When you look around your area, your ministry, and your workplace, you may see many opportunities for God to work. But you probably also see something else—the need for help. There is only so much that one person, one church, or one ministry can accomplish. There is a constant need for Christian workers to help with the work. Where will these workers come from?
Before we look at the answer to that question, we should look at how Jesus responded before He told the disciples to pray for more laborers. The first thing we notice is His compassion for the needy around Him.
- Have compassion for the lost (Matt. 9:35-36).
The enormous number of people around us can be overwhelming. The population of Willard, Ohio is approximately 6,000. When you consider all of the people who travel to Willard to work, the number is even higher. If you are from a large city like Columbus or Cleveland, these numbers may seem miniscule. But when you consider how many people you can minister to on an individual basis, that number is far beyond your ability even in a small town.
When Jesus saw the crowds coming to be healed by Him and to hear his gospel message, he was emotionally moved. Verse 36 says that he saw that they were “weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd.” Their individual and corporate situations caused him to feel emotional about their needs. It is interesting to note that the One who created all of us still feels emotionally compassionate toward us.
As we consider Jesus’ response to the people around Him, we need to ask ourselves how we can follow His example.
a. How can you interact with people? (35)
The first things we see is that Jesus was actively involved in the lives of others. He didn’t stay in one place but traveled to multiple locations seeking people. Matthew mentions cities and villages. This means that he went to large cities and small villages. He also preached where he went. And He healed the sick in each location.
While we may not be free to travel about to many locations, are there ways that each of us can use our time to interact with a larger amount of people? While God wants to use each of us in our home, our neighborhood, and our local community, we needn’t limit our usefulness only to these places. Wherever we find ourselves, we must choose to interact with people and seek to be God’s representative there.
b. How can you help people? (35)
Jesus helped those around Him by teaching, preaching, and healing. He taught in the synagogues. These were the Jewish “Sunday School” programs designed to help Jewish people learn more about the Bible and God. He also preached to the people. This seems to be something He did outside of a building as there are many mentions of him preaching to great multitudes. But notice His message. He preached the gospel (the good news) of the kingdom. God was wanting to bring His kingdom to earth. Lastly, Jesus healed all of the sick people.
While the ability to heal the sick is not something we have today, we do have the ability to teach and preach to the lost around us. There have been times during my travels that I have had clear opportunities to speak to people about the Lord. At times, I am able to correct wrong teaching and point people to what the Bible actually says. At other times, the Lord has allowed me to share the gospel of Jesus with people. And going back to the healing ministry of Jesus, is there something we can do for those who are sick and hurting. I think that we can. We can visit the sick and pray with those who are troubled.
c. What do you see as the problem? (36)
Jesus saw something similar in all the people whom He visited. They all seemed to be weary. The Greek word behind this means “to flay or skin.” Can you imagine being skinned alive? They were harassed somehow. It may be that those who should have been teaching them the good news were actually burying them under more and more rules and regulations that they could never keep. Jesus also saw them like sheep without a shepherd who were scattered.
When you look at the need of the moment, what do you see? We see many people wanting to be accepted for who they are. We see people looking for happiness in a variety of ways. We see people struggling with health needs. We see people trying to understand what life is all about. In all of these situations, we know the answer. But we also know that to find the answer to each problem, the individual must submit to the Lord Jesus first. Without Him, the answers will not make sense or be effective.
As we consider the needs around us, we need to have compassion for the lost. But we should be reminded that compassion for the lost is often missing because we are not interacting with others, trying to help others, and are not noticing the problems around us. Before we get to what Jesus said about praying for God to send more laborers, we need to be actively doing our own part in the harvest. Until we do, should we expect God to send others to help do what He intends for us to be doing?