(January 16, 2019) Missionary statesman Dr George Forbes reminds us that …
A heart for the harvest is essential to this great spiritual task in the world! Every believer needs a heart that is sensitive, responsive and obedient to the word of God, about gathering this massive harvest.
The Lord Jesus uses terms from the natural world of harvesting to show us the will and the way of God in the primary spiritual ministry of bringing people to Christ. As we embrace 2019, I encourage readers to think with me of such terms! They need to be burned into our memory, written on our hearts and fulfilled by the grace of God.
Identifying important harvest terms
- ‘The harvest is vast’
- ‘The labourers are few’
- ‘Do not say four months’
- ‘The harvest’
- ‘Lift up your eyes’
- ‘Look on the fields’
- ‘They are white to harvest already’
- ‘He who sows’
- ‘He who reaps’
- ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.’
The following three texts from the words of Jesus identify each one of these important terms above…
- John 4:35
‘Do you not say, It is yet four months, and the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white to harvest already.’
- John 4:36
‘And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit to life eternal, so that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.’
- Mat 9:37-38
‘Then he told his disciples, “The harvest is vast, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest”.’
Jesus said, to his disciples shortly before his ascension, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Mat 28:18 -20).
Ten key phrases
I would like to focus on each of these ten key phrases from these important scriptures. Each phrase is packed with meaning. They each relate to the commission the Lord Jesus gave to his disciples and thus to his church.
1. ‘The harvest is vast’
Recognition of the immense size of the world harvest is lacking in the church in too many cases. I have found over the last 50 years that only exceptional local churches recognise the extent and nature of the global harvest. That the simile of ‘harvest’ identifies people everywhere who have not been gathered into God’s great storehouse.
2. ‘The labourers are few’
The historical imbalance between Christian labourers serving at home and those who serve the Lord among the nations is a fact of history. Numbers count with God. He loves every person on the face of the earth. He sees the imbalance, the shortage of labourers for the big task and the tension between home and internationally.
In my experience I have found that actual numbers are treated as just so much data. The fact, that labourers in the world harvest are few in comparison with labourers in churches at home, does not seem to change anything.
3. ‘Do not say four months’
Jesus’ warning of the tendency to see the harvest as later, rather than now, is a clear evidence of his concern for the unreaped harvest of people who have often never heard it. The habit of speaking of the untouched harvest among most unreached people groups as something to be considered, later is a tragedy.
4. ‘The harvest’
This term is used biblically to mean people without Christ. The vast fields of different peoples (nations) who need to be reaped. The word harvest occurs 152 times in the Bible. Usually, it means natural crops, however in the ministry of Jesus he used ‘harvest’ on ten occasions to means a spiritual ingathering. A reaping of people whom Christ died for and whom he is calling to come to him.
5. ‘Lift up your eyes’
Jesus called on those who followed him to lift their vision higher! The extent, and the level of our vision, will determine what we see. Our eyes must be ‘lifted up.’
6. ‘Look on the fields’
He called on his disciples to look where the people of different nations, lived and worked. When our eyes are lifted higher, we can see more in the distance.
7. ‘They are white to harvest already’
We need to see that they were ready now, at this time, 2019, today for the gospel, ready to be gathered into the kingdom of God. Seeing the ‘readiness’ of the harvest of people speaks of the beginning of a response, the possibility of action.
8. ‘He who sows’
The Lord Jesus made his disciples aware that sowers of the seeds of the gospel were needed. The seed must be sown first, before any possibility of a harvest is realised. Sowing is hard work. It is not a short burst of quick scattering of gospel leaflets, or a brief statement to a passer-by. It is planned work. It is methodical work. Sowing is steady progress with the desired end in view. For every great modern machine used to sow seed, there are multiplied thousands of sowers who walk all day, sowing handfuls of good seed in prepared ground.
9. ‘He who reaps’
Jesus continued painting his harvest picture by telling his disciples that there was a double reward for those who reaped. The reaper receives wages and gathers fruit to life eternal. What a wholesome abundance. In addition to this double return, the sower and the reaper rejoice together. What a joy.
10. ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest’
Jesus concluded his teaching by telling his disciples to pray, to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers. He knew that those who pray will be led to respond to the leading of the Spirit.
2018 is truly gone, Christmas festivities are over, we’re moving quickly into 2019 and, yes, the harvest is vast! Time for action!
Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary spokesperson with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org