Reach Your World in 2018
Passage: John 4:31-38
Have you ever been guilty of losing perspective about something? I know there have been many times where I have been really fired up about something that isn’t all that important. For example, there have been times where I have been losing a game, or my team is losing a game and my blood begins to boil. It is ultimately a meaningless game, but in the heat of the moment I really feel like it is of GREAT significance.
Or there have been times where I have allowed someone’s quirk or an annoying sound drown everything else out. Maybe someone has a weird twitch, or they make loud chewing noises. It’s really not a big deal, and at first you don’t even notice it. But once the quirk is on your radar, you don’t see or hear anything except that barking dog, steady drip, or twitch.
Keeping perspective is so important with all of life; otherwise, we will end up fighting the wrong battles, investing our energy in the wrong things, and getting angry about things that don’t matter, and this is especially true for the Christian life.
Our text gives an example of the disciples losing perspective on what is truly important. When the events of this chapter begin, Jesus and his disciples are traveling by foot through Samaria probably on a very warm day. After traveling for some time, they stopped to take a break outside the city of Sychar, and Jesus sent the disciples into town to buy food.
The disciples were probably tired, hungry, and a little cranky. And since they were Jews, they probably felt very uncomfortable heading into a Samaritan town to buy food. But while the disciples are away thinking about food and sore feet, Jesus had an incredible gospel conversation with a lowly, Samaritan adulteress. She was amazed by Jesus’ care and his spiritual insight, and she came to realize that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s promised deliverer. She ran off to tell everyone she could find that she has met the Christ.
While Jesus was finishing the conversation, the disciples returned with lunch. Jesus is eagerly anticipating the crowd that was about to return, but the disciples aren’t thinking about evangelism at all. In fact they were bothered that Jesus was even speaking with a Samaritan (v. 27). They are only thinking about lunch, and about getting out of Samaria as quickly as possible.
Therefore in vv. 31–38 Jesus challenges the disciples to gain a very important perspective on what matters to God and what ought to matter to us. I’d like to use Jesus’ challenge to challenge us regarding our own perspective for 2018. Our vision must rise above the basic concerns of life that often dominate our view so that we see the eternal purpose God has called us to fulfill.
My outline today consists of two challenges we should take from Jesus’ exhortation. The first is…
We must be passionate about the work of evangelism (vv. 31–34).
The part of these verses that stands out to us is the conversation Jesus has with his disciples, but before we get to it, it’s important to note exactly what Jesus is talking about.
Therefore, notice in v. 34 that…
God’s purpose for this age is to take the gospel to all people (v. 34).
We see in this verse that Jesus has a laser-like focus on doing the Father’s will and on finishing the work the Father sent him to do. But what work is he thinking of? After all, Jesus came to do a number of works. He came to reveal the Father, provide redemption, and many other things.
But in this particular context, Jesus is especially thinking of the establishment of God’s global purpose of evangelism. We know this because he has just taken a step toward taking the gospel to all people by sharing the gospel with a Samaritan, someone who the Jews considered unclean.
And in vv. 35–38 Jesus tells his disciples that a new age has dawned in the spread of the gospel. He tells us that God has been preparing for this harvest for generations, and now the time has come to reap a massive harvest of souls not just among the Jews but also among the Samaritans and ultimately among all people everywhere.
And so to understand this passage, we have to see it in this light. Jesus has intentionally taken his disciples through Samaria even though the Jews normally avoided it because he has a new mission and a new vision. The good news must not just stay with the Jews, it must go to the Samaritans and to everyone. God’s purpose for this age is to take the gospel to all people.
And Jesus is passionate about this purpose. Notice in vv. 31–34 that…
God’s purpose must consume our focus.
I can easily identify with the disciples here. They’ve been walking all day, they are tired, and they are hungry. Jesus sent them into town to buy food, and finally they can take a break and eat some lunch. As well they know nothing about the gospel conversation Jesus just had or about the fact that a large crowd of Samaritans are headed out to Jesus and that many of them are about to be saved. They are just excited to eat.
Therefore, v. 31 says that the disciples were urging Christ to eat after he sent them into town to get food. But to their surprise and probably to their frustration, he refused. He had no appetite.
And then in v. 32, he makes a statement that absolutely confused them. He said that he had food to eat that they did not know about. What did he mean by that? They didn’t see any food lying around, and they are so focused on the trip, that it never even crosses their minds that Jesus might be thinking of something else. They had no vision for the souls of the Samaritans. Therefore, v. 33 says that they were talking among themselves with great confusion and wondering if someone else had brought Jesus food.
What a sad loss of perspective. Food and rest had overwhelmed any and all perspective on God’s purpose. And yet how often are we guilty of the very same lack of perspective? We go to work every day, and all we think about is our task lists. We rarely if ever consider that we are surrounded by sinners who do not know the glory of the gospel and who are on their way to hell. Or a serviceman does poor work for us, and we are so locked in on making sure we don’t get gipped that we never think about our testimony or about giving a testimony of grace. On and on I could go, and I am as guilty as anyone.
And so I want to ask you, how many times a week do you make a conscious effort to be a witness for Christ. Do you work to steer conversations to the gospel? Do you even think consistently about doing so?
It is very convicting to think how often we are so blind to what really matters because we are just in our own selfish world doing our thing. We need to commit before God to making sure our gospel witness is the priority it ought to be.
Hopefully you agree, but it can be so hard can’t it? Life is busy, and sharing the gospel is not always easy. So how do we make evangelism the priority it ought to be? Well, thankfully Jesus is in this story to give us a model of how we ought to think. Notice again what he says in v. 34.
Folks, evangelism was not a necessary evil or a burdensome command to Jesus. Rather Jesus says that his ultimate satisfaction was in something much bigger than food. His greatest passion was for doing the will of the Father, and in this instance for beginning his global purpose of evangelism.
Folks, that’s where we need to get. We need to develop such a passion for the work of the gospel that it overwhelms every earthly desire and brings us joy.
And the only way that is going to happen is if we intentionally force our minds in that direction. We need to do that as a church this year. We need to pray for the lost, we need to share with each other when God opens gospel opportunities, and we just need to step out of our comfort zone and share the gospel because the more you do it, the more you will love it.
Let’s all be challenged to be passionate about the work of evangelism, and to see it become our necessary food. And let’s commit to grow an appropriate passion for the work.
The second challenge of this passage is that…
We must be confident in God’s promise to bless (vv. 35–38).
This is so important because one of the greatest hindrances to our evangelism is that we don’t think it will accomplish anything. If we don’t think people are going to get saved, then it’s hard to be motivated to evangelize. But Jesus is very optimistic, and we need to catch his confidence.
I’d like to divide these verses into two basic exhortations. First…
See what God is doing.
In v. 35 Jesus seems to draw on a common proverbial statement of the day. When a farmer plants seed, he has to wait several months before he can receive the fruit of his work. And during that period, he just has to be patient. There’s nothing he can do to make the plants grow faster and speed up the maturation process of his crop.
And Jesus seems to be applying this proverb to the long period of spiritual famine that had taken place in Israel. For hundreds of years Israel had been far away from God except for a small remnant who faithfully sowed spiritual seed. The prophets just kept preaching, but they never saw a great revival. But God promised them that some day he would enact a new covenant, and there would be a great spiritual harvest.
And when Jesus gives the urgent command in v. 35, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” he is saying that the fields are mature. The time of harvest has come! He may have even been pointing at the Samaritan crowd heading their way. Jesus is saying, “Look, God is about to do something great for the sake of the gospel!” He is very confident in the power of the gospel to work.
He then goes on v. 36 to note that the reaper, or the one who gathers the mature crops is now receiving his wages because the crops are mature and ready to harvest. The first and most immediate point that Jesus is making concerns the Samaritans in the village of Sychar. A number of people were on their way out to hear from Christ, and they were ripe for the picking; they were ready to receive the good news of Christ. And Christ wanted his disciples to see the people of this village, not as half-breed compromisers but as lost souls who needed salvation. He wanted them to see the harvest right in front of them.
But he also wanted them to appreciate the time period in which they lived. For hundreds of years the prophets and other righteous Israelites had been sowing seed by faithfully proclaiming the truth, but they never got to see a great work of God. Notice what Jesus says of these people in v. 38. These faithful servants of the Lord like Isaiah and Jeremiah had toiled and labored but saw little fruit.
But a new age has come. With the coming of Christ, God is now doing a powerful work through the gospel. As Romans 1:16 states, the gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” God has given the gospel the power to break hearts and to change lives.
And he is doing this work among all kinds of people in every corner of the world. And so when Jesus tells the disciples in v. 35 to lift up their eyes and see the harvest before them, he is telling them to get over their absorption in the things of the world and to get over their prejudices against the Samaritans and Gentiles and to see what God is doing.
And folks we need this challenge also. Sometimes we look at the darkness of our world, and we kind of think that God is done doing great things. We forget that the world has always been dark, and God’s people have always been in the minority, and we begin to curl up in our Christian ball and run from the world around us.
Or we look at people we know, and we think there is no way this person will ever be saved. He is just too hard or too apathetic. We don’t believe in the power of the Spirit to open eyes and change lives.
We need to see that God is doing something great in our age. The gospel can change lives in our age. Appreciate the times we are in and have a vision for what God is doing. When you look at the High Desert or at California, don’t just see all of wickedness and liberalism. See our community with the vision of Christ in light of the power of the Spirit. See it as field that is white for harvest. I love what Jesus said to Paul when he was ministering in the wicked city of Corinth. Paul was in an evil place, but Acts 18:9–10 state that Jesus told Paul, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”
Folks, I believe that Jesus has many people in the High Desert. There is an openness to the gospel here that I’ve not seen anywhere else I have ever lived. And the gospel is powerful to change lives. And so don’t look at our community like the disciples did, thinking only about yourself—it’s hot; it’s dry; the politics stink. Rather, see it as a field that is ripe for harvest because you believe in the power of the gospel and you recognize the age in which we are living.
See what God is doing. And this naturally brings us to the second exhortation of vv. 35–38, which is…
Participate in the harvest (vv. 37–38).
In v. 37, Jesus cites another proverbial statement that makes the point that sowing and reaping are separate activities that are often carried out by different people. However, both are essential to enjoying the harvest. There was a farmer in my church growing up, who would always say, “The seed won’t grow in the bag.” His point was you have to plant, or you won’t get a harvest. And of course, the crop does you know good unless you bring it in.
Then Jesus goes on in v. 38 to again acknowledge all of the sowing that had been done by the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and others. They had labored to provide a harvest.
And Jesus looks at his disciples and says that I have sent YOU to reap the harvest these other people had labored to prepare. Jesus is looking forward to the Great Commission that he will give after his resurrection. He is telling his disciples and us as well, that it is our job to go out into the fields and reap the harvest that God has prepared.
We need to reach the people that God has placed in our own backyard. We have got to be praying for the hand of God and then be aggressively sharing the gospel with the people of the High Desert.
And so I want to challenge you to look out on the fields of our community. Stop looking at it based on your own interests and frustrations. And start looking at it with the eyes of Christ. Jesus cares about his glory and the souls of men far more than he cares about climate or crime or politics. We should be moved by the fact that we are surrounded by tens of thousands of people who are lost.
And stop looking at it with a pessimistic sense that nothing will ever happen, and start looking in light of the power of Christ as a great opportunity. The fields are white. Jesus has many people in this city who are just waiting to hear the good news of the gospel.
And then get busy reaping the harvest. Build relationships with unbelievers for the sake of the gospel. Develop a plan for sharing Christ with them, and then do it with love and with confidence believing that God is going to work because he said he would. Participate in the harvest.
I also want to emphasize, especially since the Eads family will be here this week that we also must participate globally. This is a major point in this text because Jesus is pushing the normal boundaries by reaching Samaritans. And he will continue to make that clear as he goes through his ministry. The gospel needs to go to all people.
And we have the wonderful privilege of participating in the global advance of the gospel through our missionaries. When you give in our offerings, some of your money is helping the gospel go to people other regions. And the more we give, the more we can do. And when you pray or you take a step to encourage a missionary, again, you are participating in the most important mission in all the world.
Folks, don’t stand on the sidelines. Get busy participating in the harvest because it’s ready. The fields are white unto harvest.
Theme: “Reach Your World”
And in 2018, we want to place a special emphasis on participating in the harvest. Therefore, we are going to keep a theme in front of you throughout the year.
As you can see, we will be using the theme, “Reach Your World.” Each world is full of significance. We should think of world on two levels. Of course, we want to see the gospel go to every corner of this planet. We need to be involved in missions.
But God has also placed you in a particular sphere of influence. The High Desert is your world. It is your field, your harvest.
Therefore, God commands you to reach your world. You need to participate in the global spread of the gospel through supporting missions, and you need share the gospel with the people around you. And we are going challenge ourselves this year to do just that.
You can also see that we have four subthemes that we are going to talk about this year. We are going to challenge you to identify the lost that God has put around you. We need to gain a vision for the people God has given us an opportunity to reach.
And once we have identified them, we need to develop a plan to evangelize. We are going to give you some things this year to better equip you to reach people. There are some great resources out there to help you. You can do it.
And then we are going to challenge you to initiate a conversation. We can talk about evangelism until we are blue in the face, but if we don’t do it, we won’t get to participate in the harvest. Evangelism can be scary, but we need to take that step of faith.
And thankfully we don’t have to do it alone. God gave us the church so that we can participate together in reaching our world. The church can help you reach your world, and you can help others in our church reach theirs. And we can even participate with other churches all over the country in taking the gospel around the world.
Folks, God has given us a great opportunity. Let’s commit by the grace of God to seize the opportunity and to reach our world.