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Looking to the Harvest
Harvest Time!
Looking to the Harvest
John 4:27-39
Today is an historic day in many ways because for the first time in the history of Southern Baptist work, Lifeway, our publishing house, has joined forces with a state convention to work together equipping people to be involved in the ministry of evangelism.
The program is called Connect>1 and it has three phases. The first one, beginning today and extending through the month of September, focuses on equipping. 
For those who chose to participate, the Bible Studies for Life literature began this morning a six-week series of lessons focusing on the Gospel and leading up to a commitment to share the gospel with others. 
The second phase focuses on engaging.  The commitment we are asked to make is called the 3151 Challenge and it asks those willing, to pray for three people who need to be saved by name, learn 1 gospel presentation, invite 5 people to come to Sunday School on November 6 and share the gospel one time. 
The emphasis will culminate in a Celebration Sunday on November 6 with a High Attendance Day and dinner on the grounds and all that. 
Now what I want to ask you to do today is imagine what a Sunday School could do if they committed together to share the Gospel with people they meet for just a few weeks. 
Most of us already have relationships with and come in contact with many lost people every day whether we realize it or not. And what the Connect>1 Strategy is all about is really challenging us to become aware of those around us who need Jesus and taking the opportunities God gives us to share the gospel with them.   
And after all, that’s what we are supposed to be doing as Christians anyway, right?  That is the calling God has placed on each of our lives as believers.  So what I want to do today is begin that process of equipping with a series of messages focusing on bringing in the harvest. 
Turn with me, if you will, to John 4.  When we arrive at this place in Scripture, we find Jesus and His disciples traveling through Samaria and while His disciples go into town to buy groceries, Jesus has a conversation there at the edge of town with a woman who came to draw water from the well of Sychar.
Now this woman was a sinful woman but that’s not a problem for Jesus because that’s who He came to earth to find.  As a matter of fact, in that regard, this woman represents all of us, because all of us are sinners.  We have no right to be judgmental toward her or anyone else because we’re in the same boat as she. 
And in an exchange that showed both confrontation and compassion, Jesus reaches out to this woman and He told her about the water of life.
And as a result of the encounter, the woman was gloriously saved, becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, and goes back to her home telling everyone what has happened.
Notice what we read in
John 4:35
In that verse, we find the challenge for today:
"Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are already white for harvest.”
We need to a visionary people. Jesus instructs those listening to Him to “Lift up their eyes and look at the fields”.  There is an intentionality about that command.  So the very first step to bringing in the harvest is becoming aware of the harvest that is ready. 
And surely we don’t need anybody to convince us we are surrounded by lostness.  Everywhere we look, we see the evidence of a world that has gone wrong and needs direction and hope.  For most of us, we don’t have to look any farther than our own families or neighborhoods. 
And Jesus was saying, “If you’ll just lift up your eyes and look around and be people of vision, everywhere you look you’ll see people who need God. 
Several years ago I heard the story of a couple of friends named Art and Walter. One day Walter, who was a tremendous visionary, said to Art, "Art, I want you to go with me for a little drive out in the country." 
So the two men got in Walter's car and drove outside the city. They drove out to a wooded area and it didn't seem that there was any life for miles around. It was a very remote area. You could see some old dilapidated buildings and horses grazing over in the pasture.
Walt said to Art, "You know Art, I have a tremendous vision for this piece of property. I know it looks remote but I'm going to build something here that's going to attract people from all over the world. I'm going to build something that people will want to come to and they'll want to spend their vacation here. 
I'm going to build something that no one has ever dreamed of before. I have enough money to buy this land in the immediate area, but I don't have the money to buy the money to buy the land that will surround it. I want you to know that surrounding this land and this project that I'm going to build, there are going to be hotels and convention centers and restaurants and all kinds of business opportunities. I want you to get in on the ground floor so I'm going to buy this land and I want you to buy all the land you can surrounding it because you're my friend."
Well, Art thought to himself, "This is crazy. I don't know what he sees out here, but nobody's going to come way out here and spend a vacation. Nobody's going to come way out here and do anything."
So, he made some kind of excuse and said, "Walt, this sounds fine and all, but I really don't have enough capital right now to buy the land you want me to buy.  You go ahead with your project but I really can't be a part of it."
So Walt Disney went ahead with his plans to build Disney Land and Art Linkletter, as successful as he was with other things, missed the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. 
In fact, years later when telling of that missed opportunity, he said, he missed one of the greatest business opportunities of a life time because he didn't have the vision that Walt Disney had.
Now unfortunately, most of us regret opportunities we may have had to make some money or accomplish some noteworthy accomplishment, but is it not true that the greatest privilege a Christian could ever have is to keep someone from going to hell and help them find their way to heaven. 
That means every opportunity we have to share the faith is the opportunity of a lifetime! All around us are tremendous opportunities to do something that will make a lasting impact, not in the business world, not in something that is going to last only for a few years, but something that is going to last for all of eternity.
But to see the opportunity, Jesus says we must lift our eyes and see with eyes of faith the men and women and young people and children that God wants to bring into His kingdom and into this church and save by His grace. 
Now, from this text, I want show you how Jesus did what He told us to do. Here He is, seated at a remote well in a pagan land, when this sinful woman comes up to where He is at. He lifted His eyes and saw the potential for a harvest.
Now at verse 27, we have an interruption as the disciples return from their shopping trip and find Him talking to this Samaritan woman.  They just can’t believe He would be doing such a thing.  As she leaves to go home, believing she has met the Messiah, a conversation occurs between Jesus and the disciples that leads up this statement about lifting up their eyes and seeing the harvest.   
I want you to see first of all, Jesus talks about
  1. The Food
Verses 31-34
Obviously, the disciples were interested in physical things but Jesus was thinking about spiritual things. The disciples were thinking about supper, but Jesus was thinking about salvation.
That is a very indicting statement, isn’t it?  How much of the time are we more concerned about physical things than we are spiritual?  And it’s not just that we are satisfied by physical things, they distract us from doing what we’re supposed to be doing for Christ. 
But Jesus said, “I’ve got a different kind of hunger!  I desire a different kind of food.”  In other words, there is an appetite of the body and there is an appetite of the spirit. The disciples knew a lot about the first, but they didn't know much at all about the second. 
Jesus said, "What strengthens me is not eating physical food, but what strengthens me, what satisfies me, what meets the deepest longings of my heart and spirit is doing My Father's will."
In fact, that’s what he says in verse 34
"My food, is to do the will of Him who sent me”
Now that makes all sorts of sense.  We all know that when Jesus came into this world, He fulfilled the Father's will. Very early in His life, He made that statement about how He must be about His Father’s business.
And for those who are here for Wednesday night Bible study, you will remember how we just studied His time in the Garden of Gethsemane and the great struggle He endured over becoming sin.  He ended that prayer by saying, “You’re will be done”. 
And I certainly don’t want to undermine what happened at the cross, but the victory wasn’t decided on the cross. Nor did Jesus win the victory when He was raised from the tomb. Jesus won the victory in the Garden of Gethsemane when He came to the point of saying, “You’re will be done”.
That’s what He’s saying here in these verses. "My food is to do the will of Him that sent me.” Jesus didn't come to study about God's will. He didn't come to memorize God's will. He didn't come to analyze God's will. He came to do God's will!
And that's what God asks of us. God asks of us that we do His will.  You can't do the will of God unless you know the will of God and you can't know the will of God apart from the word of God. When you look at the word of God, you'll find what God's will is. God's will is that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  You'll find that clearly and plainly written in the Word of God at 1 Timothy 2:4.
That's what the will of God is.  God's will for the church is that we go into all the world and preach the gospel. God's will is Acts 1:8, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me." That's the will of God for your life so whatever else God has planned for you, God's will for your life is that you do the Father's will by reaching out to others who need Jesus Christ.
But that’s not all Jesus said about this food.  Not only did He say it was His food to do the will of God, He continued by saying He came to finish His work.
When Jesus died on the cross, He cried these words, "It is finished!" Salvation's plan was done. The price for sin had been paid. The prophecy of redemption had been fulfilled. Jesus did the will of the Father and He finished the word of redemption on the cross of Calvary.
God wants us to finish our work.  His work was to finish the work of redemption. His work was to die on the cross of Calvary so that men might be saved. Our work is to finish the work of telling people about Calvary so that men might be saved. His work was to purchase salvation! Our work is to proclaim salvation!  Our work is not done until Jesus comes again or until God calls us home into heaven.
Here is the food that sustained Jesus.  Here's what kept Him going.  Here's what caused Him to overlook all the insults, all the abuse, all the blasphemy, all the hardship He had to go through. Jesus said, "The thing that energizes and sustains me is to fulfill the Father's will and to finish the Father's work."  That’s the food. 
Then notice in verse 35, He talks about
  1. The Fields
Now it seems to me the mistake Jesus wanted them and us to avoid was thinking that the harvest had to wait. And typically, that is true. You prepare the soil, you plant the seed, you pray for the right conditions to water and nourish the crop and you wait for it to mature into a harvest. 
That’s the way it works, right? You would sow the seed and four months later you would have a harvest.  But Jesus said, “You are saying that in regard to the harvest of souls, but you don’t have to wait for the harvest in the spiritual realm because it’s ready all the time.” How can that be?
verses 37-38
The harvest can be ready all the time because God is always at work and there is some planting that has already been done. In the case of the disciples, the prophets had been sowing the seed for hundreds of years. They had been telling people for a long time about the coming Messiah and the Kingdom and judgment. 
The word of God had already been sown. The people were there and ready to receive the gospel. So Jesus said, “Don’t say you’ve got to wait to bring in the harvest because the harvest is ready right now!  Just look around! Get your head out of the sand!  There are opportunities all around you to do the will of God, to touch lives for God, to reach people for God."
And the same is true for us.  We’ve had more concentrated preaching and singing and sowing and planting in America in the last 100 years than maybe anywhere else in the history of the world.
You can go anywhere in America and find people who are familiar with the Gospel message.  Now you will find many who don’t know also, but that is the nature of the harvest.  Some need to have the seed planted, some need to be watered and nourished.  Some need to be harvest and any and all of those can happen at any given time.  The harvest is always white and ready!  And Jesus said, “All you’ve got to do is lift your eyes to see it.”
That’s what Jesus did when He saw this woman at the well.  He didn’t see an outcast or a sinful woman.  He saw the harvest that waiting.  All around us are people under the domination of Satan.  They are hurting, they're broken, they're wounded, and they need someone to reach out to them in love.  Many of them already have the seed.  Some will need to receive it for the very first time and then be cultivated.  Some are just waiting for someone to help them come to Jesus. 
When we moved to Duncan in 1987, someone gave me a book of discounts and coupons to use around town.  Some of them were for free haircuts.  I got my hair cut at a different place for months.  I finally ran out of coupons and had to settle on a barber and the last one to cut my hair was a young lady named Tonya. 
I was sitting in the chair one day as she was cutting.  I asked her about church. She said she needed to get her children in Sunday School.
I agreed and asked her if anyone had ever told her how to be saved. She said, “No, but I’ve always wanted someone to.” I told her to put the scissors down and I led her to the Lord there in her little shop.
Listen: it’s not hard! I hear people say, “People don’t want to hear about it! It’s hard! They won’t like you coming to their house! Those are lies from the pit of hell. 
Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look around because the harvest is surrounding you! It’s ready! The fields are white!
Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was an evangelist over in England named Gypsy Smith.  He wrote a book called “The Beauty of Jesus” and in the book, he told about a Confederate soldier in the Civil War named Peter who wound up in enemy territory. Peter Apples did not know much about being a good soldier. He just knew that when his superior officer said, "Charge!" he was supposed to go. And he was the kind of man who never came back until he made contact with the enemy.
One day his officer said, "Charge!" Peter Apples charged. But they came under such severe fire that the superior officer called for a retreat, but Peter Apples didn't hear the command, so he kept going. He kept going until he found himself in a ditch with an enemy soldier. 
So he just grabbed him by the nape of the neck, drug him out of the ditch and started back toward his fellows soldiers. 
The enemy soldiers took aim and started to shoot, but since their own soldier was being dragged behind Peter Apples, they couldn't fire. About the time they thought they had a shot, their own soldier would get in the way again.
Peter Apples made it all the way back behind the lines and dropped this solider he’d captured at the feet of his superior officer.
The officer said, "Where in the world did you get him?"
Peter Apples said, "Sir, I got him over there in that enemy ditch, and what's more, there's a whole passel more of them over there."  Then he looked around and he said, "And every one of you guys could have had one if you'd really wanted him."
There are people all around us who need Christ.  Every one of us could have one if we really wanted them, if we were really stirred by the need of people like Jesus was stirred. 
When Jesus saw the fields, he saw more than the fields.  Matthew 9:36 tells us, ". . . when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them for they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd."
Someone might be asking, “So what’s in it for me?  Jesus anticipated that and in verse 36 He talks about the wages that workers in this harvest will receive and He describes them as    
  1. The Fruit
verse 36
Now I find it interesting, that even when it comes to reaching the lost and doing evangelism, God doesn't expect you to work for nothing. Jesus said, "He who reaps will receive wages.”  And you will never know a greater joy and satisfaction than helping someone to come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord of their life.  
But that really isn’t the main thing we need to see from that verse.   
The verse continues by saying “we gather fruit for eternal life”. We make an eternal difference. What happens here in the harvest reaches into eternity.  and gathers fruit for eternal life."
And notice, Jesus said in the same verse that the one who sows and the one who reaps both get to rejoice!
There is no competition for souls!  We are on the same team!  And you may have the joy of leading someone to the Lord that I’ve been working on and praying for or vice versa. 
That’s what the 3151 Challenge will help us to see.  We’re going to pray and visit and share and when it’s all said and done, God gets the glory and everyone rejoices in what has happened!
Listen: when the harvest comes in, it's not just because of one person who went out and led somebody to Christ.  There are a lot of hands involved.  There is typically a lot of plowing and sowing and nurturing and loving and cultivation that precedes the moment of salvation. 
And if it is a legitimate conversion, it’s all because of God and not us anyway! So just learn to rejoice that you got to play a bit part in it.
I read recently of a boy born in Northfield, Massachusetts to a large family back in the 1800’s. His father, a small farmer and stone mason, was an alcoholic and died at the age of 41 when this boy was only four years old.
He had at that time five older brothers and a younger sister, with an additional twin brother and sister born one month after his father's death. His mother struggled to support the family, but even with her best effort, some of her children had to be sent off to work for their room and board.
When this boy turned 17, he moved to Boston to work in his uncle's shoe store. One of his uncle's requirements was that the boy attend the Congregational Church of Mount Vernon where Dr. Edward Norris Kirk was pastor.
A Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball, charged with teaching these boys, became deeply concerned about this teenager, and one day decided to visit the boy at his place of employment. 
He told the story like this:  I started down town to Holton's shoe store," says Mr. Kimball. 'When I was nearly there, I began to wonder whether I ought to go just then, during business hours. And I thought maybe my mission might embarrass the boy, that when I went away the other clerks might ask who I was, and when they learned might taunt Moody and ask if I was trying to make a good boy out. of him. While I was pondering over it all, I passed the store without noticing it.
Then when I found I had gone by the door, I determined to make a dash for it and have it over at once. I found Moody in the back part of the store wrapping up shoes in paper and putting them on shelves. I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoe box. Then I made my plea, and I feel that it was really a very weak one. I don't know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ's love for him and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was of it. I think Mr. Moody said afterward that there were tears in my eyes. It seemed that the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, for there at once in the back of that shoe store in Boston the future great evangelist gave himself and his life to Christ."
Many years afterward D.L. Moody himself told the story of that day. When I was in Boston," he said, "I used to attend a Sunday school class, and one clay I recollect my teacher came around behind the counter of the shop I was at work in, and put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt that I had a soul till then. I said to myself This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.' But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men's souls and weep over their sins. I don't remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that man's hand on my shoulder to-night. it was not long after that I was brought into the Kingdom of God.'
Moody caught fire for the Lord and began to take the gospel to children and lead people to the Lord.  He started a Sunday school himself. In fact, his work led to the largest Sunday school of his time.
Within a year the average attendance at his school was 650.  Sixty volunteers from various churches served as teachers. It became so well known that the just-elected President Lincoln visited and spoke at a Sunday school meeting on November 25, 1860.
Dwight L. Moody eventually founded the Moody Bible Church, Northfield School for Boys and Mount Hermon School for Girls, the Moody Bible Institute and Moody Publishers.
Great story, but it doesn’t end there.  His fame spread to England where he became well-known as an evangelist. Some have claimed he was the greatest evangelist of the 19th century. On several occasions he filled stadiums of 2,000 to 4,000 capacity. In the Botanic Gardens Palace, a meeting had between 15,000 to 30,000 people.
While preaching in the British Isles, he preached in a little chapel pastored by a young man with the imposing name of Frederic Brotherton Meyer.
In his sermon Moody told an emotionally charged story about a Sunday school teacher who personally went to every student in his class and led each of them to Christ.
F.B. Meyer was just about ready to give up, feeling that his ministry was accomplishing little.  But that message changed his ministry, inspiring him to become an evangelist like Moody. Over the years Meyer came to America.
While speaking in Northfield, MA a young preacher heard Meyer say, "If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?" That remark led J. Wilbur Chapman to respond to the call of God on his life.
Chapman went on to become one of the most effective evangelists of his time. A former professional baseball player who had been converted, went to work for Chapman as an advance man setting up chairs and sweeping out trash. He learned how to preach by watching Chapman.
And when J. Wilbur Chapman accepted a pastorate, Billy Sunday took over Chapman's ministry becoming one of the most dynamic evangelists of this century. Billy Sunday's preaching brought thousands to Christ.
In early 1924, Billy Sunday preached a crusade in Charlotte, NC.  So moved was a group of business men in that town, they dedicated themselves to reaching their city for Christ, and decided to hold another crusade and invite Sunday to return. When Sunday was unable to come, they invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to come and hold a series of evangelistic meetings in 1932.
A lanky 16 year old sat in the huge crowd one evening, spellbound by the message the white-haired preacher gave. Each evening the preacher seemed to be shouting and waving his finger at the young man. In fact, one night Ham said, “There is a great sinner in this place tonight”, and it was that night that young Billy Graham said to himself, “Momma’s been talking to him about me”, and that night gave his life to Christ. 
Billy Graham has communicated the gospel to more people than any other person in history. And the rest of the story is yet to be written. 
You may say, what a powerful series of men: Moody, Chapman, Ham, Meyer.  But I would remind you it all started with a Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball. Millions have been affected by his decision to go into a shoe store and share Christ with one teen age boy.  Never underestimate the significance of your work as a Sunday school worker.
The beauty of the gospel story is that it links you with all the believers who've ever lived, all the way back to Jesus Christ Himself.  Why has Christianity survived when other religions have died in the dust of history?  It's because believers have been faithful to look on the fields that are white unto harvest and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God can use you and bless you if you'll be visionary enough to realize there is a tremendous potential that God has, but it's going to take every one of us doing our part, being available to God, being dependable and being willing to be what God wants us to be, being willing to work together that we may have fruit that remains fruit unto eternal life.
Do you know you've been born again today?  How can you share the gospel with someone else, how can you bring someone else to Christ unless you know Christ?  If you don't know Him, you can come to know Him this morning.
Let’s pray.
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