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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 21 : Pray for Laborers | Day 147

Labor for the Lord of the Harvest!

When I was 29 years old, I decided that it was time for a great harvest in Chicago among the teenagers with whom I had been involved in youth ministry for several years. I scheduled a special seminar for the end of the summer and began contacting young people, inviting them to register for it. My goal was to have 1,000 in attendance.

During the summer months, I made hundreds of phone calls and spent thousands of dollars promoting the seminar, but when the opening day came, I had a grand total of 38 attendees. Obviously, my efforts were not very effective, because I did not understand the principles relating to Jesus' command to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into His harvest. Only a few years later when I was expecting only a few hundred to attend the seminars I was presenting, God brought hundreds of thousands to hear the message!

The harvest is not ours, but the Lord's; neither are the laborers ours, but the Lord's to call, train, and send forth.

Our responsibility is to recognize a mission field and to pray that God will act on behalf of that need. God's responsibility is to send the right laborers at the right time to those who are ready to hear and respond to the message of His kingdom. Before God sends forth a laborer, He trains and equips him for effective ministry.

Scripture tells us that some "fields" are not ready for harvesting. Jesus told His disciples, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Matthew 10:14). We need to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He directs us to the fields He has prepared.

It is also important for us to remember that there are three stages of a harvest. The first stage is planting, the second is watering, and the third is the increase. Paul explained that laborers will have different functions: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. ... For we are labourers together with God” (I Corinthians 3:6-9).

When we fulfill our responsibility and let God do His work, we avoid the burnout that results from self-effort.

The effectiveness of our cooperation with God in bringing in His harvest requires that we remember for Whom we are working and keep our first priority that of loving the Lord. The Church at Ephesus was very busy working for the Lord, but their priorities got out of order and God rebuked them. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, ... and [how] for my name's sake [thou] hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:2).

In your journal, make a list of the individuals, families, or whole countries that you know need to hear the message of the Gospel. Then, begin to fervently ask God to raise up, equip, and send laborers into those harvest fields. His answer to your prayers will be cause for much rejoicing both on earth and in heaven!

“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard