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“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”

Matthew 9:35-38

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their
synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every
disease and sickness. 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."

We live in the most prosperous society ever. One of the reasons Americais
successful is because it relies on the capitalist system, which requires continual increases
in material wealth. We expect things to become faster, cheaper, and better all the time.
No one is satisfied with hand-me-downs; everyone expects an upgrade. Better cars,
better houses, better cellphones.
Really, I have no problem with material prosperity, and I wouldn’t want to live in
a stagnant society. But I believe our material prosperity masks our spiritual condition.
American society is rotting at the core. Even though more people are getting higher
education, medicine is improving, and we have wonderful technology, people are more
desperate for salvation than ever. They are like sheep without a shepherd, harassed to the
point of exhaustion and completely unable to fix their situation.
Not only does material wealth in our society blind us to the problem, but it
prevents Christians from solving the problem. I thank God for bringing me to know Him.
I often wonder how I could get along if I didn’t know my Creator; if I didn’t have an
eternal purpose. But, even though I am so thankful God saved me, I admit that I am often
distracted from sharing that salvation with others. Material wealth and prosperity, “the
things of this world,” are often what distract me.
Material things are temporal, not eternal. They are temporary; one day all those
things I’ve spent so much time worrying about will be gone and no one will remember
them. But when I share God’s salvation with other people—when sharing this precious,
free gift I’ve been given—then the results are eternal. And isn’t that what we should be
doing? How can we who have been called out of darkness continue to walk around as
though we were in darkness? Shouldn’t we be walking differently than those who can’t
see? And shouldn’t we be guiding them out of danger?
So today I want us to reorient ourselves. These verses will help us remember the
situation—many people are suffering and desperate for an answer, and we have that
answer. Let’s go through Matthew 9:35-38 verse-by-verse, studying Jesus’actions and
words. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through these scriptures. Don’t close your
ears to God’s word, but make a decision to bare your heart. I beg you to listen to the
Holy Spirit. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Are you asking the Lord of
the harvest to send out workers?
35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their
synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing
every disease and sickness.
Jesus has commanded us to go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. And
He has given us authority so that we can do the things He did in His name.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means we better get started now. It
also means we have been given a commission, and the person who receives a commission
doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts they will obey. Jesus went to every town and
village and preached, regardless of those people’s readiness or response. He didn’t stay
longer with the nice people and avoid the nasty people—He fulfilled His commission.
In the same way, we must realize that we cannot choose who our partners in the
gospel will be, who we will reach out to, or even where we will go. We can’t
predetermine what our ministry is going to be like. God willlikely use us in some way
that we never expected. Are you ready to do something you haven’t anticipated or
wanted? If God calls you, are you going to listen or ignore His call?
My wife and I both recently got great jobs, just what we wanted, and things have
been going pretty well for my family after relocating here last year. I’ve really been
happy with my new job, but then I asked myself if God wanted me to leave this job to do
something for Him, would I? Now, don’t get me wrong—I really like this job and don’t
think God is asking me to leave, but the question is still a good one to put to oneself. If
God wanted you to do something other than what you had planned or where comfortable
with, would you obey? Are you ready to fulfill your commission, or is God’s
commission subject to change according to your plans?

36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…


The Greek word translated here as “compassion” literally means “moved in the
intestines,” and I think is similar to our phrase “gut-wrenching.” When we feel
something very strongly, we feel it in our gut. Maybe when some young person is in
love, they often don’t feel like eating, or if you hear some horrible news, your stomach
feels as though it dropped to the floor. I believe this is the type of compassion that Jesus
had for the crowds.
In order to minister to people, we need the heart of God. More than anything else,
I think this is the most important aspect of ministry. It doesn’t even matter which
ministry, you still have to have some strong feeling of wanting to help others. But
compassion is important especially in the pastoral ministry. We need to be like Paul the
Apostle, who said Christ’s love compelled him to do everything for the Corinthians’
benefit. (2 Cor 5:14) We need to be like Timothy, who Paul said was genuinely
concerned for the Philippians’ welfare. (Phil 2:20-21)
Brothers and sisters, do you know God agonizes over the unsaved? Can you love
people, not with the love of men, but with the love of God? Not just people who seem
worthy of salvation, but even those who are despised and rejected? Did you know that
Jesus died for that person sitting in the row in front of you? Can you have compassion
for that person? One song really reminds me of what I ought to be doing. It’s called “If
We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns and the chorus goes like this:
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

If we are the Body


Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

…because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a


shepherd.
The Greek words actually imply sheep that are pursued and tormented until they
have to lie down do to exhaustion. They have no defenses any longer, no energy to run,
and they are completely helpless.
Brothers and sisters, this is the condition of our friends and neighbors who do not
know God. There is one Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And He delegates under-
shepherds to feed, protect, and gather together His flock. The Bible says that whoever
desires to become an overseer, or under-shepherd, desires a noble task. It is the most
important work in the world to watch after and serve God’s people. I beg you to have
this ambition, not to have ambition for your career only, or for a new car only.
I beg you to make this your focus in life. Make it your goal in life to build the
kingdom of God, which is not a building or organization, but rather the extent to which
God reigns as King in the hearts of people. Be kingdom-minded. Seek first His kingdom
and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you as well. God is going
to provide for you and your family. I always remember the verse in Psalm 37:25, which
says the children of the righteous will never beg for bread. God will take care of me as I
take care of His people. In fact, one way to ensure your prosperity is to serve and give to
others—not only your money, but your time and energy. God promises you that you are
not short-changing yourself or your family by serving Him. All God’s blessings will be
yours when you align your priorities correctly.

37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the


workers are few.
Jesus said there were few suitable workers. I believe today it’s the same as back
then—it is always a minority of people who really abandon themselves to God.
Throughout history, there have been those people who say to God, “Yes, Lord, please use
me whatever the cost.” They are willing to give their everything for Christ, and God
helps them bring in a multitude of harvest. I recently read a biography of George
Whitefield, who together with John and Charles Wesley began great revivals in England
and Americain the 1700s. Their group was started when they were students at Oxford;
their group was called “Methodists” because of the strict discipline they imposed on
themselves. Their aim was to be devoted to God completely. God gave them grace and
used those men mightily to spread revival. Imagine at that time, before there was
electronic amplification, a man like George Whitefield could preach to more than 20,000
people! John Wesley rode tens of thousands of miles on his horse around England,
preaching the gospel several times a day in the open air. The Methodists were subject to
severe persecution, and many times violent mobs would try to break up meetings or stop
the minister from entering town.
“Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot produce a crop.” God needs
workers who are ready to pay the price. I believe God is ready when we are ready. I
earnestly desire to see revival in Seattle, but every time I think about it, I ask myself if I
am ready. Am I ready to live for Christ every moment, day-in and day-out? If I am
really hungry for God, then why is it such a chore to spend devotional time? Brothers
and sisters, I am not right in this regard, but I am not ignorant either. I realize that God
requires a great deal of us if He will entrust us with the fire of revival.
Do you want to see your school radically changed by Jesus? When I was a
student at the University of Washington, Dwayne helped us envision the time when
Christians would continually meet in Red Squarefor fellowship, prayer, and worship. We
had a vision to see our school won for Christ. Maybe for you, it is downtown Seattle and
the homeless community, maybe it is Seattle University, maybeGod has placed you at
Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, or Nintendo for a reason.
We need to have a vision of what God can do through us, then surrender ourselves
to God as a worker who is ready to reap the harvest.

38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his
harvest field."
Jesus is the Lord of the harvest,it is not our own work or our own ministry. Jesus
is our Master, and we are only laborers in His field. “Send out” is actually much more
powerful in the Greek. The word used is more like “thrust out and forced out” into the
harvest field.
We have a limited opportunity here on earth. God has given us here in
Americamany blessings so that we can spend a lot of time pursuing our own pleasures.
But to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. God is going to call us into
account if we don’t use what He has given us.
It is the most sacred and honorable work of all to labor in God’s harvest, but it is
not easy, it is very demanding. We have to be ready to surrender our own plans and let
God do with us what He has planned.
As we ask, God is preparing His workers, even now. I believe God is doing a
work in some people’s hearts right now. Respond to the Holy Spirit. God is calling you
to serve Him with your whole life.