Staff writer, desiringGod.org
As the sun rises on another year, where do you want to be found more faithful twelve months from now — in your diet and exercise, or in the patterns of your marriage and relationships, or in personal evangelism, or in productivity at work, or in communion with God? The beginning of a year is as good a time as any to audit our hearts for our hidden places of faithlessness. What sinful impulses have we neglected, excused, or even harbored? What might God finally prune away — or bring to life?
The apostle Paul warns us with a promise, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). A farmer who sows a few seeds will reap a small crop, but one who sows much will have a great harvest. How we sow (and for whom) will determine — in real, significant, meaningful ways — what we reap. If last year left us emotionally unstable, financially distressed, physically weak and unhealthy, relationally disconnected, and feeling farther away from God, we are likely reaping what we have sown. And if we sow the same this year, we will likely feel similarly a year from now. Or worse.
But if we sow bountifully, we will reap differently. And our God loves to fill (and refill) the cups of those who eagerly pursue him, and gladly pour themselves out for others.
How Will You Sow?
When Paul wrote about sowing and reaping, he was writing about financial generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7), but not only that — “in every good work,” he says (2 Corinthians 9:8). So, as we turn the page to another year, we would do well to consider how well we will sow — our money, yes, but also our time, our energy, our attention. We can determine now, with our hands open before God, who or what will get the most and best of what God has given us. Most of us sow sparingly because we sow thoughtlessly and prayerlessly. No farmer sows bountifully by accident, and few Christians sow sparingly with serious intentionality.
“Most of us sow sparingly because we sow thoughtlessly and prayerlessly.”
Why do we sow sparingly? We sow sparingly because we forget or ignore what we will reap (or not). We settle for the comfort and convenience of drifting despite how much it might cost us. We trade fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore for fractions of joy and moments of pleasure.
When we cannot see beyond the horizon of our short life, we learn to live day to day as if there’s nothing there. We neglect the profound and invincible wisdom in Jesus’s counsel,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19–20)
We sow sparingly because we forget what we will reap, or we sow sparingly because we fear that God will provide sparingly. We hoard whatever seed he gives — time, money, energy — because we’re afraid we won’t have enough for ourselves. But Paul has a word to speak to all our new year’s fears: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6–8).
All You Need
You may not feel sufficient for what God has called you to do. Likely, as you look back over the last year, you feel freshly insufficient for your marriage, family, ministry, and other callings. That’s good. God does not call us to feel or be sufficient. We should feel insufficient for the Christian life (2 Corinthians 2:16). If we are genuinely able, it is because God is able. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency . . . ” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Ability and sufficiency that matter come, in every way, from above.
Apart from grace, we do not have the energy we need in parenting, or the wisdom we need for our schedule, or the faith to give beyond what’s comfortable, or the perseverance to steward our bodies well, or the patience for trials, or the love we need in marriage. But God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and wields the strength of a thousand armies, and knows billions and billions of stars by name — and he lives in us, and for us, by his Spirit.
In All Things
God, and God alone, will be your sufficiency — in everything. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things. . . .” (2 Corinthians 9:8). God will not overlook or forsake any area in your life — not your marriage, not your work, not your home, not your health. Wherever he provides, he provides in full, according to his wise plan. His grace covers every dark and needy corner in our hearts.
“We should feel insufficient for the Christian life.”
None of us sows well everywhere all the time. In God’s wise, sovereign, and loving plan, we can’t. All of us need to sow better somewhere. And we are probably prone to presume on God’s provision in areas where we are stronger, and to subtly assume he won’t provide more in areas where we are weaker. By faith, we resolve against both. We will ask God to provide in every area — where we are stronger or more gifted and where we are still weak — because God promises to provide in all things.
We live, work, love, and grow under the banner “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
At All Times
God will give you everything you need in every area of life at every moment over the next year (and for endless years). “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Our God is an always God. He will be there providing on the mountaintops of success or progress; he will be there providing in the valleys of disappointment and failure; and he will be there providing on the rough and often punishing roads of our ministry to others.
If we are his, no hour will be overlooked. Over every minute of every day, he says to us in Christ,
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
At all times. No interruptions, mistakes, or oversights. Just relentless, continuous, providing, fatherly love. Fear not, for the one who rules the universe and writes all of history will strengthen you, guide you, and protect you as you walk through this life. If we could see and feel the extent and constancy of his care, we would laugh at how fearful we can be. The clouds of uncertainty hanging over our future would begin to look less like devastating storms and more like much needed rain.
For All Good Work
The last all is the most subtle, at least in our English Bibles, but it is just as important and relevant for a new year: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every [literally, all] good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Every ounce of God’s provision to you will come laced with opportunity for you — to serve yourself or to turn, in love, and serve others. God always means for the grace he gives us to work through us for someone else’s good.
While many of us need to hear that God will provide again — all sufficiency, in all things, at all times — just as many need to be reminded that he has laid good works before each of us. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). God himself has prepared work for us to do this year, places for us, in particular, to sow, sowing that will often cost us more than we planned to give.
Will we walk in the love he has prepared for us? Let’s pray now, at the end of another year, for the sufficiency — all we need, in all things, at all times — to sow faithfully in the next.
Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.