Billy Graham - Sowing and Reaping
Tonight I want you to turn with me to a very familiar passage of scripture to all of you, and that is found in Romans the first chapter, and the 17th verse, and then I want us to turn over to Galatians, the sixth chapter, where in the book of Galatians the apostle Paul is explaining what he meant in the 17th verse of the first chapter. And this was the verse that shook all of Europe, a little over five hundred years ago, when it was discovered, and it was revealed to him in a powerful way to Martin Luther. The first chapter of Romans , the seventeenth verse: "And therein is the righteousness of God revealed, from faith to faith. As it is written, the just shall live by faith". The just shall live by faith. Not by our own goodness, not by our own works, but by faith. "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast".
Then we turn over to Galatians, the sixth chapter. What a marvelous chapter this fifth chapter is, and the sixth chapter. And the sixth chapter has something I want to speak on, and I've never before preached a sermon on this text. Beginning with verse seven: "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 everlasting life".
I want to speak tonight on sowing and reaping. I noticed as we came in, the lush farmland that's here in this Red River Valley. I guess there's nothing quite like it in the United States. I used to come to Fargo quite often, stop here at Fargo, Moorhead, you couldn't get to Winnipeg without stopping on Northwest Airlines here, on a DC-3 back in the forties. We used to go back and forth to Winnipeg a lot. And we stopped here a lot. And I would see this country and often marvel at its lushness and congratulate you and your grandparents and parents that came here and settled here, because this has become one of the great areas of the entire United States.
I was born and reared on a farm, and I've read about families that have been losing their family farms, and I was reared on a family farm. And I remember the days back in the twenties and the thirties, back during the depression when my father would look for rain, and we would pray for rain. And we raised wheat and barley and grain. We didn't have sugar beets, but we did raise other things that would be familiar to you. Then my father had what he called the truck farm, where he raised vegetables. And then we had dairy cattle, and we milked. And every morning from the time I was about seven or eight, I had to get up at three o'clock and go milk cows. And when I was in high school, I milked twenty cows every morning before I went to school, and milked those same twenty when I came home from school. So I knew a little bit about farm work.
Now, I believe that there in the Bible, there are five laws in sowing and reaping. First, you must sow to reap. In China, two thousand years old seed were taken from an ancient tomb, and they're sprouting today and growing tomatoes, even though they were sown two thousand years ago. But it wasn't until they were sown that they could produce a crop for reaping. We have to sow to reap. Now in Hosea it says, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness". Think of it: sow in goodness, sow in righteousness. "Reap in mercy". If you sow in righteousness, living a good life, putting your faith and your confidence in Christ, you are going to reap the mercy of God and the grace of God and salvation. "For it is time", the scripture says, "To seek the Lord, 'til he come and reign righteousness upon you".
Has righteousness reigned upon you? Because unless you are clothed in the cloth of the righteousness of God, you'll never enter heaven. And that suit of clothes, or that dress, of righteousness was provided by the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for you. We have a cross on all of our churches, whatever our denomination may be, we agree on one thing, that the cross is the central fact of Christianity, and it's on the cross that Christ hung for our sins and died for us, and provided for us a righteousness that you cannot provide for yourself. In Psalm 126:5 it says, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy". Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross in tears, as it were, so that we might have the joy of salvation.
Now if you want to become a lawyer or a doctor or a scientist or a professor, you have to spend years of study. You sow study, and you reap professionally. There was a hillbilly from the south who felt lost at Times Square in New York. So he asked a young fellow with a long beard, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall"? Snapping his fingers, the bearded man replied, "Practice, man, practice"! And to be a great musician like Pavarotti, you have to practice passionately and perpetually. You reap excellence if you sow effort. But you have to sow in order to reap.
Have you been sowing in good deeds? Have you been sowing in repentance? Have you been sowing in faith? Have you been sowing in Bible reading and prayer and church going faithfully? Have you been sowing so you can reap the grace and the mercy of God? Or have you been sowing the wild oats that so many people sow? Or been sowing things for your own lust and your own pleasures? And you're going to reap someday that which you have sowed.
And then the second thing: if you sow, you will reap. Every person is a sower and a reaper. Now the Bible teaches that Satan is a deceiver. And in Galatians six it says, "Be not deceived". Many of you are already deceived. "He that soweth to his flesh", that is lust, drugs, wrong kinds of sex, too much drink, "Shall of the flesh reap corruption". In Proverbs 6 it says, "A wicked man soweth discord, therefore shall his calamity come suddenly. Suddenly shall he be broken without remedy". The Bible warns that if we continue that kind of life, we will be broken. We're going to reap what we sow.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his "The Reaper and the Flowers" says, "Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small". You remember Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, and he killed his brother in a fit of jealousy and rage, and became the first murderer. And that was the first war. And that took place in paradise. Many people say, "Oh, if we only change society. If we make the world better. If we spend more money. If everybody had everything they wanted, we would produce a new man".
This is what Marx taught. This is what Lenin strongly believed. He has great ideals. He believed that they would ultimately produce a new man, but we've lived long enough now to know that it has not produced a new man. The only person that can produce a new man is the one that said, "You must be born again". It doesn't mean really "Born again", it means born from above, born by the Spirit of God. Just as you were born into the physical world, and from your mother's womb, you must be born into the spiritual world, and so in one sense, it's being born the second time.
The third thing is, you will reap what you sow. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". In numbers 32 it says, "Be sure your sin will find you out". Be sure! Your sin! And we're all sinners. I'm a sinner: you're a sinner. The Bible says, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God", and "Sin" means the breaking of God's law. The breaking of the Ten Commandments. And the Bible says, if you break those commandments in one place, you're guilty of all.
And we're all sinners, and we've broken all the commandments. We all need the mercy and the grace and the love of God. Be sure your sin will find you out. Every sin that has ever been committed is going to be found out either in this life, or at the judgment. Somewhere, sometime, every little sin that you've committed, and every big sin, will find you out. Because you remember the tapes back in Watergate days? And what they did to a president? God has tapes, far more sophisticated. Not only does he record all of our actions, but all of our thoughts, all of our words, all of our intents, are recorded. And you may deny it at the judgment, and say, "God, it just didn't happen that way..." He's got it all there. He has every moral choice you faced and he has the road that you took. You'll reap what you sow.
In Job 4 it says, "They that plow iniquity and sow wickedness will reap the same". You're going to reap. Everything that you sow, you'll reap. I read in Time Magazine a review of a book entitled, "Wild Oats", and some people live by the philosophy that you sow your wild oats all week, then go to church on Sunday morning and pray for a crop failure. It's not gonna be that way. The crop is going to come in. And how many of us go to church and we really don't know Christ? I did.
I was reared a Presbyterian. And I was baptized, I was confirmed in the church. And I thought everything was all right. I thought the minister was a little bit boring. I didn't particularly like going to church, but I went because my parents told me to go. And if you knew my father, you know you'd go if he told you. But I really didn't have Christ in my heart. I didn't have assurance. I didn't know that if I died, I'd go to heaven. I wasn't sure of that. I wasn't certain that my sins had been forgiven. So one day when they had an evangelistic meeting, I went forward, and received Christ into my heart, and recommitted my life to Christ.
And I remember the things I promised those elders when I met with them at the time of confirmation. And I said, "Lord, I'm going to recommit my life to you. I'm going to surrender to you. I'm not sure where I stand, but I want to be sure". And that simple decision changed my entire life. But life doesn't always work that way. In Proverbs 28 it says, "He that covereth his sin shall not prosper, but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy". God is willing to have mercy upon you. He's willing to bestow his grace upon you. He's willing to forgive you, if you're willing to repent of your sin and receive him.
You see, the Bible says that sin is no respecter of persons. In James 1 it says, "Every man is tempted when he's drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished, brings forth death". And that death is not only natural death, when your body dies, but you can be dead right now where you're sitting, spiritually dead. You're dead toward God. That's the reason people can't find peace and joy and happiness today. They search for it, they want it, but they can't find it. You can't find it in drugs. You can't find it in an extramarital affair. You can't find it any other place. Oh, you can have a temporary time. You can get drunk and go out with some girl and have a good time for a while. But it soon wears off, it's gone.
I had a bishop, we've had a number of bishops, but one bishop in particular, who came forward in our meeting. An Anglican bishop, in England. And later, I saw him privately. And I said, "Bishop, why did you have to come forward"? He said, "I've been to the university, I've gotten my degrees, and I've been to the theological school and all the rest, and I'm now in my fifties and I'm a bishop, but I am not sure where I stand before God and I just wanted to make sure".
Do you feel that way? You can make sure tonight, before you leave here. And then the fourth thing, the ignorance of what you are sowing won't keep you from reaping. Leviticus 19:19 says, "Thou shall not sow thy field with mingled seed". The Bible teaches that when the good seed of the Word of God is sown, the devil comes along and sows tares. Jesus said, you can sow, or allow to be sowed in your life, to the devil, and you'll reap hell. The devil, for thousands of years, had been issuing an invitation to hell to all of those who sow to the sins of the flesh, to those who permit Satan to sow tares in their lives. Come to Christ now. Give him your life. On the cross, Jesus Christ conquered Satan and hell and sin.
And in I John 3:8 it says, "He that committeth sin is of the devil. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil so that we might live the life after Christ". I John 4:4 says, "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world". Christ comes to live within you and gives you a new power to live a life that you never dreamed you could live. And he produces within you love and joy and peace and satisfaction and fulfillment that you never knew before and he puts you on the right road, because Jesus said there are two roads of life: the broad road that leads to destruction, and the narrow road that leads to life everlasting. And then fifthly and lastly, you will reap more than you sow. Hosea 8:7 says, "They have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind". John 4:36 says, "He receiveth wages that reaps".
Charles Reade wrote a century ago, "Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny". Lord Macaulay, the great historian, once wrote: "Old men reap". Someone was showing a clergyman through one of the prisons the other day in the east, and they saw an old man sitting there weeping. And they asked the warden, "What is he doing"? And the warden replied, "He's reaping". And that's where many of us are going. We're going to a place where we're going to reap. We've been sowing all these weeks and months and years, and we think we're getting by with it.
Our conscience no longer bothers us, why? Because the Bible teaches that you can harden your conscience. You can cause it to become dead. It no longer speaks. It's no longer an accurate guide for you. Come to Christ and he'll resensitize your conscience. A hundred million people die every year. Two hundred and seventy million die every day. Ten thousand people die every hour. 180 die every minute. Three die every second. And you will be one of those statistics one of these days. Are you ready to meet God? The Bible says, prepare to meet God. Jesus said, "The dead shall come forth: they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation". Two crowds.
You say, "Well, Billy, what do I have to do to make sure, to make certain"? Many people want to be sure but they don't know what to do. First, you must repent of sin. The word "Repent" means to turn, to change, to change the direction of your life, to change your mind. You change your mind about God, you change your mind about yourself and your need of God. And you go home ready to change the way you treat your wife, or your husband, or your parents, or your children, or your neighbors, or the people you work with. You're ready for a change.
Second, you put your total confidence and your total faith in Christ alone. You're not depending on anything else for your future salvation except the cross and the resurrection of Christ. "For by the grace of God are you saved". The word "Grace" means unmerited favor, something I don't deserve. Billy Graham doesn't deserve to go to heaven. I deserve to go to the judgment, I deserve hell. But I'm going to heaven by the grace of God. By Christ who died on the cross and said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me"? And in that terrible moment, something happened that none of us really understands. God laid on him the sins of us all. Jesus became the great sin bearer. He died for us.
Then he comes into our hearts and he gives us a power to do good works, and we go out with a burden for our neighbors, a burden for peace in the world, a burden to help the hungry, to feed the poor, to help the poor. That's our responsibility as believers. But we don't have the power to do the things we ought to do or to live the life we ought to do, but Jesus Christ gives it to you. He rose again, and we reap eternal life, forgiveness, peace, joy, love. The power of the Holy Spirit comes within, eternity in heaven.
We sang the song a moment ago, "Amazing Grace". Do you know the story of that song? It was written by a slaver, a man by the name of John Newton, and John Newton became the slave of a slave in West Africa. One day, when he was coming back to England on the slave ship, and treating the slaves miserable and terrible, they had a thunderstorm, and he fell on his face, and he remembered some scriptures that his mother had taught him when he was a boy, and he received Christ into his heart and it changed his life.
And he went back to England and became a great friend of those who were to someday lead the fight against slavery in parliament and did more to help, probably, than any other person, motivate the British people toward outlawing slavery. He himself became the minister of an anglican church. He himself wrote many hymns. And that was one of the hymns he wrote. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound". I don't deserve it. John Newton said, "I don't deserve it". And when he was an old man, and he could barely get up into the pulpit, and he was in his middle eighties, he held on to the pulpit, and he said, "I don't know much, but", he said, "I do know this, that I'm a great sinner and I have a great Savior".
And John Newton left his mark for God after being a terrible sinner. You can be forgiven of any sin, any failure. It may be hypocrisy, whatever it is, but tonight you'd like to make sure. I'm going to ask you to do something that I've asked Africans by the thousands to do: Asians by the thousands: Europeans by the thousands: Americans by the thousands. And I've seen them do it by the thousands. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat where you're sitting right now, and come and stand in front on this beautiful turf, and stand there for a moment or two, quietly, and say, "You know, I want to be sure about this. I want to be sure my sins are forgiven. I want to know I'm going to heaven. I want this supernatural peace and joy and fulfillment that Christ can give me, and I want to settle it. I would like to rededicate myself to my confirmation vows, or what my baptism meant".
Whatever the reason, whatever your need, I'm going to ask you to get up and come and stand. After you've all come and stood there, I'm going to have a prayer with you and give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. If you're with friends or relatives, they'll wait. Or you may be the only one from your area to come, but get up and come. I'm going to ask that no one leave the stadium now at this holy moment. And everyone in an attitude of prayer. You get up and come.
You may be a member of the church: you may not be a member of any church. I don't know who you are, but you need Christ. You come right now. We're going to wait on you. Just come and stand here quietly. Young and old, whoever you are, we're going to wait. Catholic or Protestant, Jewish, whatever, you come and stand here, and say YES, and make sure of your relationship to Christ. You may be in the choir, or you may just be somebody that wandered in, but God is speaking to you. You come. Just stand here in front, behind those cameras, or around here, or right in here. We're going to wait on you. Quickly, bring somebody with you.
I want to say a word to you that have been watching on television. You've been watching from other parts of the country, and other parts of other countries, and you see people coming here in Fargo, Moorhead City, Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead City, Minnesota, and other parts of this great midwestern area, or northern plains area, whatever area we want to call it. And you see them coming to make their commitment. You can make your commitment where you are, in your hotel room, or in your bedroom, or in your living room, or with your family. Make your surrender to Christ now and say, "Lord, I need you. Come into my heart. Forgive my sin. Give me assurance of my own faith". I'm going to pray that you'll make that commitment now.