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The Work of Him Who Sends Us

by Kim Harrington

 

 

       In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know."   Therefore the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.  Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."  

John 4:31-38

A trip to India always challenges me to consider once again the realities of a lost world, and the tendency of the believer to get complacent about the things that matter most, and become ensnared in the petty. When I’m in India I feel truly alive. I’m "doing the stuff," as John Wimber used to say. I’m tapped into the most meaningful thing in the entire world, winning lost and hurting people to Jesus Christ. When I return home to the States I can all too quickly get enmeshed in the everyday comforts and conveniences, the rat race that is our life here, and even in ministry that often seems petty and inconsequential. 

The Demands of the Belly
     The disciples, upon returning to Jesus at the Jacob’s well in Sychar, requested him, "Rabbi, eat." Their only concern upon arriving in a new village was, "where in this little one-horse town can we get some decent food?" Never mind that they were evangelists on tour and that the Gospel had never been preached there. Poor souls. It never entered their minds. They were hungry, and went off in search of food. Jesus, however, stayed at the well, shared the Word with the Samaritan woman, and ended up with a full-scale revival on His hands, as many in that place responded gladly to His preaching. We must beware of the "eat and drink and live for this life" syndrome. The cares of this life easily invade our spiritual walk and choke us into unfruitfulness in the things that matter most. This is one of the warnings in the parable of the sower (see Matt. 13), and Christians of every generation have unwittingly stepped into the weedbed of worldliness. Earthly cares are so real.  They’re so demanding, so relentless in their pursuit of our time and attention. The house payment needs to be made, the family cared for, the boss doesn’t appreciate you taking a few days off to fast and pray. You need to be realistic and do what you have to do. The bills aren’t going to stop coming in just because you’ve been born again. 

     Paul warned of Christians "whose God is their belly," (Phil.3:19). They don’t worship it; they just live for it, for earthly appetites and pursuits. It’s like the old Tamil I witnessed to in an Indian slum some years ago. "You can afford to be concerned about your soul," he told me. "You’re rich. But my whole attention goes to trying to fill my stomach." Touching story, but nevertheless a cop-out. Sadder still is that living for the belly is probably the common experience of most American Christians. They simply haven’t caught the vision. They’ve not seen a good example set, they have few role models in our selfish generation. They live for their belly — not just the appetites, but all of the rest of the things of this life — because they’ve been told that’s what Christianity is all about: being reasonably good, and walking in health and prosperity. 

The Meat of Jesus: God’s Work
     That’s not what it’s all about. Jesus said, "My meat [KJV] is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work." When He said "I have food that you know not of," the disciples wondered if he had a stash, or if someone else — maybe that lady they passed on the way — had fed him something. They just didn’t get it. He had to spell it out for them. God’s work. God’s work turns Me on, boys! God’s work is My favorite meal. I really like doing God’s work. Jesus would rather do God’s work than eat.

     I have a dog that would rather play fetch than eat. He loves it. Why can’t we get excited about God’s work like that? We can. Once we’ve tasted the joy of winning someone to Jesus, once we’ve experienced the thrill of casting out a devil, once we’ve seen a sick body healed as a result of our prayers... we, too, will know what Jesus meant when he said, "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work."

     The devil, with the help of certain lukewarm Christians, has sold us a bill of goods. He wants us to look upon Christian service as a chore, an unpleasant duty. He wants us to think that the preacher is too demanding when he puts forth the biblical idea of ministry and commitment, that the Bible is too hard to be taken literally, that we need to accommodate our teachings and our attitudes to this modern selfish age, or risk offending people. But Jesus didn’t say, "My castor oil is to accomplish the Father’s work." He said, "My meat!" His happy meal!  His sit-down-and- treat-yourself-to-something-special dinner. The Jews, like most of the world’s people down through history, didn’t eat meat every day—it was a rather special occasion once or twice a week, if that. It certainly wasn’t a duty! It certainly wasn’t too demanding, too difficult, to eat meat — it was a warmly anticipated privilege. Commitment to doing—and accomplishing—the Father’s work is a privilege and a blessing, not a chore. 

Enlarge Your World "Lift up your eyes"
     Enlarge your sphere of vision. Make your world larger. If your eyes are focused too close, all you can see is yourself. If you see only your family (like the child who prayed, "God bless Daddy and Mommy, my little sister, and me—us four and no more!") your focus is still too limited.  It’s good to be a responsible Christian and family person, but God wants you to cast your bread upon waters much wider than "us four and no more!"  If you can see no further than your own church, your friends, and the various interpersonal blessings and trials that all of us experience, you’re still way too narrow. Jesus said, "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields." 

     It’s the common experience of pastors and workers returning from a visit to the mission field to be temporarily frustrated with the ministry concerns of the home front. So much of our energy here seems to center around things like forgetting to put some item in the weekly bulletin (and the resultant hurt feelings), what key to do a song in, getting this or that ordered for the office, and smoothing the ruffled feathers of people who should be more mature anyway. So much of the counseling and prayer needs seem petty and selfish, especially when you’ve just been ministering among oceans of people who not only have never heard the Gospel, but who don’t have enough to eat, or who may be suffering actual persecution for their faith. 

     On occasion I’ve been accused of being insensitive to someone’s needs, as, perhaps, a co-dependent person who came from a dysfunctional family, or some such thing... 
and I must confess that I think a good deal (though not all) of that kind of talk is self-piteous, blame-shifting excuse-making. While we’re worrying about others’ sensitivity to us and our little feelings, God’s wondering about our insensitivity to His heart’s priority: the eternal needs of the lost. 

     As we earnestly wail out our problems before the Lord, asking Him to vindicate us in the latest squabble with a nursery worker or one of the sisters at church, He’s listening to the cry of a Sudanese Christian who’s praying that the radical Muslims combing the brush with bayonets won’t discover him, and that his wife and children somehow got away safely when their village was attacked. Kind of puts a different perspective on things when you lift up your eyes, doesn’t it?

     Now I’m thankful that God is concerned about my needs, even if they’re small compared to some, and I’m glad He understands how certain relatively small things may loom very large in our lives. He cares about what we care about, and you need never be afraid to bring small needs to Him in prayer. But don’t you think He’d also want us to grow up a little, and to lift up our eyes and include in our vision the immense needs of others in this world? 

The Harvest is Ready & Waiting 
     The fields are "white for harvest." In other words, they are ripe and waiting for someone to come along and labor among them. I remember how some missionary "recruiters" used to present the need in Mexico and other nations; we were made to think that all you had to do was go into a village and the people would gladly flock into the kingdom at the first invitation. Some young people went down there, and found out that missionary work is often frustrating, and that all those wonderful, simple natives weren’t such nice people to work with after all—and that they definitely weren’t standing in line to get saved! 

     Today, I’m beginning to think that they are! There is a hunger for spiritual reality in many countries that is unprecedented in missions history. Look at Russia. You can’t get enough workers in there to reap the harvest of souls. Missionaries in Southeast Asia are reporting phenomenal growth in the churches, and requests to start works in other cities and villages. In North India something seems to have broken loose in the realm of the spirit. Where fifteen years ago there was almost universal resistance to the Gospel among the people, even among Christians when you suggested that they evangelize, today there is an astounding openness. Reports are coming in from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, once considered "missionary graveyards," of Hindu villagers responding to the Word of God and churches being started. Right now it seems as though we can plant churches just as fast as we can get our native Hindi-speaking workers into the field. And it also seems we can enroll just as many students in our Bible School as we can handle. The fields are truly white for harvest. 

     I wish every man, woman, and young person in our churches could walk through the streets of Delhi, or Mexico City, or Bangkok, and see with their own eyes millions of people milling about them, jostling and pushing, walking and bicycling by on the street. I wish you could take a train across India and see city after city, village after village, roll by, and sense the weight and burden of the unreached in your spirit. I wish you could sit with me in a tiny little hut in an Indian slum, where the people pour out their hospitality on us with "fancy" tea, and deep-fried sweets in spite of their grinding poverty, while the rats play unafraid just outside the doorway. You should hear them sing the praises of Jesus in that setting. It’s beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time. Countless millions of people really are just waiting for a chance to hear the saving news of Jesus Christ. 

     But you needn’t travel to the other side of the globe. You have co-workers, neighbors, friends and relatives who haven’t heard, either. Oh, they may have been brought up in a church, but nobody ever told them how to get saved, how to really get right with God, how to address their problems by applying the wisdom of God’s Word. Not everyone is called to be a missionary, but every one of us is called to do the Father’s will, and to accomplish His work on this earth. And Jesus defines this in John chapter four as nothing less than winning the lost. 

Powerful Incentives 
     "Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." (vs.36). The remaining verses of our text give us two great incentives to getting out there and finishing the task of world evangelism. First, the eternal rewards. Everything else you do on this planet will die along with your body when it turns back to dust. You take nothing with you. All the comforts, the little necessities that really weren’t necessities, the houses and lands, the gizmos and gadgets that seemed so important, the cars and boats and motorcycles and snowmobiles and skis and... they all perish. All the trips to the restaurant—the food literally goes into the belly and through your system in a few hours’ time. But he who does the work of the Father is earning eternal rewards. 

     Even much that goes under the heading of ministry may turn out to have little eternal value, as narrowness of vision often causes us to ignore the important things while prioritizing the trivial. But he who is working in the harvest is reaping eternal souls, and eternal rewards for his own faithfulness, too. 

     The second incentive I see here is that the task is not difficult. You get to go out and harvest where others have already sown the seed and cultivated the ground before you: "For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor," (vss.37-38). The harvest is ready, the groundwork has been laid in many cases, and the rewards are eternal. The Lord could hardly have made the job more inviting. The incentives could not be more compelling. 

Getting the Job Done 
     Finally let me underline once again a very important phrase that Jesus used in this discussion with his disciples. "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work." (vs.34). He didn’t want to just take a stab at God’s work, He wanted to successfully finish it, to really get the job done. He was able to say at the end of His ministry, "I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do," (John 17:4). Paul, too, told Timothy, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course," (2 Tim 4:7). They did what they were called to do. They were faithful; they didn’t allow themselves to become distracted from the task. 

     We must follow Paul as He followed Christ. We must fulfill our course; we must do the work that is before us. We cannot afford to experiment, to make just a few feeble efforts to salve our consciences. Our job at the turn of the Twenty-first Century is nothing less than reaching the remaining peoples and tribes that have still not heard the Gospel after all this time. Only then will Jesus come back and set things straight on this earth. Only then will he be able to say to us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

 

Copyright 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

 

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