Do not keep it for yourself

(Matthew 9:35-38)
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I am troubled by our apparent lack of zeal to reach out to people. I have heard so many reasons and excuses that discourage me and, to some extent, appall me.

I often wonder what can move us to really go to people and be intentional Christians, never lacking in zeal to proclaim Jesus Christ and what He has done for humanity?

I am tempted to tell stories of missionaries, preachers and evangelists who went out of their way to fish for souls, but I need not venture that far. Jesus, our Lord Himself, went to people. He was with the high and mighty as well as the low and powerless always preaching, teaching, healing and directing people’s eyes to the Living God.

He taught a learned religious leader  about the kingdom of God (John 3:1-2). He broke centuries-old tradition and enmity by talking to a Samaritan woman  about the Living Water (John 4:1-42). He dined with tax collectors and “sinners” , the scum of society, that they may be healed by the Great Physician (Matthew 9:9-13). And even on the cross, Jesus spoke to a dying criminal , promising him paradise be-cause of his change of heart (Luke 23:40-43).

Jesus went to where people were—to towns and villages—because everyone is precious to Him. People needed to hear the “good news of the kingdom (v.35)” because “faith comes from hearing the message… (Rom 10:17).”

Paul emphatically wrote, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14-15)”

Though God can use anything to draw people to Himself—dreams, visions, circumstances—this is not a license for us believers to keep quiet. Jesus intentionally went to where people gathered like in synagogues to teach and preach.

May we not fall into complacency, waiting and waiting for people to come to us and ask, “Do you happen to know how I can be saved? What is the Gospel about?” This is not the norm.

“…men loved darkness… (John 3:19);” they are blind because their minds are veiled by the god of this age “so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).”

We are here to rock their boats because the message of the Gospel is in itself offensive to the world. It is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23). Try to open your mouths and proclaim the Gospel of Christ and you will find yourself at odds with everything this world treasures—self, comfort, fame, honor, wealth, health, power, pride among others.

The Gospel reflects the truth about man’s nature which he denies and buries deep because the image is ugly. It is ugly not because God made man ugly. Instead, it is distorted because of sin (Genesis 3).

But Christ did not just preach; He also healed every disease and sickness (v. 35). We need to be careful with this piece of Scripture. It is true that Jesus healed, and many times He did while, before and after preaching. But why did He do this? Primarily because His miraculous deeds testify to who He is and what He says (John 2:18; John 6:30).

I give a warning because many false teachers lead people astray by putting prime emphasis on the miracle instead of the Miracle-worker (Matthew 24:24). What happens next is seen in Scripture (John 6:26) as it is seen today—people begin to desire the supernatural but miss the point of it all who is Christ.

Aside from this, Jesus healed because He is compassionate and merciful. These attributes are embedded in His nature as God and He acts them out because He is the very embodiment of mercy and compassion (James 5:11; 2 Corinthians 1:3). The question for those who delve into healing ministries today is this, “What drives you to heal the sick?” If there be any other motive than God’s glory, your ministry is a vain delusion.

What connection did Jesus make as He moved among the people? He wasn’t detached even to those who did not need healing, to people who did not care and who were there only as bystanders or curious fellows. 
He “saw” them. If we dig into the original Greek, Jesus saw them in that He was “aware” of their condition, and He “understood” their plight (v. 36).

But as to which aspect of their life moved Him, we will later discover. For now, let us look at Jesus’ reaction. “He had compassion on them (v.36).” Literally, His “bowels yearned.” When Jesus saw the crowds, He felt something grip His insides. He was so moved by what He saw that His body reacted the way it did.

When I joined the Beach Missions during the Holy Season in Pundaquit, Zambales, I brought with me this very verse, “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…(v.36a).” Every afternoon for five days at the setting of the sun I would look to my right and my left and see maybe hundreds of people scattered across the beach. Then I would recall the verse and pray, “Lord, give me compassion for all these lost souls.”

I do not deny that I am always afraid of personal evangelism. But I do not let my fear hinder me from spreading His Gospel. Before I begin sharing, my heart’s pounding is unbearable and I hear myself protesting, “Why do you have to place yourself in this awkward situation? Let others do the sharing!”

But I know the cost and I am not ready to run away from our calling as ambassadors for Christ (Ephesians 6:20). The cost is too great and for me it is summed up in the reminder of a Welsh missionary, David Griffiths, “When you look at people, think of eternity.”

You know the message that can save people. You know the only way where redemption can be found. Do not keep it for yourself. What is 10 minutes of discomfort on your part compared to an eternity of hell for the lost?

I say these words not because I am perfectly perfect in evangelism. On the contrary, I say these words in spite of my imperfection. As they remind me of what I have to do day by day, I pray that these words will challenge you too.

When Jesus looked at the crowds, He knew that they were harassed—anxious, in distress, worried about so many things—and helpless and powerless. Then He makes a comparison. The people are like “sheep without a shepherd.”

Prophets of the old like Zechariah and Ezekiel first used the imagery (Eze 34:5; Zec 10:2, 13:7). Originally it pertained to the Tribes of Israel scattered among the nations as God’s judgment for their disobedience. It also tells us of the absence of a spiritual leader who, like a shepherd, is supposed to lead the flock to the right
direction away from harm.

These people are wandering like the lost tribes of Israel, uncertain of many things especially of spiritual things. They are “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).”

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus’ heart moved with compassion (John 10:11). And more than the physical yearnings, the Good Shepherd came and laid His very life so that the sheep may be spared spiritual death. Oh, may we also be moved with compassion!

Finally, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (v37).” There is a multitude out there just waiting to be preached at, but so few are scattering seeds. Make no mistake, God desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and He knows who will be saved from the very beginning. But we don’t know so we must never stop sharing.

God leads people to you so that they can hear the Gospel. Let us pray for discernment and the leading of the Holy Spirit that we may be able to yield to Him and be bold enough to open our mouths for Christ.

Strikingly, Jesus confirmed that there are few laborers. Whether this be true today, I cannot conclusively say because my sphere of experience is limited. But if I base it on what I have seen, there is truly much to be desired when number of workers is the issue.

Where are the Christians? What happened to God’s ambassadors? Preacher Paul Washer said only two things may move Christians into action—a great awakening or a great persecution. Have we become complacent?

There was a time when Christians were scorned in the University of the Philippines, but those before us persevered in the face of trials. When the UP administration banned all religious organization in the campus, we gathered together in prayer and even crossed denominational boundaries all for the sake of Christ.

What happened to that passion? We who have the message pure and unadulterated, why do we keep it for ourselves? We lament the spread of shallow and unbiblical Christianity but oversee our own shortcomings. If we were faithful in sharing the Message, we will not have reached our deplorable state now.

But this is not a time for finger pointing. We have a prayer to pray: “Oh, Lord of the Harvest, send workers into your harvest field.”

I have a feeling, however, that the next big thing is obedience. This is because I have the feeling that God’s answer to our prayer is us. In other words, we might as well pray, “Lord, make us bold, brave and strong to be workers in Your harvest field. Father, teach us obedience as we share You to everyone. Lord, make us compassionate as you are compassionate. Amen.”
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