The Harvest Is Plentiful…

 

Matthew 9:35-38

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

One of the most stirring movies that I have ever seen is the movie, Schindler’s List. It’s based off the true story of Oskar Schindler and his bravery in saving hundreds of Jews from death during World War 2. One of the most moving scenes is near the end of the movie. Oskar Schindler had invested his energy and his fortune in saving the lives of many who would have ended up in Hitler’s death camps had it not been for his willingness to put their lives before his own. The war was finally over and the Jews he had saved from certain death were now free, but now Schindler himself would become the fugitive. He walks to his car with a Jewish friend with the others all around and Schindler begins to cry. He looks at his watch and he knows that if he had sold it, he might have saved one more person. He looks at his car and knows that he could have exchanged it for additional lives and he says to his friend, “I could have done more.”  I could have done more.

This morning our topic is the plentiful harvest. It’s based on the words of Christ in our Gospel lesson, Matthew 9:37-38, where Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to the harvest.”

So, what did he want His disciples to learn by telling them this. Many years ago now, Cheryl and I lived in Grand Junction Colorado. Our little house was cozy but the yard was awesome because it was filled with cherry trees. We couldn’t wait for the fruit to ripen so that we could gorge ourselves with its sweetness.

As soon as the cherries were ready to pick, we were out there collecting as many as we could. With them we made cherry pie, cherry juice, cherry crumb cake and I’m sure we ate more then we probably should have. Fresh fruit ripe for the picking. It was hard to resist. It was a great blessing to enjoy the “fruits” of our labor.

Today we heard the words of Jesus concerning the harvest. Now, it’s not cherries that He’s talking about. He’s talking about the harvesting of souls. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers few.

Even after picking so many cherries, we found that there were still many more than we had picked still on the trees. Eventually, these fruits that were left lost their sweetness. They were eaten by worms and other creatures or they just rotted away.

This was the analogy that Jesus was meaning His disciples to learn. The harvesting of souls is much like the harvesting of fruit. If you leave it too long, it becomes desecrated by others or lost to the world. Left too long and the soul can lose its sweet desire.

When Jesus looked out at the crowds following Him, He had compassion on them. So many helpless people, so many living in subjection to others. This was not a picture of the freedom He was offering. This was what He had come for, to reach the lost and the limited, the rejected and abandoned. They all mattered to Him no matter their status in life. His God sized love longed for them all to be saved from the limitations of this world.

Roy Fish served as a professor of evangelism at Southwest Baptist Seminary. Years ago, his infant son had an illness that brushed him near death. Fish’s heart broke at the thought of his son dying. As his son’s fragile body lay in his hospital bed, Fish asked in his heart, what would I regret most if my son were to die? As he pondered that question, the answer became very clear. I would regret that he died never knowing how much I loved him.

This is the compassion Jesus had as He looked out at the crowd. His heart grieved for them all because they didn’t fully know the depth of their heavenly Father’s love. His heart broke for all those who had yet to learn of His own love for them.

He looked out and He saw people harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. They were defeated in life, looking for anything that might bring them hope.

The toils and struggles of life had left them broken and desperate. They had lost any sense of purpose and their search continued for a reason to go on. Wandering crowds without meaning, without a reason to live. Like sheep without the direction and protection of the shepherd, many falling to the wilds of the world.

Sheep are rather dumb. They simply follow the one before them. If they have no shepherd to guide them they must trust the sheep walking ahead of them. Unfortunately, should that sheep walk off a cliff, the others are likely to follow.

So, it was for the crowds Jesus looked upon and as it is with so many in our world today. They simply follow the latest craze. If we legalize drugs and abortion, then it must be ok. If we decide to eliminate God from the public square then we’ll follow that all the way over the cliff.

These three thoughts, harassed, helpless, and a sheep without a shepherd are a fitting description of our own society.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “People are living lives of quiet desperation.” In their travels through life, they follow each other down the broad path to destruction, convinced the people before them are heading in the right direction. They are harassed to obey, helpless to resist and without guidance that is developed in truth.

In John 4:35, Jesus said to His followers, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” I wonder if that’s what you see when you look out over the harvest of souls ready for the picking. I wonder if you live with the urgency to get the crop in before it’s too late. If the reaping is too late, the crop will eventually fail.

In Jesus’ day, the population of the whole earth was about 150 million people. At the present time, it gains 150 million souls every two years. The harvest is indeed plentiful. Today the world’s population exceeds 6 billion people with the population of the United States just north of 300 million and each one of them contains the likeness of God.

Of the 6 Billion people in the world, it is estimated that over 30 million people will die worldwide without Christ this year. And of the 300 million people in this country, it is estimated that 41% of those people will be radically unchurched, in other words, they don’t go to church at all. Not for Easter, not for Christmas, not for weddings or funerals. 41%. How many of those are bound for the broad path? I believe the answer would sadden us all.

Pastor Vance Havner used to say, “The tragedy of our time is that the situation is desperate but the saints are not.” He’s talking about all of those who are satisfied in our faith. He’s talking about all those who speak of faith but rarely live it.

Jesus is looking for laborers because, right now, the laborers are few. He wants people driven by their faith to make a kingdom difference in the world. He wants people devoted to the cause of the lost. He wants you to feel what He feels with the same compassion He feels.

Jesus wants you to follow His example. In our Gospel it says that He did three things for the lost sheep. He taught, He proclaimed the Gospel and he healed. It’s not by mistake or coincidence that these three actions are found in the same place that Jesus mentions the lack of laborers. In its telling, He is instructing all of us what it means to be a laborer.

The harvest will never be reaped unless there are reapers to reap it. In other words, the lessons will be lost if there is no one to teach them. The Gospel will be lost if there is no one to proclaim it. The Healing will never happen unless there are healers to heal. Jesus Christ needs men and women to bring in the harvest by teaching, proclaiming and healing. And to do that, followers today need to see people as Jesus saw them.

So what can we do?

We can start taking responsibility for the harvest. God has chosen to work through His children and He’s counting on us to plant the seeds so the crop will be ready for harvest.

He is calling on all of us to take responsibility for our field. There are so many people we come into contact with everyday and many of them are lost: family, friends, co-workers, the lady who does your dry cleaning, the guy who fixes your car, even some in our churches. That is our field. We are responsible for them. We are to look with compassion on all of them. We are to teach, proclaim and heal with every opportunity.

Teach them what you know. Tell them of the love of Jesus and the price He paid for our salvation. Teach them godliness by living in a godly way. Teach them sacrifice by the sacrifices you make as a Christian. Teach them holiness by practicing holiness.

Proclaim the good news of the Gospel with passion. Show them the way to everlasting life. Guide them onto the narrow path by showing them what true freedom really means.

Heal their aching hearts. Find the lost and lonely and give them a purpose. Help them to reconcile broken relationships, lend them a hand in rebuilding their shattered lives.

Pray like you’ve never prayed before by praying for the harvest. Pray for the laborers of God to unite. Pray for the salvation of the lost, for Christian men and women to enter the fields with hope. In prayer we can do so much good, so pray continually.

Go and see people as Jesus does, helpless, harassed and without guidance. We can’t bring in the harvest until we first go into the harvest. Our job is not to save the harvest, that’s God’s job. Our job is to tell people about the Lord of the harvest, to work the fields, to do a little weeding. The Gospel begins with go. Without going there is no knowing. If we, as God’s own children refuse to go, then who will?

Finally, we can share our story, the one that led us to faith. The great sin of the church is its silence. I’ve heard people say, “I’ll let my life be my witness” and I’ve seen those same people fail over and over again. We have taken the Great Commission and made it the great omission. We turn people away by our lack of testimony and our hypocritical actions.

But, you say, the harvest is so vast. The needs are so over whelming. What can poor little I do?

I’m reminded of a story I heard of an old man, walking down the beach at dawn, who noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up to the youth, the old man asked him what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun.

“But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish,” Said the old man. “How can your effort make a difference?”

The young man looked at the starfish in his hand, threw it to safety in the waters and said. “It makes a difference to that one.”

Oskar Schindler realized he could have done more and that will always be the case. Yet, had he done nothing, hundreds would have died a horrifying death. I hope your hearts will be stirred to do more to make a difference in the harvest so that others will avoid an even more horrifying eternal death. I pray you will begin to see people as Jesus sees them. When you do, it will make all the difference in the world. My greatest hope is that you will follow Christ’s example to teach, proclaim and heal.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Be one of the few to bring hope to a lost soul. Oskar Schindler could have done more. Could you? Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No comments yet

Comments are closed