A HARVEST OF SOULS
The Bible promises a harvest of souls.
Jesus sends His disciples to do kingdom work. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers few.” We have way more people ready to come into a loving, saving, transforming relationship with God than we have people ready to assist. The other passage is where Jesus points to His disciples to the Samaritans, a people group with whom they want nothing to do, and says, “The fields are ripe for harvest.“
The undeniable assumption of this harvest is that the sowing has already taken place; God Himself has done it, somehow, sometime. His Spirit has gone before, scattering seed, quickening it to life, nurturing it toward ripeness. The evil one has been active, too, plucking, choking, trampling, scorching.
But God prevails.
Now the harvest is ready. And God needs workers. Harvesters. He wants us to finish what He started. Three things are needed to do that, Jesus says. We need to look, pray, and go.
First, look. “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, emphasis mine).
Are you? Do you know how hungry people are for something bigger than themselves?They might be skittish, too, hungry people usually are. Don’t let the skittishness through you off. The world longs for God knows what. People all around you-in your neighborhood, in the cubicle next to yours, on the bus seat across from you, the mom over there with a three-year-old, that one by the park slide–people all around you feel empty, and all the things they’ve crammed into themselves have only left them with a stone in their belly that weighs but doesn’t fill.
“LOOK!” Jesus says, “Open your eyes. Don’t you see them?“
I fly often, and usually by myself. On roughly half of those flights, I get into a conversation with the person seated next to me. Telling a stranger that I’m a pastor is either a quick way to kill a conversation or a quick way to open it wide. I can never predict which it will be, but that too is roughly half and half. Still and all, I end up in a lot of “spiritual” conversations with complete strangers. I hear a fair amount of homemade theology, and some of it not bad: “You know, pastor, I thought God was that feeling, you know, of happiness when life is miserable–you know what I mean? That feeling it’s gonna be okay though everything around you isn’t okay. That feeling deep inside. You know?”
But, mostly, I hear a lot of hunger: “I’m forty. Great marriage. My wife is, like, supermom. She keeps herself fit. Kids are amazing–my youngest just won this music award . . . well, you get the picture. We have great friends. I have this job that pays extravagantly. I travel a lot, stay in nice hotels, all that. And you should see our house. We had it built last year. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you this, ’cause there’s only four of us. But the place is forty-five hundred square feet, and that’s not including the garage and the suite above it. But, pastor, I drive out of my driveway everyday and I can hardly keep from weeping. I feel so . . . I don’t know. Alone. I feel I’m faking it. I feel like the the whole thing’s a colossal sham. I don’t know how it is that I have all of this and it’s still not enough.”
Or: “My life is a disaster. I never really knew my dad. My mom–I don’t want to get into all that. It makes me to angry and sad. I have a kid who hates me. An ex who hates me. I don’t have a friend in the world. I just lost another job. I’m heading to Dallas right now because my uncle’s going to give me a chance working in his warehouse. My question is, Does God hate me, too? I think if I could believe God loved me, that would make a difference. Pastor, do you think God loves me?”
Open your eyes.
And pray. That’s what Jesus also asks of us. Pray God would send workers willing to join Him in His kingdom work. Pray to God that this great moment isn’t missed. That this little window of opportunity isn’t squandered.
Prayer commits us to the heart level to what we endorse at a head level. Prayer mingles our tears and our longings with our observances and our assessments. Looking shows us the problem. Praying makes it our problem. Looking allows us to glimpse the opportunity. Praying requires us to seize it. It forces us to care about what we know about.
Which leads to the third thing Jesus ask of us. And here, as a friend of mine likes to say, Jesus stops preaching and starts meddling.
“Look,” He says. “Pray,” He says.
And now the meddling: “Go,” He says.
You do it. You be the answer to your own prayer. “Even now those who reap draw their wages, even now they harvest the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not work for. Others have down the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:36-38, TNIV)
“Even now.” Even now, you could reap what you haven’t sown. Even now you could taste the unearned privilege of rejoicing alongside those who have. Even now you could share the wages and reap the benefit of someone else’s hard work.
I honestly don’t understand why we don’t fall over astonished at this. To heck with meddling: going is the best part. And the easiest. I have never led a person to Christ who wasn’t ripe for the harvest. There was no tugging and twisting, trying to get the fruit’s stem to seperate from the branch. There was no wrenching and pulling, trying to force the grain from the stalk. It just fell into my hands at the slightest touch.
Every time that’s happened, I’ve rejoiced. I’ve felt like I hit a jackpot. And every time it’s happened, the person I led to Christ feels I’ve done some heroic thing, some great act of daring and generosity.
I’ve done no such thing. I just reaped the benefit of someone else’s hard work.
They toiled, lonely, dirty, in heat and cold.
I walked in, did the easy part, and got the paycheck.
What’s not to like?
Look. Pray. Go. And then watch what God does with your simple act of saying yes.
(Darren’s Comments-A personal take on Look. Pray. Go.)
Since I was thirteen, after my tragic diagnosis of having diabetes mellitus type 1, I was looking to God on what He would have me do since my dreams of being in the U.S. Air FORCE had officially come to a close since an air pilot was my dream. At a Sunday evening alter call, calling any one who felt like the Holy Spirit was calling them to go up if they like God was calling them to something.
The church had a special missionary giving service that night, and he was “on fire.” It wasn’t till the end, that he gave an unique alter call. I don’t remember much about that specific service except I felt like I was called to give my life in service to Him. So, I left me pew and headed down to the front. I remember there was a whole bunch of people there, standing along side me, excited to see other’s felt a similiar calling. Looking back, I feel that others were stopped in their pursuit of God and what He wanted for their life; this was for a variety of reasons: peer and social pressure, others felt like they wanted to be considered “holy,” and as in the Boston Marathon others intended on finishing the race they found they were not prepared for the riggors of the race facing the treachory of “Heartbreak Hill.” Yet, I knew all this and was prepared for what God said He wanted from me.
After the news of my life-long illness of type 1 diabetes at the age of twelve years ten months, I was devastated since my diagnosis put the final nail in the coffin of my dream of being an Air Force pilot. I needed glasses, and that seemingly spelt the end of my dream, but with Lasik eye surgery, I might have a shot. However, this diagnosis spelled the end of my dream. It didn’t take me long to find a new Holy passion–to be called into serving God with my whole life. So, I from then on I took up my life with prayer.
I prayed with Holy passion. Fifteen long months it took me to receive confirmation to my prayer that I had so earnestly been seeking. It happened at a small, private Christian school where I received the answer that I’d been seeking so desperately-God was going to use me to minister His Word to a population that needed Him most, teenagers (I thought). Since I was just at the start of my teenage years and since I loved the youth, in my excitement, I prepared to do what I thought was natural–become a youth pastor. After all, I was inspired by the most famous book named THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE by David Wilkerson, who started Teen Challenge in 1959.
Along with my praying (and I never ceased), I began to take action on what I thought God had called me to: getting encouragement, awards, and pep talks from my youth pastor, and regional pastors for my preaching sermonettes all to the youth. I even remember my youth group went down to our local slums, and I got the distinct pleasure of introducing some local teens to Jesus Christ and His kingdom, and within 4 years, I was finished with high school and ready to start Christian college in the fall. So I was going in the correct way, I thought.
About 15 years ago, I swept in from from the hard work that my pastor did (watering and tending a precious soul), and I just happened to be the one who got the harvest of leading him to Jesus Christ. Later, I heard from my pastor that he was jokingly “jealous” of me because he did the hard work, and I had the distinct pleasure of reaping that which I did not toil for like an apple that is fully ripe I plucked that soul from the tree.
If you have a similar experience I would love to hear about it, so please comment of your victories in this area. Although I know that many Christians are scared to share their faith in Jesus Christ (especially in the current social culture in America), share with me your struggles in the work place, sitting down in the waiting area of the family physician’s office (like I did), the local coffee shop, etc. specifically in proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.
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