The Harvest is Plentiful, Are you working?
I want to wake you up for just a second with a few statistics. I want you to imagine with me for a moment an ambulance. Now picture the siren. Do you see it flashing? One revolution of the siren of an ambulance is approximately the rate at which people all across the world die without knowing Jesus. That means that 103 people every minute go into eternity without hope. Once the FCA Activity Night is finished, over 15,000 people across the world will have perished without knowing Christ. Of the 149, 000 who die each day it is estimated that 66,000 of those have never heard the gospel.
But perhaps we aren’t bringing this close to your home yet. I have heard many different studies about the people who come to Christ before the age of 18: apparently 75-80% of people who will ever come to know Christ do so before the age of 18. Now there are approximately 450 students at MTHS (junior and senior high) of these you can take 1 of 2 statistics. Some say that 10% will be converted (some even would say 1%). If 10% of your graduating class knows Christ then that means approximately 7 will be Christians. Other statistics say 30% which would mean that about 20 of your class mates will know Christ when the graduate. What all of this means is that more than likely ¾ of your class mates will go into eternity without knowing Christ! That means that if you have 70 in your graduating class then 50 of them will likely be in hell within 70 years.
Now let me share with you a couple more shocking statistics. I have heard it said that only 1 out of 100 Christians will share the gospel with an unbeliever in their lifetime. I think that might be a little low I have heard it even as high as 40%. But regardless, statistically speaking that means 1 out of every 3 will share the gospel and that is sad. But its not just sharing the gospel its even giving to missions. And supporting missionaries; listen to this stat: Americans give $700 million per year to mission agencies. However, they pay as much for pet food every 52 days. A person must overeat by at least $1.50 worth of food per month to maintain one excess pound of flesh. Yet $1.50 per month is more than what 90 percent of all Christians in America give to missions.” What that means is that we value our pets and our excess food more than we value people and the glory of Christ. So, I ask you what will motivate you to share the gospel?
I don’t see failure when I look at you. I see potential. I see missionaries. I see statistic breakers. But will stir you? Ultimately it will not be me, nor will it be statistics. But it will be the Spirit of God using the Word of God. So let’s look now at Matthew 9:36-38 where we will find three motivations for evangelism.
“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.”
The three motivations that I see in this context are 1) love and compassion for people 2) a calling by the Lord of the harvest 3) Worship and fear of the Lord.
We will look first tonight at love and compassion as a motivation for missions. Notice in verse 36 that Jesus “saw the crowds”. Don’t skip over that. ”. Jesus could have easily not seen them. He could have easily turned a blind eye to them. But Jesus saw them. That means that they had Jesus’ attention. Whenever we have Jesus’ attention it means something is going to happen. When Jesus notices something it brings about a result. He doesn’t just turn His head but He does something. He notices them.
So quickly cutting straight to our heart, let me ask a question. What have you noticed? Have you seen the people? Do you see the people that you go to school with? Do you see the people in your community? I do not mean can you see them with your eyes. I mean do you really see them? Do we really see their plight? Do we really know what is going on in their lives? Do we see? Just ask yourself, are you watching? Do you see where God is moving here in the community? Have you noticed? Do people have your attention or are we so wrapped up in our own worlds?
I’m reminded here of something you will see little children do often, and something that sadly parents often do and I am sure I will do. I will see children doing something that probably isn’t too big of deal to us, they will be doing a handstand or something. And all the while saying “hey Dad, hey Mom” look. Watch Me! Children want to be noticed. And hopefully their parents notice them. Hopefully they have parents that love them enough to take time out from the mundane and notice them. I pray that I notice.
If not often times it goes into youth. But this time instead of handstands it’s something else, typically more dangerous. Many of you here tonight are asking that question, “Do you notice me”. I pray that we might notice them. I pray that we might say, I notice. I care. I see you. I pray that it does not lead to despair in adulthood. Eventually some people give up and figure nobody notices. I pray that out community might know that we notice. I pray that people might know that we see. We see their plight. We feel their hardship.
I also want you to catch what happens when Jesus notices them. It says “he felt compassion”, or “he was moved with compassion”. I just have to say the Greek word here because it is so fun. In fact let me say it once and you can experience saying this word. It’s so fun! And no we aren’t speaking in tongues (well maybe we are biblically, speaking in tongues) SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE. I’d say I probably butchered that pretty badly, but its fun nonetheless. This fun little word is only here in the New Testament, not by classical Greek writers, it appears it is a word that the biblical writers coined, maybe because Jesus’ compassion was so emotional, and so different that they had to come up with a different word. I don’t know. But what I do know is in it’s verb form the word appears here and 11 more times in the New Testament and each time is significant.
Each time Jesus has SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE he does something about it. His compassion is not just a feeling, where he has a feeling but then does nothing about it. Let me take you through a little journey with this word. I will try to do it quickly.
In Matthew 14:14
It is because of Jesus’ SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE that he healed their sick. 15:32, he feeds 4 thousand of their sick after having compassion on them, 20:34 causes Him to touch a man’s eye to restore his sight. In Mark 1:41 it causes Jesus to do the unthinkable. He actually touches the untouchable when He reaches out his hand and touches a leper. In Luke 7:13 it is from Jesus’ compassion on a boy’s mother that He brings her son back from the dead. It is because of SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE that a king in a parable frees a slave and forgives his debt. This same compassion is what motivates the Good Samaritan. And it is said of the father who accepted his prodigal son that he did it because he had SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE.
And here it is because Jesus saw the people, and it moved him with compassion that he sent out His workers into the fields to tell the good news that the kingdom is at hand, as well as to heal their sick, raise their dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out their demons.
SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE, otherwise known as biblical compassion always brings about action. If it does not move you to act, and I would even offer continue to act then it is probably not biblical compassion but just a feeling. Biblical compassion, Christ-like compassion touches lepers. Christ-like compassion sacrifices time. Christ-like compassion puts others before self. Christ-like compassion acts. SPLANGKH-NID’-ZO-MAHEE changes lives. It is because of the Lord’s compassion, that you or I are saved today. Christ-like compassion always acts, and it always effects and changes lives.
So we see here our first point, that Christ was moved by compassion to minister to them. Sometimes it was to their physical needs but that always led to their spiritual need. Christ really loved people and he gave Himself for them…are we following Christ in our love for unbelievers? Are we spending our lives on loving them?
Secondly, I want you to notice what Jesus does and what he does here even though done 2,000 years ago has an impact on our life today. What does Christ do for these sheep without a shepherd? He gives them shepherds. He stirs in the hearts of God’s people and says go love them. What is our calling?
As I have been proclaiming to our students our primary calling in life is simple, “Know God and make Him known”. We can see this calling in Matthew 28 or even in Acts 1:8 when Jesus says you will be my witnesses…then he proceeds to proclaim to them where they will be his witnesses. And you see throughout the Book of Acts that the Lord spread the disciples all throughout the world so that wherever they are at that moment and in that time they are missionaries. The quote I love so much, “You are either a missionary or a mission field” is seen clearly in the movement of the church of Acts. They were highly missional and no matter where they were or who they were with they were sharing the gospel. If you are here tonight you are called by God to be doing missions, sharing the gospel of Christ.
So, the second point for us to look at here is the calling of Christ. “Then he said to his disciples…pray earnestly….send laborers.” What are we commissioned to do?
Pray. Pray for their souls, pray for workers. Now for the longest time I used to add a word here. I used to think it said “MORE WORKERS” until I noticed the word more is not here. Now indeed it is right for us to pray for more workers. Because more workers means more people who have a heart for God and are concerned for spreading God’s glory. And that is what evangelism spreading a passion for the glory of God in the Gospel. But I think God is saying something special here. I think more than praying for “new” workers I think what Jesus is saying here is that we should pray that the Lord of the harvest might commission workers to go out into the fields that He has already prepared. Let me try that another way, those who have been fed, those who are saved, those whom God has gifted, those whom God has been growing, those whom God is working in, get off your rear and get into the field. Now certainly we need to pray for new workers but we want to pray that the Lord might commission people whom He has already prepared. Pray that God might prick our hearts. Pray that God might create in us a heart for evangelism. Pray that God might restore in us the joy of our salvation. Pray that God might inspire us with a passion for His glory and seeing that glory spread. Pray that God might show us more of Himself and we are so enamored with what we see that we can not shut up about Him. Pray that God might so set us afire with His Spirit that His Word is a fire in our bones that we can not quench, that if we hold it in we become sick and weary, and indeed we can not. Pray that God might send us out into the fields. So the second thing we have is the calling and commissioning of Christ to respond to the Lord of harvest and go, and continue to pray for others to respond.
But lastly, and I really believe most importantly our greatest motivation for witnessing is Worship. When Hudson Taylor was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for the mission field. On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations for service. "And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?" he asked one. "I want to go because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," was the reply. Another said, "I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ." Others gave different answers. Then Hudson Taylor said, "All of these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testings, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ".
Earlier I shared that some believe only 1 out of 100 Christians will share Christ with an unbeliever in their lifetime. What is the greatest obstacle to personal evangelism? Fear. What will dissolve fear and motivate and sustain evangelism? It is one thing. Worship, fear of someone else that is far greater than our fear of people. It is a passionate undying love for God in Christ that will cause us to spread Christ to the nations.
This point is not explicit in the text but it lies underneath the entire verse and context. The disciples would not have been following Christ had it not been for love. You don’t pray earnestly for God to send unless you’ve got a really big God that you worship passionately. In fact you don’t even care about lost unless you’re enthralled by God. The only thing that will keep you from being so focused on self (because that is what missions takes) is to be enthralled with Christ.
READ PIPER QUOTE p133
I want to draw your attention to the glory of God. Do you realize that God is being defamed in our schools? The name of God is being taken out of our schools. The false teaching of Darwin Evolution is putting man at the center. Do you realize that whenever people are rejecting Christ and embracing sin that they are trampling the glory of God under foot? Do you realize that God is very passionate about His glory, and He will some day be glorified, even if it be through judgment? Might, our love for God’s glory and for our fellow man motivate us to witness. Whenever, people are telling lies about God He is being trampled on. Oh, I wish this would make us cry. I wish that we would be broken for the glory of God being defamed. And furthermore, whenever we put man at the center of evangelism, and whenever we sell-out to a man-centered Gospel the glory of God is even being defamed in our churches. Oh, may this never be.
I am consistently motivated by a quote by a man named Charles Spurgeon. In the late 1800’s he found himself in the middle of what is known as the Downgrade controversy. To sum it up, people were beginning to reject the idea that one must give their entire life to Christ. Some believed that you could accept Christ as Savior and reject Him as Lord and still be saved. It was a time where the glory of God was being defamed in the churches. Man was becoming the center of the gospel, and we see the fruits of many of those ministers who fell into this downgrade, as Spurgeon called it. But what I want you to hear is what Spurgeon said towards the end of his life. It was almost a passing of the torch, and even though there have been many before me and will be many after me who have and will carry this torch, I still feel inspired to be one of those torch-bearers. Spurgeon said this, and I would urge you to join me in this mighty cause:
“It is time that somebody should spring his rattle, and call attention to the way in which God is being robbed of his glory, and man of his hope."
Is God sending you? Perhaps to be a full-time minister, paid or not! Perhaps to join a mission project. Perhaps to join a mission team. Go on a mission trip. Witness to a family member, to a co-worker. Have a mission field? Is God sending you? Is God calling you?
Note that, God sends us. God is not calling for a maverick mission where we have people who are not listening to the Lord of the harvest. We do not need people who are not commissioned by God to go into the fields before the Lord even is at work. Basically, what I am decrying here, or speaking against, is the idea that we go out we do whatever we can and hope and pray that God will bless it. Oh, how I admire that diligence. Oh, how I admire the zeal and passion for evangelism. But I fear that at the heart of some “evangelism” is a selfish ambition. Regardless, I praise the Lord that His gospel is being preached and I guess I would rather some go out in zeal and selfish ambition rather than not go out at all. But I must make the point that it is the Lord’s harvest. We will be more pleasing to the Lord if we join Him in His work, if we listen to the Lord of the harvest, follow Him, and allow Him to do His work. Might we see ourselves but vessels the Lord gives us the grace to use. Oh what grace He has given us to be His ministers. All of us are called into His harvest. Some are called to be evangelists, some teachers, some preachers, some are called to mercy, to service, to prayer.
So tonight I want to ask those of you who are believers three things? Does the love of unbelievers cause to burn within? Are you like CT Studd who said, “Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell”? Have you been called by God? Are you one of those workers to go into the field? And lastly, do you so love God so much that you want to spread His glory to the nations? Does the worship of God motivate you to evangelism?