All scripture is from the ESV translation unless otherwise noted.

Monday, October 19, 2015

40 Days Getting Fed in the Harvest

*All verse references are listed at the bottom of the page.


In John 4 Jesus proclaims the gospel to the woman at the well, and while the people in her village whom she told about Jesus were walking towards him, Jesus tells his disciples, who are puzzled that he does not want the food they brought him, that his food is to do the will of him who sent him and to accomplish his work. Jesus got fed making disciples? Obviously Jesus ate food (accusations of him being a glutton and drunkard in Matthew 11 come to mind), but he was driving at something.

Last May, I heard a missionary say that one of the primary places we should be getting spiritually fed is in the harvest (anywhere laborers go to see those far from God brought near, as described in Matthew 9:36-38). By God’s grace I spend about an hour per day praying and reading the Bible, but maybe only a couple hours a week laboring to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of the lost. I asked myself then, “What would it look like if I made a habit of proclaiming the gospel to someone every day?” The thought of committing to that scared me, but during the next few months the thought lingered in my mind. At the beginning of September I was thinking about the fact that though my heart breaks for those who do not know Jesus, I was not telling a lot of people about him. Jesus was serious about proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom (Luke 4:43, Luke 9:60, Mark 16:15), so I should be too.

Rick Warren brings to light the God’s repeated use of a 40-day time period to in Scripture to transform people in his book “The Purpose Driven Life”:
  • Noah’s life was transformed by 40 days of rain.
  • Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai.
  • The spies were transformed by 40 days in the Promised Land.
  • David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge.
  • Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from a single meal.
  • The entire city of Nineveh was transformed when God gave the people 40 days to change.
  • Jesus was empowered by 40 days in the wilderness.
  • The disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection.

In light of all this, I resolved to proclaim the gospel to at least one person every day for 40 days straight. By the grace of God and only by the grace of God, I did do this at least once a day, and God definitely changed me through it. The purpose of this blog is to give glory to God by sharing the things he taught me, the ways he changed me, and by sharing a few stories of what I saw God do.

Lesson One:
The Yoke of Jesus Brings Life; The Yoke of Religion Brings Death

There is a biblical precedent for the Spirit pressing obedience/denial of self upon us as he conforms us to Jesus, but it can get dangerous when you put a yoke on yourself to do something that the Spirit is not necessarily pressing on you to do. There were a few times during the 40 days when I normally would not have proclaimed the gospel on account of the limited time I had to take care of my responsibilities for the day, but I begrudgingly did it. In these instances, I actually felt a weight off my shoulders after “checking off my goal” of proclaiming the gospel. Talk about religion! I have no regrets about doing this for a season, but I now see the breeding ground for death yoking yourself to your own rules can produce. Yes, Jesus calls us to deny the law of our flesh, but we should do so without enslaving ourselves to a law that God did not write. It could lead to far more harm than good.

Lesson Two:
The Word of God Does Not Return Void

Isaiah 55:10-11
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Even as I say this, I think of the conversation I had with Tim when I was feeling this religious yoke one me. On the last day of the 40, I met him and during the course of our 20-something minute conversation, I was able to share my story with him about how God saved me and what it was that I came to believe (the gospel). He began to tear up. Pointing to the liquid on his cheek he told me, “You see this? You did this. Man, you’re young. My kids go to church...” He was overwhelmed about the fact that I guy my age had been radically rescued by Jesus, even to the point of proclaiming his name. The Word of God has power!

Lesson Three:
God Controls the Fruit, But We Can Facilitate its Growth

For all the seeds that were sown and people I talked to, only a few expressed interest in continuing to talk about Jesus/read the Bible in the future. While Jesus in Luke 8 defines the different soils by the fruit borne “with patience”, and thus perhaps every person I talked to is now a believer (he could do it!), it is slightly discouraging. Even as I think about the advancement of the kingdom from a strategic perspective, there are ways I could have gone about it that could certainly have facilitated growth. Rather than saying, “I want to proclaim the gospel today”, what if I said, “I want to proclaim the gospel today in a way that makes a person feel loved in cared for, and would make follow-up easy if they were interested.” Maybe that means going door-to-door in my neighborhood giving people cookies or offering to pray for them, and proclaiming the gospel after demonstrating more vividly that I care for them. Something to this end could prove more fruitful than a seemingly random conversation at a bus stop or on campus for reasons including but not limited to: (1) Jesus instructing his disciples in Luke 9:2 and Luke 10:9 to “heal and proclaim the Kingdom of God”, the heartbeat of which is demonstrating then declaring the gospel, (2) there is one less step between the first interaction and being able to read the Bible in their homes (where life decisions are made much more frequently than randomly in public), and (3) the simply fact that God has shown a pattern all throughout Scripture of saving households (Noah, Rahab, the Philippian Jailer, Lydia, and more).

Lesson Four:
Two by Two

Jesus is a master strategist. I am becoming more and more convinced that with all the focus we put on doing what Jesus said, we do not put nearly enough on doing what Jesus did. His methods were inspired, as well as his words. So when Jesus sends the disciples out two by two, that was not on accident. That being said, aside from the fact that it models the missiological strategy of Jesus and Paul, why should we go two by two
  1. Boldness – You feel a lot less crazy talking about surrendering your life to a man whom you claim rose from the dead after being in the grave for three days when the guy next to you is nodding their head at what you are saying.
  2. Receptivity – The person you are talking to will (probably) see you as less crazy if the guy standings next to you is nodding their head at what you are saying.
  3. Accountability– It is always good to have someone with you to assure that you are not speaking heresy!
  4. Discipleship – Why go alone when you can go with someone and model obedience to Jesus for them? (See Matthew 28:19-20.)
  5. Support – Rejection sucks. It sucks a little less when there is someone by your side who just got shot down too (see Philippians 1:27-30).

I saw all of these play out in different ways during these 40 days, but the one that manifested itself most pungently was the last one. I went out into my neighborhood alone and got into a conversation with a lady named Libby who, frustrated, told me that it was impossible to find peace on this earth. She has searched her whole life for peace and has not found it. After getting to share my story with her and proclaim the gospel I told her, “Libby, I believe that the peace you are looking for can be found in Jesus. I believe he can give that to you.” She looked at me and told me, “That’s cognitive rape.” I left shortly after. Never had I been more discouraged from proclaiming the good news of Jesus, and never had I more seriously doubted my ability to spend the rest of my life making disciples. At that moment I felt the need for a brother in Christ or a wife by my side on a whole new level.

Yet fortunately, the story does not end there. I ran into Libby a few days later and she told me, “I believe in God now because of you.” WHAT!?. We talked more and, though there is a lot there under the surface and I cannot say with certainly that she truly has made Jesus the Lord of her life, God did something through that conversation taking her from being vehemently opposed to my message to saying she believes in God now because of it. Praise the Lord.

Lesson Five:
Lift Up Your Eyes

John 4:35
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.

Making a goal to proclaim the gospel causes you to always be looking for opportunities to do so. I call it “kingdom eyes”. It is incessantly asking God, “Is there a way you want to further your kingdom that I can be a part of in this moment?” When I was walking like this, lo and behold, opportunities presented themselves to tell people about Jesus and God glorified himself through them! One of my favorite stories demonstrating this was when I met a guy named Deon at a gas station. I walked in asking God, "Is there anyone here I should talk to?" I saw this guy packing some stuff in the corner and he looked so void of joy. I walked over and asked him if there was any way I could pray for him. He said yes and told me a bit about his situation. After praying for him I began to ask him about his story and how he got to where he was. I then shared with him my story about how God has changed me and got to proclaim the gospel! He told me as I was leaving, "I feel like you're Gabriel or something." "Uhhh, what?" I responded. "I feel like God sent you here to talk to me. I was about to get into some bad stuff." Wow... I was not expecting that. Praise God!

Yet as incredible as this was, ever since the formal “40 days” ended I have seen multiple opportunities pass me by because I was not walking with this mindset. The fields are white for harvest, and God invites us to be apart of it! What a glorious calling. Lord, lift up my eyes to see the harvest, for the glory of you name!


Honestly, I was hoping that after these 40 days I would be at some new level of love for Jesus and henceforth be unable to stop telling people about him. While I wouldn’t say the changes I saw in myself were that extreme, they were still significant. God grew me in my knowledge of him, my love for him, and my obedience to him.

The mindset I took these forty days is a small click away from where I want to be the rest of my days on earth. I do not want to enslave myself to the proclamation of the gospel, but I want to mimic Jeremiah’s cry. “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). I want to keep in step with the Spirit of God, constantly looking for opportunities to bring glory to Jesus through proclaiming his name in a way that best facilitates a positive response, all in order that his kingdom might be furthered and that we may hasten the day of his return.

Pray with me.

Abba, Father,

May your kingdom come to this earth. May your will be done on earth and in my life as it is in heaven. Make me desperately in need of you, and then satisfy me with your love. Spirit, empower me to speak boldly of Jesus crucified and resurrected. Would you lay on me a burden to declare to others what someone declared to me before I first believed! All for the glory of your name.

I pray this in faith and in the name of your victorious son Jesus.
Verses Referenced

Matthew 9:36-38
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.”

Luke 4:43
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

Luke 9:60
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Mark 16:15
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

Luke 9:2
He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.

Luke 10:9
“Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

Matthew 28:19-20
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Philippians 1:27-28
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.