For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about sharing our faith. This morning’s lesson will be the last in this series, and it may well be the most important one – because this morning, I want to talk about the importance of sharing our faith with urgency.
Do you understand what it means for something to be urgent? If something is urgent, that means it requires immediate action or attention. It means that something needs to be done right now.
You’ve probably all experienced this when you’ve been traveling. Somebody in the car says, “I need to go to the bathroom” and you say, “No problem. I’ll be stopping for gas in about 30 minutes.” But then someone says, “No, I really need to find a bathroom” and you start checking what’s available on every exit. But then someone says, “No, I really, really need to stop” and you start looking for the nearest bush by the side of the road. There is a point where you say this is an urgent situation and we need to stop right now or we will have a problem.”
And we’ve all been there, haven’t we? We all know when a situation gets urgent.
But urgency is not the same thing as importance. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general during World War II and the 34th president of the United States, and by just about anyone’s standards, he was a very productive guy.
During his two terms as president, he constructed our Interstate Highway system, he created NASA, he signed into law the first major piece of civil rights legislation since the end of the Civil War, he ended the Korean War, he welcomed Alaska and Hawaii into the union, and he managed to keep the Cold War with Russia from heating up.
How was Eisenhower able to rack up so many accomplishments that would have such a lasting impact on this country and the world? It’s because he understood the difference between the urgent and the important.
In a speech he gave in 1961, Eisenhower said, “Whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.” And the reason for that is because something that is urgent requires our attention right now.
Eisenhower’s philosophy has been put into something called “Eisenhower’s Matrix” which tells us that everything we do in life falls into one of four categories. First of all, there are some things that are not urgent and not important. This would include such things as browsing the Internet, watching TV, or playing video games. None of those things are urgent, and none of those things are really important in the big scheme of things.
Second, there are some things that are urgent but not important. For example, any time your phone rings or you get a text, it’s urgent because it requires your immediate attention, but most of the time, it’s not important. You may have a work meeting that you have to attend in 30 minutes, so it’s urgent, but you’re not going to talk about anything that’s all that important.
There are something things that are both urgent and important and those are the things we need to focus on doing right now. For example, if your appendix bursts and you need to go to the Emergency Room, that is both urgent and important. As April 15 approaches, filing your taxes is both urgent and important. If your car is overheating and the “check engine” light comes on, getting your car repaired is both urgent and important.
But there is a fourth category of things that are important but not urgent. These are things we know we ought to do, they’re important to us, but they don’t have to be done right away. They include things like diet and exercise. I know I need to lose some weight, that’s very important to me. But it’s not something I have to get done by the end of the day, so it’s important but it’s not urgent. Or maybe I want to learn how to play a musical instrument or learn a second language. It’s important to me but not urgent.
And here’s the thing about this category. These are the things that are the easiest to procrastinate. They’re important and I know I need to get around to them someday, but not today. I’ve got other things that are more pressing, things that are more urgent, other things that need my attention right now.
So where would we put evangelism on this chart? Where would we put sharing our faith with others? First of all, is it important? I think we would all agree – sharing our faith with others is very important. But is evangelism urgent? Is it something that needs to be done right this minute? And I think most of us would say, “No, it’s not really urgent.”
And so, evangelism gets put in this category of things that are important but not urgent. Which means that it now becomes something that is very easy to procrastinate. Everything up in this box is important and we intend to get to it someday, just not today. But the problem is that most of the things we stick in this category are things we never get around to. Which is why I think most Christians do such a poor job of evangelizing. We think it’s important, but we just don’t think it’s urgent.
So, that’s why I said that I think this lesson may be the most important one in this series. Because until we understand that evangelism is not just important, it’s also urgent, we’ll never get around to it.
One of the things that we use in our lives to remind us of what is both urgent and important is an alarm.
- When you hear an alarm clock in the morning, that means that a day full of opportunities has begun and it’s time to get out of bed.
- When you hear an oven alarm, that means the cookies are done and they need to be taken out of the oven right away.
- When you hear a dashboard alarm in your car, it may mean you’ve left your headlights on and you need to turn them off so you won’t have to search for someone with jumper cables in the parking lot after work.
- When you hear a fire alarm, that means there’s a fire in the building and you need to get out as quickly as possible.
- When you hear your neighbor’s car alarm go off……no wait a minute, that really doesn’t mean anything at all. But most of the time, alarms signal something that is both important and urgent.
There are a few passages in the Bible that serve as God’s alarm, passages that are intended to wake us up, to remind us about something that is both important and urgent.
Listen to what God said to the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapter 33.
“When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman. When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives.” (Ezekiel 33:2-5, NLT)
“But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.” (Ezekiel 33:6, NLT)
Then God went on tell Ezekiel:
“I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.” (Ezekiel 33:7-9, NLT)
God tells Ezekiel, you need to sound the alarm for those people out there who are lost, but he’s also sounding an alarm for Ezekiel, telling him, this is something you’ve got to do and it’s both important and urgent, and if you don’t do it, then I will hold you responsible.
In Romans 13, Paul wrote, “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11, NLT). Paul says it’s time for us to get busy. Our time is running out. And we’re closer to the end of our lives than we’ve ever been before. Wake up, and get busy!
Every day, 332,000 people die. Every hour, 13,000 people die. Every minute, 231 people die. The alarm is going off. It’s time to wake up and get busy.
I heard about a young girl who woke up and as she was going downstairs to get something to eat, the grandfather clock struck 7:00. But it didn’t stop with seven chimes. It went right on striking 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 times. But it still didn’t stop – 13, 14, 15. The little girl ran back upstairs shouting to the whole family, “Get up! It’s later than it ever was!”
That’s what Paul is telling us in Romans, “It’s later than it ever was. What are we waiting for? What is it going to take to get the church to wake up and get busy?”
Our text this morning is a passage where Jesus talks about the urgency of reaching the lost. It’s found in Luke chapter 10. Beginning in verse 1,
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, ‘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.” (Luke 10:1-2)
Jesus gives us two reasons here why reaching the lost is so urgent. The first is that…
1. The Harvest is Ready
Jesus put it this way in the gospel of John, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)
On a farm, it’s very important to get the crops brought in at just the right time. If you try to harvest too early, the crops won’t be ready. If you wait too long to harvest, the crops might be ruined.
Everything the farmer does is intended to bring in a good harvest. He plants his field and fertilizes so that his crops will be ready at just the right time. With great urgency, he gets his machinery ready for the harvest, he hires extra help for the harvest and arranges for delivery of his crops after they are harvested. The farmer depends on a good harvest for his financial survival.
In the same way, the harvest means everything to Jesus. Everything he did was intended to bring in a good harvest. And so, Jesus assembled a group of people to help him bring in the harvest. He had already sent out the twelve disciples, but now he had bigger plans, so he gathered 72 others and sent them out, two by two, to every town and place where he was about to go. As he sent them out, he told them the harvest is plentiful. There’s a field out there that’s ready to be harvested.
And there’s a field out there that’s ready for us to harvest. Can you see it?
- It looks like a co-worker who starts crying at lunch when you ask her about how things are going at home.
- It looks like an elderly neighbor who sits by himself on his front porch in the chair next to the chair where his wife used to sit.
- It looks like your kid’s teacher.
- It looks like the guy in line at the convenience store on Saturday night waiting to spend $50 on lottery tickets hoping to finally have something that will change his miserable life.
- It looks like the classmate you’ve reconnected with on Facebook.
- It looks like the young couple at the end of the street who seem overwhelmed taking care of their three little kids.
- It looks like a friend who’s slipping further and further into alcoholism.
There’s a saying that we need to make hay while the sun is shining. Well, the sun is shining right now. The harvest is ready. There are people all around us who need Jesus. And they may not know that they need Jesus, but they know that they need something. We’ve got to get out there with a sense of urgency to bring the harvest in. God is waiting for us to open our eyes to notice that the harvest is ready so that we can help him bring it in before it’s too late.
But there’s a second reason why this task is so urgent. It’s because….
2. God Needs More Workers
As Jesus was sending out the 72 workers, he said that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
There is nothing more frustrating for a farmer than to have a harvest that is ready but not have enough help to bring it in. Unfortunately, over the past few years, more and more of our farmers in this country are learning this the hard way. Many farmers can’t find enough workers to harvest the crops, and fruits and vegetables are rotting in the field. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for a farmer to look out over his field at all the fruits and vegetables he has poured his life into, only to watch them rot because he can’t find anyone willing to work who help him bring in the harvest.
How much more frustrating must it be for Jesus to look out over the harvest, people with open hearts that are ready to hear about Jesus, only to watch them die without Jesus because he can’t find enough workers willing to go out and share their faith.
Jesus needs workers with two key qualities. First, he needs workers who will pray for the harvest and in particular, workers who will ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.
I find this interesting. Why would Jesus want us to ask him to send out more workers into his harvest field? Why do we need to ask him to do what we already know he wants to do?
I’m not sure but I have a few guesses. Maybe Jesus wants to know that we want lost people to be saved as much as he does. Maybe he wants to be sure that we know that without him, the Lord of harvest, there would be no harvest. Maybe he wants us to make sure we understand that we can’t do this by ourselves. You can’t reach this world for Jesus. I can’t reach this world for Jesus. But we can reach this world for Jesus with God’s help.
As we urgently work together to bring in the harvest, we need to pray that God will send others to join us.
But then, after asking his workers to pray, Jesus commanded them and us to go. Serving Jesus is not a stationary experience. We can’t just stand where we are waiting for the lost to find us to get the help they need. Although Jesus sometimes sends the lost to us individually or sends the lost to the church building, he expects us to go and find lost people. Obedience to Jesus, the Lord of the harvest, requires a willingness to go because fish don’t just jump into the boat and fields don’t just harvest themselves.
The best way to reach people for Christ is to go where they are and share Jesus with them. I understand that inviting people to come to church is good, but inviting ourselves out into the world is better. We need to keep inviting in, but we also need to keep going out to find people.
Jesus knew that time was of the essence, so he didn’t command the world to come to his disciples. He commanded his disciples to go into the world. When he sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, he said, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6).
In Luke 14, Jesus told a parable in which a servant is told to “go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” (Luke 14:21). And then, after that, he was told to “go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23).
Jesus clearly wants people to come into his house. We want that too, which is why we invite people to come to church. It’s what we’re used to and what we’ve done for many years. But, even when we invite, we’ve got to go out and find people. And if enough people don’t come, we go out and invite even more people.
But we don’t just sit here and wait for people to show up. We go out. We go where people are and show them the love of Jesus through intentional relationships in which we introduce them to him.
When he was about to ascend into heaven, Jesus gave his disciples this instruction. We sometimes call it the Great Commission — “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19). In Mark 16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15). That wasn’t just a command to those eleven men; it was a command to us, “Go! Share the good news about Jesus.”
If you’re a parent, you know what it’s like to tell your kid to do to do something. For example, I may say to my son, “I’m going to run to the store, but I’ll be back in a few minutes. When I get back, I want you to have made your bed.”
Then when I get back, I ask my son, “Did you make your bed?” His response may be something like, “No, Dad, but I picked up my toys.”
“Well, son, picking up your toys is a good thing, but I told you specifically that when I got back I wanted you to have—”
“—I know, Dad, but I drew this cool picture for you while you were gone.”
“That’s a really nice picture, but did you make your bed like I told you to?”
“Well, no, not exactly. I intended to, but I never got around to it…”
You get the picture. It’s not that the other things my child was doing were bad. But he didn’t do what I specifically asked him to take care of before I came back.
I wonder if God sometimes looks at us the same way? Jesus very clearly told us as his followers to “go and make disciples.” He wants us to spreading his message and talk to people about Jesus. “Lord, I didn’t do that, but I showed up for worship almost every Sunday.” That’s nice, but did you go out and make disciples”? “Lord, look at all the Bible verses I read.” I read through the whole Bible last year.” “That’s nice, but did you go out and make disciples?”
This isn’t just something that’s important. It’s something that’s urgent. We’ve got to go to the lost, we’ve got to reach them and we’ve got to do it now. Time is running out. Robert Moffatt has said, “We’ll have all eternity to celebrate our victories but only one short hour before sunset to win them.” We must have a sense of urgency to go and reach lost people while we can.
Jesus has sent us out into the harvest fields to make sure that everyone has the chance to be saved. We must walk through our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our communities, and our homes as many times as it takes to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get home safely.
The world is in danger, the alarm is sounding. The harvest is plentiful. Let’s get to work now because it’s later than it ever was.
In Nazi Germany during World War II, there was a group of German Christians who came together for worship every Sunday. They enjoyed the preaching, the singing and the fellowship…. everything except the noisy trains on the railroad track right behind the church building. The noise was always distracting, but one Sunday it was worse than usual.
As the train passed by, the Christians heard cries coming from the train. They eventually realized that these were the cries of Jews who being carried away to concentration camps. Week after week, the train whistle blew and the Christians heard the tracks rattle ….and then came the cries.
They were greatly disturbed by those screams, so they decided as a congregation that the best thing they could do was to sing hymns. They would sing so loud that they wouldn’t be able to hear the cries of the desperate Jews being carried to their deaths. The cries from the train were loud but their hymns were louder.
Folks, we have to be willing to hear the cries of the lost people in the world around us. George Barna estimates there are between 180 and 190 million people in America who are not Christians. Can you get your mind around how many people that is?
Imagine there’s a huge fire coming toward this country and that everyone who gets out safely has to come to you. If you could save 1,000 people a day it would take you 521 years to save 190 million people.
The good news is: you don’t have to save 190 million people by yourself. The bad news is: there is a fire coming (2 Peter 3:7).
The good news is: there’s still time to help get people to safety. The bad news is — too many Christians are doing absolutely nothing to reach anyone for Jesus.
The good news is — if you and I can agree to stop neglecting lost people and we each find one lost person for Jesus this year, there would be two new Christians at the end of this year. If each of those formerly lost people finds another lost person next year, there would be four new Christians by the end of next year and eight new Christians by the end of the third year. If this process continues for the next 40 years, more than 1 trillion people will become Christians which is roughly 150 times the entire world’s population.
So, I suggest that we do more than just sing. We have to allow ourselves to hear the cries of lost people in need of salvation and get to work. The harvest is ready, but God is need of people who are willing to work to bring in the harvest.
As Paul said in Colossians 4, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5, NLT)