The Lord Jesus sees the people in your area of service. They look much like those he saw those days as he traveled among the towns and villages of first-century Palestine.
When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”Matthew 9:36-38 CSB
You’ve answered the call to serve because you are one of those workers for whom the saints have prayed. You’re out working among the distressed and dejected, telling them about the Good Shepherd, and you’re fully aware that the laborers are few. Even so, though we all pray for more help in the harvest fields, some are more trouble than they’re worth, and some are simply troublemakers.
Don’t stop praying for help, even though you think it brings a motley crew of laborers.
The twelve men Jesus actually chose to start the ball rolling weren’t such a pristine group of guys. I have oftentimes wondered at his wisdom in choosing, not only men from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds but educational and religious levels. Some would obviously know their scripture well, while others probably had very little education in synagogue school. What was he thinking?
I think Paul had it figured out when he was writing to the believers in Corinth:
Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption—in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.1 Corinthians 1:26-31
So, when a newbie or volunteer shows up, and they seem less than a prime candidate for the work of the Kingdom, just remember who you were when Christ chose you, when you came out for the first time, and where you still are now. Don’t harden your heart against those who seem weak in the flesh, when the Lord may choose to show himself the most through just such a person.
Don’t stop praying for help, even when unwise help brings trouble.
Because the laborers are few, the sudden influx of a large group or a flashy, charismatic evangelist can rock the boat for those who are serving long-term in a specific area. Security flags are raised and sometimes, naïve and insensitive words or actions can jeopardize the work as a whole. I’ve been the recipient of such actions, and perhaps many of you have as well. You want to scream because these people just rushed in and stirred the pot, most likely setting the work back for years. You may have to leave because of their actions. If this is help, Lord, we don’t want it!
Just as Paul wrote about weak vessels, he also writes about some who come out with wrong motives and false gospels. Not only does he warn the believers to be wary of these, but we as workers must take a strong stand as well. If such people caused problems in the first century of church planting, we should not be surprised that there are still those who will do so today. Living in a fallen world means we will continue to be affected by selfishly motivated false teachers. We have to go into the harvest fields with our eyes opened to attempts by Satan to make our hearts cold and callous to the Lord’s prayer for more laborers. Such times of upheaval can sour our taste for service and cooperation with those who sincerely want to serve with us.
Just as Paul was constantly struggling with the antagonistic work of the Judaizers, who seemed to follow him to every place he served, we must press on, despite the trials, knowing that the message we carry is the source of life eternal for those the Lord longs to save.
Grace and Peace