November 21, 2017

Expecting to Sow, Water, and Harvest

Thomas Overmiller

Nonbelievers must hear the gospel an average of 7.6 times before they receive it.

That’s what Bill Fay says in his book, Share Jesus Without Fear. Regardless of how he arrives at this statistic, I have to agree that most nonbelievers must hear the gospel multiple times before they embrace it. It’s hard to doubt that. Planting and watering are important elements in the evangelism timeline.

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:5-6)

When I present the gospel to a nonbeliever, I should not expect that they will always repent and believe the message. This is helpful thinking to me. In earlier stages of my Christian life, I sensed great personal failure whenever I presented the gospel to a nonbeliever and they rejected the message. Now I recognize that God knows the status of every nonbeliever, and He knows when the sowing and watering process is complete.

As helpful as this truth certainly is, I’ve found it equally helpful to recognize that I definitely should expect some nonbelievers to embrace the gospel message when I present it to them. According to John 4:35, the world field is white and ready for a harvest. And according to 1 Corinthians 3:6, God gives an increase just as assuredly as we are responsible to plant and water the fields.

With this in mind, I recognize my responsibility to be an expectant witness. Whether I’m building gospel-focused relationships with unbelieving neighbors and co-workers, reaching out to unbelieving relatives, preaching on a busy street corner, passing out tracts, or evangelizing door to door, I need to be expectant – expecting to sow, expecting to water, and definitely expecting God to give a harvest. It’s easy to humanly coerce decisions. It’s also far too easy to passively excuse a lack of harvest. To avoid either extreme as a laborer in God’s fields, I need truth that keeps my thinking in balance and faith that expects every aspect of what God promises.

Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

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