We're Losing the Harvest

Bible Book: Matthew  9 : 36-38
Subject: Evangelism; Witnessing; Soul Winning; Harvest

A salesman was sent by his company to Africa to sell shoes many years ago. In a little while he wired his office, "Coming home! No one here wears shoes." Another shoe salesman was sent by a rival company to the same country at the same time. After one week he wired his office, "Send shoes. Lots of shoes. Everyone here needs shoes." Our Lord looked upon the men and the women, the boys and the girls, and He saw that everyone needed salvation. What do you see?


I. Look At The Pain

It's written in Matthew 9:36, "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." The Lord Jesus loved every man and woman. All He saw was people, hurting and heartsick, lonely and lost, tired and troubled. It made Him cry, for He had compassion on them.

The word compassion signifies "co-passion," or your pain in my heart. One day a stranger came onto some boys and girls who were weeping bitterly. He kindly asked, "What's wrong?" One of the girls answered, "We all got a pain in Billy's stomach." These children stretched their minds as well as their muscles, their souls as well as their sinews for one another. That's compassion. It's bearing another's burden, feeling another's fear, lifting another's load, sharing another's sorrow, and weeping over their wickedness.

Abraham had compassion. As he saw his people perishing, he prayed in Genesis 18:23-24, "Would you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?"

When Abraham couldn't find fifty righteous people in it, he begged the Lord to withhold judgment for the sake of forty-five, then forty, then thirty, twenty and finally ten. But ten righteous people couldn't be found.

Moses had compassion. The Israelites had defied God while Moses was with God on Mount Sinai. They had made themselves a golden calf, and worshipped it and sacrificed to it. In sorrow Moses prayed in Exodus 32:31-32, "These people have committed a great sin...if You will forgive their sin- but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written."

Paul had compassion. He said in Romans 9:3-4, "I could wish that I myself were accused from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Think of it! He said in effect, "I'm willing to go to hell, if by my going to hell, my countrymen will be saved." What compassion!

The Lord saw that the people were lost and had no one to lead them, that they were like sheep and had no one to shepherd them. He had such pity for them that it pained Him. It drummed in his heart. It throbbed in His mind. It burned in His soul. For that He prayed and he Preached, for that He traveled and he toiled, for that He lived and He died.

Blucher walked down the streets in London one day and saw the bulging handbags and exclaimed to a friend, "What a city to rob!" And he started out on a stealing spree. Booth walked down the streets of London about the same time and saw the broken hearts. He exclaimed to his wife, "What a city to redeem!" And he started out on a soul winning spree. As you see the multitudes are you moved with compassion to give and to go, to pray and to preach, to sacrifice and to share? Do the things that moved the heart of the Lord Jesus move your heart?

II. Look At The Picture

Our Lord used no pen and ink, He used no brush and paints, but He painted a picture that day which haunts me to this day, a picture that brings tears to my eyes, a spring to my feet, a cry to my lips. It's seen in Matthew 9:36, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few."

Those words of our Lord are as a fire that warms me in coldness, as a magnet that attracts me to prayer, as a spring that refreshes me in weariness, as a spur that moves me to action.

Because of those words of my Lord, I can't be detoured and I won't be turned back. I won't flinch in the face of persecution, or hesitate in the presence of the world, or negotiate at the table of the devil. I won't let up, or shut up or give up until I'm caught by Christ!

You can, if you like, choose the easy way; you can, if you like, refuse to be the laborer you're called to be; but if you do, you'll lose the glory! That was true of the religious leaders of our Lord's day. They had no love for the Savior and on love for the sinner. They looked upon the multitudes as chaff, fit only for burning. The Lord looked upon them as wheat, fit especially for blessing. They looked upon them as becoming saints.

Don't you know the religious leaders of that day also looked upon the followers of our Lord as nobodies. They were uncultured and uneducated. They had broken speech and rough hands, and at times they were undependable and unstable. But to the Lord Jesus those men and women were bulging with untapped possibilities. He took those who were available and made them able. Because they were more interested in what they could contribute than in what they could collect. They let go and let God have His way with them. They looked upon the gospel not as a secret to be hoarded but as a story to be heralded. They prayed and they preached. They sacrificed and they served. They went out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, and they returned singing, bringing in their sheaves.

Our Lord brought out a tremendous truth in this passage. It's a challenge to every Christian. His harvest will not be reaped unless He has reapers. When this truth go hold of me I said, "Lord, I'll do anything, I'll go anywhere, I'll serve Thee at any cost."

The Lord Jesus needs men and women to pray and to preach, to sow and to reap, to give and to go, for He's not will that any should perish. St. Paul in Romans 10:13-15 LB, "Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how shall they ask Him if they have never heard about Him, and how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them unless someone sends them?" Oh, for men and women who'll be quiet enough to hear His call, brave enough to preach His Word, and courageous enough to live the life!One year Australia had a great wheat harvest, but there were few laborers. The men were at the front, waging war. It was a case of reap or rot! Isn't it that way today? One year we conducted a series of evangelistic crusades in Kansas. It was during the time of harvest. We had dinner one evening with a wheat farmer who owned hundreds of acres. We heard him say to his son, "If we don't get more men we'll lose the harvest."

We left Kansas to go to the mission field to labor with a choice couple in the interior of South America. We went into areas where there were no Christians, where the gospel hadn't been preached, and we visited home after home where the loved ones died without God and without hope. It seemed as if I could hear another Father, God Himself say to His Son, the Lord Jesus, "We have lost this harvest."

I remember two elderly missionaries we worked with. These women bore in their body the marks of the Lord Jesus. They didn't care to come home to the states because there were none to take their place in that field. "Why," we asked, "won't you retire?" "Because," they said, "we can't sleep for thinking of them." Some of us can't think about them because we're so inclined to sleep.

III. Look At The Prayer

When our Lord saw the harvest was plentiful and the laborers were pitifully few, He said, "Pray!" This isn't an offer, it's an order; it's no optional, it's obligatory; it's not a recommendation, it's a regulation. Hear that command once more, "Pray!" It's pray or people will perish. You must make supplication, or you sin. This isn't the only time the Lord Jesus issued the command to pray. He said in Luke 18:1, "Men ought always to pray." He repeated it in Matthew 26:41, "Watch and pray."

St. Paul said in Ephesians 6:18, "Pray all the time." He added in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Always keep on praying."

Not only are you to pray at all times, but you're to pray for all men. For it is written in 1 Timothy 2:1, "I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers and intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all me." Many of us look upon prayer as a delight, for so it is. But according to these Bible verses it's a duty for every Christian to pray all the time, about everybody, for everything. Not to pray is a sin. Lack of prayer is a sin. It's no wonder that the prophet Samuel said in 1 Samuel 12:23, "God forbit that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you."

The blight that 's resting on many a ministry would be replaced by a blessing if Christians stopped being prayerless and started becoming prayerful. The barrenness of souls and silver would be replaced by fruitlessness if Christians became prayerful. You and I have no right to leave unappropriated or unapplied the power of prayer. We're endangering the labors and lives of God's workers and work.

Early on in my ministry I was told the story of a young missionary couple who were bidding farewell to their local church as they were leaving for an African outpost that was exceedingly difficult and dangerous. In fact, it was called the "White Man's Grave." The husband said to the congregation, "My wife and I have a strange foreboding about going as we leave. We feel as if we're descending into a pit. However, we're willing to take the risk for Jesus' sake if you, our home circle, will faithfully promise to hold the ropes." One by one, each person present promised, "We'll hold the ropes. We'll pray for you." Less than two years had passed when his wife and child died. In just a little while, he saw that his days were numbered and he had to come home. He didn't want to tell his friends in the States of his dreadful condition. He came home immediately and arrived on a Wednesday night, just in time for their prayer meeting. He slipped into the church unnoticed, and took a seat in the back. Just as soon as the meeting was dismissed, he walked to the front. A strange silence came over the entire congregation, for death was written all over his face. He said in tears, "I'm your missionary. My wife and child are buried in Africa, and I came home to die. This evening as you prayed, I waited eagerly to see if you were keeping the promise you made to us, but I listened in vain. You asked the Lord for everything connected with yourselves and your enjoyment here, but you completely forgot your missionary. I see now why we failed so often in our endeavors, and why our work there seemed to have been unproductive. It's because you at home have failed to hold the ropes."

Do you pray for your ministers and missionaries, your family and friends, or do you sin against the Lord and them by not doing so? The Lord Jesus said, "Pray!"

IV. Look At The Push

The Lord Jesus said, "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." The word send means "force" or "push." Have you felt that push? You haven't? Then don't preach. The Lord hasn't called you into the ministry.

Years ago, while doing the work of an evangelist and traveling by train a Pullman porter said to me, "The Lord said to my brother and me, 'GP.' To my brother it meant, 'Go Preach.' To me it meant 'Go Pullman.' "He added, "Last Sunday I went to hear a preacher. His sermon was awful. I asked him, 'Was you sent, or did you just went?' "The prophet Jeremiah 23:16-17, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord.' " These prophets were not pushed.

I distinctly remember when the Lord "pushed" me into preaching the gospel. I was a soloist and song leader for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, and I was sent to Miami to lead the singing for Dr. Will H. Houghton, the great preacher and president of Moody.

The Lord blessed the Sunday morning service with a great crowd and many conversions. Dr. Houghton and I arrived at the church at 2:30 to pray together for a Youth Rally that was scheduled for 3 o'clock. After we prayed Dr. Houghton said, "Michael, I'm going to be the song leader and you're going to be the preacher." "Oh no!" I exclaimed. "I'm a singer, not a speaker." He replied, "The Lord laid it on my heart that you should speak and I should sing. Go to a Sunday School room, get down on your knees and ask the Lord to give you a message." "Yes, sir," I answered.

I hurried to the Sunday School room, dropped to my knees and wept, "Lord Jesus, I've been pushed into this. Please, please give me a sermon." He did. I preached. There were many conversions. After the service Dr. Houghton lovingly put his arms around me and said, "Son, I'm persuaded the Lord wants you to be a preacher. From now on we will schedule you to preach, and next month I'm putting you down to preach at the great Founders Week Bible Conference." I cried. I felt so unworthy. I still feel unworthy. Dr. Houghton is now in heaven. How I strive to please my Lord and Dr. Houghton, and I say with St. Paul, "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel."

V. Look At The Preaching

Martin Luther had a friend who loved the Lord as he did. The friend felt that Luther should preach and that he should pray. This was done for many days. But one night this friend had a dream. He saw a field of corn as big as the world, and only one person was reaping. It was heartbreaking. He looked intently at the field, and caught a glimpse of the laborer. It was Martin Luther. Immediately he exclaimed, "I must pray, but I must also preach." So must you.

"Oh," you exclaim, "I can't preach." But you can, if you want to. No, I don't mean you're to preach if you're not pushed into the ministry, but I mean you can and you should be a soul winner

Look at the word Preach. It's spelled p-r-e-a-c-h. To preach is to reach each of your family and friends for Jesus. You can do that, can't you?


One day I led a sinner to the Lord, and I said, "Now get a decent job."

"What a revolting development!" he exclaimed.

To make sure that he did, I took him to the steel plant and saw that he got a job. One his first day of work I said to him, "Now that you're a Christian, lead somebody else to Jesus, and start today." "What," he asked, "when I haven't read the Bible until I got saved, now I should use it to get others saved? You're crazy!"

"No," I answered, "I'm not crazy. When you light a candle, when do you expect it to give light?"

"As soon as I light it," he answered.

"Then when should you start getting others saved?" I questioned.

"As soon as I'm saved," he answered. "But how?"

I said, "You have a good gift of gab. Remember, one sentence spoken for Jesus may save a soul from hell. You can speak a sentence for Jesus, can't you?" "I sure can," he said, "and I will. But please pray for me."

Late that night he called and begged, "Hurry to my home. Today at work I said to a fellow, 'I just got saved!' 'Yes,' he answered, 'I know. But button your lips. I don't want to hear about it.' Then I said to him, 'OK, but remember, you've got a date with an undertaker.' That night his sister died, and he came to my home and said, 'My sister is having her date with an undertaker. If I had my date with an undertaker, I'd be in hell. I want to be saved.'" That night he received the Lord Jesus and was saved. Yes, one sentence spoken for Jesus may save a soul from hell. Why don't you ask the Lord to give you sentences that will save souls? Do it now, won't you?