READ: Ecclesiastes 9, John 4, Revelation 20
HARD WORK IN THE HARDEST PLACES
“I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored.
Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
(John 4:38, NASB)
Wherever we go in ministry and mission, we either benefit from the labor of others or we contribute to the future benefit of those that will follow. If we see fruit, we can be assured that it is not solely due to our dedication or vision but because others went ahead of us and did the hard work. Often prayer accomplishes this hard work. Regularly those on the ground preceding us did this hard work. Always the Holy Spirit is brooding over the peoples and places of earth; there is nowhere that God’s Spirit is not laboring over the souls of men and women.
In mission to unreached peoples there is a long-standing debate: Do we concentrate our resources where there is great response? Do we send the majority of our workers to the Muslim peoples that have been softened to the gospel by the hard work of our predecessors? Is it worth it to send massive amounts of people to the places where there is nothing yet to reap? Do we wait until the Holy Spirit has softened hearts? Is our strategy to find where the Holy Spirit is working and then join Him there to harvest? The critical key in answering these questions is the understanding that the Holy Spirit is at work everywhere. There is no corner of earth where the Spirit of God does not woo men and women to Himself. The question is not at all about where the Holy Spirit is working (everywhere); the question centers on where we are not working, where the hard work is not being done, and if we are willing to do it. Jesus makes a case in John 4 that it is not an either/or, but a both/and. The harvest is ripe (v. 35) and one who sows and one who reaps may rejoice together (v. 36). Those that sow don’t get to see the results of their hard work–thus, the difficulty. Reapers work just as hard as sowers; they just have the added bonus of seeing the fruit with their eyes. The sower must see it with their faith.
The missionary Spirit of Jesus rejoices in sowing. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of hard work. Jesus calls and sends both sowers and reapers, but there is no reaping without a generation willing to do the hard work. In these last days God is still calling men and women to go to the hardest places to do the hardest work. We may never see masses of millions come to Jesus, but neither will those who follow us unless we labor, sweat, cry, and beat our heads against the gates of hell day after day, year after year. It’s brutal, but someone has to do it for us all to rejoice. There is no ripe harvest outside of blistered hands, bloodied feet, and bruised hearts.