“Relax. Be patient.” Not the advice we want to hear when we’re frustrated that things don’t seem to be going the way we want them to. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Galatian church:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap in due season, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.  (Galatians 6:7-10)

We’re guaranteed a good harvest, but only in due season.

The real-life metaphor behind Paul’s wise words is based on the experience of a farmer. After he sows the seed, he doesn’t stand by the field expecting the crop to sprout and start growing before his eyes. He knows that there’s a rhythm in nature that he can depend on, but he has to be patient and wait for the process to work. There are spiritual parallels which will help the farmer accept the necessity for patience:

If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. (Leviticus 26:3-5)

God seems to be saying to his people that the spiritual crop harvest in our lives takes time, just as a farmer’s physical reaping does.

There are some wonderful passages in the Psalms that celebrate the consistency of God’s grace in providing for his entire creation, but the qualifying phrase in due season is often part of the praise:

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.
These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.
(Psalm 104:24-25, 27-28, 31)

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name for ever and ever. (Psalm 145:15-16, 21)

The 2000 movie “Paying It Forward” has made this a familiar concept to many of us. In the film a twelve year old boy accepts his favorite teacher’s challenge to try to change the world, bit by bit, by “paying forward” three good deeds, without any thought of benefiting in return. The only challenge is that each of the three people who are helped by the boy’s acts of kindness should agree to pass good deeds on to three others. Imagine how the positive effects could impact many, many people — ultimately, the whole world! But the process takes time; the results only come in due season.

In the Bible passage we started with, Paul is encouraging us to keep paying it forward, even though it sometimes may seem futile, for the God who provides for all his creation guarantees us a good harvest — in due season.

— Pastor George Van Alstine