We Are Not Content Just to Sow

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

R. T. Kendall, pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, tells the story of a missionary to Africa who preached for twenty years without much success, though he often invited his hearers to come forward and confess Christ. Then one day he found himself in a place where genuine revival broke out. To his amazement, he witnessed people walking forward under great conviction even while he was preaching! What he had failed to get people to do for twenty years was now happening spontaneously!

The lesson: when the Holy Spirit is poured out in an extraordinary way, more people are converted in a day than in years and years of faithful labor. Note: I said “faithful” labor not “failing” labor! Only God knows how long a minister must sow before the reaping comes—or if he himself will have the privilege of doing the reaping. But if he sows and another reaps it may not be that the sower has sowed in vain.

Jesus said to the disciples in John 4:37f, “One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”

But should I be content to say, “I am a sower, another will reap”? No, not until my life is over. Then, if the reaping has not come, I will rest my life on this: One sows, another reaps.

But until then, I would be untrue to the command of Christ if I were content with merely sowing. He said, “Make disciples!” Not only that, I would be untrue to love. Love for people doesn’t just say, “Here’s the seed, take it or leave it.” Love pleads, love persuades, and love prays. Love prays until its dying breath for that extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit that we call revival.

At Pentecost three thousand people were converted in one day. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was present with extraordinary power (Acts 2:4) and Christ was preached with penetrating truthfulness. “When they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’”

In recent weeks at Bethlehem I have sensed some special stirrings of the Spirit. Half a dozen prayer cards have asked us to pray for unbelievers whom people are bringing to worship. Two testimonies told of recent converts through our people’s witnessing. Several letters tell of inner transformation through the word. Conversations tell of extended times in the word.

I personally experienced one of the most spiritually alive weeks of my ministry the week after I preached on Acts 1:8 when I asked you all to pray for me concerning the next sermon on how to seek the power of the Spirit. It was a strange mingling of joy in being loved by God (see Ephesians 3:17-19), and delight in the work of the ministry (see 1 Peter 5:1-3), and expectation that God is going to do something powerful among us (Ephesians 3:20).

Would you rededicate yourselves to earnest daily prayer for me and for the revival that may win more people in a day than we have seen in eight years together!

Sowing, and Praying to be a Reaper with you,

Pastor John