Saturday, October 2, 2021
Fields White for Harvest
Our church is blessed to be hosting five missionaries from other countries as they visit local churches in the United States to spread the word of their missions and to raise support.
Romans 10: 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?… 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
As we scan the headlines each day, it seems that the End Times are upon us, with wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, famine, earthquakes, signs in the sky, false prophets, persecution, and apostasy (Matthew 24). Yet Jesus told us not to be troubled, for He has gone to prepare a place for His children (John 14:1-4). Until His return, we are to do His Father's business (Luke 2:14), sowing the seed of God's Word (Matthew 13:1-9), watering the new shoots, and finally reaping the harvest of seeing souls born into His Kingdom.
Whatever part we play in this life cycle, we shall reap rewards at harvest time. Jesus encourages us to lift up our eyes and see the fields that are white for harvest (John 4:34-38), meaning the unsaved souls that could be brought to Him. Although the harvest could be great, the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37), and we must pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers (Luke 10:2).
It is a common misconception, even among Christians, that these laborers refer only to pastors, preachers, or missionaries who devote their lives to spreading God's Word, often at great personal cost. But the Bible makes it clear that once we are born again (John 3:3-8), we are to share the good news of the Gospel with all who are in our sphere of influence.
When Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at the well and she realized He was the Messiah, she left her water pot behind and rushed off to tell her whole village -- most of whom had scorned her as an immoral woman -- of her life-changing discovery. She had no specialized training, missions support, or even a good reputation to facilitate her mission. Yet as a result of her simple testimony, many came to see Jesus for themselves, and most of her village ended up placing their faith in Him (John 4).
At a missions conference I once attended, a speaker put it this way: "You're either a missionary or a mission field." If you have been saved by placing your faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), you are a missionary. If you have not yet trusted Him, you are a mission field.
What’s your excuse for not witnessing? Mine is fear. Fear of rejection, of offending, even of not being politically correct. But love, even if human and therefore not perfect, should cast out fear (1 John 4:18).
We are told to plant the seeds of belief in Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). But shouldn’t we also accept the responsibility of tilling the soil, watering the green shoots of faith, shedding light on the new growth, and tending it as it matures and bears fruit? What if we are the only gardener in one soul’s life, from sowing to harvest if we fulfill our mission (John 4: 34-38), or from sowing to withering if we fail?
Let me here insert a cautionary tale -- a true story I have told before, of how I failed, with dire consequences, to tend to a soul God entrusted to my care.
When I first saw Sathit’s picture, he was a gaunt, solemn lad of 11, standing with his parents and younger sister before a fragile ornamental cherry tree in full bloom, in his native village in Thailand. He was an average student who liked to garden, or “to sprinkle plants in his leisure,” as the awkwardly translated letter put it.
My intentions were honorable. I had picked up a brochure at church and had decided to sponsor a foster child. But I failed him. I didn’t know then that I would commit the cruelest sin of omission possible (James 4: 13-17).
The sponsoring organization had “Christian” in the name, so I naively assumed that my monthly monetary gift would provide Christian outreach, along with food, school supplies, and contributions to community projects such as better wells in Sathit’s village. Providing for physical needs is important, but securing our eternal future even more so (Matthew 6:31-33; 16:24-26).
Eventually, I learned that their resources were too limited for missionary services, but by then, it seemed unkind to withdraw my support. Despite the thousands of miles that separated us, I came to know and love Sathit from his letters, drawings, and progress reports.
As time went on, I also sponsored other children through Compassion International, another organization that does offer Christian teaching. It is never too early to nourish children in the Word of God (Mark 10:13-17; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-17). Reading letters from these children telling me that they loved our Lord and Savior brought me great joy. Arakiados, from India, even drew me an awe-inspiring picture of Jesus, as if he had seen Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
But Sathit was not that blessed. I sent him Christmas cards, and I wrote him about Easter, about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28:6-7) through which all believers can have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
He wrote back about offering food to the monks in the temples and about Buddhist festivals: “I would like you to throw water on Songkran Festival in the province very much.”
I always wanted to tell him more, to share the Good News (Proverbs 25:25) that Jesus came to save sinners like all of us (Luke 19:10; Romans 3:23) and to reconcile us to Holy God through His shed blood (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). I wanted to prepare the way so that the Holy Spirit could convict him and so that he would be born again and welcome Jesus into his heart (John 3:3-8; Romans 10:9-10).
But I was still a babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), and I failed to do this. After all, I reasoned wrongly, Sathit lived in a Buddhist family and attended a Buddhist school, and I didn’t want to complicate his relationship with his parents or make trouble for him with his teachers or classmates (Matthew 10:34-40).
Anyway, he was growing up so fast, and now that he was a young man of 16, perhaps his circle of friends would widen. I hoped he would travel outside his village and learn about other cultures and beliefs. I thought others would germinate the seeds of Christian faith I had sparingly scattered across his path (2 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Corinthians 3: 5-11).
Sadly, I thought about it too little and too late (2 Corinthians 6:2). A letter from the sponsoring organization notified me of an emergency situation – could I please call for more information? My prayers in those 12 hours before the office opened were for the problem to have a solution, even if difficult – crop failure, housing destroyed in a storm, even illness in the family. Surely I could help somehow. After all, with Christ, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
But without Christ, there is no hope (Ephesians 2:12-19; Romans 5). I learned that Sathit was riding a motorbike when a pedestrian darted across the road. Sathit swerved to avoid him, crashed into a tree, and died instantly. His young life was plucked up before it even had time to take root.
“Well, at least he’s in Heaven now,” well-meaning friends said upon hearing the news. How I wished that were true. How I wished I had another chance to make a difference, to tell him how he could be saved.
Had I know Sathit had so little time (James 4:14) to make the most important decision of his life – to choose where he would spend eternity – would I have been less afraid, more persistent, more committed? (Galatians 6:9) Would I have given him the Word of Life (John 6:63-68) instead of speaking idle words (Matthew 12:36), for which I will have to give an account to Jesus at His judgment seat? (1 Corinthians 3: 10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10)
May God help me to remember Sathit every time He gives me an opportunity to witness, to nurture the growth of belief in Jesus. For many souls we meet, we may be the only gardener they’ll ever have.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
© 2021 Laurie Collett