I used to think of spring as the first of the four seasons and winter as last. That isn't so. January is raw blistering winter. So God's agricultural cycle starts with cold, lifeless, leafless, iced-over improbability. Creation began that way. The earth “was without form and void...” But winter is a rich time. That is when planning, dreaming, expectation, and vision develop. Faith operates in such a cold sterile environment. It knows that “the time of singing birds” is near. So it fires the shop stove and sharpens plow blades and prepares seed for the next change in weather.
In winter we PLAN. In early spring we PLOW. Soil is as vital as seed and season. Jesus spoke of wayside ground, rocky and thorny soils, and then “good soil” that brings forth hundredfold crops. Land must be cleared. Clods must be broken. “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jeremiah 4:3). In later spring we PLANT.
Solomon knew there is “a time to plant” (Song of Solomon 3:2). That time can be missed through neglect or procrastination. In most climates the rain and warmth that regenerates the soil is seasonal.
In life we do get second chances but never take that for granted; the time for investment is springtime, young adulthood. Planting early gives the seed an obvious head start.
In summer we PLENISH. Soils may lack nutrients. Irrigation is required in most settings. Cultivation of the soil is ongoing. We fight bugs and briars. This is the waiting stage of the faith walk. But it has great rewards because the farmer can now see the crop maturing before his eyes. The temptation may be to reap before ripening. That analogy is easily seen; don't cash in your mutual funds before maturity. There are many things on which we can jump the gun.
In autumn we PLUCK. Different fruits have different ripening requirements. Some investments we can collect on in earlier years, other dividends don't come to term until we are senior adults. The key is to plan a lifetime of sowing and reaping. When one harvest comes in seed needs to be set aside for the next wave. Don't fear crop failure. Farmers are by nature optimists. How else do they stay in business after bad years? We have God's promise – “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest... winter and summer... shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). Plant with hope!