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MIGHT THIS TRANSITION TIME BE THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR THE KINGDOM HARVEST?

  • At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him (Oswald Chambers)
  • Right now counts forever (R. C. Sproul)
  • The history of God’s people is not a record of God searching for courageous men and women who could handle the task, but God transforming the hearts of cowards (Erwin McManus)
  • Over the last few years my single most consistent prayer has been for spiritual courage. Being a coward comes quite naturally to me. I don’t like to fight. I don’t like rejection. I am definitely not a fan of pain. All of these are essential qualities of a coward . . . As I read Scripture and the history of the church, I am encouraged to see that God has used people who weren’t naturally courageous” (Lance Witt)

Text: Matthew 9: 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

John 4: 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

Open your eyes wide and you will see that God is moving in the midst of Covid-19. Just like the military whose training takes place in spacious places, so are we having social distancing. The spacious space is to allow for making mistakes and trying again. However, where the exercise/fighting takes place is usually squeezed. In addition to having space to self, it is a time of transition in many ways. Transition is the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. In this case it is transiting from pre Covid -19 to post covid-19. There are people transiting from this life with little or no notice, others transition from familiar paths and expectations. It is a time when the formulas have failed to bring the desired solutions as we see separations and divorces of people that meant to be together for life, but also loss of jobs, and closure of well-known wealth creating opportunities. Gathering together in churches has been disrupted making some of the activities that were called ministry not be needed. All these changes leave people looking for how to make sense out of life. What makes it worse is the realization that life may never go back to what it used to be and it is not clear what else is waiting ahead.  When Jesus saw people harassed and helpless, he taught, proclaimed the kingdom and healed the sick (Matthew 9:35, 36).

SOME OPPORTUNITIES

Redeeming the shepherd – God’s providential omnipotence in giving people an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a shepherd of God’s flock. To be a shepherd of God’s people is not just fitting into the existing mind-set of leadership. It is possible to be in a position of responsibility but not be a spiritual leader. These are the people that Jesus called blind guides (Matthew 5:14). Jesus explained that whoever is the source of knowledge has informed one of the expectations of his/her role is the teacher. “Jesus told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher” (Luke 6:39-44). This transition time allows each believer to examine whether one is holding on to the belief that he/she has to fight for their right to be affirmed and appreciated. That is the mind-set that leaves people wandering without an aim and without a purpose because the ground they stood on has become sinking sad.  What is needed in this time of transition are Christians who know the truth that makes them praise the name of the Lord like Job. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”(Job 1:21).   Such are the people who become references, shepherds of the flock of God . This is because they provide mental models that cause the observers to want to know the reason for their faith. It is the testimony of God’s working in the midst of the turmoil that communicate. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The care they need is first and foremost guidance in truth by the Son of God. To be a shepherd of God’s people is to radiate the love, trust and obedience to God as a way of everyday living. The more we entertain this perspective of service to God as being something special we do, the more we divorce it from our daily lives. It is when loving God and loving people becomes a reflex, not a block of time, that one becomes a living witness of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Learning readiness – Changes that affect individual lives leave one not able to know how to respond to the unpredictable environment.  The feeling of uncertainty and distrusting of one’s ability to venture into the unknown future makes one long for any promising knowledge.  That is the learning readiness. “Based on their anticipation of satisfaction from particular messages, individuals self-select what they will pay attention to . . . And so they turn to individuals to learn what is happening, how they ought to react, and how to cope with new situations (D. K.  Smith).    Individuals selectively perceive incoming messages, choosing those parts that promise satisfaction of a need and rejecting portions that seem irrelevant.  It is those that seem to be relevant to felt needs that reach the level of consciousness that get selected.  Times of transition provide people opportunity to come in touch with the real self, no illusions. The ravages of Covid-19 are not only removing the veneer from the individuals but also from those they trusted as their models. Daniel Henderson says, “Our instinctive reactions to a crisis often pull back the covers on our concealed insecurities, doubts, and vulnerable places in our faith. I believe that, while the challenges of life develop character, the crises of life define it.”

Making options available – Teaching is one way of explaining and helping listeners reflect on the choices available. When the knowledge that is held is not giving the expected outcome, there is hunger for what else. The upheavals of Covid-19 have made what was familiar, comfortable and predictable not reliable. That is what makes this time the most opportune to teach about the dependable grace of God and the miracle of having a relationship with God irrespective of the changing environment. This is a time to exclude from teaching the rules of living that are derived from the culture and not necessarily cardinal truth as Jesus taught. It is those who know “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105) who are qualified to teach others as their lifestyle models the truth.  In times of crisis and transition, teachers who teach because they have been hired tend to have knowledge and trust level that fall below the requirements of the kingdom of God. “The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it” (John 10:12).  There is teaching that makes God be used as an object of trade, the name is inserted in songs and drama to attract attention.  Such teachings tend to show that life can be meaningful without the Cross tend to leave people helpless in times of transition. It is those who know the joy of taking the cross daily and following Christ (Luke 9:23) who cannot be lost in the crisis.

Matthew Henry says that when “Christ died He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better – His PEACE!”.  It is those who know that peace that are praying to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers even at such a time of uncertainty. They have the certainty of Christ’s presence. One aspect explains the purpose of Jesus coming to provide knowledge necessary for making the choice to belong to the kingdom of God. His mission was not motivation or inspiration on how to live better or more comfortably, but it was how to be liberated from deceptive thinking that led to a dead end. The labourers are those who Christ has hired and so when there are changes, they look up to the one in whose employ they are. His promise is that “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20) and because of that “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5). That is why the transition time is an opportune time to explain the Lordship of He who heals, delivers, provides, and saves.  And in regard to death he says, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).  Every Christian who has accepted the covenantal responsibilities that go with the privileges of being a child of God must make use of this God given opportunity. Reflect on this question by Ken Blanchard known for his book ‘The One Minute Manager’, “Do you see the best years ahead of you or behind you? If people see their best years behind them, then they’re probably not going to finish very well, because you can’t finish well when you are going backward”. Are you making use of the opportunity as you hear of the disruptions?

If you were at the end of your life, looking back at where you are now, what would have to have happened for you to feel good personally and professionally about your life?” (Bob Bufold)

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