Faithlife Sermons

The Fields and The Followers

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Introduction

Well good morning everyone, thank you for being here and worshipping with us on this extremely hot day. I woke up this morning and checked the weather around 5:45 and it was already 75 degrees so thank you for braving the heat and coming into church.
Yesterday, Rachel and I attended the wedding of an old college friend and the wedding was outside… at 4pm. It was insanely hot. We were dripping sweat just sitting there. In light of the heat, the pastor told the couple that those who were there still, despite the 113 degree temperatures, were the good ones. The heat helped to whittle down who the true friends of the couple were. So in the same way, for those of you here today or listening online, you too are the faithful few who have braved the heat. Of course, I’m totally joking!
For those of you who do not know, I am Kevin and my wife is Rachel sitting right here. We attended Family of Grace about three years ago. Rachel started attending what was then Endeavor her freshmen year of college and I think I started attending the following year. Even though it has been three years sense we were living in Portland, we still remember you all fondly and it is a great joy for us to be back. There have been so many changes, but it is still such a sweet thing when we get to worship with old friends here at Family of Grace.
The reason we left three years ago was because of this journey that God has been taking us on. When Rachel and I were married, we knew that we wanted to and were called to go overseas on the mission field. Both of us separately felt a call on our lives to go with the Gospel of Jesus to those in the world who had not yet heard it so once we were married, that call only solidified and intensified. Soon after our wedding, we started to prayerfully consider what organization to go with, what people group to go to, and what language to learn. At some point in the process, Rachel’s home church in Federal Way, Washington invited us up for a two year commitment to lead their youth ministry program as we support raise to then launch overseas. With a lot of prayer with our friends and mentors and the elders here, we took the job. It was for sure bittersweet. We loved being here in Portland with our friends and church family, but when Jesus opens up a door that is so obvious as the right door to walk through then it makes the most sense to walk straight through.
And so, for the past two years, and then a third because of Covid, we have been working with the youth group of our church all the while still praying that God would open up a door for us to head overseas to share the Gospel with people who have not yet heard. For the majority of our time in Federal Way, we thought the Lord was leading us to move to Austria to work with Middle Eastern refugees and then a few months ago God switched the plan. One day after talking with the team in Austria, Rachel and I both felt a switch in our hearts where we felt like God was perhaps leading us in a new direction. Through a month of conversations and prayer with our church partners, mentors, and close friends, we decided to move forward with a call to a new location. We are still working with the same people groups the only difference is that our work will be more focused into helping those people become a part of the body of believers and our work will be taking place in the Middle East as opposed to in Europe. Now, Rachel and I will be moving at the end of the summer to our new home in a Middle Eastern country and we could not be more excited.
Throughout this whole process of, we have had to constantly go to God in prayer asking for wisdom, discernment, strength to stay focused when it would have been so easy to walk away from God’s call on our lives. We’ve had to seek wise counsel from those around us who God has placed in leadership over us. Perhaps the most important thing we’ve had to do is that we’ve had to study and read and soak in God’s word. We do this for a number of reason, but one specifically that I want to spend the rest of our time together talking about is how within God’s word, within the Bible that is our authority, we see that Jesus is our model for ministry.
For Rachel and I who are getting ready to move 6,081 miles away to a new country and new language and new culture, we can find comfort knowing that Jesus is our model for ministry.
In the same way, for you here at Family of Grace, whether you are new to this church family or have been here for a while, whether you are a seasoned believer with degrees under your belt, or whether you have just met Jesus and He has only recently restored your life, you too can find comfort knowing that Jesus is our model for ministry.
The more that you can read God’s word and soak in God’s word, the more that you can look to His word to see how we should submit and change and move our own lives to be more in tune with His. If you are only using the Bible as a reference book to find out of context scripture passages to encourage or answer a problem that you are having, then you are missing out on the bigger story. I love the simplicity of how the Bible Project states it, “The bible is a unified storied that leads people to Jesus.” And it is because of that that we can look to Jesus as our model for ministry.
If you have your bibles, please turn with me to Matthew 9:35-38.
Matthew 9:35–38 ESV
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
This passage comes in the middle of the section of the book of Matthew where Jesus is bringing the Kingdom into peoples lives. It is a summary statement of the chapters 5-9 and an introduction to the next chapter. This passage invites us in to reflect on Jesus’ Method, His Motivation, and His Mandate.

Body

Method - Teaching and Preaching

First, let’s look to His Method. Verse 35 tells us that Jesus went throughout the area teaching and proclaiming. He went to the Synagogues, the places of worship where the Jewish people would gather to hear from the word of God, and Jesus, as the Word of God, taught them. What would it have been like to hear teachings from the Word of God about the word of God? I can only imagine that to those who had ears to hear the words would have sounded so sweet.
The fact that the text distinguishes between teaching and proclaiming, or in other versions it says “teaching and preaching,” to me signifies that there is a difference and that both are important. They are related and I don’t think that you can necessarily have one without the other in regards to our faith. You can think of teaching as the act of imparting truth. I’m hesitant to bring the Greek into this as there are people in this room today who are lightyears ahead of me, but I think its important to talk about.
The word for teaching is didaskō and it means, “to tell someone what to do, to instruct, to provide instruction in a formal setting.” At the teaching of the bible, one can expect to find wisdom and instruction that will help in their knowledge of spiritual things. For the believer, we should desire strong and true and correct biblical teaching from our leadership so that we may know the truth that sets us free.
Preaching on the other differs in a few slight by significant ways. Preaching or Proclaiming hear is the greek word kēryssō and it is used to signify a herald. Someone with the authority to share on behalf of one more powerful and to do so publicly and officially. I love what J.I. Packer once said about preaching and what it includes. He said that preaching is...
a pressing of His commands, promises, warnings, and assurances, with a view to winning the hearer or hearers…to a positive response.”
People, both the original hearers of this book and us today, need both teaching and preaching. We need to be instructed and we need to be commanded, we need wisdom and we need warning, we need insights to truth and we need and assurance of His promises. And for those who are still outside of the Kingdom, they need to be won through the teaching and preaching of God’s word that leads to life.
This teaching and preaching of the Gospel is directly followed by the healing of every disease and every affliction. I love the imagery that comes. Where the Gospel is there is healing and life. Where Jesus goes, life follows. To a Jewish audience who would have a high view and understanding of the fact that diseases kept one away from coming into the presence of God, this would be shocking. At one time, human diseases and brokenness meant that we were unable to touch the Holy one and now through Jesus, through the teaching and proclamation of God’s word, human diseases and brokenness are unable to remain untouched by the Holy one.
I do not know what sort of hurts, diseases, brokenness, or afflictions that you are coming with today. But I do know that you can bring them to Jesus. The unfortunate reality is that many of us, all of us really, are touched in some capacity by the results of sin and death. We each have been touched by diseases and afflictions and we often don’t get to see why God allows these to continue on in the lives of His people. But we can take heart to know that He is in the midst of it all. We can turn to Him and find comfort in the chaos knowing, whether it be in this life or the next, Jesus Christ is and will make all things right. Take heart and hold fast to Him. As we will see in a moment, Jesus sees us and cares for us.
Just in this first verse we see a key to our ministry methodology. If Jesus is our model for ministry then our first step needs to be the teaching and preaching of God’s word and the desire to meet physical needs of those we seek to serve. We have just taken a look at Jesus’ Method, that same method that ought to be ours, and now let us switch to looking at His Motivation.

Motivation - Seeing and Caring

Verse 36 is one of the beautiful verses of scripture that remind us of Jesus’ deep care and love for His people. The word here for compassion is splanchnon and it gets out having pity or affection but in get’s at this idea that it is deeper then just a surface level feeling for someone. Jesus is not simply saying, “I’m sorry that thats happening to you.” No, its much much deeper. His compassion for the crowds hits him deeply. Here we see that the heart of our Lord is big deep for His children and creation. Jesus looked at those people who would gather wherever they were and He saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. That is, they were wondering around aimless and helpless and in deep need for someone to come and gather them together and protect and guide and teach and proclaim.
I’ll never forget the moment in my life where I felt this the most. I was on a summer internship in southern Lebanon where I was helping out with a medical missions team among refugees. My jobs were simply as I have zero medical experience or expertise. I was in charge of moving supplies, writing down names, handing out little baggies of vitamins and other pills, and most importantly praying for the people.
One day on the trip, we were setting up in this building on the second or third floor so that the doctors could have some privacy with the patients and so that the people could be out of the heat of the sun. Towards the end of the day, a older lady came and she was asking for help. Through the translators she said that her daughter needed to see the doctors but that she wasn’t strong enough to cary her up the flights of stairs. I had to go down and help. I went down and what I saw immediately broke my heart. This girl who couldn’t have been more then 10 years old was lying there on a bench waiting, unable to move because she had some form of muscular dystrophy. She was all skin and bones. I picked her up and could immediately smell the stench of urine and sweat from her cloths. As I carried this girl up the stairs what broke my heart the most was not her physical our outward appearance, what broke my heart was that as I looked into her eyes the only thing I could see was what looked like anger. I can only imagine the life that this young girl had lived that would lead her to be so angry. I prayed the whole way as I carried her up the stairs. I can still see her face in my mind today.
I am comforted by the fact that Jesus Christ sees that little girl and has compassion for her. He desires her to know Him.
I do not know what happened to the girl. I do not know whether or not she is alive today or whether our prayers where answered when we asked God to soften her heart and bring her into right relationship with Him. I do not know whether or not she or her family every believed in the message that we offered them of Jesus Christ. But I do know that this brokenness breaks the heart of Jesus and should motivate us to continue to go to the crowds.
The motivation that Jesus has for ministry comes at the seeing of the need of those who are outside of the Kingdom and who are perishing. Motivation comes when we see people who are harassed by pressures, exhausted by the pace of life, going nowhere, and being led astray by false beliefs, and who are dying without ever hearing the good news of true life in Jesus Christ.
For the believer here today, take heart and be encouraged to look outside of whatever presence sufferings you may have to see the needs of those who have sufferings and yet who do not have life.
And for the one here today who may feel harassed and helpless in the world today, I hope that you will see that the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is calling you to come and find comfort and rest and restoration and the forgiveness of sins in Him. You are not too far away.
If Jesus is our model of ministry then here we see that our motivation for the lost should be a compassion for the brokenness they experience and a desire to point them to the Gospel message. Now let us take a look at the final two verses to see how they might motivate us forward. In them, we see His Mandate.

Mandate - Praying and Going

Jesus’ response to the crowds is to look to His disciples and say, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
There is much work to be done, great need around us, and often that need feels and seems overwhelming. Having compassion for those harassed and helpless can sometimes be so draining and the work so daunting that we are frozen to action because we do not know even where to start. How can we, with our limited resources and our own problems and struggles actually make a difference to the world around us? What do we have to offer? Family of Grace, the thought that we have nothing to offer might be one of the greatest lies that the enemy has convinced the church or followers of Jesus to believe. God does not desire to only use the megachurch to win the lost, God does not desire to only use the one with unlimited resources to fix brokenness, God does not desire to use the strong, rather He uses the weak things to shame the wise. And how many of us feel weak so often?
The good news of the Gospel message is that it is not about what you have to offer, it is about who you have to offer. It is not about what you can do, it is about what has already been done by Him. Jesus Christ does not need you to fix the problems of our world and our community, He invites you in to be used by Him so that He can. And it is precisely when we have nothing to offer that Jesus comes in and uses us to offer Himself.
Here we see in this passage that we simply are invited in and mandated to pray to the Lord to send out workers.
We often forget just how powerful prayer can be. I have seen God answer so many prayers in my life, in ways far better then what I could have imagined, and yet in as quickly as my mind sees and answer to prayer I can often forget the ways in which God has moved. Why do we so easily doubt that God will move in the future when we have so clearly seen Him move in the past?
Prayer is powerful and works, and the best kind of prayer is the prayer that aligns us with God’s heart. And what is God’s heart, for the crowds who are helpless to find rest, forgiveness, and new life in Jesus Christ. We are inited in and really commanded at this moment to be in prayer for that. Notice how Jesus does not first command His disciples to meet the crowds physical needs, He does not command them first to even reach the crowds themselves, no He commands His disciples to pray that the Lord would raise up workers. As we pray God’s heart, we often are changed to then have God’s heart.
I had the opportunity a number of years ago when I was fresh out of bible college to preach at a church in Camas. At the sermon I preached a similar message to this and was trying to remind people there that God can use anyone for His mission to the world in part because that mission begins with prayer. After the service, this older lady came up to Rachel and I and said something to the effect that she was wondering how she in her sixties could go on the mission field. I remember being so surprised and then wondering why I was surprised.
The more we pray for God’s will to be done, the more we will see how He wants to use us to make that happen. That is a scary prayer to pray, but Family of Grace, that is perhaps one of the best things you can do.
Prayer is what Jesus’ workers are supposed to do first and foremost. This term for workers is the same term used later in Matthew 10:10. Remember that this passage is the transition passage between all that Jesus had done and all that He then invites His followers in to do in the following chapters. I would highly encourage you to spend this next week as you prepare for the next sermon series reading the next couple of chapters in Matthew to see just what happens when we pray God’s will to be done. As you pray, especially as you pray as a church, do not be surprised when you see God call people out of Family of Grace to then go with the Gospel to those who desperately need to hear.
If Jesus is our model for ministry, then here we see a mandate to pray that God would raise up workers into the harvest. I would invite you to consider simply starting by setting an alarm for 9:38am or or both pm. When that alarm goes off, take a moment to pray this verse. What changes would happen in the world if followers of Jesus constantly and consistently obeyed Jesus’ command here to pray?

Conclusion

I hope that through this passage you have seen that Jesus is our model for ministry and that He gives us a Method: to teach and preach the Gospel that leads to life, a Motivation: to see the crowds restored to life in Christ, and a Mandate: to pray for God to raise up workers to go into His harvest to point people to Jesus. If you are a follower of Jesus then you have a role to play in His mission. What role is that?
Some people are called to go out into the harvest, some are called to send through prayer and finances. But all of us are called to be a part of God’s mission to the lost. How might God use you today to accomplish that? How might you become better equipped to both share the good news of Jesus with the lost and pray for those who go? Some of you may never leave the Portland area, but believe me, you too can still share with the lost here and partner with those who go overseas. Some of you, you may even be surprised by who, will be called up out of this congregation to go somewhere where the crowds need to know Jesus. How can you prepare yourselves and equip yourselves even today to follow after Jesus as our model of ministry?
Would you pray with me?
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