Paul’s positive promise for those who produce good without losing passion often gains attention only from the negative aspect, not the positive. We are more likely to hear, “God isn’t mocked,” because people are going to reap what they’ve sown to flesh than the emphasis on reaping what will remain alive forever. The apostle’s discussion really focuses upon, “You will reap if you do not lose heart.”
In the first phrase, “Do not become overwhelmed with the downside.” The term, ekkakeo, means to be overwhelmed with the downside, to lose heart or passion by emptying out or having nothing left to give, or in this case, if we stop sowing. The process of sowing to the Spirit, rather than flesh, maintained as a lifestyle, promises an accumulation of what cannot be diminished. Sowing in the Spirit is a lifestyle of SpiritFirst priorities that produces multiplication of spiritual things, but it also makes natural things acquire a “forever breath of life.”
In the second phrase, “harvest arrives in the due time if we do not let go,” the term is ekluó. We know the base word, luo, most commonly translated, “loose,” and the prefix adds the sense of succumbing, or letting loose what we should be holding on to.
We can allow harvest to slip through our fingers if we quit too soon, or become overwhelmed with the downside of sowing. When it comes to receiving full harvest, we must continue in full sowing, for both sowing and harvesting are lifestyle behaviors. We cannot simply throw seed on the ground once and wait around for future harvest: we must engage in a constant and consistent lifestyle of sowing in order to receive a constant and consistent return of harvest.
The Principle of Consequences
God will not allow Himself to be dismissed with disdain about this fundamental principle of His creation. “Sowing and reaping” cannot be stopped even if it is ignored or scorned. Making fun of the idea that there are consequences does nothing to alter the inevitability of what God designed into the universe.
What you do, say, think, believe, or “sow,” has consequences here and now. What you believe has consequences because produces attitudes – habits of thinking – and habits – behaviors that reflect 90% of human activity. Then, you will intentionally think and do by conscious decision the other 10% based upon beliefs, attitudes, and habits.
If you deny the consequence of what you believe, you must ultimately go back and change your beliefs. If you act upon your faith, you will harvest the consequences of your thoughts, words, and actions.
The consequences of which Paul speaks are not something left to the after life, heaven, the beautiful Isle of Somewhere, or the millennium. Paul is talking about a lifestyle of sowing and reaping that has consistent and constant cycles of payback.
Beware the tendency of many moderns to assume that God isn’t involved in accountability until the final judgment. Beware the unbiblical viewpoint of grace as a great cover up. Beware the equally unscriptural concept that the blood of Jesus covers instead of cleansing. Beware that mercy deals with God excusing away something when mercy is opportunity for cleansing and transforming grace!
On the other hand, beware the idea that you can produce nothing eternal, that all is futile and diminishing returns are the nature of this present time. While diminishing returns is the nature of the flesh, it is not the nature of the spirit! While the flesh is here and now, the spirit is also here and now. That is, beware the idea that, “laying up treasures in heaven,” speaks of something accumulated for only a future return when this Scripture and others promise that you operate in eternal life with an eternal kingdom to produce consequences that last forever.
Consequences are just for the future world or state of your life after death. Consequences, both good and bad, accumulate here and now. The payoff comes here and now.
The consequences return from seed sown according to his flesh or the spirit. The seed sown in this scenario is behavior of any sort but especially intentional action. While 90% of human activity might be attributed to attitude and habit, the intentional 10% that comes from that framework mindset and viewpoint best describes the most powerful sowing part of the process.
By that I mean, that we receive instruction designed to reset attitude and habit to purpose so that the whole of life sows to Spirit, not our flesh, so even our unintentional activity sows to the Spirit. We can reap things we never intended when we sow what we never intended to sow, because we sow without clear, deliberate intention, living passively, or without clear purpose.
Consider the immediate context, in which Paul says, “The one being instructed in the word take a share now with the one instructing in all the good that this produces.” From this Paul mentions “producing good” and the “shareholder relationship” between the verbal instructor and the verbally instructed.
Consider that Paul is saying, “Someone is sowing into you, so you should sow into them because the greater harvest that’s produced in this should be a shared harvest.”
First, this is natural: “Having sown spiritual things into your lives, is there overreach to receive natural things from you? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”
But it is more than this: The shareholder process encompasses the entire life because it is a lifestyle of sowing and reaping. The consequences of putting into practice what is coming into your life as spiritual seed will include natural giving, but the greater context is that your submission and obedience – that is, sowing the instruction as behavior and lifestyle – reaps an accumulation of spiritual things that do not decay.
The Principle of Sowing
You receive seeds every day as input into your life from natural and spiritual sources. The seed in your hand can be sown into your own flesh or into the Spirit. If I sow to my own flesh, I reap something that continually diminishes and demands more and more seed, and I consume the seed instead of receiving back seed from my sowing. If I sow to the Spirit, I reap something that does not diminish but rather remains forever alive and I increase my supply because the seed remains alive in me, producing over and over, increasing seed available for sowing.
I become an instructor myself without losing anything of my harvest! I take my share of the process, and I share with my leaders, eternal accumulation.
If a person sows to his or her flesh, they gain all they will ever receive at that moment of sowing because the seed itself is all they can expect in return. They suffer from the law of diminishing supply and require a continual consumption of what should be producing increase. They can receive and receive and receive and remain needy because their sowing and reaping lifestyle is completely contained within themselves.
For example, we have had people here in this international ministry that serves tens of thousands of people every month, receive the very same seed that tens of thousands of other people receive, yet they sowed that seed into their own selfish consumption. They ate and ate but they did not share in submission and obedience what they were receiving. Instead, they failed to produce the consequences of what was sown into them in a harvest of spirit. And, after years of receiving, their harvest of better living, thinking, and behavior did not arrive.
Today, they are worse than they were; yet tens of thousands of other people submit and obey the same word and immediately produce bushels and bushels of transformation. They failed to apply the word to their lives, and complained that they were not receiving enough from us, that we were failing them as leaders, while the words they were receiving were the same life-giving seed that tens of thousands of other people embraced with joy as received immediate life-change.
These people now continue to seek seed for consumption, clouds without rain, they consume the same diet that produces harvest in others, but they lose heart immediately about the application of seed to the consequences it produces. In other words, they refuse to submit and obey the consequences of the seed, and demand more and more seed instead of producing accumulations of harvest from new thinking and behaviors.
Today, you have lunch with them after service, and you ask them about their lives, and they will immediately report that this international ministry failed them.
Yet, you could have lunch with two hundred people every day for the rest of your life – do you hear what I’m saying? – two hundred people every day for the rest of your life who receive the very same word and they would weep with joy to testify of life change with honor and a heart to maintain a share with us in this kingdom assignment.
The principles of sowing in his or her own flesh versus sowing in the Spirit means that spiritual things can produce natural consequences when sown in the Spirit but spiritual things consumed by flesh return conditions that continually diminish until the seed becomes nothing more than roughage.
Like the Israelites eating the food of angels but crying for quail. Eating manna kept them from disease and produced strong health, but eating quail brought death to tens of thousands because the diseases from which they were protected came upon them when they sowed the seed to the flesh instead of the spirit, so to speak.
The issue may not be the seed, if you are experiencing a diminishing harvest. The issue of sowing comes by whether you consume the seed or sow the seed into the Spirit by taking your share of submission and obedience to what the word instructs you to think and do.
The Principle of Reaping
In either case, the key to harvest for what is sown in the Spirit is sustained sowing: keep on sowing the seed into the Spirit and the accumulation of spirit increases within your life. You can, however, get overwhelmed with sowing, lose your passion in pursuing the application of what you are receiving, and take a break from the Spirit to consume. Your harvest can slip through your fingers no matter how great the instruction or how wonderful the spiritual sowing if you cannot sustain that process. If you stop sowing, you forfeit your accumulated harvest.
I recently heard fourteen leaders of churches, the entire group of leaders who spoke to me, and there are many more who’ve yet to share their testimony, lead more than thirty thousand. Each of them shared how their lives and leadership grew exponentially from the leadership this international ministry sowed into them through prophetic and apostolic words, teaching and instruction, impartation and anointing. Given what we know about other leaders, we could estimate, very conservatively, that accumulated harvest from this sowing and reaping influenced and impacted hundreds of thousands of people!
Yet, right here in this house today, I tell you with all seriousness, a greater harvest awaits those who continue to sow the seeds into their lives without being overwhelmed by the downside – “Do not grow weary in producing good with the seed sown into you that you are sowing into the Spirit” – for you will reap full harvest in the right time if you do not drop your grip or let loose of that harvest.
The principle of reaping comes back to the phrase, “God will not allow Himself to be mocked.”
Those who have left this house in dishonor toward me and the leaders, sowing the seed to flesh – and I speak from our experience to illustrate the principle that applies universally – forfeit their harvests and receives decay and diminishing supply on the principles that would have built maturity, expansion, and leadership into their lives. Only those who have submitted and obeyed another source of seed, and to the level that seed has for harvest, are one bit better off for their dishonor.
When you share with me in this international assignment, you receive seed with the potential for harvest at that level, and you face the next level of what drains you and what presses you to let go, and the opposition is high, but you also stand in field of harvest that touches hundreds of thousands of lives and leaders. You harvest is great if you continue to sow to the Spirit!
The Principle of Spiritual and Natural Harvest
Beware any tendency to separate your body from your soul and spirit as if your body has any “stand alone” possibilities. Separating the body from soul and spirit is called “death.” So, always embrace your body as God’s Temple and the integration of spirit and natural as redemptive: what is real in the spirit influences what is real in the natural.
Paul says, “Having sown spiritual into you, are we not entitled to reap naturally from you? The Lord designed and directed that those that preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel.” Of course, we know Paul was supporting himself in the very situation he was writing about, but the principle is what we should see here: a designed and direct correlation between spiritual and natural sowing and reaping.
If we sow first to flesh, we never get the harvest of life. If we sow first to the Spirit, we guarantee a harvest in both spirit and natural life.
Notice Jesus says, “If you pray to be seen and heard, you have receive the reward of that prayer.” You can only get attention from men. “If you give to be seen and celebrated of men, you have emptied the reward from your sharing.” You can only get praise for your giving. “If you fast in a way that demands respect for your religious performance, the fast is already earned you all it can give.” You can only get respect for your fast.
Sowing to his flesh, the praying, giving, fasting man harvests a decayed and diminished consequence. Sowing to the Spirit with prayer, giving, and fasting, however, sowing SpiritFirst, produces the greatest harvest from the seed and that harvest lives forever, accumulating as treasure in the heavenlies, fully available for never-ending supply in the natural!
Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?”
He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
Peter said, “We’ve left what is ours to follow you.”
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
“In this life you will be repaid many times more [continual harvest],” Jesus says, “and life eternal will continue in the next age.”
You have to sow natural to the spirit in order to receive what is forever alive, but the harvest is both natural and spiritual. If you sow to the flesh – and I am not equating flesh-man with natural man – your consumption producing the need for more consumable seed with no accumulating harvest. If you sow to the spirit, you harvest will accumulate in the spirit and produce a natural increase in this life but the spiritual aspect that produces the natural increase will live even after that natural world is gone!