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Sowing to the Spirit (Galatians 6)

No doubt you’re aware of the agricultural law: you’ll reap what you sow. You sow carrots, you reap carrots. You sow corn, you reap corn. The same law, Paul tells the Galatians, applies to the spiritual realm as well: you’ll reap what you sow. Now what’s tricky is that sowing involves a process of time. For a while, it may look like nothing’s happening. Or maybe fruit has begun to grow but is slow to ripen. Though this process is absolutely vital, the time it takes may be trying. In the end, if the seeds we’ve sown are good, the harvest will be gratifying. For this reason we shouldn’t grow weary but keep on doing good. In due season, we’ll reap our reward if we don’t give up. While it may be tempting to get impatient or even grow frustrated, this is precisely where faith comes in—faith in the God who ordained the principle that what you sow is what you’ll reap.

In this letter, Paul is bringing clarity to confused Christians who are torn between living by faith in the Spirit and relying on the flesh by engaging in external activities apart from God. In Paul’s day, it was circumcision; in our day, it may be a number of things that amount to sowing to the flesh: putting our children’s education above their character development; prioritizing the way we look over our inner disposition; accumulating material possessions rather than investing in people and relationships—living and sharing the gospel! Do you need to reexamine what you’re doing to make sure you’re really sowing to the Spirit in your life?

In fact, the sowing principle works for both the good and the bad. As Christians, we have the privilege of the Spirit’s presence within us, and we’re told to live by the Spirit (5:14–15) and to allow him to do his work in us and through us. Our responsibility is to sow, and the Spirit will produce the fruit. As Paul observes, sowing to the Spirit yields delicious fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (5:22). Sowing to the flesh, on the other hand, results in the destructive consequences such as strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies, etc. (5:19–21). In addition, Paul cautions believers not to succumb to pride or envy and not to compare themselves to others (5:26–6:4). In the final judgment, each of us will have to give an account of what we (not others!) have done.

So don’t be deceived; God is not mocked! God knows what you’re sowing, even though the world around you may be unaware. Don’t give up! Don’t be discouraged. Keep quietly doing the right thing. You may feel inferior to some of your self-confident, attractive, poised friends who may sow to the flesh in the form of materialism or worldliness. You may privately feel intimidated by them and be tempted to give up on doing good because you won’t ever measure up. But by the power of the Spirit, put a priority on character development, godly relationships, and spiritual values as you sow to the Spirit and by the grace of God seek to bear witness to Christ in your world. Make it your goal this year to sow to the Spirit and not default to sowing to the flesh. In this way, you’ll produce fruit that will last.

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