Grow Strong in God’s Grace Wk 6

Learning How to be a Faithful Farmer for God’s Harvest!

Care for the Maturing Plant: The Third Step of the Farmer’s Strategy!

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; Luke 13:6-9 (NAS95)


We are learning that the strategy of a hard-working farmer has four steps, each of which the faithful farmer must diligently work, if the farmer hopes to harvest a large crop yield:


  1. Cultivate the soil.
  2. Sow the good seed.
  3. Care for the maturing plant.
  4. Reap a harvest.


We have already discussed the first two steps: First, we are called to cultivate the soil. We are to prepare people’s hearts to receive the good seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus explained the Parable of the Four Soils for us, teaching us how to discern the condition of each person’s heart and mind, in hopes of reaping a harvest of praise, to the glory of God. We meet people where they are, loving them, praying for them, caring for them so that we may have the privilege of the second step of the farmer’s strategy, lovingly sowing the good seed into their lives in word and deed. We learned that the seed we are to sow is God-breathed, not of our own invention, so we can relax and be a peaceful, loving presence – non-anxious and non-defensive in the sharing and caring of doing so. Today, we continue in that same presence of mind, centered on the faith that God has given us by His grace, to continue to build relationships, truly and sincerely caring for the maturing plant, just as others care for us.


We pass it on! Friday morning, I was blessed to be invited to share my vocational and educational story with the students at New Castle Middle School. What an inspiring experience it was for me! I had the privilege of speaking to four groups of students – these young plants that I was blessed to care for by helping them in their maturing process of rightly thinking about their futures careers and how they are going to plan the next steps of their lives. This opportunity was given to me by Amy Madden, mother of Eliza, who has been attending FBC with her boyfriend Alex, since he got out of the Marines. They are close friends with Emily & Matthew Hurst, who have been investing in this young couple for many years – caring for them in some of the most important developmental years of their lives. I’m so excited to see good fruit in their lives and look forward to the privilege of baptizing Alex this Easter. It is pure joy to be invited into their lives. Additionally, Amy, Eliza, and I have also found an intersection with the New Castle High School Track Team, as it was through their relationship with Emily that my backstory as an All-State high school and All-American thrower was discovered, and I was invited to be an assistant track coach, teaching high school students how to throw shot put and discus – these young plants that I am blessed to care for by helping them develop the character, work ethic, and life skills to reach their future goals.


I share this with you, because this privilege I have been given to serve the students of New Castle, Indiana is a beautiful and timely illustration of what today’s sermon is all about. To learn about how we are to go about caring for the maturing plants (of all people and ages), I am going to share with you Jesus’ parable, “The Parable of the Tares,” found in Matthew 13:24-30:


Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”


Just like he did with the Parable of the Four Soils, Jesus explained the Parable of the Tares. This was a one of those rare occasions, so let’s take the time to hear Jesus’ explanation of this parable, found in Matthew 13:36-43:


Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”


Since I will not discuss the reaping until next Sunday, I want to emphasize to you this week the fabulous statement Jesus made in today’s parable. The Sower was asked by the laborers if he used good seed because there were tares maturing amidst the wheat. The Sower assured them of the quality of the good seed by emphasizing that there was an enemy who was sowing bad seed in the same fields, in all four of the soil conditions. The laborers, the hard-working farmers, were then given these words of instructions, so hear them as a word of revelation to you today, from Matthew 13:29-30, “No [don’t do the work of uprooting!]; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest.”


Allow me to further explain this with a farmer story given to me by one of our very own, Penny Stevens, who has been both a farmer’s daughter and farmer’s wife, and now works in farmers insurance:


There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.


“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”


So it is with our lives. Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. The quality of response and joy depends on the quality of thoughts and love we share and spread. And those who choose to be joyful must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.[1]


This is exactly what Amy Madden was doing on Friday morning. She was inviting good seed to be sown in the neighboring fields. It did not matter to her or to me about whether or not there was wheat or tares in the fields, we just brought them all together to be cared for, to have their soil cultivated, good seed sowed into their fields, and caring for their maturing plants. If there is anything I know about the harvest is it’s out of our control – It’s God’s Work, but we must do the hard work of a farmer and trust the Sower for the results. We find this liberating truth found in both the Old and New Testaments:


  • Isaiah 61:11, “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”


Do the work of a hard-working farmer! Don’t prejudge the maturing plants because you may uproot where you should have been tending to it. God will judge the fruit of people’s lives. Let Him be God, because I am not, and neither are you! We are to invest our lives in positively impacting the lives of others. This is the mission of God!


  • This is why I coach at the high school. I praise God that He can use my athletic background so that I can do the hard work of a farmer in those fields.
  • This is why I volunteer as a chaplain to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. I praise God that He can use my military background so that I can do the hard work of a farmer in those fields.
  • This is why I go into the Indiana state prison in New Castle to preach monthly and teach weekly. I praise God that He can use my humanity so that I can do the hard work of a farmer in those fields.
  • This is why I come to First Baptist Church of New Castle five days a week, week after week, year after year, for over 13 years now. I praise God that He can use my pastoral calling so that I can do the hard work of a farmer in these fields.


How do we do this? I conclude with some real-life farming illustrations to learn how to care for the maturing plants in whatever fields each of us is privileged to work:


  • “Choose carefully what you use to nurture your crop. Fertilizer, insecticide, herbicide, and fungicide are all good things in the right amounts at the right time and will increase your harvest exponentially. Too much or too little, or applied at the wrong time, will at the very least reduce your harvest, or at the worst, kill your crop entirely. In the same way, water is necessary to grow a crop, but too much will destroy it.” We are called to care for the maturing plant by fertilizing it. We recognize that God will use all circumstances of our lives to deepen our soil and fill it with that which will help us grow, so that our branches are strong enough to bear fruit.
  • “Use the right tools. Don’t use a plow when you need to use a planter; don’t use a bush-hog when you need a tiller; don’t use a planter when you need a combine.” A well-timed word of encouragement can bring life to a person, just as quickly as a harsh or careless word can bring death to a person. Be wise with your words!
  • “There is no profit for a farmer to mistreat his livestock. He rejoices at births, mourns at deaths, ensures it is fed, watered, protected from the weather and predators, all the while knowing it is being done to provide food for the world.” We are called to persevere and protect the maturing plant. Don’t grow weary in doing good. Keep praying. Keep loving.
  • “Fencing is only effective if it’s properly maintained. Holes in the fence will allow predators in, or livestock out.” Work your own fields. Boundaries are a gift to help you be effective and fruitful in your calling. Feeding the world is a shared enterprise and so is reaching the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Knowing the field you are called to work protects you and blesses those you are focused on reaching!


Care for the maturing plant and give the maturing plant every possible chance to bear the good fruit of the Harvest. I will close with another one of Jesus’ parables, from Luke 13:6-9:


And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’ ”

Don’t uproot! Don’t destroy! God has not called you to be a doomsdayer, but a hoper-bearer! Keep your focus as hardworking farmers – the harvest! As C. H. Spurgeon preached in 1871, “Preaching is sowing, prayer is watering, but praise is the harvest.”[2] It is my desire to see First Baptist Church of New Castle, Indiana witness a large crop yield of praise to the glory of God! That we will be an epicenter of revival throughout our region and denomination, and into our nation and to the nations. Until all worship, let us continue to be faithful to the Lord of the Harvest and respond to His call upon our lives to be hard-working farmers!

You can listen to this message by clicking below:


You can watch the message by clicking HERE.




[1] Naren Kini, “My Neighbor’s Corn” (Accessed March 17, 2023).

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Joy of the Lord, the Strength of His People,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 17 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1871), 717.