Sometimes preaching can be a frustrating old thing. I was preaching this Sunday on John 4:27-38. A wonderful passage, but a pretty average sermon if I’m honest. And one 5 minute conversation afterwards showed a vital missing link in my preaching. Let me try to unpack…
Often, as a preacher, I can be so concerned with working out what the text actually means, that I don’t spend enough time crossing the barrier to how it applies – how it actually works in the real world. At Grace Church Wrecclesham, we usually have a time of questions and discussion afterwards – which often helps to tease some of that out a bit more. On this particular Sunday since we had no questions, we had to rely on what I had said, and on this occasion I think I left a ‘plausibility gap’.
One of the things we were thinking about was the way Jesus tells His disciples that the harvest is ready (John 4:35). Whilst that was a specific statement to a specific group of people in a specific situation, I think there is a broader principle here that the harvest IS ready. Jesus has finished the work on the cross, He has been raised from the dead, He has given us the Holy Spirit. In God’s salvation plan, everything that needs to be done for people to believe and be saved has been done. Already.
And so that should shape my expectation. I should expect the harvest to be ready. I should expect people to respond to the gospel. But to leave the story there leaves a plausibility gap in relation to most people’s experience of evangelism. And that’s what I think I did on Sunday. Let’s try to bridge the gap.
In reality, lots of people we speak to about Christ don’t respond – or at least not immediately. Now, interestingly, that is also true in the passage. We see that many of the Samaritans believed (John 4:39) but not all. Even with the master evangelist – Jesus himself – not all believed. So we need to hold these two things together – that the harvest is ready but not all will believe.
So if you’re feeling crushed and despondent (thinking no one can ever believe) – perhaps you’ve even given up on telling people about Jesus – you need to be reminded that the harvest is ready. Keep going – keep your eyes open for opportunities – ask Jesus for help – remember the work is finished – but you have a part to play in some sowing or reaping.
And if you’re already really fired up and on the go with the Gospel – remember that not everyone will believe – so don’t be discouraged if you meet some resistance.
And most of all, remember that unless we are excited about the spiritual harvest we will never have the desire to take part in it anyway. So ask the Lord of the Harvest to give you eyes to see both the need and the opportunity. And get reaping!