This post is part of the weekly series on effective prayer.
The harvest is plentiful, but…
a) it’s infested with bugs
b) it’s covered in powdery mildew
c) it’s been genetically modified
d) the laborers are few.
What’s your guess?
A little over a month ago, our congregation hosted a guest preacher who spoke on the importance of seeking and teaching the lost. The method he advocated contained the same message of salvation, but instead of trying to have weeks upon weeks of classes and struggling to get people to commit to a long-term meeting, a one-hour meeting is proposed to have an overview of the Bible and the good news of Christ.
As he pointed out during his lessons, the problem isn’t with the message. The problem is the lack of messengers.
The terms “Proselytizers” and “evangelizers” are spat distastefully from the mouths of athiests and antagonists. When we talk to people about the gospel, there is an unspoken sentiment that it had better be in neutered, relative or generic terms or else we are considered judgmental.
Does anybody want to hear about God anymore?
Many of us who have tried to teach about Jesus or the gospel here in the States have encountered resistance, hostility, ostracism and indifference. Even more frustrating is getting into unrelated arguments because people have a pet issue against Christianity in general.
After awhile, we start making the following excuses:
1) “Maybe there is a harvest, but it’s half-eaten by bugs.”
“Ok, it’s all eaten by bugs.”
How will you know unless you look?
Have you ever tried to grow produce? I had a small row of lettuce growing in my garden a couple years ago. It was developing beautifully. One day I walked into the garden to discover pitiful green stumps where my baby lettuces had been. Some pesky green caterpillars had eaten the lot. Dismayed, I immediately inspected all my plants—carrots, cucumbers, basil and sugar snap peas. I located as many caterpillars as I could and “displaced” them. For weeks, my children and I made daily visual inspections on those plants. I wasn’t about to let all that hard work of planting, watering and fertilizing go to waste!
There are a large number of souls so terribly infested with the “isms”—existentialism, relativism, atheism, humanism, evolutionism—that they won’t go near a Christian without a ten foot pole. And they’ll use that pole to push us away, beat at us or just take swings…
Are you going to let the entire harvest go to waste? Or are you going to look for those people who are still open to the good news? All that planting, watering, fertilizing was hard work that somebody invested in those souls. Do we just let them die?
Even those covered in “isms” can be salvaged with persistent work.
2) “The harvest is covered with mildew. It’s no good!”
Do you ever feel as though the rank immorality and the societal approval of vice has made people push us away as prudish, self-righteous fools?
In other words, do you feel that nobody wants to hear the good news because they are overcome with the sin of this world?
I’ve got news for you…
…It’s always been bad.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Throughout history there have been dark periods in various societies where evil was considered good and good was considered evil.
Remember Noah? It was so bad that only 8 people from the entire world were saved from destruction.
Remember Sodom & Gomorrah? The only survivors from destruction were Lot & his two daughters. Three people out of hundreds, maybe even thousands.
Remember Ancient Rome? It certainly was not the paragon of virtue. Mobs took sick pleasure in watching their fellow humans hacked to pieces, consumed by dogs, and flattened by chariots. Their bloodlust was insatiable. They “slept around,” engaged in extra-marital affairs, practiced homosexuality, abused the helpless, owned slaves… and guess what?
All of it was acceptable in their culture.
Any of this sound familiar?
Even in the midst of that amoral empire, the Lord’s Church grew by the thousands.
Because in spite of all the glitz, glamour and gluttony, people still felt as though something was missing. Their soul hungered for the food only God can supply.
There are still people like that today.
3) “The harvest isn’t fit to be used.”
How do you know?
It feels like we are surrounded by genetically modified people at times, but I’m confident that they are still real people with real souls that need real salvation.
Every soul is precious. Even if you preach you’re entire life and only snatch one soul away from the fire, you have brought a great treasure to God. What if that one soul goes on to help bring thousands to Christ? There is a saying, “Anyone count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.” (Robert H. Schuller)
Allow God to supply the grace. Allow the crop to pass the Inspector’s Test before you deem it unfit. It isn’t our job to decide who would and wouldn’t make a “good” Christian. It’s our job to harvest the crop. Let God do the sorting.
There are not a lot of people to gather the crops. It’s hard work, but the value is immeasurable.
It is up to all of us to seek those who are far from God. We need to live distinct, purposeful lives each and every day. We need to shine with peace, confidence and faith. This does not come from ourselves, but from the relationship we have with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
This life is temporary, the reward is eternal.
Consider this passage from Matthew:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because 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; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
He goes on to give his apostles the authority to cast out demons and heal afflictions. I realize that these exhortations were directed to the apostles, but later on, many of those who were simply Christians without the title of apostle or teacher, went on to preach the faith:
I [Paul] want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
This week, let’s pray for three things:
1) Pray for more laborers.
This could be you.
We should be sharing the good news with everyone around us and not because we feel required to do so. It should flow from our speech and conversation, emanating from every facet of our lives.
We have a global hunger problem: There are still people starving for inner peace. They long to be right with God even though they are totally unaware that He is what they lack. They need the message of Jesus Christ.
Specifically, we need more people who actively present the gospel in it’s entirety. These are people who sit down or stand up and lay it all out there for the person who has not come into a right relationship with God.
2) Pray for the laborers to have success.
Nearly a week ago, as I sat in a Bible Study, a very relevant point was made: sometimes people make their requests to God without expecting it to actually happen.
In our latest Coffee Chat, one of the commenters said that Samson made his final appeal to God with faith that God would grant his request.
Do we have faith that God will grant us this request? If we don’t believe He will, then why ask?
Pray with confidence that God will answer. This is a critical request! The sharing of the gospel has eternal consequences. It will alter the course of life here on earth for each individual who receives it and point their soul toward heaven.
3) Pray that Christians will shine brightly and not bring shame on Christ.
All too often, non-believers like to point to the fallen Christians—the hypocrites, the child molesters, the greedy—as reasons not to follow God. Let us live in such a way as to bring honor to God in everything we do. We can’t stop people from making poor choices, but we can pray for our fellow Christians to hold fast to the Word of God and maintain their integrity.
Let us pray these things to great effect this week. If you know someone actively teaching the gospel, pray for them by name. Feel free to share their names below in the comments section so we can all pray for them by name as well!