Derek begins this teaching by taking the words of Jesus that tells us that the harvest is the end of the age, the time when He will return. But before the harvest is ready, there must be early and latter rains. These rains are spoken of in Scripture as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Derek’s concern is that the church must experience an awakening to the work of the harvest that God has given her.
My theme is appropriate for this occasion, it is the harvest. I’ve never been much of a farmer, But I do know enough to say this, that there is a climax to which everything moves forward in agriculture and it is the harvest. Almost everything else that’s done is done for the sake of the harvest.
And that is true also in the spiritual realm. The harvest is the climax. It’s the purpose to which all the other activities of God are directed. In Matthew 13:39 Jesus makes a simple but important statement. It’s part of the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and the tares. I just take a few words out of that verse:
“...the harvest is the end of the age.”
It’s very important to bear that in mind. The harvest is the end of the age. This age is not going to come to an anticlimax, God is not the God of the anticlimax. It’s building up to a climax and the climax is the harvest. And basically, all the processes that have been going on in the church for nearly 2,000 years have been ultimately directed toward this climax, the harvest.
There are many things that have to happen before the harvest can be gathered in. I’m not going to deal with all of them but I want to mention one particular one in James 5:7–8.
“Therefore be patient brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
You’ll see there that the harvest synchronizes with the coming of the Lord. The two are inseparably united. The Lord will come at the completion of the harvest.
James warns us we have to be patient. One of the hardest things for me to be is patient. Over the years the Lord has dealt with me on the subject of impatience. One thing He showed me was impatience is a form of pride. It’s expecting things to go my way rather than God’s way. I’m not a model of patience but I’m certainly a lot more patient than I was say ten years ago. My wife is nodding her head emphatically at that point!
But James points out that the harvest cannot be gathered in until we have had the former and the latter rain. I think this is very important. In the economy of Israel it requires both rains to make the harvest possible. If either rain fails the harvest will fail. The first rain softens the soil so that you can begin the process of agriculture. The second rain causes the seed to germinate. And so, James says it’s true also in the spiritual. Before the harvest can be gathered in we have to have the former or the early, and the latter rain. The early rain normally falls in September or October, the latter rain perhaps in March or sometimes in April. After that it’s full speed ahead into the harvest.
We know from many scriptures that the former rain and the latter rain are scriptural pictures of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The age began with a major outpouring of the Holy Spirit and it will close and is closing with a major outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And until that outpouring has taken place the harvest cannot be gathered in.
This brings out one very important principle that runs all through scripture from the book of Deuteronomy onwards, and it’s this, listen carefully. The rain is given for the sake of the harvest. And that has an application to those of us who are Pentecostals or Charismatics or whatever other label you want to give us. If we do not realize that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is given for the sake of the harvest we will miss the purposes of God. There are two kinds of Pentecostals or Charismatics: those who have received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and don’t know what it’s for and just use it to form little spiritual bless me clubs, and those who understood that the rain is given for the sake of the harvest and they are the people who are turning the world upside down. I think they’re in a minority. I think especially in this nation the majority of Charismatics do not realize why the Holy Spirit has been poured out and is being poured out.
Consequently, we miss the real purpose of God. See, unfortunately Christianity in the West, and I think especially in this nation, is essentially self centered. It’s man centered. What will God do for me? What can I get from God? That’s a complete distortion of the gospel. The real question is what can I be for God? What does God want from me? We encourage people by teaching them that God will meet your needs. We often use that to draw people to the Lord. It’s true, thank God, God will meet our needs. But that’s not the supreme purpose of the gospel, the supreme purpose of the gospel is to make us instruments of the kingdom of God. It’s not what will God do for me, it’s what will I do for God.
I’ve often pondered on the career of the apostle Paul and I believe that the tremendous success that he achieved is due to the fact that when he first met the Lord he asked two questions. The first one was, “Who are you, Lord?” The second was, “What will you have me to do?” The people who could answer those two questions correctly are the people that will turn the world upside down. I wonder if you’ve ever asked the Lord, “Who are you?” And then have you said, “What will you have me to do?”
Now, generally speaking in our contemporary culture when people come to the Lord we tell them how wonderful it’s going to be, all the things that God will do for them. That was not God’s way of dealing with Paul. He sent a man named Ananias to Paul to pray for him when he was blind and he said, “Go and tell him what great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” How many people treat new converts that way today? But you see, we’ve got a church that is flabby, it lacks muscle because we have not put God in His right place.
I always get these facts of history wrong, but there was one man who taught that the sun revolves around the earth. Then there was another man, Copernicus, who said, “No, you’ve got it wrong. The earth revolves around the sun.” And there are two kinds of Christians. There’s the Christians who think that Jesus revolves around us and our needs, and those who realize that we revolve around Jesus. It’s not what I want, it’s what He wants. It’s not what will He do for me but what will I do for Him. And actually, the American church, in my opinion, needs a major revolution. It needs what they used to call in previous centuries a great awakening because we’ve got our focus wrong. We’ve got a blurred, an incorrect vision of God and of the gospel and of the kingdom of God. We have to change it. We have to realize in particular that the rain is given for the sake of the harvest.