Outward, Inward, Upward Part 2 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The next subject is Our Inward Response (v.38).
Verse 38 says, “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” If the word “compassion” describes the vision we should have outwardly, the word “laborer” describes the commitment we should have inwardly. The Bible describes us as workers, laborers, servants, stewards, soldiers, and ambassadors. All these words convey our position: We are at the disposal of our Master.
When the Old Testament heroine, Esther, went to the king to lobby on behalf of her captive people, she was willing to die because her life was not her own. It would be hard for a modern-day woman to even imagine the fear and insecurity that would plague Queen Esther. She was chosen to be queen solely on the basis of her beauty? She wasn’t like other queens who came from rich parents; instead, she was Jewish and her only relative was her poor uncle. She hadn’t talked to or seen the king for thirty days. She did not know if the king had found someone more pleasing or if she was merely losing her influence. Queen Esther found out from her uncle Mordecai that the Jewish people were scheduled for annihilation by the wicked Haman, a powerful government official second only to King Ahasuerus. Faced with this desperate challenge to survival, Esther mulled over Mordecai’s question. Mordecai had asked her, “Don’t you know that God may have placed you in the position of queen for such a time as this?” Courageously, Esther formulated her plan, even if it meant dying in the effort. As queen, she had been taught to prepare herself physically, but as a faithful follower of the God of Israel, she had also learned to prepare herself spiritually. She prayed and fasted, and then she invited Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet. Then, seizing the right moment, she presented her case by humbly asking for mercy for herself and her people. You may know the rest of the story. King Ahasuerus loved Esther, and she had won the respect and the ear of her royal husband. He abolished the law that was meant to destroy the Jews and he had Haman hanged. And she became a heroine to her people. God used her beauty, her intelligence, and perhaps even her respectful attitude toward her husband, as well as her remarkable, fearless faith to accomplish His will. God was able to use Esther; because she accepted God’s will for her life, regardless of what it might cost her.
Paul said, “Let a man so consider us, as stewards ...of Christ ...” (1 Cor.4:1). In Paul’s day, a steward was the person who managed the household for the owner. He was in charge of the house, the food, the clothing and that sort of thing. He would give out things to the people he served when they needed them. He wasn’t required to be eloquent or to possess any special skills, but he had to be faithful. This is the attitude we should have. There are many who have a servant’s spirit; I want to tell you about one of them.
General William Booth founded the Salvation Army. At the age of eighty-three, he was told he would not regain his sight. Booth spoke to his son, Bramwell, and said, “You mean that I am blind?” Bramwell replied, “Well, General, I am afraid that we must consider that.” After a pause, the elder Booth asked, “Will I ever see your face again?” “No, probably not in this world,” said Bramwell. The senior’s hand then extended to take hold of his son’s hand and he then said, “God must know what’s best!” After another pause, he stated, “Bramwell, I have done what I could for God and for the people with my eyes. Now I will do what I can for God and for the people without my eyes.”
There are so many who will be rewarded someday, not because they did something great or had some great gift, but because they were faithful in what they did and how they did it. I have learned as I go to the Nursing Homes that there are always the faithful few. I can depend on them. They are there at every church service and every Bible Study. God said there would always be a remnant that would remain faithful to Him. Unfortunately, many of us have a “back-pocket Jesus,” an “open-in-case-of-emergency Jesus,” or an “ATM Jesus.” We go to Him when we have a need rather than realizing we were bought with a price. We belong to Him, and He wants to help us. But we need to ask Him in Prayer for what we need. We must view ourselves as people at the disposal of our Master, Jesus Christ. What role does He want you to play in His work to redeem mankind?
Finally, there is Our Upward Response (v.38).
In verse 36 Jesus speaks of the need of people, and in verse 38 there is the need for workers, therefore, Jesus tells us to pray. He said, “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Prayer reminds us we have a Master and it is His harvest. We are only His servants.
Many believers constantly lie to one another about prayer. I wonder how many times, “I’ll pray for you” is spoken and immediately forgotten. As we remember our position as laborers, we should also remember whom we serve, the Lord of the harvest. We all are called to pray, but many of us are strangely indifferent about prayer. Maybe we are afraid that if we pray for the Lord to send laborers, we’ll end up being called ourselves!
Folks, we are an important part of what God wants to do in our world. But, there are too few Christians working for Jesus, that’s why He says, “The laborers are few.” Perhaps the lack of workers in our churches today and the low numbers of young people going into Christian service as a career is the result of our failure to obey Jesus’ command here in verse 38 —to pray for laborers to be raised up. God can raise up preachers and missionaries by the thousands, if He chooses to do so. He’s done it in the past, and He might do it again, if when we pray we ask Him to.
David Livingston was a pioneer missionary to Africa. A native chief named Sachele once asked the missionary a piercing question. He asked, “Because it is true that all who die unforgiven are lost forever, why did your nation not come to tell us before now?” It’s still a good question! Just think of all the people in our world who have never heard about Jesus. Pray that God will show you what you can do about it.
Have you ever noticed that God’s ideal kings and rulers have been shepherds? Both Moses and David were shepherds before they led God’s people. When we pray for the Lord to thrust forth laborers into His harvest, pray that He will give them the heart of a shepherd. And pray that the Lord will give you a heart of compassion for the lost.
In a city dump in the Philippines there is a “squatter village” called “Smokey Mountain” with needy people everywhere; but in the middle of the dump stands a new building with a banner over it, saying: “Welcome to Smokey Mountain.” It is the “Smokey Mountain” headquarters of Youth with a Mission. These youth teach about health, give inoculations, and run literacy programs. If you were to ask them why they’re located in the middle of a dump, they’d say, “The Lord of the Harvest sent us. We wanted to be obedient. We know God loves these people, though circumstances are forcing them to live in a dump.” This is a symbol of our church—a beam of hope in the middle of a hopeless world. It’s also a symbol of you and me, ambassadors for Christ in the midst of the moral dump of this county.
Did you know more than one billion people live right at the survival level in regards to food, shelter, and clothing? They need help, and we can help them by praying for them, and then telling others about their plight and how they can help. Let’s be His laborers, viewing people compassionately, submitting and praying to Christ as Master, and allowing Him to use us for His purpose.