Lost People Matter to God - They Should Matter to Us, Too!
SYNOPSIS: There is a very real harvest of human souls that will spend somewhere in eternity—either heaven or hell. To the Lord of the harvest, the in-gathering of these unsaved souls is his primary “business,” if you will. Moreover, the Lord of the harvest has recruited you and me into his field to do the harvesting of these souls on his behalf. All that to say, since lost people matter that much to God, they must matter that deeply to us as well! As Elton Trueblood observed, winning souls “is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.”
Project 52 – Weekly Scripture Memory // Matthew 9:37-3
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest”
This verse represents a clear view into the compassionate heart of a seeking God, and more than anything, it reveals the compelling core of his very being.
Moreover, Jesus’s words remind us that there is a very real harvest of human souls that will spend somewhere in eternity—either heaven or hell. And being Lord of the harvest, it tells us that the gathering in of these unsaved souls is God’s primary business, if you will.
Finally, it tells us that we are those he has brought into his field to do the harvesting of these souls. In other words, you are God’s harvester!
All that to say, lost people must matter to us because they matter to God!
John 3:16, the most compelling of all the verses in the Bible, is compelling for a reason. It reminds us, in no uncertain terms, that the salvation of the lost, both near and far, both next door and across the ocean, is the driving conviction of God’s being:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Now if lost people matter that deeply to God—enough to send his only Son to die for us-they ought to matter deeply to us as well. And that is a critical issue since, as Christian author Jacquelyn Heasley puts is,
How we believe God perceives people determines how we will respond to them.
The fact of the matter is, every time you lock eyes with another human being, you are seeing a soul that is so loved by God that he sent his Son to die for their redemption. Whether it is soldiers in Communist China, burka-clad Muslims women in Tehran, immigrants fleeing harsh conditions in Latin America and overwhelming our borders, or the next-door neighbor who won’t cut his grass, they matter deeply to a seeking God. And they need to matter deeply to us as well.
So reaching them with the Good News of salvation and the free gift of eternal life is the mission of God that has been assigned to you and me. In that sense, you and I are missionaries—albeit to our next-door neighbor, or to our classmate in the next desk over, or to our coworker in the cubicle next to us.
May I implore you to not only memorize this verse this week, but to see it from a whole new perspective from now on. Let it remind you of the ripe harvest all around you. Let it give you a clear and constant view into the very heart of the seeking Father. And let it shake you to the core that God is depending on you to be the gatherer in his great harvest of souls.
May this be the compelling call that transforms you into a Christ follower who has become intensely missionary. Henry Martyn, the nineteenth century Anglican missionary to India who died, incidentally, at the age of thirty-one bringing the Gospel to Iran, said:
The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”
God help you, and God help me, to become intensely missionary!
Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus. ~Elton Trueblood
Reflect and Apply: Perhaps a prayer today is in order. Ask God to help you to see lost people as he does. Ask him to give you his heart for those who don’t know him and are, therefore, headed for a Christless eternity. And ask him to use you to influence someone to him today. And remember, he hears your prayers.
Put Your Confidence in God
SYNOPSIS: Whenever you step forward in faith, God will do the rest: rivers will part, dry land will appear, walls will fall, enemies will flee, the sun will stand still, and the Land of Promise will become your Land of Possession. You will never regret putting your trust in the Lord.
The Journey // Focus: Joshua 5:1
When all the Amorite kings …and all the Canaanite kings…heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the people of Israel could cross, they lost heart and were paralyzed with fear because of them.
Contrast this to the story in Numbers 13-14 when the 12 spies returned from surveying Canaan. Ten of them brought a negative report, and it was the people of Israel who lost heart and were paralyzed with fear.
But the ten spies said, “We can’t attack those people; they’re way stronger than we are.” They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.” The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long. All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: “Why didn’t we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don’t we just head back to Egypt? And right now!” Soon they were all saying it to one another: “Let’s pick a new leader; let’s head back to Egypt.” (Numbers 13:31-14:4, MSG)
What a lost opportunity—if only they had remained faithful to God and confident in his call, the same story that the Israelites experienced in Joshua 5 would have been theirs. That same race of giants, the Nephilim, that made the Israelites feel like grasshoppers were now the ones who were feeling small:
Their hearts sank; the courage drained out of them just thinking about the People of Israel. (Joshua 5:1, MSG)
Joshua 5 could have occurred forty years earlier and the people Moses led out of Egypt would have entered their Promised Land. Instead, they forfeited the promises of God for death in the wilderness because of fear and disobedience. Untold numbers of people died over four decades with the most disheartening words in the library of human language on their lips: if only. What might have been had they just trusted the God who had led them.
Fortunately, the next generation learned a very difficult lesson at their parent’s expense. They witnessed the unbelief of their fathers and mothers, and the harsh consequences of shrinking back in fear, and they determined that while there might be other sins, that particular one would not be theirs. They stepped forward in faith, and behold, God did the rest: rivers parted, dry land appeared, walls fell, enemies fled, the sun stood still, and the Land of Promise became the Land of Possession.
No one has ever regretted trusting God. Obedience to the call of the Lord has never left a person disappointed. No one who has followed God has ever been abandoned by God. No one who stepped out to put God’s promises to the test has ever died with “what might have been if I had just NOT trusted God so much” on their lips. As the prophet said in Jeremiah 17:7-8,
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Trust God completely, and you will live a full life of no regrets!
Trust God! Whatever is before you today, walk into it with confidence. If you are obeying God, he is not only with you, he is before you.
Let God Touch Your Life
SYNOPSIS: What a makes a leader great? Some would say charisma is the key. Others might say it’s a combination of skill, intellect and the ability to inspire others to accomplish the mission. Then there are those who would argue that not only are charisma and persuasion necessary, but it’s a matter of also being the right person in the right place at the right time. I wouldn’t argue with any of those ideas. But first and foremost I would argue that what makes a leader a great leader is simply God’s touch upon his or her life.
The Journey // Focus: Joshua 4:14
That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses. ”
What a makes a leader great? Some would say charisma is the key. Others might say it’s a combination of skill, intellect and the ability to inspire others to accomplish the mission. Then there are those who would argue that not only are charisma and persuasion necessary, but it’s a matter of also being the right person in the right place at the right time.
I wouldn’t argue with any of those ideas. But first and foremost I would argue that what makes a leader a great leader is simply God’s touch upon his or her life. Or at least that’s what should be the defining factor in great leadership. Where God makes a man or woman great in the eyes of the people, there you have the makings of a leader who is one for the ages. Joshua was just such a leader.
In Joshua, you find true success! Not that he leveraged his considerable talents, sharp intellect, political capital and magnanimous personality to lead the people to victory, but that God made him great in the eyes of the people. Never did Joshua take any credit for himself in the victories and miracles that God performed. As Moses had been a humble leader, so too was Joshua. Like his predecessor, he was a true servant of God and priestly guide of the Israelites. He served at God’s pleasure and recognized that his success came only by God’s power and grace. And God made Joshua great before all Israel. Notice the backstory to the verse I selected for today’s reading; here is Joshua 2:7 in combination with Joshua 4:14:
The Lord told Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses’…. That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses.
That’s the kind of leader I want to be. I want to be a great leader because of God’s touch on my life; because of the work that he does in, for and through me. If there is anything that makes me worth following, may it be because of what God has done. What I do through my own gifts, personality and personal determination will, at best, quickly fade. But what God does through me will last for all eternity, and best of all, bring all the glory to the God who has equipped me to lead.
What about you? Do you desire to be a leader? You might feel unqualified and unworthy. Part of you may want to let someone else lead; someone more qualified, smarter, holier, better than you. But it could be that God has placed in you the kinds of gifts, talents, brainpower, and favor that he wants to use in leading people to extend his Kingdom in this world.
If God is calling you to leadership, submit your life to him. Then let God make you great in the eyes of those you would lead.
When you think of the advancement of God’s kingdom over the millennia, it is amazing how many times this saying has been true of its leaders: “God didn’t call the qualified, He qualified the called.” Maybe he is wanting to qualify you—he is still looking for a few good men…and women!
You Are a Trophy of God's Grace
SYNOPSIS: God’s grace is sufficient—always. It was for the Apostle Paul, who wrote of how God’s all-sufficient grace empowered him even as he endured a season of debilitating weakness: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And because he loves you just as much as he did Paul, God’s grace will be sufficient for you, too! Whatever your weakness is, God is going to use it to display his strength in you so that in reality, your life will be nothing less than a living, breathing trophy of grace.
Project 52 – Weekly Scripture Memory // 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Do you ever wonder why God allows you to struggle with certain things? Perhaps there is a physical limitation from which you have asked God time and again to heal you, but to no avail. Maybe there is a limitation in your ability to learn or speak or a lack of confidence in interacting with others that holds you back vocationally or relationally, and you have desperately sought for God to give you victory over it, but to no avail. Perhaps there has been a struggle with a particular sin over the years, and you have agonized in prayer that God would remove it, but your prayers seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
The Apostle Paul had something like that going on in his life, too. He called it a “thorn in my flesh”. He saw it as a direct assault from Satan. And he prayed intensely that God would deliver him from whatever it was. There has been speculation as to what the thorn in the flesh actually was. Many think it was a physical malady. Tradition tells us that Paul had plenty of physical limitations. Some think the “thorn” was a person who was opposing Paul and his work. Then there are a few who surmise that it was a temptation to which Paul was particularly susceptible. Who knows for sure, but what we do know is that it was really bugging Paul—to the point that he felt frustrated enough to get really serious before God about it.
One of the things I appreciate about Paul is his ability to gain an eternal perspective on things. He was able to re-theologize the negative circumstances in his life to where he could see the mighty hand of God aligning things for his benefit. Such was the case here. If God saw fit to leave this pesky thorn in Paul’s side, then God must have a purpose. And the purpose in this case, he finally figured out, was to keep him from conceit, since throughout his ministry he had been given so many unusual experiences in the supernatural dimension that it would have been easy to become spiritually prideful. Paul needed a little humility, and God gave him a thorn to keep him weak, and therefore humble, in a particular area.
But it wasn’t just humility for humility’s sake that Paul needed, God wanted Paul to come into a much more important understanding of how the Kingdom of God works. God wanted Paul to have a firsthand experience of grace. Paul was the Apostle of grace, so through this experience where all he could do to survive was depend on God’s unmerited favor, he learned to hang on to grace for dear life. Paul learned one of the most important lessons a Christian can ever learn:
Through grace, our weaknesses are parlayed into God’s supernatural strength, which enables us to achieve kingdom success that result in all the credit going to God.
That is why Paul could be grateful for his weakness. That is why he could tolerate his thorn. That is why he could turn his disadvantage into an advantage. Satan afflicted him with a thorn, but God watered it with grace and it budded into a rose. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
Soar back through all your own experiences. Think of how the Lord has led you in the wilderness and has fed and clothed you every day. How God has borne with your ill manners, and put up with all your murmurings and all your longings after the ‘sensual pleasures of Egypt!’ Think of how the Lord’s grace has been sufficient for you in all your troubles.
God’s grace is sufficient—always. It was sufficient for Paul. And because God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and because he loves you just as much as he did Paul, God’s grace will be sufficient for you! Start looking at your thorn from a different perspective. It might hurt a little—or a lot—but God is going to use your present struggle to achieve an eternal glory that will far outweigh any discomfort you feel in the present.
Never pray for an easier life—pray to be a stronger person. Never pray for tasks equal to your power—pray for power equal to your tasks. Then doing your work will be no miracle—you will be the miracle.~Phillip Brooks
Reflect & Apply: Offer this prayer, “Lord, thank you that in my weakness, I receive your strength! Thorns may pierce me, but they drive me to you, and into a deeper experience of your grace than I would have known without them. In my weakness your sufficient grace is revealed, and I am strengthened to overcome. You bring victory out of defeat in such a way that all the credit goes to you. Therefore I will boast all the more that in my weakness, I am strong in your strength.
SYNOPSIS: Step out in faith! Wherever God calls you to walk, there he is, waiting for you to show up. Faith believes that, faith generates the courage to act, and faith empowers the steps that will take you where God calls you to go. That is why God always calls his people to steps of faith. It is simply the law of the Kingdom. Expressing faith in the spiritual realm is akin to inhaling oxygen in the physical realm. That is just the way God operates. So get ready to walk the walk of faith today!
The Journey// Focus: Joshua 3:8,13
Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ … And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.
In matters great and small, God always calls his people to steps of faith. It is simply the law of the Kingdom. Expressing faith in the spiritual realm is akin to inhaling oxygen in the physical realm. That is just the way God operates. In fact, so fundamental to our relationship with God is faith that the writer of Hebrews explains,
No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 TEV)
In this case, the Israelites needed to cross the Jordan River to take passion of the land that God had promised to give them. Furthermore, the river was at flood stage. Interestingly, Promised Lands never mean lack of problems, challenges, obstacles and otherwise “impossible” situations.
Now if God had helped the Israelites all along the way through their forty years in the wilderness, he would have a plan for them this time, too. And he did! So what was the Divine plan? Have the priest carry the Ark of the Covenant and step out into the river—remember, it’s a swirling torrent at flood stage—and as soon as they do, God will dam the flooding Jordan upriver and two million Israelites will walk across on dry land. Right!
Of course, they obeyed, God did what he said he would do, and the Israelites crossed on dry ground. We get to read ahead in the story, so no big deal, right! But think of it from their perspective—especially the priests. This was a seriously risky step God was asking them to take.
Now since without faith it is impossible to please God, he will make sure we, too, have plenty of opportunities to express it—and on some occasions, that will mean stepping into our own Jordan at flood stage. And like the Israelites, we will have to take that step without the perspective already knowing the end of the story? So what can we learn from them about those steps of faith? Two things to keep in mind:
First, God already knows the end of the story, even though we don’t. We only see the next step—which often looks scary and impossible. God sees the rest of the road ahead, and he will never ask of us a step that will harm us, but only that which will strengthen our confidence in his care and competence. Furthermore, while it seems we are taking a step into thin air, God’s track record of faithfulness is to build the highway of faith under our feet, albeit one step at a time. So go ahead—take the step!
Second, God’s purpose in our steps of faith is always to bring greater glory to himself—through us. Notice what Joshua said to the Israelites at the end of the story in Joshua 4:20-24—after they had, indeed, walked across the raging Jordan during flood stage on dry ground,
And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
Faith makes things possible, not easy! Steps of faith from your perspective will never be comfortable. But you can trust God, who best work comes as you take those steps. And while he does the impossible and he brings glory to himself, he is giving you an enduring testimony. Best of all, when you step into your Jordan, the very stuff that is necessary to pleasing God—faith—is dramatically increased in your life.
So go ahead—take that step!
Are you being called to take a step of faith? Remember, God is already waiting where you are walking.