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."
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 Im in
India I feel truly alive. Im "doing the stuff," as John Wimber used
to say. Im 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 Jacobs 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.
Theyre 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 doesnt 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 arent going to stop coming in just because youve been born
Paul warned of Christians "whose God is their
belly," (Phil.3:19). They dont worship it; they just live for it, for earthly
appetites and pursuits. Its 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.
"Youre 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 havent
caught the vision. Theyve 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 theyve been told thats
what Christianity is all about: being reasonably good, and walking in health and
The Meat of Jesus: Gods Work
Thats not what its 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 didnt get it. He had to spell it out for them. Gods work.
Gods work turns Me on, boys! Gods work is My favorite meal. I really like
doing Gods work. Jesus would rather do Gods work than eat.
I have a dog that would rather play fetch than eat. He loves
it. Why cant we get excited about Gods work like that? We can. Once weve
tasted the joy of winning someone to Jesus, once weve experienced the thrill of
casting out a devil, once weve 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 didnt say, "My castor oil is
to accomplish the Fathers work." He said, "My meat!" His happy
meal! His sit-down-and- treat-yourself-to-something-special dinner. The Jews,
like most of the worlds people down through history, didnt eat meat every
dayit was a rather special occasion once or twice a week, if that. It certainly
wasnt a duty! It certainly wasnt too demanding, too difficult, to eat meat
it was a warmly anticipated privilege. Commitment to doingand
accomplishingthe Fathers work is a privilege and a blessing, not a
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 meus
four and no more!") your focus is still too limited. Its 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, youre still way too narrow. Jesus said, "Lift up your eyes and
look on the fields."
Its 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 youve just been ministering
among oceans of people who not only have never heard the Gospel, but who dont have
enough to eat, or who may be suffering actual persecution for their faith.
On occasion Ive been accused of being insensitive to
someones 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 were worrying about others
sensitivity to us and our little feelings, Gods wondering about our insensitivity to
His hearts 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, Hes listening to the cry of a Sudanese Christian whos praying that the
radical Muslims combing the brush with bayonets wont 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, doesnt it?
Now Im thankful that God is concerned about my needs,
even if theyre small compared to some, and Im 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 dont
you think Hed 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 werent such nice people to work with after alland
that they definitely werent standing in line to get saved!
Today, Im 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 cant 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
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. Its
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 neednt travel to the other side of the globe.
You have co-workers, neighbors, friends and relatives who havent 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
Gods Word. Not everyone is called to be a missionary, but every one of us is called
to do the Fathers will, and to accomplish His work on this earth. And Jesus defines
this in John chapter four as nothing less than winning the lost.
"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 werent
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 restaurantthe 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
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
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 didnt want to
just take a stab at Gods 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
didnt 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.