"Sowing Seed And Saving Souls"
Donald R. Givens Growth Depends On Confidence And Trust In The Lord
If we are individual Christians and as local congregations want to grow, we must put our entire confidence in the Lord God and His gospel, and not in the passing promotions and sensational schemes of mortal men.
We must remember that if we are ON THE LORD'S SIDE — man cannot defeat us. The Lord has promised: "I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. So that with good courage we say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me?' " (Heb. 13:5, 6) Do you have this confidence? Do we possess this kind of good courage?
The scriptures tell us that David, the shepherd boy, was able to face the giant of the Philistines unafraid. They also inform us that Moses stood before the great splendor and might of Egypt and Pharoah with a courage that gave him victory. And the prophet Elijah challenged the evil priests of Baal singlehanded at Mount Carmel's contest.
Now, there was one characteristic that made these courageous actions possible, and that is the same characteristic that Paul spoke of when he wrote to the young preacher Timothy: "But thou, 0 MAN OF GOD..." (I Tim. 6:11) These were men of God! David was the slayer of Goliath; Moses was the mighty deliverer of Israel; Elijah was the victor at Mount Carmel's contest — only because they knew they were GOD'S MEN and they were doing God's work. These heroes of faith knew that the Lord had called them to the task and that He would provide the strength and wisdom to overcome all obstacles.
Something of this same conviction must characterize every holy child of God in the present age. Each Christian should stand before the world in full realization that he is a MAN OF GOD. He is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are God's men in a very real sense. The task we perform is not our own, but God's. And so the results accomplished are not really our own, but God's increase.
It is the sincere desire of many Christians to see the church of the Lord grow and prosper. But desire alone is not enough. We cannot "hope" or "wish" growth into existence; we must work and pray for it.
Now, we must have complete confidence and trust in the Lord and His Word. Therefore, brethren, in working in God's vineyard, instead of looking only at your own "numbers" or your own "resources" or your own "finances," ... take into account GOD'S POWER! Believe thoroughly in the POWER of the written Word. Paul said that the gospel is God's dynamite to save.
The sowing of the seed and the saving of souls is too big a task for us to do, but it is not too hard with the help of the Lord God. We can be Davids in the midst of many Goliaths. But there are always those who take the PESSIMISTIC attitude toward all endeavors. They say: "All bright days are in the past. The good ole days were a long time ago. Our work is just too hard. Why we are so small and the wicked world is so big. God's people are in a minority, so it is useless for me to even try." This is the language of the DEFEATIST. If you want to be sure to fail — then think and talk this way.
This is the "grasshopper complex." Do you know what the "grasshopper complex" is? It is the most deadly poison that can lodge itself in the body of Christ. It is the very same disease that affected the ten spies when they were sent to spy out the promised land. (They returned, you remember, with the evil report that "we were in our own sight as grasshoppers." Numbers 13:33) Now a grasshopper is not very big in comparison with most animals. It is exceedingly small, powerless, and weak when considered with the lion, tiger, or elephant. But this exactly describes the attitude some of my brethren have of themselves. "We are but grasshoppers; we are so few; so what can we do?"
BUT IS NOT GOD WITH US? As Joshua and Caleb replied, so we need to reply: "If God delight in us, then He will bring us into this land!" If God is our Father, how can we but keep from succeeding? Ancient cities were walled for protection, but God is our wall. The Lord tells us that HE will be our wall and will help us fight our battles. If we trust in the schemes of men to build up the church, we are trusting in nothing more than broken reeds and leaking cisterns.
But if we will place our whole confidence in the Word of God and roll up our sleeves and press into the battle, God will lift up our hands and give us the victory.
As Vance Havner has so very vividly said, we need to be "developing Davids" instead of trying to "grow Goliaths." I believe that maybe one of our main problems in confronting the wicked and perverse world is this: We are trying to GROW GOLIATHS instead of being busy DEVELOPING DAVIDS!
"If the Israelites had waited until they could grow a giant as big as Goliath, they would still be pitched by the Valley of Elah. Deliverance did not lie in that direction. The answer was not in growing a Goliath but in developing a David, and that is exactly what God was doing in the solitudes around Bethlehem. We are up against communism, materialism, unbelief, godlessness, and anarchy drawn up in battle array. Yet we are more interested in growing Goliaths than in developing Davids. We are spending our time studying Goliath's armor and how to duplicate it instead of studying the secret of David's sling and stone. My brethren, be not fearful of Goliaths who strut around in the camp of the Philistines, mocking the people of God. Be not embarrassed by those of our own number who try to match Goliath's armor or grow giants the size of the adversary. Throw away your inferiority complex. Get alone with God on some Bethlehem hill and come to an agreement. Then go forth with sling and stone, and let Saul keep his armor. Remember that 'the battle is the Lord's.' Then, `go, and the Lord be with thee.' "(I Samuel 17:37) (By Vance Havner; seen in many bulletins.)
How true is his point, brethren, "throw away your inferiority complex," you are on the Lord's side and victory is yours (Heb. 13:6).
Growth Comes Through Diligent Sowing Of The Seed
Jesus states in Luke 8: I I that the seed is the Word of God. The seed must be sown before one can ever expect growth (harvest) when there has been no genuine effort in sowing any seed. EVERY Christian is a "seed-sower."
No disciple is exempt. Every congregation ought to have as many "sowers" as it does "members!" You cannot "hire someone" to do your sowing FOR you, any more than you can hire someone to pray or worship FOR you. We cannot serve God by proxy.
We save our own souls as we try to save others. Christ has purchased us to be fruit-bearing branches (John 15: 1-8). My brethren, we are not "ornamental or shade trees." . . . we are fruit-bearing branches.
Are you diligent in your fruit-bearing? For example: suppose someone were to offer you $1,000 for every soul that you might lead to Christ. Would you get busy trying to sow the seed? Would you endeavor to lead any more souls to Christ than you are NOW endeavoring to lead? Is it possible that you would attempt to do for money, what you hesitate or shrink from doing now in obedience to a command of God? Is your love of money stronger than your love of souls?
What is your reply (and my reply) to the above questions? Does your conscience hurt as bad as mine? What are we individually going to do about it?
Many times a day the city fire department may rush to save some person's property. The ambulance rushes with sirens at full blast to save the precious lives of those injured in automobile wrecks. And when we, as the church of the Lord, act with the same sense of urgency — then and only then will we see GROWTH as God would have it.
God Expects Effort — Not Results
The Lord tells us to put forth diligent effort in soul-winning (II Tim. 4:2), but we leave the increase unto God (I Cor. 3:6, 7). We are to earnestly put forth the effort, and the results (of one nature or the other) will be forthcoming. You will not convert everyone you try to teach. Jesus did not and neither did Paul. In that great judgment day, the Lord will not say: "Blessed are the good and SUCCESSFUL servants," but "Blessed are the good and FAITHFUL servants."
Noah saved only himself and his family even though he preached earnestly for several decades. Only eight souls were saved in the ark. Was Noah a failure? Absolutely not. He did his work. He was a "preacher of righteousness." (II Peter 2:5)
No, Noah was not very "successful" insofar as mere numbers are concerned; but he was a faithful man of God.
Some of our strongest churches are few in numbers. Some of our weakest churches are made up of multitudes. Numbers alone do not necessarily mean strength. In time past, I preached with a very small congregation (averaging from 19 to 40 members) and I tried to encourage them in some assemblies by saying, "We have more here tonight than was in the ark!" But on one occasion, even that could not be said . . . we had seven present!
Nevertheless, my brethren, if we spend all our lives fervently sowing the seed, and all that we save is ourselves — we have still done that which it was our duty to do. It is ours to put forth the effort; it is God's to give the increase.
Therefore, do not become discouraged because so many reject the glad tidings of salvation. Look to yourself first of all to be certain that you are busy sowing the precious seed of the gospel. Remember that God's Word will not return to Him void but will accomplish that which He pleases and will prosper in the thing whereunto He sends it (Isaiah 55:11). You will not always be able to measure the good done. All "results" are not "visible."
Discouragement is the devil's device. If Satan can get Christians to come play in the playground of discouragement, then he can slide them down the slide of inactivity to the lake of fire and brimstone. Instead of being discouraged, Jesus admonishes: "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Jesus "preached a funeral over discouragement." Let us also take "discouragement," wrap it in the garments of death; conceal it in the casket of disuse; and lower it into the grave of abhorred things.
Keep the old Jerusalem gospel moving. Plow the ground of men's hearts and sow the seed and water the plant, and leave the increase to the Lord. Fill honest hearts with truth and people will obey. The dishonest hearts have already been sold to Satan. And above all and in spite of all, keep on keeping on!
In the words of a pioneer preacher: "Preach the gospel and be happy; and never say quit."
— 4349 Vassar, Port Arthur, Texas 77640