LEARNING FROM THE MASTER HARVESTER
In sacrifice, in love, in life, in death, in giving and in service, Christ is our example. All are not asked to sacrifice as He did. All are not expected to die as He did. Yet, all are called upon to serve as He did.
With a properly spoken word, a look of compassion, a leading question, a startling statement or a moment of silence, Jesus led men out of themselves into a new confidence, joy and peace.
No man was ever the same after he met Jesus Christ.
What were His methods? What laws did He observe? What characterized His approach? What made Him so successful? These are the questions we must answer and put into action in our own lives.
l. JESUS DEALT WITH INDIVIDUALS
He desired to aid man in the conflicts and problems of life.
He was tempted: He was touched: He wearied and slept: He hungered and ate: He thirsted and drank in order to acquaint Himself with man. He did all this to meet the individual and deal with their problems. Jesus knew the value of the individual. His disciples were to take the gospel to every creature. They were to work with individuals as we are to work with individuals.
Salvation is a personal matter. Each man must decide, Jesus worked with the individual.
2. JESUS WON HIS DISCIPLES INDIVIDUALLY, HIS FIELD WAS THE WORLD
He went to their place of employment. He found them where they were. His call was clear, "FOLLOW ME."
He selected His men. He singled out the ones He wanted to win.
He hand-picked His men. It is easier to deal with one alone, away from the crowd.
He requested their assistance. To Peter while speaking to the multitude, "cast out a little from the land."
He commended them. Nathanael was won over by Jesus' honest commendation. There is no better tool than the honest commendation. It is disarming and hard to resist. It breaks down the wall of opposition and opens the hearts door. This is not flattery or a compliment thrown out.
He utilized their interest.
Peter and his partners were fishermen. The similarity between the task in which
they were engaged and the task which Jesus called them deserves more than a
passing notice. At this point notice how Jesus used their interest in fishing.
Because they were interested in fishing, Jesus gave them an object lesson in
fishing, 'Come be fishers of men.' Jesus approached their hearts on the avenue
of their interests and won them to Himself.
Paul knew this principle well. He said, "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some." 1 Cor. 9:22
In the synagogues Paul spoke of the Jewish Scriptures.
On Mars Hill Paul talked of the unknown god.
To King Agrippa, to the sailors on board ship
To the believers at Ephesus, Paul was "all things to all men."
To the Romans, Paul was a Roman.
To the Jews Paul was a Jew.
To the Pharisees, Paul was a Pharisee.
He gave them new objectives. Jesus caused Peter to contemplate great personal possibilities. "Thou are Simon Peter ... Thou shalt be called Cephas." Jesus promised him great things. Now Peter had an objective a reachable goal. He would one day be a "rock" as we all should be. When dealing with men, speak of the objectives worth working for. Jesus lifted and challenged the hearts of His disciples as He gave them new objectives toward which to strive.
He used a positive approach with them. Jesus didn't condemn; He revealed to them. He drew out of them a positive confession, "Thou art the Christ." When they were down, He did not discourage them. He lifted them up. He showed them the better way. We are not in the discouragement, guilt, or judgment business. Love is free to all.
3. JESUS MET EACH SITUATION JUST AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MET.
Note: No single approach or method works in all cases, but the principles are the same.
Here is one of the most outstanding cases of Harvesting in the entire New Testament. Jesus not only shows the way to win the lost but also His purpose to win all mankind, regardless of race, nationality, or social status.
He approached her on a common ground and appealed to her interest. Water was her interest at the moment. Jesus transferred her interest to "living Water."
He requested a favor, "give Me to drink."
He aroused her curiosity. Her questions "Whence" and "who" occurred to her as Jesus guided the conversation.
He tapped desires of her soul by appealing to the desires of all men for peace of heart. He spoke of everlasting life and an inward well of Living Water.
He revealed her sin but left it to her own conscience to condemn her. It is good to bring trouble and sin out into the open and discuss it. He did not beat her up with, 'it is written.'
He refused to be entangled in arguments but led her back to the main issue. Do not let people side-track you, stay focused.
He then permitted her to take the lead. After Jesus had settled the matter of the place of worship to her satisfaction, the inquiry of her own heart led her to recognize Him as the Christ.
NOTE: The circumstances surrounding this occasion were not at all conducive to Harvesting. Jesus was tired and hungry for He had been traveling. And there was a social barrier. In spite of the hindering circumstances, Jesus made this an effective time of witnessing. Paul exhorted Timothy to "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" 2 Timothy 4:2. That's one Scripture we all need to get inside us, not just read. We need this in operation in our lives if we are to succeed. It is important to notice that the woman became a personal worker herself and brought others to Jesus. Her heart had been touched. Those we harvest ought to also become Harvesters. The disciples returned, then stood back, but Jesus, sensing their displeasure, used the incident to instruct them. "Lift up your eyes and see how the fields are ready ... for harvest." Jn.4:35 RSV.
Note: Here too, we find definite steps Jesus took as He controlled the conversation with Nicodemus and brought him to knowledge of the Truth. Faith and belief are based on teaching and understanding. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word..."
He went to the heart of the matter. "Ye must be born again." Jesus was immediately in control and ready to proceed further.
He caused Nicodemus to think. Jesus took the initiative. Jesus challenged his intellect.
He aroused Nicodemus' curiosity. "How can these things be?"
He gradually explained His thesis. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." He gradually revealed and explained the truths He spoke about.
He complimented Nicodemus and at the same time, rebuked him. "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" He was saying how do you expect to teach them if you are ignorant concerning these great truths?
He gave a personal testimony. "We speak of what we do know, and testify of what we have seen, and you receive not our witness." Herein Jesus Himself is a true witness. The value of personal testimony cannot be over estimated. There is no substitute for personal testimony.
He took time to make the truth clear. What better illustration of the operation of the Spirit in regeneration could you find than the action of the wind?
He repeated the truth. Several times Jesus brought Nicodemus back to the central truth.
He let the truth sink in. Jesus did not press Nicodemus for an immediate decision. Some sow, some water and some reap. Often time is needed before reaping. It is apparent that the truth did take effect, for when officers came to take Jesus, it was this same Nicodemus who defended Jesus saying, "Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?" It was this same Nicodemus who appeared at the cross with spices when they were about to take Jesus' body down.
NOTE: Here is an example of how men were changed when they met Jesus. Anti-social, a robber of the poor, and an exploiter, Zacchaeus was changed into the benevolent Philanthropist. Why? Because Jesus dealt with him as an individual.
He was led of the Spirit. In this, and in numerous other cases, Jesus was there at the right time. It is not merely coincidence. This is one of the basic prerequisites to effective harvesting. Be led by the Spirit, and you'll be there at the right time.
His testimony had preceded Him. Do not ever think you are not a living testimony. Guard your reputation carefully, for it will precede you when you least expect it to." And he sought to see Jesus." A long discourse on truth was not necessary. All that was needed was a conviction and a willingness to obey the truth.
His presence brought conviction. Jesus simply called Zacchaeus. Jesus' life had preceded him, and His presence brought conviction. Have you ever had someone stop telling a dirty joke, or clean up their language just because you were there? It is because your presence is bringing conviction, your reputation preceded you. They know you are different, even if they do not know the One who makes you different.
Jesus turned from the crowd to deal with an individual. Something we should learn to do. You cannot effectively deal with several people. You will be over talked, under heard, and ineffective every time. That is something I can guarantee. Sowing seeds and casting pearls are not the same.
He showed Himself a friend of sinners. This is why people sought Him. He proved Himself their friend.
He effected a decisive Conversation. Zacchaeus gave public testimony of his willingness to change. Always remember, personal evangelism is a collision of souls. Zacchaeus had met face to face with One whose soul lifted his own God-ward.
Jesus used this incident to teach others. He sensed the murmuring so He went into length to give them the parable of the pounds and teach diligent service.
He heard Bartimaeus call. Recognizing a physical need to be the means of helping someone, He had him brought to Him. This should be true of every Harvester. We should recognize that one who is in physical need will be tender and open to the Master Physician. To just walk by and say I'll be praying for you is never enough.
He taught faith and the results of importunity. Importunity means 'to beset with repeated and insistent requests. To ask for insistently and repeatedly.' It was necessary for Bartimaeus to repeat his call but he would not be denied. Persistence and faith develop as the sinner seeks God. We should use importunity with God. Repeatedly asking for someone to witness to TODAY. Repeatedly asking God to let us lay hold of opportunities, to create opportunities, and to be led by His Spirit always. If we use importunity, like Bartimaeus, we will not be denied.
He caused Bartimaeus to come to Him. Is not this a lesson in itself? Only Jesus can satisfy all the needs of mankind. We need to cause them to come to Him. The Bible uses the much stronger word ''compel them to come." Compel literally means 'to force, drive, or constrain. To necessitate or pressure by force.' As harvesters we need to use wisdom. Let us 'cause them to come' and let the Spirit be the 'driving force to constrain them.' That is the only way we'll bring them in and keep them.
He caused Bartimaeus to state his need and faith publicly. This is an important step. There was no turning back now. Jesus required Bartimaeus to step from the crowd and state his faith. A public testimony does much to strengthen our faith and give faith to others.
He met Bartimaeus' need. "Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole." Notice Jesus did not say, 'if you will declare yourself, I will heal you.' Bartimaeus found the key that opens doors and moves the very heart of God, FAITH.
Jesus won a follower. Jesus told Bartimaeus to go his way, but when he had received his sight, "he followed Jesus in the way."
For your personal study and work read the context and study each of the following cases given. Trace the steps taken by Jesus in dealing with these individuals. He is our example.
The thief on the cross - Luke 23:39-43
The lawyer - Luke 10:25-37
The rich young ruler - Matt. 19:16-30
The adulteress - John 8:1-11
The woman with an issue of blood - Mark 5:25-34
The Syrophoenician woman - Mark 7:24-30
The man with palsy - Mark 2:1-12
There are many lessons to be learned in studying the way Jesus dealt with individuals. Not in every case was He successful. Nor will you be successful in every case. Some people will count the costs too high and will not be willing to "forsake all" in order to 'gain all'. Yet, many can be turned to Jesus by the harvester who is effective in the way he witnesses and who follows the examples of the Master Harvester as He sowed and reaped His field.