Outward, Inward, Upward Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Text: Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Matthew 9:38)
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35-38
I have never been out of the USA, but I have heard that traveling in other countries is often an overwhelming experience. The reasons for that are the over-population and the great poverty that seems to be everywhere. The city of Delhi, India, for example, has a larger population than all of New England. Mexico City’s population is around twenty million. Manila has over ten million people. Many of these over-populated areas have “squatter villages” near city dumps where inhabitants scavenge for food. How should we respond to these desperate situations? Our government often throws money at the problem through the foreign aid program. On the other hand, we don’t have to go outside our borders to find similar conditions; they are here, they are local and they are very personal. Every day, people around us are in crisis.
So, the question is, “What can we do to help?” Jesus gives us the answer in today’s text; Matthew 9:36-38.
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Jesus gives us a picture here of the world being ready for a great spiritual harvest, but in need of laborers to gather it into the barns. He urges the disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest, who is Jesus Himself, will send forth the workers to gather it.
Have you noticed that very often it happens that those who pray end-up being sent themselves? I had a friend by the name of Melvin who prayed for someone to help me in children’s church. God answered his prayer; He said, “Melvin you’re the one.” I think God wanted to use him there all along, but Melvin had to pray and ask before God would let him know. The Lord Jesus told His disciples, there are three ways that people will respond to the needs of others.
They will have an OUTWARD RESPONSE, or an INWARD RESPONSE, or an UPWARD RESPONSE. That’s today’s message. We are going to look at each of these responses, since we may react in one or more of these ways when we face hard times, or when we see others suffering and in need.
Let’s begin with Our Outward Response (v.36).
Jesus was affected by what he saw, and he was sorry for them. We read, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” The word compassion means to “suffer alongside.” God’s eyes are eyes of compassion, but what does He see? About six hundred million people in the world claim a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, so that leaves about 1.4 billion “cultural Christians” who associate in some way with the Christian religion but don’t necessarily follow Jesus as Savior and Lord. Another 2.5 billion people are non-Christian, but have some access to the gospel message by various means. More than 1.6 billion people have virtually no access to the gospel, or to a church, or to Scripture, or to followers of Christ. Forty-one countries have populations that are 99 percent non-Christian.
As we watch the nightly news each evening, it’s easy to become apathetic, seeing the same stories and accepting them without thinking of the people involved. Do we realize that even terrorists are sinners who need Christ? Jesus saw tax collectors and prostitutes as needy people. What about that person you pass in the hall—the one who drives you crazy? The one who gossips about you or attacks your truthfulness? Can you see the need behind that person’s actions, the hurt behind his or her words?
There’s a true story I want to share with you which shows the effect that a little compassion can have on a person. While walking home from school, Mark noticed the boy ahead of him had stumbled to the ground and dropped everything he was carrying. Mark hurried to the boy’s side and helped him collect his belongings. Surprisingly, the boy was carrying an especially hefty load. There was a baseball glove and bat, a couple of sweaters, a small tape recorder, and an armful of books. Mark helped him carry the things home and his new friend, Bill, was most appreciative of his compassion. During the walk home, Mark discovered Bill was struggling in school and had just broken up with his girlfriend. When they arrived at Bill’s house, he invited Mark in for a Coke and they spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing, and watching TV. Although the two boys never became really close friends, they kept up with each other throughout the rest of junior high and high school. Several weeks before graduation, Bill approached Mark and asked him if he remembered that day they met when Mark helped him with all of his stuff. Mark nodded as he remembered. Bill then asked, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things that day? Without pausing for an answer, Bill explained he had cleaned out his locker and was going home to take his life. He had been storing away sleeping pills and was headed home to end it all when Mark happened along to help him out. Bill told Mark how that simple act of compassion inspired him to go on living. He said, “Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you saved my life!”
Imagine how many times our small, seemingly insignificant gestures of concern may reignite the flame of life and inspire someone to continue on. Thankfully, compassion has a way of doing that. We must look outwardly with compassion, reflecting the concern God has for people. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what Mark did, and it should be our outward response too.