r m p




Faith's Harvest

Harvest time is here, though most of us suburbanites have so little contact with the earth and its cultivation that we must take our seasonal cue from Halloween decorations and the color of leaves. We are not involved in the back-breaking task of an agricultural harvest, but there are certainly other sorts of harvests at which to be busy. 

The Bible, written in an agrarian setting, frequently compares the realities of the religious life to the harvest. Perhaps the passage in Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit is the best known. Then there is the language in the Apocalypse about the coming harvest of souls at the end of the age. But I would like to direct your thoughts for a moment to yet another harvest analogy in the Gospel of Luke. 

In Luke 17:6 Jesus teaches concerning faith that one needn't have very much of it to accomplish very great things. "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, 'Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea!,' and it would obey you." 

Note the contrast between the microscopic size of the seed and the overwhelming magnitude of the result! The implicit image is that of the great yield of a harvest. As Jesus put it in another parable, "Other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty-fold and sixty-fold and a hundred-fold" (Mark 4:8). 

Just so, in Luke's parable, the modicum of faith is tiny in the same way a seed is tiny, and the miraculous result is great in the same way the harvest is great. In nature we take it for granted that a tiny thing gives birth to a great result. What we must be brought to see is that it is the same in the life of prayer: a miserable speck of faith is big enough! Do not hesitate to plant it! 

Here is the great prototype of a sower going forth to sow with but a single grain of mustard seed: the desperate father of a demoniac-epileptic brings his son to Jesus and asks, without much hope, "If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us."

Jesus is affronted: "'If you can­! All things are possible to him who believes." The father is not daunted by the stinging rebuke.  Battered but unbowed, much like the rebuffed Syrian woman of Mark 7:24-30, the father replies, "I believe; help my ­un­belief!" 

Here is possibly the greatest teaching of the Bible concerning prayer, for all that it is spoken not by Jesus or by an apostle, but by an anonymous face only momentarily emerging from the crowd! With his desperate, pathetic cry he planted the grain of mustard seed! And the result? His boy was healed. You will find no greater allegory of the all-conquering power of an atom's weight of faith. 

Matthew, too, was much concerned to make this point. In how many of Matthew's miracle stories does Jesus perform some great work in response to what he himself calls "little faith" -- little, but apparently enough! 

Let me now stand aside and share with you the thoughts of the great Nineteenth Century preacher Phillips Brooks, from his sermon, "The Law of Growth": "Suppose that out of the world there should be slowly or suddenly destroyed all the seed of corn except one handful, just so much as one man could hold in his palm. Can you picture to yourself the care with which that handful would be guarded? Can you imagine the interest that would gather about it, the poetry and dearness that would be in it; how men, looking at it and knowing it to be the real thing, - true, real corn, - would see in it the assurance of days yet to come when all the fields should wave once more with harvests? That is the way in which you ought to treasure your faith if there is not much of it, if little by little it has slipped away from you. You say it has grown to be very little. You say that many things which you used to believe seem to you no longer to be true. You stand holding in your hand the remnant of a faith. What then? Is it real? Is it true faith? Whether it be little or great, do you really believe it? If you do, then surely that belief ought to be very precious to you. A little, a very little belief it may be, - nevertheless treasure it because it is belief, instead of despising it because it is little. Value it for its quality, instead of dishonoring it because of its quantity. As you look into it behold its possibilities. See in its meagreness the promise and power of a great and manifold belief that may yet some day cover your whole life with verdure. Put it where it will be safe; and the only place where a faith ever can be safe is in the shrine of an action. Put it there. Do what belief would tempt and command you to do; and trust to its true quality to grow under the care of God, who knows in heaven every particle of true faith that there is scattered about the earth. In his sight it is all too precious to forget." 

The seed of your faith may be tiny, almost invisible, but do not hesitate to cast it into the ground! Who knows what great harvest may result!

 Robert M. Price


CopyrightŠ2004 by Robert M Price
Spirit of Carolina Web Design