The law of sowing and reaping is as much a law of God’s universe as is gravity. The Bible uses this object lesson from the farm to illustrate a powerful truth: what you plant will grow exponentially when the harvest is ready.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7-8
Picture it this way – one seed of corn can produce an ear of corn produces 800 kernels on average. Imagine the amount of kernels that result from an entire field filled with corn seed. Now, imagine how each one of your thoughts and actions can quickly affect your habits, your character, your lifestyle, and even your destiny as you plant your “seeds” over the days, months, years, and even decades. Every Christian has opportunities to do good or to do bad. One action can lead to a lot of other actions, good or bad, intended or not intended. Every action we take in our lives is followed by another action (consequence). It’s the domino effect: one action will tip the first domino that sets in motion the fall of a multitude of other dominos.
Sow a Thought, Reap an Action
Every action or attitude that we do or have originates within our heart. It is the center of our thought life, and it motivates our will in each choice that we make. As creatures that have a fallen and sinful nature, our hearts are naturally deceitful and desperately wicked:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9
Our hearts are constantly attempting to persuade us that our motives are pure, that our intentions are right, and that our actions and attitudes are justified. It attempts to establish its own standard for righteous living, but the unguarded heart will quickly defile a person. Jesus commented on this dilemma in Mark 7:21-23:
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
The shocking truth is that these “evil things” are within the heart of us all! This long list reveals that the content of our hearts influence every area of life. Hence the exhortation of Solomon, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Note the first “thing” out of the heart of man: “evil thoughts.” The thoughts are the “seed” which will grow into an action. One’s thought life is so powerful, yet it is frequently overlooked as a part of the problem. The power to do good or evil lay first in one’s thoughts. If you can learn to control your thoughts, you will learn how to control your actions.
If you take no action to change your thoughts, you will do “what comes naturally.” The desire to be immoral, to be unfaithful in relationships, to feel hatred, to covet and steal, to lie, and to commit all kinds of other evil is the natural reaction of any sinful person.
However, if we are to keep our hearts with all diligence, then a renovation of our mind must take place. In Romans 12:2, Paul states that you can be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Consider this: if you decided to remodel your kitchen, you would remove the appliances, cabinets, and anything else that was in the way. You’d then install all the new materials to improve your kitchen like never before. This is exactly what happens to those who “renew their mind.” You must first get rid of the thoughts that don’t belong in the Christian life, and then you must install new thoughts that will lead you to godliness. Thoughts that “conform to this world” and its philosophies must depart (Romans 12:2), and thoughts which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy must come in their place (Philippians 4:8).
Sow an Action, Reap a Habit
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. – I Corinthians 4:2
A steward is someone who has been given responsibility over something that isn’t his own. As stewards of the life and liberties which God has given to us, we have a responsibility to be faithful to God. Moreover, as those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, we have an even more serious responsibility to give ourselves to Christ (I Corinthians 6:20, Romans 6:16).
As we perceive that our actions are beneficial, we will continue to practice those actions and eventually develop them into habits. Forming a habit is a lot like digging. If the shovel is the thought, the thrust is the action, the trench that results from the repetition is the result of the habit. Bad habits are hard to break, but so are good ones. You can have a habit of running every morning before work, or you can have a habit of smoking after each meal. Both are habits, but clearly one is better for you (that would be running, in case you’re wondering).
Taking a step in the right direction begins with the thought to do so. Taking that first step will lead to a second step. Over time, a habit will form.
Here is just a sample of some areas of life where God has called us to show faithful stewardship that can be areas of great struggle for many Christians:
•Bible reading – faithful, inconsistent, or non-existent?
•Prayer time – faithful, inconsistent, or non-existent?
•Church attendance – faithful, inconsistent, or non-existent?
•Loyalty in relationships – committed or untrustworthy?
•Reaction to argumentative or annoying people – kindness or criticism?
•Response to bad news – gracious or frustration?
•Actions following accomplishments – praise God or pride in your own worth?
How do you fare in each of these categories? Are there any areas that you would add to this list?
If some of the positive habits are not in existence or are inconsistent, it is because negative habits are currently taking their place. You will have to decide to stop doing the bad ones and to start doing the good ones.
Sow a Habit, Reap a Character
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. – Proverbs 22:1
Your habits will combine to determine your character, those traits which show the world where your heart really lies. Everyone has a bad day, but bad days don’t typically determine habits. Your character is who you have shown yourself to be over a period of time. According to Proverbs 22:1 (above), having a good name is a choice. Just like riches, its quality and quantity will be accumulated over time. How far does your character extend? How rich is your character? What would it take for you to compromise your principles, to falter on your integrity, to broker a dishonest deal, or to put aside your morality? Money, attraction, and fantasy can drive a person to compromise or abandon their principles and mar their character. As has been seen, it all starts with thoughts that lead to actions and habits.
Examine the lives of those on the below list. What character traits come to mind when you think of the character of these biblical figures?
Do the words integrity, faithfulness, uprightness, deceitfulness, hypocrisy, or vain come to mind when considering these biblical characters? The individual choices you make to tell the truth, to do right when no one else would know otherwise, to seek wisdom before making a decision, and to receive counsel from others are all actions that will build the base for your habits that form the “good name” reserved for those with godly character.
Sow a Character, Reap a Lifestyle
Have you ever tried to summarize your life in one sentence? How do you capture the conduct and character of a person in just one phrase? What you’re really trying to accomplish is to summarize what your life is really all about. The quality of your character will determine the theme of your life and the words of such a summary. Ponder these one-sentence statements summarizing the life of these biblical characters:
• Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 6:5)
• Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7)
• Abraham, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken” (Romans 4:18)
• Judas Iscariot, “who also betrayed him [Jesus]” (Matthew 10:4)
These statements are pithy yet powerful summaries of the character of these men. In no uncertain terms do we understand the content and make up of each person just on these statements alone. In some cases, they explain the entirety of the person’s life experience or point to the one outstanding feature of their life. These statements are these men’s legacies. What legacy will your lifestyle leave for those who are following your example? If you really want to find out, ask someone you trust to write out such a sentence. Are you prepared for their answer?
Sow a Lifestyle, Reap a Destiny
Those who followed Jesus and dedicated themselves to His teachings were characterized by one word: disciple.
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him… Matthew 5:1
A disciple was a learner of the Master Teacher. These people pledged their lives to the acceptance and application of His teachings. They were people of refined character forged by deliberate thoughts, actions, and habits. Given the rigors of such a lifestyle, Jesus understood that His learners could immediately outline how their lifestyle would cultivate a godly result. In His opening remarks of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains that his disciples could expect certain results throughout their life time. We commonly call these resounding statements “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:2-12). Note their lifestyle (e.g. the humble) as well as their destiny (e.g. receiving the kingdom of heaven).
• The humble (poor in spirit) – shall receive the kingdom of heaven
• The mourners – shall be comforted
• The meek – shall inherit the earth
• The seeker (those who hunger and thirst after righteousness) – shall be filled
• The merciful – shall obtain mercy
• The pure – shall see God
• The peacemakers – shall be called the children of God
• The persecuted – receive the kingdom of heaven
Those who are of base character and of tarnished lifestyles, their end will not be so glorious:
• The fool – shall see the destruction of their own house (Matthew 7:26-27)
• The backslider – filled with his own ways, his end is death (Proverbs 14:12, 14)
• The simple – are punished for their involvement in evil (Proverbs 22:3)
It is staggering to consider that the destiny of a person can begin with such a seemingly simple thought. Our thoughts seem so fleeting at times, and yet they reveal indications and warnings of where our lives could lead. As thoughts materialize into actions and attitudes, over time they morph into habits and become ingrained into our routine and manner of living. A character is solidified by such repetition, and we create a legacy and determine our own destiny – all starting with a choice to follow a thought to its desired end. How careful we must be when thoughts come into our mind. Such a little thing can yield an enormous result, just as one seed can produce hundreds of kernels. Let’s be careful to “sow to the Spirit” in order to reap eternal blessings rather than “sow to the flesh” and “reap corruption.”