I planted the plum tree three years ago with great anticipation of one day partaking of it's delicious, large, sweet fruit. I remember when I planted it how small it was and how long I would have to wait to reap a harvest. Even so, I made sure it had plenty of water and everything it needed to grow and be healthy. I even cut back some pine limbs to make sure it received enough sunlight to make it as productive as possible.
The first year, there were very few blooms and no fruit. I did not expect much since it was still small and so young. The second year, there were a lot of blooms and even some small fruit and my expectations increased. Perhaps this would be the year. But, when the weather turned dry, I was either gone or busy and did not think about watering the tree until the immature fruit had already fallen off.
This year, I was determined to do my part to make sure the tree produced a bumper crop. I fertilized it with chicken litter, made sure it had plenty of water and I even pruned it to get rid of the old growth so that I would finally get to enjoy the fruit for which I planted the tree. This year the tree was mature and large enough to make good fruit. Man oh man did it produce! The blooms covered the tree in the spring. There were so many young plums!
Much of the fruit fell off in the very small stages before it matured--probably half of the crop, but the tree was still loaded. The weather was good, the rainfall came at the right times and in sufficient amounts. The fruit grew larger and larger, so large that many of the limbs were leaning over touching the ground. My mouth watered every time I passed that tree, but the fruit was not ripe, the harvest was not yet ready, but my anticipation grew.
About the time the plums were getting near their mature size, my schedule started to get even more busy than usual. I was traveling out of country, my daughter was getting married, I was busy getting ready for speaking engagements, we were negotiating the details of some new and exciting ministry opportunities, Board Meeting was approaching--so many other things were demanding my time and attention.
Then just yesterday, after many of the deadlines were behind me and my Board Meeting was over and everyone had gone home, I decided to take a much needed walk around the yard just to unwind and clear my mind for a few minutes. When I rounded the corner into the back yard and saw the tree, my heart sank.
I had waited three years, had done all the work to insure the tree was healthy had all it needed to produce a bumper crop. Just three weeks ago, it looked as if I would have more plums than I could give away--much less eat. But now, the sight was not what I had been expecting or looking forward too. The soil, the rain, the sunshine and the tree had done all that God created them to do. They all worked in harmony and the crop was plentiful. I had even done my part for almost three years, up to the point just weeks before the fruit was actually ready for harvest.
How could I have forgotten? From the winter pruning, through the spring blooming, even until the fruit was bearing down the limbs of the tree, I had been attentive and expecting to reap a bountiful harvest of delicious, red, juicy plums. As you can see from the picture, everything worked but one thing. I was so busy with other things, that I forgot about the harvest. I did not intend to neglect the fruit or forfeit the harvest, but it was lost anyway. I was too late. The fruit was plentiful, had grown to maturity, was ripe for eating, but somehow, in the midst of life's worries and busyness, I had gotten so pre-occupied with other things, that I had unintentionally forgotten the harvest and now the once beautiful and abundant crop was lost. Rotten fruit now covered the ground.
Perhaps this is a good reminder of a more important harvest that is now ready and is near the point of being forever lost. The harvest of a crop which is much more valuable than a few plums, and the consequences of which the loss far exceeds anything else we can compare it to--the souls of men, women and children all created in God's image.
For centuries, faithful Christians have followed the Holy Spirit and have broken new ground, have sown the seed of the Gospel, nurtured the souls of people, discipled and taught them the Word and ways of God, but all of this would have been for naught if there were not those who were paying careful attention and who were willing to go out and gather the harvest. Only the Holy Spirit can draw men to Christ, but it has always been God's plan that He would use people like you and me to lead others to Him so that they could accept Christ as their own personal Lord and Savior.
Each of us, if we are truly following and walking with God, are always somehow actively involved in each step of this process. There is new ground that each of us has been called to break among the unreached. There are lives into which we need to be intentionally sowing the seeds of the Gospel. There are people all around us who need to see the Gospel lived out and who need to see Jesus living in and through our lives. And, there are times when God will use us to reap the harvest of souls by helping people take that final step of accepting Christ as their own and helping them to grow in their faith.
Just like the plums, the harvest that has already been lost we cannot do anything about, but we can make sure that we do all that is within our power to be there for those for which hope remains. Jesus said: "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps, receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." (John 4:35-36).
Again in Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus said: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
God has commanded us all to go. Part of going is sending others to the far places. Don't wait until it is too late and have to say: I wish I had been there. I wish I had not forgotten the harvest. The souls of those you love and of billions more who Christ loves hang in the balance. The results are eternal. Don't wait.