“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 NLT
I have enjoyed and have been challenged by a sermon series that our Church has delivered over the past month. The series, U-Turn, written by our own Ps Mike Griffiths, follows the journey of Ruth and Naomi. It details their ups-and-downs as different seasons come and go through their lives.
The principle of seasons is one that is very relevant in not only our lives but the ‘lives’ of the organisations which we lead. Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn (Fall) all play a specific part in God’s design for growth and development.
The story of Naomi and Ruth begins in a Winter season. Naomi and her husband Elimelech move to Moab but soon after Elimelech dies. Not only did Naomi lose her husband, but both of her sons also died. This is the beginning of Winter. A season for pruning, cutting off and dying off. Not only did things happen that were out of Naomi’s control, she had to begin a process of cutting and pruning. She gave up on her dream of living in Moab and returned home. (Ruth 1:1-5)
In moving home Naomi did not realise it but she prepared a place that God could begin the transformation. Where God could bring a harvest.
The good and bad news about Winter is that is it followed by Spring.
“Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.” Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.” Ruth 2:1-3 NLT
As Ruth begins to move forward God allows an, "as it happens" moment. This is miracle territory, intervention of the heavenly kind.
Spring is such a wonderful time of the year. Winter is over with the hope of Summer and the coming harvest is just around the corner. However, to reap a harvest, a crop must be sown. Investment always precedes the return.
The quality and quantity of the preparation and sowing are directly proportionate to the quality and quantity of the harvest..unless God intervenes.
Ruth’s story is an example of the goodness that God can bring to the harvest. As Ruth began the work, God provided an, ‘as it happens’ moment. It is important to note that God could not have made ‘it happen’, that Ruth would collect wheat in Boaz’s fields, unless she first made the effort to go and collect wheat. As Ruth began the ‘sowing’ side of spring God intervened in a way that made the harvest (outcome) much greater than she could ever have imagined.
The Spring work that Ruth did was to get going and do something that would allow her and Naomi to survive. However, God had plans for them to thrive!
As spring matures, summer comes. Physically men sow seeds but miraculously God grows the harvest. The hard work pays off. A harvest, proportionate to the investment in returned.
Unless, as with Ruth, God intervenes the return is greater than you can believe for. Ruth and Naomi were looking for a sustainable life. To be able to eat and to have shelter. But God had greater plans. Ruth gets a new husband. And Naomi gets a grandchild. A grandchild who would be the grandfather of King David.
As I reflect on this story of seasons I realise that it is unnatural to live off one harvest forever. Soon enough Summer disappears and we slip into Autumn. Autumn often comes unannounced and usually uninvited. It happens without our knowledge and many times others notice that we have slipped into Autumn before we actually notice ourself. Little new or fresh is ever grown in Autumn.
The most effective people do not allow Autumn to linger. Once the blessings of the most recent harvest are gone effective people refocus and revision. The begin the process of preparing the land for a new crop. They begin the pruning that is needed for the new harvest.
A further observation about seasons is about how they come and go. We enter Autumn and Summer naturally. We can not control the onset of these seasons, they just happen. Autumn comes when the blessings of the previous harvest are used up and the fresh fruit is gone.
Summer is ushered in when the harvest is ready. This is when the return on our investment matures. Summer is when God takes our physical sowing and miraculously grows a harvest for us to enjoy. Yes collecting the harvest can be work, but how rewarding is it! We do not determine when a harvest is ready, God does this.
On the contrary, Winter and Spring are seasons that we only enter into by choice. In order to move out of the non-productive Autumn season we need to begin the pruning season. To begin preparing the ground for a new harvest. However, we will never receive the harvest unless we actually sow seeds. God’s laws determine that the quality and quantity of the harvest will be directly proportionate to the quality and quantity of the work done in the winter and spring seasons. However because of God’s grace often the return we receive in summer is also multiplied by the faith we have in Him. Because of Him we have ‘as it happens’ moments that bring a return far greater than we have ever dreamed or imagined.
Not only do people go through seasons, organisations also go through seasons. The greatest risk to an organisation, albeit a Church or a school, is getting lost in Autumn. As Christians we are called to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to us. If we allow an organisation to linger in Autumn we hinder it from reaching its potential. If a Church or Christian School does not reach its potential ultimately it fails to have the impact for the Kingdom that it could have.
If the organisation you lead is currently in an Autumn season it is time for winter. Begin the process of preparing the ground for change. Pray about what needs to be pruned and when you need to plant the seeds for a new harvest.
As mentioned earlier, the quantity and quality of the harvest is determined by the quality and quantity of the preparation and sowing...unless God steps in with an, 'as it happens' moment.