Read 2 Samuel 11:1-5
At the time
when kings go forth to battle, ... David sat around in Jerusalem. (2
Open your eyes, and look up at the fields! They are ripe and ready for harvest. (John 4:35 )
It appears to me that the greatest unfulfilled need today among mature Christians in America is the need to have someone to preach to. The church appears to be full of frustrated preachers (myself included!) looking for a pulpit. Again and again I see the same pattern in Christian meetings and Bible studies--the person who shares is blessed, while those who listen have heard most of it before. It reminds me of the Chinese holiday called Mid-Autumn Festival. Around the time of Mid-Autumn Festival, the stores are filled to bursting with tons of little round cakes called "mooncakes". People buy cartonloads of these mooncakes and give them to each other. It's all a great big charade: one person makes a great show of generosity by giving mooncakes; the recipient responds with elaborate thanks, then turns around and gives them to someone else at the first opportunity. By the end of the festival, everyone is heartily sick of mooncakes.
I am not at all trying to disparage the spiritual content and profundity of what American Christians have to offer. They really do have good stuff to share. There are millions of people in the world who don't know and would willingly receive what they have to say. Unfortunately, the vast preponderance of willing listeners just don't live around here. Jesus truly said, "Lift up your eyes to the fields, for they are ripe unto harvest"--but the fields in the immediate vicinity have already been thoroughly worked over, and the laborers are standing around without much to do. It is true some gleanings remain, but they are comparatively meager. How ironic that the reapers all congregate in one place, while the huge expanses of ripe croplands are elsewhere.
To be sure, the United States has its share of spiritual problems. The American Church can be compared to David at ease in his palace while his army was off on the battlefield (2 Sam. 11:1-5). David was ripe for adultery, and the tempter found him to be easy pickings -- just as we are. Of the problems we now face, such as sexual promiscuity and perversion, abortion, marital unfaithfulness, divorce, alcoholism, workaholism, gluttony, overspending, overindulgence, most can be traced back to spiritual underemployment, boredom and idleness. The Church has lost many out of pure boredom -- they seek excitement elsewhere, in virtual reality, drugs, sex, and other worldly pursuits.
It's all very well to stir people up by telling them the fields are ripe for the harvest. It is good to encourage each other to gird ourselves up for the work of the Lord. But the bottom line is, Jesus told us to ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest field. In American agriculture, most of the labor-intensive harvesting is done by migrant workers. What is true in the natural is also valid in the spiritual -- if we are really serious about being harvesters for the Lord, we need to follow the crops. It is futile to call people to harvest on the one hand, and on the other hand try to accomodate them and make them comfortable where they are. This will most likely end up in frustration and disappointment, because the anticipations which are built up will end up being unmet. But oh, what a refreshment and reward would follow for the psyched-up harvesters if they were sent to where they could swing their sickles and gather bunches, not just single stalks here and there.
Much has been said in the Church about the wildly uneven distribution of Christians and gospel resources throughout the world. But no matter how often this fact is mentioned, it seems to make virtually no impression. We are too snug in our own Jerusalem. It seems the only way that the only way God will be able to move His Church out into His woefully neglected fields is to allow persecutions to arise (as He did in Acts 8). Since in our current society money speaks louder than anything, this persecution may very well take the form of economic hardship.
We applaud the Pilgrims, we praise the pioneers for what they did to build this country. But though we respect and admire them, we are unwilling to follow in their footsteps and become spiritual pioneers ourselves. It's true that many pioneers took extraordinary risks, many suffered greatly, many were killed -- but it's also undeniable that they made a huge impact on history. As for us, we avoid the risks, but make no impact. We would rather be safe and secure than significant. We trust our company pension plans, but don't believe the Lord could do as well for His employees.
Many Christians who ardently desire to be spiritual pioneers are held back by their spouses. These recalcitrant spouses clutch their security as a toddler clutches a teddy bear. They need to let go and let the other go forth to war. Many Christians are like thoroughbreds itching for a race, while their spouses want to keep them safely hitched up to a plow. A tied-down racehorse either pines away or becomes dull, plodding and lethargic. By holding their spouses back, wives (or husbands!) are robbing their spouses, their families, and their own selves of their eternal glory and reward.
It is true that reluctant spouses may have a healthy effect in restraining unrealistic overenthusiasm. But the zealous spouse's built-in need to fight battles and run races must be recognized and accomodated by the other. It's much better to let them go fight for the Lord--for otherwise that fighting instinct will be channeled elsewhere, perhaps even against their own families.
Prayer: Lord, train our hands for war and our fingers for battle (Psalm 144:1). Lead us to carry the banner of the Lord deep into Satan's territory. Release Your front-line troops; send forth Your laborers into the vast, untouched harvest fields (Matt. 9:38).
Copyright © 1998 CrossPollen
Last Revised: March 20, 1999
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