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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2001-03-25

Text: Matthew 9:35-38

The theme for our series of messages for the last 3 months has been missions. We have already considered many different aspects of missions, like world evangelisation, the missionary call, missions in the post-modern world, principles for church growth, tent-making ministries, and the importance of praying for our missionaries. I trust that all of this has helped us to gain a better understanding of the work of missions. But it is one thing to know much about missions and another thing to commit oneself to be personally involved in missions. Personal involvement is a matter of the heart and the will, and not just the mind alone. And it comes only when we have a genuine concern for the work of missions - a concern that is so intense that we are stirred up by it be personally involved in missions. 

The purpose for our concluding message this morning is to do just that. We want to come to God's Word this morning with the objective of gaining a genuine concern for missions. And to do this, we will be looking at the example and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter nine. Let us turn our Bibles now to this passage. 

In v.35 we read that 'Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.' At this point in time, Christ was just about to send out His twelve disciples to do the same work He was doing. In vv.36 to 38 he made some important remarks that must have prepared them for this. And in these verses we can also discover four great concerns that can stir us up to be involved in missions. Let us see what they are.

1. Be Concerned For The Condition Of The Multitudes (v.36)

Reading v.36: 'But when He saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.' We observe that it was what Jesus saw in the condition of the multitudes that moved Him. The first great concern that can stir us up to be involved in missions, is to be moved by the condition of the multitudes -- What should we see in the condition of the multitudes?

Let us consider each part of this description: The first thing we find is that they 'fainted' -- This word describes a condition of weariness, because of continual harassment and oppression. And elsewhere the Scriptures inform us that the ultimate source of all harassment and oppression is SIN. When we look at the world today and behold the continual harassment caused by crime and corruption, injustice, alcoholism, drug abuse, sickness, and pain, we are really looking at what SIN has done. E.g. the foot and mouth disease that is now ravaging England, Europe and even South America, the unrest in Indonesia, etc. - all these would not be known to man's existence if sin had never entered into this world. People of every tribe, language, culture or status without exception are wallowing in the misery of sin and all its dreadful consequences. And so we should see the world in the same way that our Lord Jesus Christ saw the multitudes in His day - that it is a world where sin has made human life miserable with its terrible effects!

The second thing about the multitudes that Jesus saw was that they were 'scattered abroad'. This phrase conveys the idea of helplessness and dejection. Once again we note how this also aptly describes the condition of the multitudes living in the world today. They are helpless, unable to save themselves from Sin and its effects no matter what they do.

About a century ago, there was plenty of optimism that great advances in science, technology, and education that had been made would lead this world into a new age of peace and progress. But the two great world wars and many other wars removed that optimism. The beginning of the new millennium brought another wave of optimism that was soon shattered. New technology does not only bring new benefits but new forms of crime and corruption as well on a global scale! And the recent clashes in Kalimantan and in Petaling Jaya are a stark reminder to us that ethnic differences can still erupt any time into conflict.

The truth is: Man's best efforts in changing this world have proven to be futile, simply because he cannot change himself. Man may invent and reinvent many things, but nothing he does can reinvent himself by eradicating the sinful nature from within him. He is helpless, and cannot keep himself from death, destruction and a hopeless eternity. Dearly beloved, is that the way that you see the world today? It should be, if you want to see it the way that our Lord Jesus Christ sees it!

Let us find out what else Christ say in the multitudes. The end of v.36 tells us that the multitudes were like sheep without a shepherd. There was no one to guide them or lead them in the right path; no one to provide them with the right direction in life. And this is equally true about the lives of millions of people living today. Many do not know why they are living. They are going through life aimlessly, pursuing whatever comes along and attracts them - like pleasure, or wealth. They have no guiding principles. Because of this, some are led into bondage to soul-destroying philosophies and beliefs.

When you put all these things together, you get a picture of a world in need. A picture of multitudes with no rest from sin, no help to change themselves, and no one to give them right direction. And Christ saw that in the multitudes of Israel in His day. 

But Christ did not only just see the condition of the multitudes. According to Matt 9:36 'He was moved with compassion.' This word 'Compassion�' in the Scriptures is a very interesting word. It actually refers to the internal organs of the body, because it was thought that the seat of a person's emotions is found deep inside the body. Understanding this helps us to imagine the depth of feeling that Christ had for the multitudes. His was moved very deeply for them. His heart felt their pain and misery. Our Lord was filled with a sense of compassion that was to lead Him even to the cross, where He paid for our sins with His own life.

And the same kind of compassion can also stir us now toward a personal involvement in missions. Besides that, there is another thing that can stir us to be personally involved in missions, and that is, the urgency of the task.

2. Be Concerned For The Urgency Of The Task (v.37) 

In v.37 we sense this tone of urgency in the words of Christ, 'The harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few.' On another occasion Jesus used the same illustration of a harvest to bring out the urgency of the task at hand. Let us turn our Bibles for a moment to John 4:35. At this time Christ was in Samaria, and had just brought the message of salvation to a woman that He met at a well. As she went to tell others about Him, He said to His disciples: 'Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? behold I say unto you lift up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.'

In both Matthew 9 and John 4 we see our Lord describing the task in agricultural language, as a Harvest. Since most of us have not done any farming before, we might not quite catch the full impact of these words. You see, to any farmer, there are always two main concerns at harvet time. The first is: How big is the harvest? When a crop is big he has good reason to rejoice because this means a bigger income for him, but at the same time a big crop also means more work for him to do. The other thing the farmer is concerned about is: How ripe is the harvest? That will decide the time frame within which he must harvest his crop. If he fails to complete his harvest within that time frame much of his crop may become overripe and drop to the ground, and rot away. The harvest would then be lost! We can imagine the great anxiety of losing a harvest when we think of the farmers in England now distressed at losing thousands of cattle and sheep because of the raging foot and mouth epidemic there. 

Now this is the thought that Christ was expressing in John 4 when He said, 'look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.' He was saying that the crop was already ripe and needed to be harvested before it would become spoiled. But what our Lord was really referring to here was the spiritual harvest of souls. Let us therefore see how these two main areas of concern can applied to the task of missions.

How plenteous is the harvest today? There are now 237 countries with a total of 6.1 billion people living in the world. Although Christians may be found in many countries, they often represent only 1-2 percent of the country's population. In many parts of the world the salvation of souls is barely keeping up with population growth. In other parts it is falling behind. There are still about 2000 unreached ethno-linguistic people groups that remain in this world, who still have not heard at all about Jesus Christ. It is estimated that between 800 million and 1.3 billion people have never heard the gospel of Christ before.

Most of the unreached and unsaved people of the world are living in the part of the world extending from the Atlantic Coast of West Africa through the Middle East and Asia to the Pacific Ocean. This area is known as the Resistant belt or the 10/40 window (the area of Africa and Asia between the 10th and 40th degrees latitude - see map in outline).

These statistics show us the immense magnitude of the need for the work of the harvest today. The problem is that we often fail to perceive how great the need is. Perhaps we are keeping ourselves so much in a comfortable Christian environment that we are of the vast multitudes outside, that are still lost without the gospel.

And now for the other main area to consider: How ripe is the harvest? Can we afford to delay the work of missions? The answer is no, we can't. For the opportunities to do the work of missions may not always be there. We live in a fast-changing world. If we do not make use of the opportunities we have now, it may be too late to do so later on.

The task of missions is an urgent task. And there is no doubt that much work needs to be done, and it must be done without delay. But who will do the work?

3. Be Concerned For The Need For Labourers (v.37) 

This brings us to our third point: the need for laborers. In v.37 Christ said 'The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few'. In economic terms we would say: 'The supply cannot meet the demand.' But why are there so few laborers involved in this harvest?

Nothing is mentioned in the passage about why there are so few laborers. The fact of it is simply stated by our Lord. And that fact is still true today. There is still a need for more labourers for the harvest. There are some possible reasons for this need of our own day: First of all, not many are willing to be involved. There are plenty of other attractive ambitions and pursuits that people can pursue. Secondly, those who are willing to be labourers in the harvest need to undergo training in order to do the work well. But there are not many good Bible Colleges and Institutes to train them. Thirdly, not many sound Bible-believing churches are able or willing to support missionaries, because of their own tight budget. When these three things are in short supply, it is not surprising that there are few labourers in the harvest.

But in addition to these there is a fourth reason for the shortage. Missionaries cannot go on working forever. The time will come when they will have to retire because of old age or disability. Eventually, new ones needs to be recruited to take their place. One main concern in missions today is that there are not enough young people coming forward to become missionaries. It is feared that the number of fulltime missionaries will decrease soon because many old missionaries are retiring and few new ones are coming to the field.

The question to ask then is: How do we supply more labourers for this harvest? Not by advertising for workers. And also not by conscripting our young people into service (cf. Mormons - compulsory for every member to give two years of missionary service). These are methods that human organizations would employ to get their work done. But God's kingdom is different: Its needs are supplied by depending entirely upon the Lord in prayer. In v.38 Christ said, 'Pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that he will send forth laborers into His harvest.' Prayer is something every believer can be involved in for the work of missions.

History has proven that there is a direct relationship between prayer and the supply of missionaries. One documented example took place during the time of a well-known American preacher, Dwight L. Moody. Two students who attended his summer Bible school began to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send more labourers into His harvest. The result of this was that 5,000 young men and women pledged themselves to the work in answer to their prayer!

Now, the reason why prayer is the key for the supply of workers is found in our fourth and final point: The Hope of the Harvest.

4. Be Concerned For The Hope Of The Harvest (v.38) 

Let us look at v.38 again. We are told to pray to the 'Lord of the Harvest' and this answers the question-- Who will guarantee the success of this harvest? It is God who is called the 'Lord of the Harvest'. This title indicates that He is in absolute sovereign control over the whole missions enterprise. It cannot fail. God Himself ensures its success. We can see this when we read the chapter which comes after our passage. Matthew chapter 10 describes how Christ commissioned and sent out the twelve disciples. We see it again when we read the book of Acts, and see the Holy Spirit sending Philip to Samaria, and later on, sending Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor. By the end of the book of Acts, the Gospel message had already reached the city of Rome.

And now in our time, the Gospel message is reaching the uttermost parts of the earth. We are all living testimonies of that fact. In nearly two thousand years of history, the missions enterprise of God's kingdom has continued onward against all kinds of obstacles and problems. And as long as our God is the Lord of the Harvest, there is absolutely no doubt at all that it will continue onward. In Matthew 24, Jesus Himself predicted the final outcome of the missions enterprise. He said, 'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.'

Ultimately our Lord Himself will ensure success. And He will do so by raising up more labourers for the harvest, by moving churches to support them, and by preparing the hearts of those who hear the gospel. This means that results of mission work are fully assured. The harvest will be completed, and there will be a great time of rejoicing, when the Lord of the harvest reveals the full results of His harvest. Psalm 126:5,6 '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.' 

Knowing this can be a source of tremendous encouragement for anyone who is involved in missions. Whatever is ventured in this work will not fail to produce the desired results. When we get ourselves personally involved in missions, we are not investing our time, efforts and funds in something that will come to nothing in the end. All that we do now for missions will ultimately produce enduring results. Our labour is not in vain, and this is because our God is the Lord of the Harvest.

Dearly beloved, you and I are living in a crucial moment in history. Never before has the need been so great for God's people to rise up and rescue the perishing. Never before has the world's population reached such great proportions. There are now 6.1 billion people living in the world today. Even if we could brint one person to Christ every second, it would take nearly 200 years to finish the task, and by then the population would have grown further.

Never before has the church been so close to seeing the prophecies of Christ's return and the end of the world being fulfilled. For 2000 years we have been waiting for the Lord to return and now, in this century we are seeing the signs of the times more than ever before: the ongoing quest for peace in Israel, the earthquakes, pestilences like the foot and mouth disease, the increasing influence of cultic and occultic movements, the New Age movement, the great falling away of Christendom, and also the ecumenical movement. The world is now heading for the great climax of the last days. We may now be approaching the very last hour, and time is fast running out! 

Never before has there been greater opportunities for God's people to rescue the lost with the Gospel. Perhaps the saints who have lived long before us would have given anything to enjoy the opportunities we now have: the level of literacy in the world has increased. The Scriptures have already been translated into 2,000 languages. Air travel and global communication technology have shrunk the world. Going overseas now is as easy as going to a neighbour's house. With all of these things going, the Church of Jesus Christ is really in the best position it has ever been in all history to reach the world with the gospel. 

I trust that these four concerns are sufficient to motivate you to get personally involved in missions. Let us review them: The first is the condition of the multitudes. The second is the urgency of the task, third is the need for labourers, and the fourth is the hope of the harvest. Right now we need to consider what we can do about this. 

1. Think of how you can bring the gospel to your loved ones. Are your parents, brothers and sisters saved? 

2. Think of how we can shine forth effectively as lights in our place or work or study where God has placed us. Who do we come into contact with daily and how can we reach them with the gospel? Make an effort to speak to them about spiritual things. You may be surprised that they are interested to hear you. 

3. Help in church evangelistic programs. For example the Gospel rally next Saturday - 7:30 pm here in this sanctuary - invite your colleagues and friends to come. Help in the Berean Fellowship on Saturday - a ministry to the BASC students. Sign up to help in our Vacation Bible School which will be held on the 3rd week of June. Or distribute the pamphlets. 

4. Think of how you can reach foreigners who come to work or study in Singapore. You may not be able to speak their language, but you can invite and bring them to one of the language services here that suits them. E.g. the Mandarin, Thai, Burmese, Filipina, or Indonesian service. 

5. Consider getting involved in mission trips. Learn about them through our church prayer bulletin, or the Focus on Missions. Join our Missionary Fellowship as a prayer partner. Go on mission trips. 

How can we reach out? 3 ways: All can pray, Most can give, Some can go. I would like to end this whole series of messages this quarter with a challenge to us all. Today you have seen four great concerns that should stir us up to be involved in missions. I would like to challenge each and everyone of you to commit yourself to actively seek the lost for Christ, using every means at your disposal. Please think through carefully all that you have heard and make a definite commitment today. May the Lord use these words to stir up our hearts for His glory.

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

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11