“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
~ Matthew 9:36-38 (NIV)
Life is etched with transitions. Summer gives way to fall. A driver’s license expands horizons. For some there is the painful experience of a family that was once together and now fracturing apart. It is a huge adjustment going from high school to college. Some will soon move from single status to being married. Some of these changes are big; some are small. These shifts can feel like a hiccup, or a hurricane.
One of the more turbulent transitions is graduation, a change in the hurricane category. It is exciting, disorienting and a little scary. I want to share words of encouragement with you and let you know that God has not lost you. He has not dimmed in His burning love for you. His purpose for you is crystal clear and brimming with possibility. (It just may not look or feel that way.) Though we get distracted, He does not. He is still all about us knowing and loving Him and helping others know and love Him. He has a simple plan and your transition is at the center of it.
Three critical needs
I had a good conversation a couple of weeks ago with an engineer. My new friend was three years out from being a student leader with a strong Navigator collegiate ministry. It had been a great life-shaping experience. He told me what we all know, “The world of college and the world of work are so different. The transition is hard.” It was evident that he continued to have a deep passion to love Christ and to have an impact for Him in the lives of others. I asked him what had helped. In his own words he mentioned three things that I often hear. In my words, they are:
Like Hearted Friends
A Kingdom Vision
I am convinced that all three are indispensable.
A Kingdom Vision
I want us to take some time on the Kingdom Vision idea because it is rare, it is fundamental, and it is often hard to keep in focus.
We are introduced to this vision at the very beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 1 God speaks creation into existence. In Genesis 2, it seems His involvement becomes more intimate. In verse 7, He forms man from the dust and face to face breathes life into him. In verse 8, you can almost imagine dirt under His fingernails as He plants a garden. In verse 15, God places the man He prepared in the garden He planted. A perfect fit. He gives Him a task with some instructions. He then enters into an intimate partnership with the man as they work together on the task.
Paul restates this beautiful plan in Ephesians 2:10, where he says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” This is the idea of a work of art. A uniquely hand crafted masterpiece. Paul continues, “… for good works, which God prepared beforehand…” Like the planted garden, God prepares the place and the way. And finally we read, “… that we should walk in them.” He is with us as we go forward in partnership. Life and work is about taking God’s creation and in partnership with Him and others creatively rearranging it so it is more useful, more beautiful. We can go forward in confidence that God will plant us where we can partner with Him and bring life.
Blooming where you are planted
In Matthew 13, Jesus shared several vignettes illustrating the answer to a question, “How does the influence of God spread into a needy world?” He shares three facets of God’s plan to advance His Kingdom by using seeds as an illustration.
In verses 1-23, seeds picture what ;God uses, His Word. As we are transformed by His Word and share it with others, there are four responses. It will be brushed off by some. It will be only lightly embraced by others. Still others will start off well, but over time they will let life smother out God’s influence all together. However, as sure as grass grows in spring, if we keep sowing, some will let God’s truth permeate their lives.
Verses 31-32 illustrate how God’s influence advances. Like a seed the expansion is seemingly insignificant. It is hardly noticeable. Eventually, and at times imperceptibly, it grows. Like a tree it canopies where it is planted.
Consider verses 37-38. Along with His Word, there is something else that God uses. In Matthew 13:37-38 we see the following:
“He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,’”
~ Matthew 13:37-38
In this case, who is doing the sowing? It is Jesus. Who is the seed? It is you. Think about that. I am assuming you really do want to follow our Lord’s good leadership. If so, He is actively involved in placing you exactly in the “furrow” of His plan. You simply pray and go through the wisdom steps of finding a job. Does it seem rather random? Jesus’ words assure us that as life’s winds carry you; our great “Lord of the harvest” is actually sowing you. Wherever you land, you can take root and bear fruit.
So, here’s the question, “What is God’s plan for spreading His love into our nation and the nations of the world?” It is you partnering with God in the normal course of life living and discipling among those who do not yet know Him, wherever He plants you. This is a Kingdom Vision, spreading the influence of His rule in and through the normal routine of life.
Living and Discipling
What is known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is not a separate activity from our normal life. The language Jesus used is “as we go” we are to “make disciples.” Right where we live, work and play we watch for opportunities and take initiative to help others become real followers of our Lord.
A vision is a way of seeing, a perspective, a way of looking at normal things in a different way. In John 4:35 Jesus encourages His friends to, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” Stop for just a minute and think. If Jesus were to sit down with you and say, “Let’s take a look right where you are. Can you see your family, your friends, your workmates, your neighbors, your favorite store clerks?” Think about each one. Pray for each one. God is at work right now. Can you see any evidences of that work? Can you see yourself as “good seed” that God has intentionally planted among them? Can you see yourself in partnership with Him in that work? Is there anyone else, any like hearted friend you can also partner with?
As you are walking with God in partnership in your job or your hobby or shopping or hanging out with family members, you are doing those activities right in the midst of a harvest field. And not just any harvest field, but the one where God planted you and is partnering with you. Like a farmer you can patiently sow words of encouragement and prayer, love and friendship.
So, as you go, live and disciple among those who do not yet know Him. Wasn’t that what Jesus did? He lived and made disciples among us (John 1:14). Isn’t that what Paul said, “You know what manner of men we proved to beamong you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Isn’t that the picture in Matthew 13 of yeast in flour and of a seed in the ground?
It is hard to express the importance and the power of living that word – among. He has planted you among. It is God’s plan. This is why Jesus told people that the Kingdom of God was in their midst. It was because He was among them.
You are Jesus’ answer
Several years ago my family and I were living in Zimbabwe launching a Navigator ministry. We had developed a small group of Zimbabwean friends. A few had come to Christ. A few others already knew the Lord and had begun to follow Him as their best friend and leader. A few were beginning to do with others what we were doing with them. It was encouraging, but small. We had been working hard and we were tired.
During this time I traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to share with a similar group. I was deeply moved by the sacrifices the university students were making to follow Christ. One afternoon we went downtown to one of the largest open-air markets in Africa. I was overwhelmed by the masses of people and the pervasive poverty. I thought, “What hope do these people have? Who will help them?” I thought about our little group in Zimbabwe. We were working as hard as I knew how, but in light of these huge needs, what was the point? Were our efforts making any difference? That night, I lay in feeling numb.
While in this cloud, a friend shared two passages that have shaped me ever since. The first was Ecclesiastes 4:1-3. This book is unusual because it is written from an “under the sun” perspective. It is from the vantage point of evaluating life with natural reason, making observations about life from a ground level view. It tends toward pessimism. Almost three thousand years ago Solomon describes a similar scene to what I had seen.
He gives a three-fold description. The people were oppressed, had no power and no one to comfort them. His conclusion was that they would be better off dead. Pretty depressing.
Almost a thousand years later in Matthew 9:36-39 Jesus also looked on a similar scene with a similar three-fold description. They were distressed, downcast and like sheep without a shepherd. However, His response was so different. Rather than declaring they would be better off dead, His heart went out to them. He turned to His followers and said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
My heart was encouraged. I thought, “This is what we are working on. We are not about helping our Zimbabwean friends to be ‘religious’ on a Sunday morning. We are helping them to live a liberated life in Christ which gives music and light to everything they are and everything they do. And we are encouraging them to live among their friends and to make disciples in the midst of everyday life.”
Someone has said that anyone can see apples on a tree. Only some can see trees in the apple. In other words, there is so much potential in each person to become healthy, vibrant good seed which will in turn produce other trees. You are good seed. You can produce fruit in the lives of others you are among, which in turn will produce more good seed. You are Jesus’ answer.
Let me assure you one more time. A Kingdom vision is God’s vision for you. What does our hurting world need? More than anything it needs you as one inflamed by the love of Jesus Christ. It needs you right where God leads you next. It needs you right where you are to join others and live for Christ. As you continue – as you excel for Christ right where you are – His love comes to town and moves next door to everywhere.
About the Author
Mark and Janet Lewis live in Colorado Springs, Colorado and have served with The Navigators for over 35 years. Mark continues to provide direction and oversight for the NavConnect initiative. He also serves a new effort called The Nations Within focusing on the diverse nationalities in the U.S.