LOOK ON THE FIELDS

“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.”
John 4:35

There is a tendency in the lives of some to look at our spiritual responsibility as though it is something that we will address in the future. This logic is found in statements such as, “One of these days, I plan to get serious about serving God,” or “When I get some things taken care of, I intend to get faithful to church.” This kind of reasoning may seem reasonable, but it is unwise and unacceptable. In the Scripture, Jesus warned about the danger of procrastination. There are some things that cannot wait, and Jesus pressed this point home to His disciples, saying “Say not ye, there are yet four months.”

All of us share in the responsibility of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeking to reap the souls of men. There is no greater purpose in life than sharing the good news of grace with others and seeking to send this message around the world. Jesus tells us in this Scripture that if we will look, we will see a harvest that is waiting in the field. This harvest cannot be ignored, nor can it be postponed. When the fruit is ripe, it must be harvested; or it will be lost. The problem is that we somehow fail to see this great opportunity, and we need to “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields.” Because of busyness, distractions, or misplaced priorities, we walk through the fields without seeing
them. When we deliberately take a concerned look at the fields, we will see that they “are white already to harvest.” It is just as true now as it was then. Wherever we look, the need is great – in rural areas and in the cities, among the youth and the elderly, with the wealthy and the poor.

What are we to do about it? We are to be witnesses, beginning in our own neighborhoods. We all are to seek to point others to Jesus Christ. Other ways that we can participate in doing something about this need is to personally get involved in Christian ministry. Many ministries of the church are designed to get into the communities and reach people where they are. We ought also to pray for our ministries and missionaries around the world. We give to God’s work – supporting local ministries with our tithes and offerings and giving to world missions. Looking on the fields births a burden in our hearts.

MAKING DISCIPLES

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
II Timothy 2:2

The pattern and priority of biblical discipleship is abundant in both the Old and New Testaments. We are to be trained to live and serve the Lord, and we are to be involved in training others. A disciple is a student, learner, or pupil. We are to be followers and learners of Jesus Christ. As believers, we are also challenged to transfer to others the things God has given to us. This is Paul’s charge to Timothy in our text. The things we have heard we are to “commit” to others. This is a charge that directly concerns every Christian and every church. One of the responsibilities we all have is to reproduce ourselves in the lives of others. This can be done formally or informally, individually or in a group.

We are truly blessed, having received truth as a result of what others have invested in us. For some of us, we can think of a Sunday School teacher, parent, preacher or pastor, faithful friend, spouse, or some other who helped us understand and apply truth from the Scripture. Where would we be without these life-changing principles found in the Bible, and the personal interest of those who cared enough to teach us? Thank God for those who have sacrificed to make certain the Word of God has remained available for succeeding generations. We owe a great debt to those who have cared enough about the Lord’s Word and His work to transfer to others the things they have learned.

We must personally take the matter of discipleship seriously in our lives and ministries. We are commanded and obligated to share with others what we have learned of the truth. Let us always be ready to share our personal faith in Christ with those who will listen. Observers need to hear and see the power of applied Bible principles demonstrated in our daily lives. We should seek to teach Bible doctrine to members of our family and to friends. One of the most rewarding investments of our time would be an involvement in a systematic plan of leading another person in studying the basic truths of the Bible. It is a blessing to find someone who is eager to learn and grow in the faith; it is even more rewarding to see him begin to share his faith with others. For the sake of the gospel, we should be committed to making disciples.

ALL FOR HIS GLORY

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
I Corinthians 10:31

Revealed in this Scripture is one of the most important principles of life. It has to do with our activities, and also with why we do the things we do. It takes into consideration our motives and purpose. How important is it that our lives bring glory to God? This is one of the great distinctions between sincere believers and the typical unsaved person. Those who are lost have little regard for God or for what He might think. Their chief aim in life is personal satisfaction. As children of God, our objectives and motivations, as well as our pursuits, are different from those of the world. We are concerned that our Savior be praised and honored because of His goodness and gracious work in our lives. We want our lives to bring glory to Him.

If it is true that our lives can glorify the Lord, it is also true that our lives can bring shame, disgrace, or reproach to the name of our Savior. Some very basic, and yet revealing, questions that we might ask about decisions and activities would be, “Would this glorify God? Would my music, television, or other forms of entertainment glorify God? How about my friends, hobbies, dress, and priorities? Would God be honored with my thoughts and conversations?” One of the reasons we were created is to bring glory to God. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). We want to see Him glorified because it is our responsibility.

If we are not living to glorify God, we are missing out on one of our chief purposes in life. This is one explanation for the great dissatisfaction in the lives of many people. They are living for selfish reasons or ambitions, and not for the sake of being pleasing to the Lord. We should also seek to glorify God because of all that He has done for us. I Corinthians 6:20 tells us, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” It is only reasonable that we should want to live in such a way as to bring Him glory. It is not unusual for people to go through their daily routine, including acts of spiritual service, and forget the ultimate purpose for our existence. In all that we say and do, we should desire to bring Him glory.

SERVING THE LORD

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
I Peter 4:10

Who is it that is responsible to serve the Lord? Is it only a few elite Christians that have been called and equipped for the Lord’s work? Our text tells us several things about the life of Christian service. To begin with, it teaches that every believer has been gifted for service. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another.” God has promised every one of His children the spiritual ability to be of service to Him and others. We all have not been gifted in the same way, but we all are equipped and capable of serving the Master. We must learn that all believers are not identical; we do not all have the same gifts and abilities. God made us to be different. We should not covet what God gives another person, nor should we despise what God gives us.

By faith, we know that the Lord gives us the ability to serve Him. There is no such thing as a Christian who has nothing to offer in the way of service or ministry. We may not have discovered what God wants us to do, or we may still be preparing ourselves spiritually or doctrinally. But He definitely has a place for all to serve. This Scripture also teaches us that the purpose of our spiritual giftedness is that we might “minister the same one to another.” God does not gift us so that we might use our gifts for our personal agendas or preferences. He does not give us spiritual gifts that we might be proud or have an attitude of superiority. We are gifted to serve; and that service is primarily to and through the body of Christ, the local church where we are members. Needs among fellow Christians will not be met if we do not serve one another. Whatever our giftedness, we are to use our gifts to serve or minister to each other.

In addition, we are taught that we are to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” We are responsible to be good stewards of God’s gifts. The basic principles of stewardship teach us that we do not own the things God entrusts to us; but we are to manage and use them, as would be pleasing to Him. One day, we will give an account to God for our stewardship; may He find us faithful. It is a great privilege to serve the Lord and to know that God equips us for service. May our lives be spent serving the Lord and others with gladness.

BECOMING LIKE JESUS

“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”
Galatians 4:19

What is God’s ultimate objective for His children? Is it that we be faithful in our church attendance, read our Bibles regularly, give financially to His work, and witness to the lost? Of course, these things, and many more, are the desired goals of every Christian. But God’s plan for our lives is even nobler and more challenging than doing these expected things. God has determined that we would become increasingly more Christ-like. Paul declares in our text his objective for the Galatian Christians was that of Christ being “formed in you.”

What an exciting possibility and promise, that we might become more and more like our Savior and Lord! This exhortation is not referring to the matter of our salvation, but of spiritual growth. The word formed indicates a process. God’s Word makes it clear that after we are saved, God intends for us to become more like His Son. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Paul understood this purpose, and it was his passion in the ministry. The Word of God teaches that this process will not be completed until we are finally free from our sinful bodies and in the presence of Jesus. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

Though this process will not be finished until we get to Heaven, it should be continuing throughout our natural lives. Because it is a process, it implies several things. It presupposes a desire to grow spiritually. Those who are truly saved should manifest a passion to become more like the Savior. It also requires time. Spiritual maturity does not happen instantly. For something to grow, it needs nourishment, food, and water. We are to be fed by the Word of God. God’s Word is of primary importance in our spiritual maturity. This process includes transformation. For Christ to be formed in us, we must be willing to change. This includes parting with the old man that we might become more like the new man in Christ. As we follow the Lord and cooperate with His work in us, we will be becoming more like Him.

A GOOD NAME

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”
Proverbs 22:1

More important than wealth and riches is the priority of having “a good name.” All of us are making some kind of a mark on the world in which we live. We will leave an impression, either positive or negative. We all have heard comments such as, “It doesn’t matter what others think.” In reality, it matters a great deal what others see in us. That does not mean that every decision we make should be based on whether it might be popular or gain the approval of others. We should do right because it is right, regardless of whether it is politically correct or popular. However, we should be very interested in whether our name, or reputation, is what it should be. Our name will determine the way people think of us, our posterity, our church, and most importantly, our Lord.

We learn from the Scripture that “a good name” must be “chosen.” We all make decisions and choices that will have a direct bearing on the kind of name that we have. Our priorities and character will help to develop our name. What impression do people have when they think of us? Have we earned the reputation of being a servant of others, or self-serving? Is our name associated with obedience, or rebellion? Do we have a testimony of being sensitive and considerate, or stubborn and harsh? Are we known as being industrious and hard working, or slothful and lazy? Would others agree that we are humble, or prideful and arrogant? Do we have a name for being honest and trustworthy, or deceitful and untruthful? The way we conduct ourselves will directly affect the kind of name we have. The apostles gave Joses the surname of Barnabas, which means “The son of consolation” (Acts 4:36). He earned this nickname because of the way he consistently encouraged others.

“A good name” is formed over a lifetime. A single good deed or appropriate action does not make for a good name. The way others view us, and the impression we leave will be the result of many, and often small, decisions. Our text says that “a good name” should be preferred over “great riches.” Some have compromised their good name for the sake of financial gain or temporal prosperity. For the sake of Christ, as well as the testimony of our family and church, let’s purpose to have a good name.

LEARNING TO GIVE

“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20:35

The words of Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” reveal a major principle regarding our basic philosophy of life. Why are we here? Are we here to be takers, to see how much we can accumulate for personal interests and ourselves, always seeking to take advantage of others for our own gain? Or are we here to be givers and live for opportunities to share our blessings with others? Which attitude, or course, describes the direction of our lives? In this Scripture, we are reminded again that a biblically-based line of reasoning contradicts the conventional wisdom of the day. The average product of our world system might say that one is more greatly blessed who is on the receiving end of gifts; however, God’s Word says that the person who is more blessed is the one who is doing the giving. Lasting reward and fulfillment are enjoyed by the one who is learning to be a giver.

As always, the best example of what we ought to be and how we should live is found in the person of our Lord Himself. Giving is an integral part of the nature of God. One only has to look at the creation around us to see the generosity of the Creator. The plants and trees, the millions of stars, the birds, as well as the fish of the sea testify to the greatest Giver of all. The greatest expression of His giving is in God’s giving His Son to die for our sins. Jesus demonstrated this benevolent nature when He gave “his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Because our human nature tends to be selfish, Jesus often reminds us of the need to deny ourselves. The more we try to hold on to our lives, the more we lose. The more we are willing to give our lives away, the more we gain.

The subject of giving brings to mind the matter of money, but it has much to do with other areas of our lives. We should give thanks to God and others. We should give respect. We should give our tithes and offerings, but we also should give our time for the Lord and His cause. Our purpose in life is more than being a reservoir of God’s blessings; we are to be channels of His goodness, using and sharing what God gives us that it might be a blessing to others. As we learn to be givers, we find that we are being blessed all along the way.

LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

What a privilege it is to be a child of God! What a blessing that the Lord has led us to the truth about ourselves, His person, and the glorious doctrine of eternal salvation. Not only have we been given a great privilege and position in Christ, but we have also been blessed with a worthwhile purpose. We are to let our light shine “before men.”

The great difference that the Lord has made and is making in our lives should result in an influence on those with whom we come in contact. The life that we live, the words that we use, the priorities that we exhibit, the associations that we keep, the values that we adhere to, and the attitudes that we demonstrate are all sending a message to the world around us. Prior to our salvation, we were all in spiritual darkness. When Jesus came, He brought light into a darkened world, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). The light of gospel truth shined into our hearts, and we were turned from darkness to the glorious light. Paul said, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). Those of us who have seen the light and have been given the light are responsible to shine as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

What a great need there is in this world of darkness for lights to be consistently shining at home, in the office, at school, on the job, etc. Don’t be discouraged because the world seems so dark; the darker the night, the easier it is to see the light. Our lights can be seen through the way we live. Those without Christ should see the difference in our lives. That is why it is so important that we live a dedicated and separated life unto the Lord. The misguided logic of many present-day professors of Christianity is that we need to be like the world in order to win the world. This is not true. When the unsaved community sees no difference in the lifestyle of believers, they will reject our message. There should be a distinct difference in the way God’s children live. In addition to living godly lives, we must also tell others of the difference Christ makes in us. We have a message to those in darkness, a message of hope and life.

ASK, SEEK, KNOCK

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
Luke 11:9, 10

Prayer is one of the greatest privileges for the child of God. So many of the wonderful blessings and promises that can be ours are appropriated through the vehicle of prayer. To fail to pray will bring certain disappointment in our spiritual journey. Our Savior describes the practice of prayer in simple and practical language, which all of us can relate to. Prayer is asking, seeking, and knocking. We ask God for the things we need, and the things that we believe He would want us to have, or the things we are confident He wants to do.

The Bible says, “ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). God wants us to ask, as a child would ask his father. He also teaches us to seek. We are to continue to seek the Lord for His will to be done; if we are not certain something is His will, we are to seek to find out. It pleases the Lord for us to seek Him, to seek His face, and to seek to understand His will. Then we are to knock. This teaches us to be persistent in our praying. Sometimes the answer does not come immediately. Because God does not answer our prayers instantly is not an indication that He does not plan to answer them. We cannot pray too much about things, nor can we pray about too many things. We are encouraged in the Bible to pray about everything. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). We are to exercise this discipline of prayer.

The Scripture says, “every one” that asks will receive. God wants to hear the prayers of all His children. He listens to the youngest believer, both in terms of physical and spiritual age, just as much as He listens to the oldest Christian. His promises regarding prayer are sure. The word shall is used four times in our text. God wants us to know that prayer will produce results. We can ask in faith, knowing that God is willing to hear and answer according to His will. Jesus was the perfect example in prayer. He prayed often and earnestly. We need to make praying about things as natural as breathing. Our loving Father is pleased to hear and answer the prayers of His children.

THROUGH CHRIST

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Philippians 4:13

Paul was very familiar with the demands of living for Christ in difficult situations. As a missionary, he was often mistreated, severely beaten, criticized, and imprisoned. He was frequently without the faithful support of the Lord’s churches. However, he discovered a truth that sustained him in his times of disappointment and adversity: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The Bible urges us to have the faith to believe that, through Christ, it can be done. The object of our faith and the source of our strength are not found in ourselves, but in Christ. It is “through Christ” that we reach our potential and accomplish things beyond our natural ability. It would be very boastful to think that we could “do all things” in our own power, strength, or wisdom. This is the practical application of the life of faith that is so often missing in the Christian walk. When we read our Bibles, we discover what God wants for us and from us. Then we see that, in ourselves, we are unable to fully accomplish God’s revealed will. By faith, we then trust Him to do for us and through us what we cannot do for ourselves. We depend on the Lord to work in us and through us, what we could never do alone. God wants to help us grow in His grace and become all that He saved us to become. We must believe in His desire and ability to work in us and through us to fulfill His plan and purpose.

The majority of Christ’s followers would have to admit that our success in many areas of the Christian life is somewhat less than we desire. However, God does not want us to give up on victorious Christian living as though it is impossible. He does not give us things to do that we are incapable of doing, that He might frustrate us. Rather, He wants us to realize how much we need Him, and He wants us to trust Him to fulfill His will in and through us. What is it that you know God would have you do that you know you cannot do without Him? If we know it is God’s will, we know we can depend on Him to help us to do it. By faith, we trust Him and rely on His grace to enable us. As we rely upon Him, we know He is pleased because it is faith in Him that pleases God. Also, as He helps us do what we cannot do in our strength, He receives the glory. There is nothing in His will that we cannot do “through Christ.”