Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:38b “. . .the Lord of the harvest,. . .”
God is Chief Proprietor, Owner of the crop, Farmer in charge. He alone knows how to harvest the spiritual fields in the most efficient and effective ways.
No harvester begins by walking straight into the crop. All field hands first have to receive instructions and assignments. Only the Lord of the harvest has the prerogative to decide who, when, where, and how long with regard to the reapers.
The Father presides over every aspect of a harvester’s efforts. He enables the worker, giving strength sufficient for the arduous task. God qualifies the reaper, furnishing varied abilities and talents whereby the sickle is handled with skill.
God works a miracle in a worker’s heart, granting a self-denying love for others; He wants none to be lost (2 P 3:9), and supernaturally transplants this desire into our hearts. He provides joy and excitement in the work, otherwise the laborers become hirelings, paid help, no better than mercenaries. All who respond to God’s call aright revel in knowing they are servants of the Lord of the harvest.
Matt. 9:38c “. . .that he will send forth laborers. . .”
“Send forth” translates an intense verb used elsewhere of casting out a demon from a man possessed. The word means to cast out, to drive out, to push out, to thrust. The use of such a strong verb proves Jesus was urgent about evangelism and missions. Charles Spurgeon, our greatest Baptist pastor, caught the passion in Jesus’ plea, “This text is laid on my heart; it lies more on my heart than any other in the Bible; it is one that haunts me perpetually, and has done for many years.”
Jesus spoke in dead earnest, knowing the Father has to “send forth” workers because they are too often initially unwilling to go. People harbor concerns about security, pleasure, family, and low self-esteem. A reluctance usually has to be surmounted. God has to personally intervene to conquer these inner contradictions.
The very fact we are commanded to pray for workers proves they will not be easy to find. Satan resists every effort to extend Christ’s kingdom, and works relentlessly to discourage potential harvesters. We are no match for Lucifer’s wiles. Thus, human actions and manmade plans will not get the job done. Only God’s call, appointment, empowerment, and direct intervention will accomplish the goal.
Therefore, when thinking of the harvest, pray first. We often pray to know what to do in God’s service. We need to pray more for God to show us what to pray for most. We need to spend more time praying over matters dear to the heart of God. The intensity in Jesus’ voice proves the harvest is one issue vital to God.
Even Christ Himself prayed all night before choosing His original workers, the twelve disciples (LK 6:12-13). We ought to follow His example, and pray earnestly for God to send forth workers. Since the need far surpasses our reach, there will never be a time when we should slow our efforts at praying for laborers.
This is one area of praying where we can be assured of seeing tangible results from our requests. Intercession is a successful, mighty force for raising up workers because it is the means ordained by God Himself. Harvesters are sent out by God in answer to the prayers of God’s people. Therefore, pray for laborers.
Our staff recently set aside time to pray for workers and then as a group went through our whole church membership and compiled a lengthy list of names to consider for church positions. We are praying over these names systematically.
We are together zeroing in on where people might best serve, and will soon be asking for workers. If a person does not feel led to serve where we offer, we’re going to ask where they do feel God leading them to serve. Everyone should be laboring somewhere. Our staff is optimistic, because we are following God’s prescribed order by beginning with prayer. We’re asking God to touch hearts in ways only He can. By the way, please don’t use as your excuse for not working that you love and enjoy your small group too much. If your small group has the spirit of the Father, it will selflessly send forth laborers rather than selfishly clutch them.
Your Pastor and staff are praying for laborers. Join us in this; pray with a willingness to labor yourself. Parents, pray, and therein express willingness to let your children go. If we pray for workers, and then God calls them, we share responsibility for their going, and must continue to support them with means and ongoing prayer. In this way we share in not only their going, but also their success.
Matt. 9:38d “. . .into his harvest.”
Every aspect of the harvest belongs to God. The seed is His, He gives us His written Word, the Bible. The field is His, He created the world and every person in it. The harvest is His, He convinces of sin and grants forgiveness.
Without reapers, the harvest is lost, and when this happens, our Father is the One hurt the most. It should grieve us to think of our dear Lord being deprived of His rightful harvest. The winning of souls to Jesus is the paramount harvest of all.
Oliver Goldsmith dedicated his poem “The Traveller” to his preacher-brother Henry, saying, “You have left the field of ambition, where the laborers are many, and the harvest not worth carrying away.” Amen. No labor even begins to rival the spiritual harvest in importance, for it is God’s harvest, His chief concern.
Being omnipotent, God could reap His harvest without us, but won’t. He sovereignly chooses in certain enterprises to limit Himself to what is accomplished by human agency. Extending His kingdom is one such area. He kindly decided to delegate the joyful task of reaping the harvest, the happiest time of year on a farm.
The living God has no intrinsic needs. He is not deprived in any way. When Israel began to think they were doing God a favor by offering sacrifices to Him, He reminded them, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all it contains” (PS 50:12 NAS). Our Father is totally self-sufficient.
Caring for our self-esteem, Jesus decided not to let us enter into our relationship with Him as empty-handed beggars. Not wanting the interaction to be totally one-sided, God graciously designates certain things we can bring to Him.
He invites us to give to His work our tithes, offerings, time, and service. To Him directly He lets us offer praise and worship. By these means, God keeps us from being vagabonds, from feeling totally useless and worthless in His presence.
One vital area in which we are granted the privilege of giving to God is by helping reap fields of ripe souls. In the spiritual harvest, God’s operation awaits human cooperation. God has graciously chosen to let human instruments share in the joy of reaping His harvest. In His fields, Jesus enlists our cooperation in the beginning (praying for laborers), in the process (giving), and in the result (going).