So, as you may already know, I just read the book “Sun Stand Still” by Steven Furtick. It was really good. I am also going through the “Not A Fan” small group curriculum with some friends and family. Today they were piling up in my brain, and what came of it, I am about to write.
Today the Not A Fan assignment involved circling words that I felt described me. The circled words today were “judgemental, sarcastic, angry, frustrated, self-righteous”. Yeah. I know that this is not me all the time, but sometimes when I am going about my day I will think about certain people and what they should be doing better in their lives. My self-righteousness leads me to judge, then it’s followed by frustration, anger, and eventually the mental dialog that is full of sarcasm. It’s not at all good, I know, that is why I wrote it down.
The assignment then instructed me to close my eyes and imagine Jesus’ love pouring out of heaven onto me and filling me all up, then running over because I am so full. Before engaging in this part of the exercise I literally stopped (I felt like I was interrupting Jesus) and said to him that I really don’t think that I am super self-righteous, but that I really, genuinely want each and every professing Christ-follower to do everything he (Jesus) says to do so that we will be filled with peace and able to live out the unique and powerful lives God wants us to have. I told him my motives were good, just not well-directed into purposeful paths.
Then I closed my eyes and did as instructed. I don’t know if it was just the moment of silence and meditation, but I truly felt more peaceful after envisioning God’s love that way. Grateful to him, and serene.
But still frustrated by the slow-heartedness of people- myself included. At that moment I started to think about what I’d been reading in “Sun Stand Still”, about the action that we as followers of Jesus need to be taking if we want to see God do supernatural things in our lives. Faith without works is dead (the book of James is heavy with this truth) so we need to do the works, faithfully believing God for the things outside our power.
And next into my brain came the little verse in Matthew about praying for workers of the harvest.
36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Or in Luke 10:2:
2He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
And I remembered something that I’d heard a Tennessee preacher, Mike Pearl, say when I was a kid, and which I’ve never forgotten. He said (paraphrased) that “You should pray for the workers of the harvest, but be prepared. If you pray for the workers of the harvest, you will become a worker of the harvest.” For that very reason, I rarely or never prayed for the workers of the harvest as a kid. Only recently have I started, and I wish it was not so new to me.
Today it kind of clicked with me though. How I need to be a worker harvesting the ripe fields. The harvest is truly plentiful, but the workers are few. I wish all the Christians I knew were workers, but I am myself only recently putting away my fears to engage in the tasks God has set before me. It grieves me that I am so slow, and that everyone is so slow, and that we are all so scared.
One of my Sun Stand Still prayers, as I was reading the book by that title, was that God would save La Crosse. The whole town and it’s environs. That he would use the people here who are aware, or becoming aware, of their own responsibilities in this work to save the whole town. To revive his spirit in this beer-drenched place. I prayed for my husband who is a lousy communicator (no offense to him-he’s a genius in other ways, and terribly sweet), and who has a little social anxiety, who hates crowds, and dislikes reading, that he would step out in faith to do something so big no one could stop it. Something so big only God could receive the glory.
Tim has been working for several weeks to start a men’s study group that will meet weekly to encourage each other in manly faith and action within their homes and spheres of influence. If the change that has taken place within Tim in the past couple of months is a good indicator of what God can do, then La Crosse has little chance of keeping it’s current status. I prayed about how Benjamin (Saul’s son) led just his armor-bearer into the Philistine camp and killed 25 men, and how that brought warriors out of hiding – and out of everywhere -to roust the enemy. 25 deaths out of the whole invading army was a very little thing, but it had amazing, exponentially-motivating results. I prayed that the Christians in La Crosse (especially the men) would come out of hiding and join the fight.
In John 4:35 Jesus says:
35Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
To me this means that I’m not going to have to go far to be harvesting in God’s fields. They are ripe all around me. I will just need to use the time, talents and treasure God’s given me to do what he wants where I am. If he tells me to go somewhere else, I will go, but until then, I will do what I can here, and pray to God for the rest.
Let’s look at that whole passage though.
33Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Jesus considers the call of God on his life the sustenance of his life. Another way of thinking about it is that it is energizing. He says it’s his food to do God’s will. This shouldn’t be unnatural to us, and it should be what keeps us going.
Now comes the difficult part. Jesus also talks here in John 4 about the harvesters reaping where others have sown. I’m not sure if this is about humans working and praying on someone’s behalf and another leading them to Christ or if it’s about the work God does, but if it’s about people I have a little story to tell.
I have a friend who was “led to Christ” by a respected Christian in our town. This friend prayed to commit his life to Christ with this respected individual. We are happy that he did so. One day I was talking to another good friend of this friend, and she was a little less happy about it- in a joking way. She said, “We are the ones who led him in Bible study weekly, prayed for him daily, and counseled him to dig deeper in the Word to know if Jesus is real or not! And “so-and-so” got to lead him to Christ!” I think that is what Jesus meant by some reaping where others have sown. One had sown and another got to reap. Thankfully, they are glad together! :)
That’s not the difficult part (though it can be a bit of a letdown to miss the “real action”) this is: The parts above about the reaping where we have not sown triggered a more sobering Scripture memory.
14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talentsa of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28“‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Take special note of verses 24 through 26. That is what is difficult to talk about. Jesus wants all of us to follow in his footsteps and do the difficult, but rewarding work of bringing in the harvest, using the talents he gave us for his glory. But if we don’t do that, God will judge us for it. So, let this inspire you with action, and do not be hindered by fear. Do the work willingly and joyfully, and it will sustain you.
Do not try to do it on your own. You will need God’s love and peace flowing through your life in order to be effective and to keep going long-term. Take time to stop and remember that he’s given you all the love you will ever need and more. Remember that he wants to work beside you to make the impossible happen through your life. That he is endlessly powerful, wants what is best for you, and has huge plans for your life.
Due to the nature of the call, and the demands of the work, you will need prayer. So will others doing the same line of work. So pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. And that they will be sustained by the work in the same way that a harvester could munch while he harvests. And pray that our actions will be those of the faithful, not the lazy, servants.