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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45 am service, 2007-11-04

Text: John 4:27-42

One of the most important tasks of our church is to make every member a witness for Christ. This can be done by training everyone to share the Gospel, and be encouraging one another to keep sharing the Gospel. However what we often find is that training in evangelism alone does not automatically make us soul winners. Many may use their new skills initially to win souls for Christ. But quite often, the zeal dies down after some time. How many who have gone through our church evangelism training are still actively sharing the gospel today? Perhaps only a handful. And one reason why this often happens is that it takes a lot of motivation to put in that extra effort to find opportunities to win souls for the Lord Jesus Christ. And that motivation is often what we lack. In the secular world a problem like this would be addressed by offering attractive incentives or rewards for work - incentives like the prospect of higher pay, promotion, some recognition or award. 

Well did you know that the work of winning souls for Christ also has very good incentives? But these incentives are not in terms of money, or promotion or awards or material bonuses but in terms of better things than that. Let us find out what great incentives we have for soul winning, as we study the passage of Scripture in John 4:27-42. 

This passage describes a significant event that took place after Jesus had converted a Samaritan woman. It all happened when Jesus and His disciples stopped to rest from their journey at Jacob's well, near the town of Sychar. The time was 12 noon and they were all tired and hungry. So His disciples left Him there while they went to town to buy food. 

And during the time they were away, our Lord took the opportunity to witness to a Samaritan woman who came to the well. As a result of this, she was saved and she began to tell other Samaritans about Christ. The disciples returned with food when Christ was still talking to her. But they wondered why He was talking with her and did not seem to be interested to find out what was happening. They were only concerned that their master should have something to eat. But Jesus had something even greater to be concerned about. Here was an excellent and tremendous opportunity to save a lost soul. Our Lord was excited and anxious to win souls and He wanted His disciples to share His excitement and get involved in the work He was doing. So He challenged them by speaking about the rewards of soul winning. In your sermon outline you will see that there are at least 3 kinds of rewards that we may receive for soul winning. The first is:

I. To Have Satisfaction in the Great Privilege of Soul Winning

This is the main point of vv.31-34. The disciples had seen Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman and they had just seen her going away and leaving her water pot behind, because she was really excited at having found the Saviour. But all that did not seem to affect them very much. They were hardly excited or interested about this. Why was this so? Because their minds were already pre-occupied with food. All that mattered was that they had bought food sufficient for themselves and their master, and that Jesus should now enjoy a meal with them. Our Lord indicated to them that there was a kind of food that was far more satisfying than what they had brought, and it is one they too should be more interested in. He said, 'I have food to eat that ye know not of.' 

I think that we can see a bit of our own selves in these disciples. Most of the time our minds are focused on day to day mundane issues. We are concerned about physical rewards like food and drink, rest and sleep, clothes, shelter and some recreation. And it is alright to have some concern about these things since they are needful to us for life on earth. But often we tend to become overly concerned about them. We do not think of anything else except these things. And because we are already so preoccupied with them, we hardly get excited about the more important things in life which we should value more. 

Let us do a little assessment. Would you forego a tasty meal as easily as you would forego your daily quiet time? Would you forego an opportunity to rest if there was an opportunity for you to lead a friend to Christ? Would you forego buying the shirt or blouse you always wanted, if the money could be used to buy a Bible for a non-Christian friend who would like to read God's Word? 

If you find it hard to answer 'yes' to all these questions without the least hesitation, then perhaps you are too preoccupied with seeking satisfaction in earthly rewards. Your concern for these things is just too great. There is something important that you have missed because of it: It is the great privilege of having a part in God's glorious work. This should be of greater importance to us. We should desire this privilege. It should become like our food and drink: Something we cannot do without. What Jesus said in v.34, should become our own personal motto in life: 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work.'

Unless doing the will of God is your priority and you even regard it as a basic necessity you are not going to get very far in soul winning. Is there any work in this world that is as great as God's work of salvation? If someone came to your house one day and told you that you have been specially selected to be part of a very important national task force that will effectively solve once and for all, all the problems our country is facing, would you turn down such an offer? I don't think so. Just the thought that you can have even a small part in such a momentous work would excite your imagination and move you to lay aside all things of lesser importance. How much more then should we be willing to lay aside other lesser pursuits in order to have a part in the greatest work that God is doing in this world. The privilege itself is enough reward for us. But that is not the only reward available for those who win souls. Let us go on to look at the second one, which is

II. To Have Success in the Great Task of Soul Winning (v.35)

One kind of reward that most people would always look forward to in this world is success. In any bookshop you will invariably find shelves and shelves of books on the secrets, strategies or principles of success. The sweet smell of success motivates people to work hard and even to stretch themselves to their limits. People labour night and day to be successful. This applies to any kind of work. One kind of work where success is very important is farming. The farmer does not mind all the hard work of plowing the land, sowing the seed and irrigating the soil, because he has only one objective in mind - to reap a great harvest! That is the reward he looks forward to. He does not mind labouring and waiting for it.

In our text we see our Lord using this concept to excite His own disciples, by employing that same word 'Harvest' to describe soul winning. Look at v.35 'Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.' It was commonly known that after sowing, there is a period of waiting of 4 months before the harvest. But in the spiritual realm there is no delay. The fields are ripe for harvest and it is time to reap. One writer has observed that the mention of 'white already to harvest' may have something to do with the white garments worn by Samaritans - perhaps Christ was pointed out the crowds of Samaritans dressed in white that were now coming out of the town as a result of the woman's witness to them.

Let us consider how this applies to us. The world of sinners is God's harvest field. The harvest involves the reaping of souls by the preaching of the gospel far and wide. The needs are truly immense. The trouble with many of us is that we do not perceive them well enough to be moved to action. Like the disciples in this situation, our vision is myopic. We do not look far enough. Therefore Christ says to us, 'Lift up your eyes and look on the fields.' Do they not cry out to you for help? Is your heart not moved to do something for them? Consider the needs around you. Do you have parents, brothers, or sisters who are still outside Christ? What about your place of work or study? Do you not feel a burden for your classmates or colleagues who do not know the joy of salvation? Do you not see them sinking deeper and deeper into the eternal fires of hell?

Look at the relatively unreached groups of people in Singapore. How many have been saved from among the thousands of production line operators, bus and lorry drivers, construction workers, food-stall holders, car-park attendants, petrol kiosk attendants, mechanics or shipyard workers? These blue-collar workers make up the highest proportion of our country's labour force, and yet they lack any significant witness for Christ. Look at the numbers of foreign workers in Singapore - one million of them! While we send our missionaries to reach people in foreign lands, we must not forget that we can reach them right here on our island! Dearly beloved, there are many out there who need the Gospel, and the fields are already white and ready for harvesting. Although we have many evangelistic programmes, we are barely scratching the surface. The harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few!

It is worth considering why our Lord chose to use this word, 'harvest' to describe the work of saving souls. He could have chosen a different word. Why did He not use words like 'sowing' or 'plowing' or 'watering'? Perhaps it is because these words do not convey the idea of success that the word 'harvest' does. Many things can go wrong even after the land is plowed or after the seed is sown. A strong typhoon may destroy crops that are not ready for harvesting. But once the harvest-time comes, the sweet smell of success is already in the air. This is why most farming communities always have special gatherings and activities to mark the harvest time - to celebrate the rewards of success. 

What does this mean for the work of soul winning? It means that it is bound to be successful. When we get involved in it we are not getting ourselves into a venture that may produce absolutely no results. Success is guaranteed by God Himself! No matter how difficult the task may get, we will be rewarded with success because God is sovereign in salvation - He opens the hearts of sinners to the Gospel and draws them to Christ. Therefore nothing can ultimately cause the work to fail. Even though not everyone will respond positively to the gospel, the fact remains that as many as God has ordained to be saved will respond wherever the Gospel goes forth.

An indication of this can be found in v.39 'And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.' The disciples must have been amazed that by winning only one person - the Samaritan woman who had come to the well, so many more were now coming to Him for salvation. The work was multiplying rapidly, because the woman was so excited about her new-found faith that she spread the good news to others also.

This process is continuing even today: God's work multiplies and this makes every little effort you put into it significant and worthwhile. It may be efforts at home to teach your children about their need for Jesus. It may be efforts at school to talk about eternal things with your classmates rather than about the usual tests, teachers and exams. It may be efforts to pass a tract to the person who works next to you in your office. Whenever you put any effort into doing God's work you can trust the Lord to multiply it. (cf. the five loaves and two fishes offered by one boy - that Christ used to feed 5,000 people) You may work very hard and speak to many people but end up bringing only one person to Christ, but who knows that that person may turn out to become a good soul winner who will in turn bring hundreds of others to the Lord! Who can tell how many will eventually be saved as a result of your little efforts to share the gospel with someone? 

Thus far we have already seen two rewards of soul winning: To have Satisfaction in the Privilege of Soul Winning. And to have Success in the Great Task of Soul Winning. These alone ought to provide sufficient stimulus to action on our part. But the Lord adds on to these, an even more attractive incentive to encourage us further. And this is probably the greatest incentive of all. It is

III. To Have a Share in the Great Profits of Soul Winning (vv. 35-42)

There are great rewards awaiting those who are involved in the work of winning souls for Christ. Let us look at v.36 of our text 'And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.' How thrilling it is to know that we will receive wages for winning souls. But when will these wages be received? To know that let us turn our Bibles to two other passages. 

The first is 2 Corinthians 5:10 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.' From this, we know that we will receive our rewards at a future great event called the judgment seat of Christ. 

Now let us turn to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 'Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.' The last part of this verse makes it clear to us that this judgment is not to decide who will be going to heaven or hell. It is different from the judgment that unbelievers will face where they are condemned to eternal death.

All who believe in Christ already have eternal life and Paul affirms in Romans 8:1 that 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' The judgment seat of Christ is an event only for those who are already saved, to decide what eternal rewards they will receive for the work they have done on earth for the Lord. Our work will be assessed by fire and we will be rewarded for the work that endures this assessment. Some of us will therefore receive a greater reward and some of us a smaller reward, and some of us may receive no reward at all.

What kind of reward will this be? Let us turn our Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 to find out 'For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.' This crown of rejoicing is described by some Bible scholars as the 'soul winners' crown.' It is one of the five kinds of crowns mentioned in the Bible that God will reward believers with. Here Paul says to the Thessalonians, 'We are all going to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and when I stand before that Judgment Seat you Thessalonians, are going to be my crown.' It is difficult for us to think of people in terms of a crown, and yet Paul emphasizes that the Thessalonians, among others, are the crown which he expects to receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Every person whom he has led to the Lord Jesus Christ, every person to whom he has ministered the Word in saving grace, will make up his crown when he stands at the Judgment Seat of Christ. 

You will notice that in v.36 of our text Jesus says that 'both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.' Therefore this crown of rejoicing will actually be shared by everyone who has been involved in the work of saving souls - whether through sowing the Gospel seed or reaping the results of salvation. The question I would like you to consider now is this: If the Crown of Rejoicing is related to the souls you have shared the Gospel with or won to the Lord Jesus Christ, are you going to have this crown? 

And more than that, are you going to have the unimaginable joy of having this crown? There are good reasons why it is called the crown of rejoicing. The Bible says that in Heaven there is joy over one sinner who repents and comes to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. How much greater will that joy be when that soul's journey is finished, the work is complete, and that saved soul stands perfect in the presence of the Lord! 

Dear friends, the task of winning souls may not seem to be joyful now because of all the resistance, rejections, disappointments and other difficulties you will face. But God's Word in Psalm 126:5-6 assures us, 'They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.' Each time you feel fearful or even tearful from witnessing, let the thought of receiving the crown of rejoicing overcome all your fears and discouragements! And let us then do all that we can to sow the Gospel seed and reap the harvest of souls because Christ has promised us that there are wonderful and joyful rewards awaiting us.

Now, coming back to our passage in John 4 we find that there is still another incentive here for us. And this is found in vv.37, 38 'And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.' What does this mean? Christ was telling His disciples that their work of reaping that they were required to do is relatively easy because it is actually a work of completing what others had started. Here, our Lord is actually taking the whole work of redemption of sinners from beginning to end. And the 'other men' that He mentions in v.38 refer to the Old Testament prophets and saints who had laboured in writing the Scriptures and building up the foundation of the Gospel. 

Perhaps Christ was also including Himself here when He mentioned the 'other men': for He had accomplished the most difficult part of the work of saving sinners from eternal death. He had to humble Himself as a man and suffer the agonizing death of the cross to take away the sin of the world. (And really, if anyone deserves to be rewarded for the work of soul winning, it should be our Lord Jesus Christ, and not us.) We must be thankful that it was Jesus who was given the task of laying the solid foundations for the Gospel in providing the only means that can deliver any soul from sin. Nothing but His precious blood can wash away our sins. If there is anyone here this morning who is still unsaved, you must not wait one moment longer to avail yourself of the soul-cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. You must repent of your sins right now, and begin to trust Him to be your only Lord and Saviour. All the work of salvation has been fully completed by Christ. Your part as a sinner is to simply apply what He has done to your life.

This principle also applies to those of us who are already saved and who are now called to be witnesses for Christ: All the necessary groundwork for salvation has been done and fully completed by Christ Himself. Our task as sowers and reapers is simply to proclaim that completed work. And this is actually the easiest part to do: According to v.38 Christ's sends us, His disciples, to reap that for which we have not laboured. All we need to do is proclaim His completed work clearly to sinners and reap the glorious results that will come out of it! This is nothing compared to what Christ had to do on the cross. We should therefore be all the more willing to do our part in God's whole plan of redemption. 

As we partake of the Lord's Supper this morning let focus our thoughts on the salvation that Christ has laboured so hard and suffered so long to accomplish through His agonising death on the cross. And let us then see how light and easy our part is since Christ says that He sends us as His witnesses to reap that whereon we bestowed no labour. May the Lord help us then to commit ourselves anew to do our part in winning souls from sin.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25