The Harvest is Plentiful, The Workers are Few.
The harvest is plentiful. Do we believe this? More specifically, do I believe this? Am I optimistic about meeting new people, convinced that in time, as we build our relationship, they will have an interest in the Gospel? Have I despaired of others after no interest has been shown for years? Have I consigned a number of others to a “they probably won’t be interested anyway so why bother troubling myself by getting to know them” category? Jesus goes on record on three separate occasions saying that the harvest is plentiful. He said this in Samaria regarding those considered as half breeds, (John 4:35) in Galilee to those who were despised, (Mathew 9:36-38) and in Perea regarding foreigners. (Luke 10:2) The crowds are no different today than they were then. What is it about our Lord that makes His viewpoint different from mine? In the passage in Matthew 9:36-38 there are three items mentioned that make the difference! 1) He opened His eyes. (When He saw the crowds) 2) He opened His heart. (He had compassion on them.) 3) He commanded us to open our mouth. (Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.)
Do I really see people in my daily routine of activities, or are they faceless, nameless persons that are there to assist me with my needs? Do I only see neighbors and acquaintances as those to whom I need to make an obligatory comment while coming and going? Do I see people as getting in my way when I am in a line at the store or drive through? If so, then I need to see them as Jesus saw them. He saw each one as a unique creation in God’s image and created for His glory. He saw the worth of each individual as the reason for His cross. He saw the potential and possibilities of that life when governed and led by the Holy Spirit. He saw them as a member of an entirely new race, part of His bride to be in the new heavens and new earth.
The opening of the heart and the pouring forth of compassion is seen most clearly in the accounts where it is said that He wept. The first of these is in John 11:35. The word for wept here is in contrast to that of Mary and her friends. The word describing their weeping referred to loud wailing. The word used of Jesus in this passage refers to tears flooding down His face. Here, in the face of the tragedy of death as a result of original sin and subsequent fall and misery in the human race, He wept. Uncontrollable tears fell down His face. The emotion triggered by His compassion for our condition produced those tears. Sometime later, it is said that as He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it. (Luke 19:41) G. Campbell Morgan states that “The word for weeping there does not mean merely that tears forced themselves up and down his face. It suggests rather the heaving of the bosom, and the sob and cry of a soul in agony.” The Gospel according to Luke, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1931, page 221. Has my soul ever been in agony like this? Have tears ever streamed down my face? It is His heart of compassion that I must seek if I would see that the harvest is plentiful.
Finally, He commanded us to open our mouths and ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Asking precedes and is directly linked to our availability as workers. Immediately after Matthew 9:36-38 He sends out the twelve disciples into the villages to preach the message that “The kingdom of heaven is near.” I have noticed in my life for many years that faithful prayer for others leads to opportunities for relationships and conversations. Neglect of prayer leads to neglect of others.
The workers are few. No one disagrees with this statement. The reasons the workers are few are due to the enemies of our Christian walk, namely the world, the flesh and the devil. The world presents many opportunities for us to invest our time. Our many interests and responsibilities decrease our availability to the Lord and others. The scriptures say, however, that “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs- he wants to please his commanding officer. (II Timothy 2:4) The world also would have us be a slave to our occupation, despite the fact that the Lord tells us that He is responsible to meet our needs. (Philippians 4:19) In addition the world wants us to place our treasure here which is in contrast to our Lord’s direction in Matthew 6:21. (to lay up treasure in heaven) The world desires to consume our heart. It is successful by appealing to self purpose. Where there is purpose outside the will of God for my life, the world will appeal to it. Self wants the prestige and possessions that the world offers.
In John 12:42-43 we see an example of how the flesh attacks us by causing us to fear others. In II Timothy 1:7, however, we are told that we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind. The flesh says to us that we may be disliked, ostracized, and that our reputation may suffer as result of identifying with Christ. Why do we let the flesh have power over us? We have a subtle desire for self glory. We want to be liked, to be respected and to look good.
The evil one uses not only the world and the flesh to attack us. He attacks us directly by planting the following thoughts in our minds. “You do not know the gospel truths well enough to be a witness.” “Your life is too messed up! How would anyone believe you?” You need to wait to develop a better relationship before you tell others about Christ.” “You have waited too long. They are too close a friend now and you might lose them as a friend.” Why does the evil one stop us with these suggested thoughts? We have a problem with self sufficiency. We try to find answers and adequacy for our uncertainties within ourselves instead of looking to the Lord. He says that we walk by faith, not by sight. (II Corinthians 5:7)
The workers are few due to the world influencing us in the area of self purpose, the flesh involving us in self glory, and the evil one inducing us to do battle in the realm of self sufficiency. The problem in the last analysis, then, is self. We pray, “Lord, do something about the harvest!”. His answer to us is “Do something about the self!” “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (LuKe 9:23)
May the Lord enable you to see with His eyes, embrace the compassion that comes from His heart, and be faithful in praying for workers for His harvest. May He then empower you with His presence and manifest Himself as salt and light through you as you labor in the harvest field.
In Christ, Richard Spann