"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." (Matthew 9:37)
We have seen that obedience will result in suffering, but to what end? The end is a harvest of souls! Jesus instructs Paul on his mission and these words continue to ring true for every Christian who has lived since. “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:17b-18) This is the goal—a harvest of souls!
Remember, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) We share the gospel in obedience to Christ’s commands and endure the suffering that is involved, via invoking demonic attention. We will receive the honor of witnessing a harvest of souls through the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work within the hearts of the hearers of the words of truth that you have shared with them!
Consider it joy
Do we ever stop to consider what a blessing and honor this is? God could easily save His elect on His own without involving us at all. For some reason outside of our knowledge and within His Sovereignty, God has chosen to use us, his sons and daughters on this earth, to share the gospel with fallen men and women. Allowing them to hear the regenerating words of the gospel of Christ will save their souls, if God has chosen them to be among the elect.
As a missionary, my job is to identify the elect to themselves through igniting the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts through the trigger of the spoken words of the gospel. Once you experience men and women entering into a saving relationship with Christ through your choice to obey God and endure the involved suffering, you quickly realize that there is nothing better in this entire world then to be a part of this work—the work of God on this earth! This will undoubtedly trigger a strong desire within your heart to press into God more and obey Him more and more, which means more and more suffering, but also means more opportunities to witness salvations. Thus this triangle, starting at obedience, traveling to suffering and then to a harvest of souls, is self-propagating, fueled by a growing understanding of God’s love for us and a strong desire to know our Creator and Savior in a deeper way throughout our lifetime!
From the field
To close this series I would like to share our experience from the field in Haiti just to reinforce and support what we have been discussing. Opportunities to display obedience on the field result from praying and asking God for opportunities to glorify His name through Divine appointments and sharing the gospel with others. You can’t just pray though, make requests of God, and then forget to look for and respond to the answers that He provides.
Daily in Haiti, we make these requests before God and He answers. Initially, as you start practicing this, what feels like small assignments will be given to you, but the way we judge significance is not the way God judges it. Something that may appear seemingly insignificant to us may have high levels of current or eventual significance in God’s Kingdom building work on this earth. The general rule that must be kept in mind to avoid this mistake is to understand that any answer or assignment that comes from God possesses the highest possible level of significance and this is never based on the appearance of the assignment, but rather who the assignment comes from, and that is God, the eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of all things!
When that level of authority speaks to you, the response should be to drop everything and go or do whatever it is that you are told immediately with a sense of urgency. When you make a practice of this, Scripture tells us that God will continually entrust you with more and more.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
For years we have been doing a lot of local ministry in Haiti. As time has passed, and we have remained faithful in executing the tasks that God has placed before us, we have noticed God opening ministry opportunities farther and farther away into more and more difficult places. This obviously makes things harder for us physically, in the sense that the distance and lack of roads makes for some VERY difficult and exhausting walks. It is also more difficult spiritually since these assignments focus on those who have heard nothing about Christ and the evil that they are involved in is darker and much more powerful. Therefore, increased obedience, as stated above, comes with an inevitable increase in suffering.
A village high in the mountains
So the latest assignment that we received involves a village high in the mountains called Nan Zimye. In response to our prayer requests to expand ministry into the mountains where poverty is the most severe and people are the most physically and spiritually desperate, God allowed the uncle of my friend and fellow worker, Andrelli, to die. You'll recall that Andrelli was saved out of a vodou camp almost 4 years ago as a result of God sending us to him. Andrelli went to his uncle’s funeral that took place in Nan Zimye where his uncle had been practicing vodou for over 50 years. Upon arriving in Nan Zimye, Andrelli began to talk to the local people about Jesus and the gospel. Much to his surprise, the people knew absolutely nothing about Jesus, His death and resurrection and the offer of salvation to all who believe.
Andrelli then came to the horrifying realization that his uncle had died having never heard the gospel and he was righteously angry—as he should have been! After the funeral week was completed, Andrelli came and told me about all he had experienced while in Nan Zimye and with a passionate sense of urgency told me that we had to travel there as soon as possible to share the gospel with the community so no one else would die not having heard the gospel. I had never seen Andrelli so worked up, but after talking to him I realized that his anger was founded in confusion. He did not understand how people could die not having heard the gospel and justifiably be sent to hell.
Now this, as we all know, is one of the most difficult apologetic questions that Christians have to deal with, and I, as a missionary have to deal with it more than most. What I shared with Andrelli, and what I am now sharing with you the reader also, is that we are looking at this problem from the wrong perspective. If the problem of interest is what happens to people who never hear the gospel after they die, I am going to pose a question from the other perspective.
What happens to ‘Christians’ who have the gospel to share, but never go into the world to share it?
The problem is not who hasn’t heard, but rather, the one who hasn’t brought it to him! Now you tell me, which one is living in gross disobedience to Christ’s commands, the one who hasn’t heard, or the one who hasn’t shared? Do you really think that we won’t have to answer for this—our willing negligence to go into the world and share the gospel with all nations? Are you really even saved if this isn’t a priority to you, especially considering that Christ Himself commanded us to do this?
The apologetic question should not be, where do people go after they die who have never heard the gospel? Let God handle such a person. The real question is, what happens to those who claim to be followers of Christ, but don’t obey His commands? What happens when they die? Jesus also has a question for everyone who fits into this category, which is found in Luke 6:46,
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
Of course, we made immediate plans to go to Nan Zimye and begin evangelization efforts. When the day came to go, we went armed with water and Bibles and began the small journey. We had to leave at 5:00 AM to beat the extreme heat of the day, and we took motorcycles as far as we could until the road ran out. Then we began to walk. The first half of the walk wasn’t that bad as we remained on relatively level ground. We did have to walk through three rivers which were deeper and stronger than usual due to heavier than normal rainfall.
Then we began the ascent up the mountain, and this is when it became extremely difficult. You have to make this trip to truly appreciate the difficulty of it, but needless to say, the walk is extremely strenuous. It is virtually straight up the side of a mountain, and by the time you have walked a small fraction of the total distance you are exhausted, having lost most of your body water in sweat, your heart is beating out of your chest, and you don’t honestly know if you are going to make it. It’s at times like this that you have to empty yourself of yourself and let the Holy Spirit remind you of what you are doing. You are bringing the gospel—the words that can save souls—to people that have never heard it, people who live in complete bondage to demons and have no hope. Keep this in mind and it will amaze you how God will power you through to the end.
I love Isaiah 40 for times like this, and I find myself quoting it to myself to get through tough trips like this. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
So when we finally arrived we sat and rested/recuperated for a while before entering the area where the planned meeting was scheduled. When we walked in we had 70 people waiting for us! Since virtually this whole community is saturated with vodou, there were vodou priests, vodou priestesses, and servants of demons all in attendance wanting to hear what this book called the Bible had to say to them.
We were overjoyed to see such an initial interest by this community and so we sat and shared the gospel and answered the many questions that they had. We left there knowing without a doubt that not only had the presence of God been palpable during the meeting, but people’s hearts were already being regenerated.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being save it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Sensing the Holy Spirit at work, I finished the meeting announcing that God had put it on my heart to make this a weekly meeting. We collectively decided to meet every Saturday morning at 8:00 AM. At that moment, the difficulty of the trip didn’t matter. Getting up a 4:30 AM every Saturday morning to travel there didn’t matter. The fact that my flesh was screaming ‘no don’t put yourself though this’ didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the souls of the people of this community. At that moment, that was the only thing that mattered because I was living within the mind of Christ and He was expressing His will for this community through our obedience.
Now I am overjoyed to report that 100+ people come to this Bible study every week and they are hungry to learn Scripture. Multiple vodou priestesses have given their lives to Christ. Vodou priests are asking questions that prove their hearts are being stirred in the direction of salvation. Many of those serving demons have come to a saving relationship with Christ also. A church will be planted here and vodou will be defeated. How is this possible?
It’s possible through obedience that led to a beautiful harvest. Remember that the obedience had to pass through a level of suffering. I can’t express to you how beautiful a life of obedience and suffering is when the end result is the expansion of God’s Kingdom on this earth. We, as Christians, have a lot of work to do in this world, and we must stand up against the disobedience to the Great Commission that has somehow become acceptable within American Christianity. Make a choice today to obey the words of Christ and start living as a radical New Testament Christian, not a complacent American Christian. “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes.” (Luke 12:47).