are two kinds of ground: fallow ground and ground that has been broken up by the
The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and
the agitation of the harrow. Such a field, as it lies year after year, becomes a
familiar landmark to the crow and the blue jay. Had it intelligence, it might
take a lot of satisfaction in its reputation: it has stability; nature has
adopted it; it can be counted upon to remain always the same, while the fields
around it change from brown to green and back to brown again. Safe and
undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy
But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility; never does it feel the
motions of mounting life, nor see the wonders of bursting seed, nor the beauty
of ripening grain. Fruit it can never know, because it is afraid of the plow and
In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the
adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow, and the
plow has come as plows always come, practical, cruel, business-like and in a
hurry. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of
machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned
over, bruised and broken.
But its rewards come hard upon its labors. The seed shoots up into the daylight
its miracle of life, curious, exploring the new world above it. All over the
field, the hand of God is at work in the age-old and ever renewed service of
creation. New things are born, to grow, mature, and consumate the grand prophecy
latent in the seed when it entered the ground. Nature's wonders follow the plow.
There are two kinds of lives also: the fallow and the plowed. For example of the
fallow life, we need not go far. They are all too plentiful among us.
The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He
does not want to be disturbed. He smiles in tolerant superiority at revivals,
fastings, self- searching, and all the travail of fruit bearing and the anguish
of advance. The spirit of adventure is dead within him. He is steady,
"faithful," always in his accustomed place (like the old field), conservative,
and something of a landmark in the little church. But he is fruitless.
The curse of such a life is that it is fixed, both in size and in content. "To
be" has taken the place of "to become." The worst that can be said of such a man
is that he is what he will be. He has fenced himself in, and by the same act he
has fenced out God and the miracle.
Broken To Bring Forth Fruit
The plowed life is the life that has, in the act of repentance, thrown down the
protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. The urge of the
Spirit, the pressure of circumstances and the distress of fruitless living have
combined thoroughly to humble the heart. Such a life has put away defense, and
has forsaken the safety of death for the peril of life.
Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these
have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. And, as
always, fruit follows the plow. Life and growth begin as God "rains down
righteousness." Such a one can testify, "And the hand of the Lord was upon me
there." (Ezek. 3:22).
Corresponding to these two kinds of life, religious history shows two phases,
the dynamic and the static. The dynamic periods were those heroic times when
God's people stirred themselves to do the Lord's bidding and went out fearlessly
to carry His witness to the world. They exchanged the safe of inaction for the
hazards of God- inspired progress. Invariably, the power of God followed such
action. The miracle of God went when and where his people went. It stayed when
His people stopped.
The static periods were those times when the people of God tired of the struggle
and sought a life of peace and security. They busied themselves, trying to
conserve the gains made in those more-daring times when the power of God moved
Bible history is replete with examples. Abraham "went out" on his great
adventure of faith, and God went with him. Revelations, theophanies, the gift of
Palestine, covenants and the promises of rich blessings to come were the result.
Then Israel went down into Egypt, and the wonders ceased for four hundred years.
At the end of that time, Moses heard the call of God and stepped forth to
challenge the oppressor. A whirlwind of power accompanied that challenge, and
Israel soon began to march. As long as she dared to march, God sent out His
miracles to clear a way for her. Whenever she lay down like a fallow field, God
turned off His blessing and waited for her to rise again and command his power.
This is a brief but fair outline of the history of Israel and the Church as
well. As long as they "went forth and preached everywhere", the Lord worked
"with them...confirming the Word with signs following" (Mark 16:20). But when
they retreated to monasteries or played at building pretty cathedrals, the help
of God was withdrawn 'till a Luther or a Wesley arose to challenge hell again.
Then, invariably, God poured out His power as before.
In every denomination, missionary society, local church or individual Christian,
this law operates. God works as long as His people live daringly: He ceases when
they no longer need His aid. As soon as we seek protection out of God, we find
it to our own undoing. Let us build a safety- wall of endowments, by-laws,
prestige, multiplied agencies for the delegation of our duties, and creeping
paralysis sets in at once, a paralysis which can only end in death.
Miracles Follow The Plow
The power of God comes only where it is called out by the plow. It is released
into the Church only when she is doing something that demands it. By the word
"doing", I do not mean mere activity. The Church has plenty of "hustle" as it
is, but in all her activities, she is very careful to leave her fallow ground
mostly untouched. She is careful to confine her hustling within the fear-marked
boundaries of complete safety. That is why she is fruitless; she is safe, but
The only way to power for such a church is to come out of hiding and once more
take the danger-encircled path of obedience. Its security is its deadliest foe.
The church that fears the plow writes its own epitaph. The church that uses the
plow walks in the way of revival.
Editor's notes: A. W. Tozer went to be
with our Lord in 1963, his life and spiritual legacy continues to draw all who
read his works into a deeper knowledge of God. It is impossible to read his
writings without a little self-examination that exposes fallow ground,
especially in our prayer life. -WCM