THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL?

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  

                                                                  Matthew 9:35-38

 

Mike shook his head.  "What do you mean, 'the harvest is plentiful'…!"   All Mike could see was apathy and indifference.  "Maybe in Africa.  Maybe in Latin America, or even Russia --- but here?" 

 

Of course, if you compromise the gospel a bit.  Spice it up with the offer of prosperity, or the promise of success.  Entertain the folks.  Make them feel good about themselves.  Then maybe you'll have a viable market. 

 

But when we give them the Word of the Cross….when we call them to discipleship, people don't seem to be falling over each other to get to us.

 

Yet our Lord's words still stand:  "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."  

 

Jesus makes it sound so simple.  Crowds are drawn to him.  They come to be healed.  They come to hear him speak.  He doesn't do anything to lure them.  They just come. 

 

And when Jesus looks out over those crowds, he doesn't have to fight the temptation (as we do) to exploit them.  He dealt with that issue back in his wilderness temptation.  He is simply moved with compassion for these people.  He sees them as harassed and helpless sheep, without a shepherd. 

 

Then he turns to his disciples --- to us --- and tells us what he sees: a harvest for the kingdom.  People who are ripe.

 

Then he tells us what we have to do: "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers."

 

Of course today, as Mike was saying, those crowds that kept coming to Jesus now seem to have melted away.  They're busy watching football or hockey.  They're at the movies, the casino, the mall.  They're trying to survive the rat race as best they can.  And they are still harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. 

 

But they don't seem to be stumbling over each other to get to us.

 

Of course our healing record isn't that great.  And our teaching does not seem to have the same power. 

 

Still, the Lord Jesus keeps saying the same thing --- to us: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."  He insists that there are plenty of harassed and helpless sheep out there, ripe for the kingdom. 

 

Maybe the invited guests are busy buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage. 

 

But what about the ones we're overlooking?  What about the blind and the lame and the crazies in the streets and lanes of the city?  Those forgotten ones are everywhere.  In the city.  The suburbs.  Skid Row.  Grosse Pointe.  There are thousands out there who are ripe for the kingdom. 

 

Not just for your church or my church, but for the kingdom --- whatever church they may end up in.

 

            Maybe these people are visible to us, maybe

            they're not.

 

Maybe they're on the other side of the fence, and we can't seem to reach them.  But they're there!

 

Even if we can't seem to connect with the harvest that Jesus is talking about, we need to take him at his word and believe it. (As opposed to our usual pessimistic mindset.)  The harvest is plentiful.  It's out there.  Believe it, even if it is not obvious to us!

 

And then we need to do the first thing our Lord tells us to do.

 

Before we attempt to do any harvesting. 

Before we start trying to recruit harvesters. 

Before we rack our brains to find some new gimmick to attract

 them….

            "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers

             into his harvest."

 

The harvest needs laborers.  And those laborers will show up --- when we start praying the Lord of the harvest to raise them up and send them out.  God has tied his redemptive activity in this matter to our prayers.

 

Imagine what would happen if we took a holiday from all our brainstorming, and strategizing, and market surveys, and outreach campaigns, and quietly concentrated on a daily discipline of praying for laborers.  Imagine what would happen if we gave up preaching about it, or asking our people to do it --- until we first formed the discipline in our own lives of daily praying for laborers.

 

Jesus would not be telling us to pray for laborers if it weren't necessary.  We're all so busy with our "ministries" we lose sight of the big picture.  The big picture is not my little "kingdom," it's God's kingdom.  And I haven't begun to fit into God's kingdom until I start praying for laborers for his harvest.  

 

Now the scene changes as we move from the end of Matthew 9 to John 4.  Jesus is alone at a well in Samaria.  A woman comes to draw water.  Jesus harvests her for the kingdom by simply asking for a drink. 

 

"How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?"

 

"If you knew who's asking you for a drink, you'd be asking

  him for living water."

 

"Okay, give me this living water."

 

"Go call you husband and come here."

 

"I have no husband."

 

Jesus proceeds to tell her about herself.  She's astonished.  They discuss the meaning of true worship.  Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah (in a way he never did to his disciples). 

 

Just then his disciples came.  They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or "Why are you talking with her?"  So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Messiah?"

 

Suddenly, because of this one woman, the harvest is plentiful.  While the disciples press Jesus to eat, he waves them off.  "I have food to eat that you know nothing about….My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work."

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'?  I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest."

The whole Samaritan village approaches, as a result of the woman's testimony.  

 

"This is the harvest?  These Samaritans?  Give me a break!   Why they're outside the Covenant.  We have nothing in common with them!"

 

The disciples had selective vision when it came to the harvest --- Jews only.  And so do we.  Wherever we are, there is a multitude of Samaritans out there that we don't seem to notice.  They're beneath our radar, but not beneath God's. 

 

When Jesus says, "Lift up your eyes and see the fields are already white for harvest," he's telling us to take another look and see what he sees.  Maybe the people we had in mind aren't ripe for harvest. 

But here, before our eyes is a whole sea of ripe Samaritans.

 

"Lord, give us eyes to see the Samaritans you're sending our way."

 

The harvest is plentiful, no matter where the Master has placed us.  Believe.  Pray for laborers. Open your eyes, and start seeing Samaritans.''

 

"He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.'  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have

labored, and you have entered into their labor."

 

We need to see the difference between "Me making it happen" and "Me, fitting into what God is already making happen." 

 

Our temptation: to figure out what "works" and then engineer things to "make it happen."

 

But in the kingdom we don't make anything happen.  God makes it happen, and we fit into his program. 

 

The harvest was prepared long before we came along.

 

God's Spirit has been at work in those lives for years --- ripening them.

 

God has had people out there planting little spiritual "time bombs" in their hearts, set to go off at the appointed time.

 

            It is not our skill or ingenuity that does the job.

 

                        It's God's Spirit in us.

 

"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses."

 

You shall be my witnesses.  Not "should."  You will, by my Spirit.

 

You witness in the place where I put you –

 

will make disciples,

will give them hope,

will open their eyes,

will lead them to faith in Jesus,

will teach them what Jesus has taught us,

will help them to walk the walk.

 

Four distractions that keep us from fitting into the true harvest:

 

1.      The compulsion to "make an impact."

 

That's not what we've been sent to do.

Let the Nobel prize winners and the politicians make their impact. God will make His own impact through us if and when He chooses.

 

2.      The temptation to build our own "kingdom shrine."

 

Instead of letting the Lord proclaim his kingdom through us…we get caught up in "my work," "my ministry," "my method," "my church."

 

3.      The neurotic need to vindicate ourselves.

There will always be somebody who will question the validity of what we're doing.  We will be tempted to prove them wrong.

            Big mistake.

Let them think what they will. God will vindicate his Name when he's ready.

 

4.      The compulsion to "do it my way."

 

I find a method that works for me.  A system over which I have control.  A message that fits the "market" I'm trying to reach.

 

"My way" instead of the way of the Lord Jesus --- which is the Word of the Cross, delivered by a crucified life.

 

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.       I Corinthians 2:1-5

 

We are not harvesting numbers.

We are harvesting disciples for the kingdom.

 

 

 

 

Summary: 

 

The harvest is plentiful.

 

 It's not our harvest, it's God's harvest.

 

Here's what we're called to do:

 

1.      Believe that its there, even when it's not obvious to us.  The Lord Jesus is telling us a fact: the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

 

2.   Form the discipline of daily praying the Lord of the

      Harvest to send out laborers.

 

3.   We need to lift up our eyes and see what had not been

      obvious to us: a multitude of Samaritans who are ripe.

 

4.   We need to start fitting into God's program.  To keep

      submitting to the Spirit,  who opens our eyes and

      empowers us with his presence.

 

Then we reap where we have been put.  With a servant heart, a listening ear, and a sustaining word for the weary ones.  

 

 

 

 

Finally…..

 

We need to continuously distinguish between what God can do, and what only we can do (i.e. what God will not do for us).

 

God alone saves and sanctifies --- we don't.

            Our job is to make disciples.

 

Jesus alone builds his church --- we can't.

            Our job is to wash feet.

 

The Vine alone causes fruit to come --- we can't.

            Our job is to abide in the Vine, through obedience

            and faith.

 

God alone answers prayer --- he doesn't need our assistance.

            Our job is to pray.

 

God alone sets up the harvest.

            Our job is to believe him when He  tells us it's there.

 

God alone raises up laborers.

            Our job is to pray for laborers.

 

God alone brings the harvest before us.

            Our job is to open our eyes and see it.

 

God alone rules the harvest.

            Our job is to fit into his program, and obey.

 

 

 

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