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Whether it looks like it or not, God has been and is at work in the world. He gives people like you and me the great opportunity of working with him. He reaches out to us and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4.19).
The call to follow God’s leadership is as old as the origins of the people of God. God called Abraham and instructed him to follow.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'” (Genesis 12.1-3).
Abraham was the blueprint for everyone that God has called to follow him. Let’s notice a couple of things about what this involves.
(1) Following God is like walking through the woods at night with a flashlight. We may only have 50 feet of light, but as we continue to walk we keep getting the illumination we need to light our path.
We do not hand God a map of where we want to go and say, “Please light our path.” God gives us the light and says, “I will show you where to go.”
I didn’t know that God would lead me to Louisiana to meet my California wife. I didn’t know he would lead me to Maywood Baptist Church and have us live in Independence for 36 years. As I look back on my life, I am profoundly grateful. There is no way that I could have directed my life as well as our loving and gracious Lord.
What about you? Have you handed the map of your plans and desires over to God? As you hear his call to follow, are you walking in the light of his love. Like the flashlight illustration, he will give you just enough light to follow his leadership. When you are older, you can look back and praise him for his gracious directions.
(2) The blueprint for those who follow God’s direction includes a blessing. God promised this to Abraham. Jesus promised his followers that “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10.10).
In the early 1990s I was asked to visit a man who had lung cancer. He wanted to go to heaven when he died and I was able to introduce him to Jesus and his saving grace. The man lived for a couple of more years with the joy of the Lord. He told me, “If I knew it would be this good, I would have come to Jesus sooner.”
(3) The blueprint for following God includes blessing others. God told Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12.3). Abraham and all of the generations of people who flowed from his life were created to be a blessing to other people.
The same is true of us. As we follow Jesus, we are called to be a blessing to the world. That brings us to today’s passage from Matthew’s Gospel.
** Joining Jesus in His Ministry
Once again, Matthew summarized Jesus’ ministry with these words, “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” (Matthew 9.35).
Like the blueprint from Abraham, Jesus was a blessing to the people in Galilee. He taught them what they needed to know to live an abundant life (see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7). He proclaimed to them that the effective reach of God’s power was present, because he was present (Matthew 4.17). He healed every disease and affliction (Matthew 8-9).
Remember, Matthew was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry. He relates this about Jesus: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9.36).
In the Hebrew language, “compassion,” is largely a word picture. The word sounds like the noise a mother camel makes in sympathy with her baby camel as it is being weaned. Apparently, the baby has a certain cry and the mother imitates the cry of her child.
If you wonder about God’s care for you during a very difficult time in history, spend some time with this verse. He knows all about you and cares for the pain and difficulties you face.
As Matthew relates what Jesus said to his disciples, remember the blueprint. As we follow Jesus, we will be following the blueprint that was given to Abraham.
“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'” (Matthew 9.36-37). Up to this point, Jesus has been the only laborer. So far, Jesus has been the blessing to the world. Now, Jesus invites his followers to join him.
If we are serious in our desire to live like the greatest Being to ever walk the face of the earth, we will take seriously his call to be one of his followers. Yes, we will experience his blessing. However, we will also choose to be a blessing to others. In the next chapters of Matthew we will learn more about how we can be a blessing to others.
For now, let’s consider Jesus’ message about prayer for laborers.
Prayer for Laborers
Jesus told us to pray for laborers in the harvest. To call the people we are to bless a “harvest” is an interesting way to think about them. I wonder if Jesus was contrasting our blessing with how others people see a harvest.
For example, the Psalms talk about “all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord” (Psalm 14.4).
The leaders of Israel were supposed to bless the sheep. Instead, they “eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them” (Ezekiel 34.3-4).
Jesus views people as “a harvest” who are in such need of blessing that he hurts for them like a mother camel does her child who is suffering from the weaning process. Our call to follow him includes being a blessing to them. We will not dominate people, use them for our own purposes, or neglect their needs.
Matthew 10 will give greater detail about how people who follow Jesus will be a blessing to the “harvest.” For now, let’s consider that we are both to be one of his laborers and we are to pray for more laborers.
Jesus is the “Lord of the harvest,” and we can ask him to call more and more laborers. As we survey the immense needs of the world, let’s take time every day to pray for more laborers in the harvest. As we do, let’s re-commit to being one of Jesus’ blessings (laborers) in the harvest.
Dear Jesus, thank you for calling us to follow you. Thank you for providing the light we need to direct our steps in the world. Thank you for blessing us with your goodness. Please send in laborers, who will bless people in the world. I am willing to be a laborer. Please show me how to best be a blessing to others today.