you are still as much a part of the glorious process as an evangelist such as Billy Graham. Simply be faithful to your calling, which is all the Lord asks.
There are some places on earth that are truly white unto harvest – such as Mozambique, and others that are stony ground – such as Georgia. We should deploy the most laborers where the harvest is greatest. Too many laborers are working in the diminished harvest of Europe and North America and few in the great harvest fields of Asia and Africa.
It is always good to keep the process of the Harvest in mind, it keeps us humble and it helps us to persist when the going is tough, knowing that we shall reap if we do not grow weary.