Do you ever get discouraged in life? Are you afraid that the Church is dying? Do you wonder where God is, and why people are not getting saved? I do, sometimes. But the best remedy to discouragement and confusion is to get in the face of God, spend time in His Word, reflect on His promises and get busy about preaching the Gospel. Do you know this promise:
“And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’.”
– Luke 10.2
When Jesus was walking the Earth and training His disciples to be the first disciple-makers, He promised them that the harvest is plentiful. When Jesus was fulfilling the Law and bringing the first good news of the Gospel, the workers were not merely few – they were non-existent. He Himself was training the first generation of laborers to go out into the harvest and to see people saved. We see throughout the ministry of Jesus and the efforts of the disciples in the book of Acts that thousands of people were added to their numbers at a time!
We can see both the fruit of their labor today, and also the ongoing need to follow their example and continue to go out and pray for God to send more people out. If you live in the United States, then chances are extremely high that you live within five miles of at least one Church, and you not only know Christians, but have heard the Gospel. There are still millions of people, however, who have never seen a church, met a Christian or heard the Gospel. And yet the promise is still true that the harvest is plentiful! The Holy Spirit is already working in the hearts of people in every single tribe, tongue and nation to prepare them to hear the Gospel and believe.
Modern missions groups and many Churches like to teach would-be laborers and evangelists that it often takes people a while to believe – an average of hearing the Gospel seven times and watching believers live it out. This, however, is not Biblical teaching. It is simple statistics. The Bible teaches us quite the opposite, and we should expect God to move as He promises in Scripture:
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.’”
– John 4.35-38
Jesus begins to crush our understanding of “working the field” in this passage. Does it typically take wheat four months to grow to maturity? Does it typically take a person hearing the Gospel 7 times and watching Christians? Sure, maybe in human forms. If we want people to trust in us and not in God, then yes we have to be good little Christians so that they will want to follow our example. However, if we look for the Harvest which God has prepared, it does not take four months. It does not take seven presentations and a good witness. It takes God’s supernatural movement, and He has already done it! The harvest is white, the wheat is ready, we need only to introduce them to Jesus! Consider this promise:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“When the plowman will overtake the reaper
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
When the mountains will drip sweet wine
And all the hills will be dissolved.”
– Amos 9.13
During this season of grace, when we are no longer under the Law, it will happen – and is happening – that the plowman (the harvester) will overtake the reaper (the sower). The guy who squashes the grapes with his feet in the vat will be picking grapes before the other guy can even plant the grape vines! Did you know it typically takes 3 years before a grape vine bears fruit?
Having lived in Indiana for many years, the mental picture is almost humorous of the big green row-planter sowing the fields, and the combine harvester following immediately behind him to gather in the corn or soy beans, and trying to push him along to move faster.
Anyone who reaps a harvest will be reaping reward he did not produce. Yes, we might plant the seed of the Gospel, but Scripture teaches us clearly that it is God alone who causes the growth (1 Cor 3.6-7). And we so often try to put God in a box by studying statistics and watching how people “normally” come to salvation, how people “typically” grow, how people develop “on average”. The problem is, God does not function in a predictable fashion and we would do better to expect Him to fulfill His promises than to fit in a mold.
He said that in these last days, those who harvest will overtake those who plant. He said that the harvest is ready and plentiful, and we only need God to send His appointed workers out to reap the harvest.
So what does that mean for us? Firstly, it means that we need to trust Him and believe His word. He has prepared the harvest. There are people throughout the world and all around us who are ripe and ready to receive the Gospel. Period. Secondly, it means that we need to start praying that God would send out workers into the harvest and enable us to be those workers. Jesus told the disciples to pray for workers and then immediately turned around and sent them out (Luke 10)! Thirdly, it means that we need to stand on that promise and get busy about obeying the Great Commission. We have all been commanded to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20). We can start right where we are and we must go wherever God leads. If we are not making disciples where we are, we cannot expect that God will send us to do it somewhere else – and we cannot expect that we will do it simply because of a change of scenery.
Let’s be those combine drivers who overtake those plowmen. Let’s be those harvesters who overtake the sowers. Let’s be the faithful laborers who are sent out into our neighborhoods, our cities and our world, to reap the harvest that only God can provide – and has already prepared!