Transcript of evangelist Billy Graham’s sermon: ‘Sowing and Reaping’ which was delivered in Fargo, North Dakota in 1987.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Billy Graham – Evangelist
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 6th chapter, wherein 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 500 years ago, when it was discovered and it was revealed to him in a powerful way to Martin Luther; 1st chapter of Romans, the 17th verse.
Romans 1:17: ‘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.‘ (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Then we turn over to Galatians, the 6th chapter. What a marvellous chapter this fifth chapter is, and the 6th chapter.
And the 6th chapter has something I want to speak on. And I’ve never before preached a sermon on this text. Beginning with verse 7.
Galatians 6:7-8: ‘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 40s, 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 20s, in the 30s, 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 a 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 03:00 and go milk cows.
And when I was in high school, I milked 20 cows every morning before I went to school, and milked those same 20 when I came home from school. And so I knew a little bit about farm work.
Now, I believe that there IN THE BIBLE, THERE ARE 5 LAWS IN SOWING AND REAPING.
First, You Must Sow To Reap.
In China, 2000 years old seed were taken from an ancient tomb, and they’re sprouting today and growing tomatoes, even though they were sown 2000 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 in 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 till 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 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?’
And 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 6, 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 had 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 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, 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 reap the same.’
You’re going to reap… everything that you sow, you’ll reap.
I read in Time magazine 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 crop failure. It’s not going to 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 that 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 sins shall not prosper, but whoso 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 respect 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, or 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 he said, ‘I’m now in my 50s and I’m a bishop.’ But he said, ‘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 shalt 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 has 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 1 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.’
1 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 Reed 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.
100 million people die every year. 270 million die every day. 10,000 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.’
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 the power to do good works. And we go out with a burden for our neighbors, a burden for peace in the world, for 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 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 80s, he held onto the pulpit and he said, ‘I don’t know much’, but he said, ‘I do know this, that I am a great sinner and I have a great Savior.’