Dear Loved One,
The other day, I was thinking back to the mid 1950’s, when Anna and I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana to plant a church. As I reflected on this time in our lives, the Lord brought to my mind a day Anna and I were driving around the city and discovered Johnny Appleseed Park.
In this park you’ll find the gravesite and a monument of Johnny Appleseed. Although I was familiar with his story, I came to really appreciate the accomplishments of this man that day.
You may be familiar with this true story, but may not fully realize its relevance for us today. John Chapman, nicknamed Johnny Appleseed, was born not long after the signing of the United States Constitution. While not much is known about his childhood, we do know that he worked in a cider mill in Pennsylvania as a young man.
It was there that he got a vision. He was aware that many people were moving West, and he knew that this migration was just beginning. So he started bagging apple seeds from the cider mill.
When he had amassed a large amount, he started traveling west and planting apple trees with the particular motivation that people would be coming that way over the years, and these apple trees would be fruit for them to eat.
This man had a vision for the future and, quite literally, sowed seed toward it.
John Chapman sowed more than just apple seeds, though. He was also committed to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. He was a strong believer, carrying a Bible with him and quoting Scripture regularly.
This great American legend reveals the truth of the biblical principle of seedtime and harvest.
Perhaps the most outstanding case study of seedtime and harvest in the Bible is found in Philippians. These people were ever ready to advance the harvest of the Gospel.
They were constantly sowing seed, whether of their time, service or resources, to support the Kingdom of God.
The truth about the harvest
In Philippians 4:10-18, Paul warmly affirms a specific opportunity they saw to sow seed that would advance the Gospel. Even though Paul was in prison in Rome, the Philippians knew the Gospel could not be chained.
A very special thing happened here, and, Loved One, there are times and situations to come in your life that the Holy Spirit will say, “Now here’s an occasion I want you to sow.”
Three things are very important when you believe you have heard a call to give. Firstly and foundationally, will you respond in obedience and faith to the voice of the Lord?
Secondly, determine if the soil is worth sowing into. Do you believe what you are sowing in will advance the harvest of the Gospel, which is the harvest of souls?
Thirdly, ask the Lord what He is specifically calling you to sow. That decision is based on what you believe about the principle of harvest.
You have not lost what you have given, nor do you have much less now. You have sown into something that God will resupply! Every time a seed is sown, something grows; and there is not only the harvest, but also seed for sowing again.
Just as Paul encouraged the Philippians, . . . ”I seek the fruit that abounds to your account,” (Philippians 4:17, NKJV) their gift set in motion the process of the harvest. They not only received the fruit of their harvest, but more seed!
Guilt: Never a worthy motive for giving
I distinctly remember God teaching me how important the motivation of my heart for giving was. I was driving back to Los Angeles after being away teaching for a period of time.
Periodically, people would give a love offering. I never would go with any requirements of such an offering, but this was an occasion in which the pastor had blessed our family with one.
I very clearly remember the amount. It was $168. As I drove back, with the envelope beside me, I began computing in my mind what to do with this money.
I thought, “Well, there’s $17 tithe and we’ll give this much offering,” and I was thinking of a couple of bills. Then I had an experience I had never had before in my life.
There was money left over that didn’t have to go to anything right then. I was 40 years of age, and I had never experienced not having to spend everything I had in order to make ends meet. I had $100 left over. It might as well have been $10,000!
Once I started trying to decide what to do with this money, I began to feel guilty. My reaction to that guilt was, “I’m going to give some to missions. I’ll just give some away.” This may sound very noble, but the Holy Spirit was checking me.
I immediately understood why the Holy Spirit was checking me, too. Not that giving some of the money would not have been something I would have done, but that giving out of guilt is not truly sowing, nor a worthy motive for giving.
Learning how to abound
There are two primary things I have personally learned about abounding. The first is, just because you begin to learn and even are very faithful, to abound does not guarantee you will never face another financial trail.
The second thing is, God brings us times of abundant resources for us to steward them wisely and faithfully under Him. He wants you to learn to “manage the farm right.”
It’s as though God says, “I’m the One that makes things grow, and I’m going to show you something about money.” But, you have to learn these opportunities are about growing in what He can do through you and the resources He has given you to steward.
When He finds people He can trust, then there comes the multiplying of possibilities of what He can do through them. You grow in learning to rightly respond to opportunities and situations. And He is faithful to provide the seed to sow.
Respond out of relationship
I am deeply concerned by the sad immaturity that characterizes the style and approach of a great deal of fund appealing in the Body of Christ.
It’s true that we need to get the Gospel out there while there is still time; but giving based on fear, guilt or desperation only goes so far. And people can only go so far living on those terms.
Sadly, a lot of people have become accustomed to this, and that is how they are stirred to give.
God designed and intends for our giving to be so responsive to His Word and the voice of the Holy Spirit that you sense and feel compassion and wisely see opportunities. Then you respond and sow in faith.
The beginning point of motivation should be understanding the Gospel and relationship with Jesus. When you remember the whole way the Gospel works, you realize that you are called to be willing to reach out, even though it is at your own expense, maybe even sacrifice.
As you sow, you will reap.
Beyond the foundational motivation of giving because we understand the spirit of Jesus, there is the ungrudging giving that facilitates our growth.
As 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Notice this verse doesn’t say how much to give, but to settle in your heart, not grudgingly or because you feel you have to. God loves a cheerful giver! The concept of cheerfulness is that there really is joy, true happiness in giving.
I’m always blessed by the testimonies our partners share with us about the blessings the Lord has given them, as they have sowed into His Kingdom. As we partner with God to help build His Kingdom and equip believers around the world, I am humbled and encouraged to know that the people sowing into this ministry, or any Kingdom endeavor, are reaping blessings.
Paul wrote to the Philippians to affirm to them when they sow, God will not only supply the seed, but the opportunities. That is true for us today, Loved One!
Be sure you are watching for those opportunities to sow! The Lord will say, “Here’s a Johnny Appleseed opportunity. Here’s your chance to plant for the future!”
When opportunities come I encourage you to say, “I’m not measuring by what I have or what I’ve done. I’m measuring by what the Holy Spirit says to me, and I’m going to sow seed according to His direction and provision.”
The Lord will bring opportunities for you to sow. Your harvest is up to how you respond.
Grateful for you,
P.S. We want to help you walk deeper into the things of God and experience His wonderful promises. Take a look at the information below for details on some resources I believe will help you better understand God’s purpose and plan for sowing and reaping.
Loved One, when opportunities come, I encourage you to remind yourself of God's promises and say, "I'm not measuring by what I have or what I've done. I'm measuring by what the Holy Spirit says to me, and I'm going to sow seed according to His direction and provision!"
You, or someone you care about, needs the key to unlock God's abundant blessings. So, in appreciation for your gift of $45 or more, we want to send you Pastor Jack's classic book, The Key to Everything: Experience the Freedom to Discover God's Purpose and his companion audio series of 5 messages, Freedom to Flourish.
As our living and loving Creator, God "richly gives us all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17, MEV). However, He has not tied that enjoyment exclusively to riches, but linked it to an even greater purpose and deeper experience.
Each of us face setbacks, conflicts, and relational tangles that confront us with a call: to forgive a friend, let go of a grudge, surrender our pride, or yield our desires to God. With these faith-filled resources, you’ll discover basic insights that reveal how the stewardship of your life involves growth and advancement through an attitude of release: one of giving.
The 5-CD set includes: The Foundations for Flourishing, The Master Key of Giving, The Kingdom Key of Tithing, The Enriching Key of Sowing, The Life-Discovering Key of Sacrifice