To Mobilize Laborers - Radical

To Mobilize Laborers

Prayer allows us to stay faithful to God and His Word. How can prayer be a part of evangelism? In this message on Luke 10:1-10, Jim Shaddix highlights the connection between prayers and the laborers for the gospel. He shares six truths about the spread of the gospel.

  1. Prayer fuels a missional strategy of sending rather than sensing.
  2. Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of sovereignty.
  3. Pray for God to send out witnesses with the gospel.
  4. Pray-ers are laborers and laborers are pray-ers on God’s mission.
  5. Pray for laborers who depend on Jesus completely.
  6. Pray for laborers to remember the Sender of the servant is the Shepherd of the sheep.

Luke chapter 10 in your Bible – let me ask you to open it up to that place. Let’s worship the Lord through His Word. Listen, you guys are going to have to listen a lot faster than you did last week. You listen too slow. We can’t afford to have mutiny in the parking lot with the attendants out there and the nursery, alright? Just hold on, one of our staff wives was trying to encourage me. She said, “That was a good a sermon, Jim. I heard some people make good comments. Somebody out in the hall said, ‘They ought to let that guy preach more often.'” I thought that was kind of encouraging. We probably ought not tell the pastor that – probably wouldn’t be encouraging to him. Then she finished the statement. She said, “Yeah, they said, ‘Ought to let that guy preach more often because he’s got a lot bottled up inside of him.'” I want to try not to let it get bottled up.

Luke chapter 10. I want to read verses 1-12. We’re going to tip our hats to verses 1-20 but concentrate this morning on verses 1-3. I want you to keep your Bible open, keep it close. I’m going to ask you to turn to some different places as we share this time of our worship together.

This is the Word of the Lord from Luke 10: 1–20:

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. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Lk. 10:1-12)

A couple of months ago, there was a small team of us that had the opportunity to represent you in Northern India. You’ve heard David mention some things by way of report on that. You know, most of the time when we go on missions like that, we see ourselves as the ones that are going to bring encouragement and strength and a little boost to the workers there. That was our goal – to go and strengthen a partnership that The Church at Brook Hills has had for a number of years. But many of you know that what happens most often, is we come away from experiences like that – don’t we? – as the ones who are encouraged and strengthened and, many times, greatly challenged. We had not been there but just a short while when one of the leaders there in that region began to explain to us that it was this passage of Scripture that they had adopted as their strategy for penetrating the state of Bihar, India – 100 million people – with the gospel.

We took a short plane ride the morning following when we arrived in country, from Delhi to the place where we were going to be ministering. On that short plane ride, I had the opportunity to sit by this leader, and he took out his Bible and during that time, he walked me through this passage of Scripture and showed me why and how they were using it to equip people to penetrate that state with the gospel of Christ. Over the next few days, we had the privilege, as we moved from village to village in that area, of seeing firsthand how they were, in fact, using Luke chapter 10 as a strategy for disciple-making and reproducing disciples in order to advance the gospel in that place. What an incredibly exciting thing that was for us!

I remember the conversation on that plane. There were two particular statements that this leader made that God indelibly impressed upon my heart and mind. One was this: he simply said, “We just thought that if this is the way that Jesus told His followers to do it, it just made sense for us to do it that way.” The other statement he said was this: “We believe if we follow this over the next 10 years, we won’t need to be here anymore.”

Here’s a guy who simply believed that if they did what Jesus said in this passage of Scripture, that within 10 years in a state of 100 million people, he would work himself out of a missionary job. Where he could go somewhere else and wouldn’t even need to be there anymore. I thought, “That’s ludicrous! 100 million people!” But is it? Is it really? Could it possibly be that simple? Could it be as simple as you and I doing what Jesus says in this passage of Scripture right here? To penetrate a family, a community in which we live, a school where we attend, the city of Birmingham, places like Bihar, India. Could it be as simple as us just doing what Jesus says and following these instructions in order to advance the gospel and make disciples among people groups where we live and breathe and where we go to?

I want to suggest to you this morning that it just may be that it is that simple. If we get this – did you notice it? – that this strategy begins with and is driven by prayer? The question on the table for our series is, “Why pray?” We’re letting Scripture answer that question. This morning, what I want us to do is to let Jesus speak into that question with these words, “Yes, we must pray. But why pray? In order to mobilize laborers with the gospel of Christ in this mission that we are on.”

So the primary focus of what we are thinking about here is that God has sovereignly bound gospel advancement to the mobilization of laborers – listen to me – in answer to prayer. One of my prayers in this series on prayer is that we would make some connections with this thing that we are familiar with – that we know we should do – to aspects of why we’ve been left on the planet. So that we can see that God has not just made a suggestion, and He’s not just given us another spiritual discipline to practice, but in fact He has, in His sovereignty, bound certain things to the activity of prayer. And that if we do not connect those two things, and practice prayer in the context of those things, we will never be able to do them effectively and bring honor and glory to His name.

Last week we talked about remaining faithful. In Luke 18 we said that Jesus connects these two things. There’s no way that we’re going to remain faithful while we wait for Jesus to come if we don’t pray. We come to a subject this morning that is near and dear to our hearts as a congregation. This is what we’re about. We’re about the mobilization of laborers to take the gospel to the nations. Our Lord would have us know that we’ll never be able to do that to the greatest degree, the most effective degree, if it is absent of concerted, diligent, sacrificial prayer.

I’ve got to tell you, I’m absolutely amazed at how often in this text of Scripture, that truth is overlooked. In fact, many Bible commentators just blow right by it, getting to – listen to me – the practical strategy that’s in this passage of Scripture. We gravitate toward things like that. Others give it a token acknowledgment but then move on to the “hows” that Jesus gives in this passage of Scripture. But we cannot afford to miss this relationship. What is the first thing out of the gate that Jesus speaks, before He even gets to the practical instructions, we cannot afford to miss that.

Here’s what I want to do. I want us to think together about three primary truths that speak about this relationship between prayer and the mobilization of laborers – this mission that we are on.

Prayer fuels a missional strategy of sending rather than sensing.

Here’s the first one: prayer fuels a missional strategy of sending rather than sensing. Don’t miss those two words; there’s just one letter difference. Prayer fuels a missional strategy of sending rather than sensing. The text says in verse one that Jesus appoints 72, some manuscripts say 70. It’s really of little consequence, we’ll just go with what it is in most of our English translations. He pulls 72 together and He sends them out. And He’s very clear to say, “Here’s priority number one. As you go, before you go, pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out others with you, behind you, in front of you as part of this endeavor.” Now what Jesus does here is He extends a strategy that He has been living by, and He has been using ever since day one.

In fact there’s a little word right there is verse one that calls our attention to that. This seemingly insignificant word, “others,” reminds us that this is not a new deal. This is not something that Jesus is just starting here in this last stage of His ministry. It says, “After this the Lord appointed 72 others also.”

That beckons us to look to see in Scripture how has this been done, where has this been done. I want to show it to you in Luke’s Gospel. Take a journey with me, put it in reverse and go back a few chapter to Luke chapter three. I want you to go back all the way to the beginning of the ministry of our Lord. Most of us would understand Jesus’s commissioning for His ministry to have taken place at His baptism, right after the accounts of the ministry of John the Baptist. Luke only gives us two verses on this event, but he brings something to the table that the other Gospel writers leave out. I want you to look at Luke 3:21.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk. 3:21-22)

Other Gospel writers say that he spoke to the people around and said, “Listen to him, hear what he’s going to say.” This was the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. In essence, this was the public sending out of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it took place, believe it or not, in the context of prayer.

Turn over a couple of pages, I want you to look at chapter six. Jesus ministers for a while, He does all kinds of incredible things, but it’s just Him on mission. This assignment that He has been given. But then you come to Luke 6:12, and Luke tells this, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles” (Lk. 6:12-13).

We’re kind of short-sighted when we just refer to the 12 as “disciples.” There were a lot of disciples, and it was from among those disciples that Jesus chose 12 that He gave the label, the title, “apostle”. You know what it means? It means, “One sent. A messenger. One sent as a messenger.” So here we have all of these chapters here – Jesus has been commissioned, He’s on mission, He’s carrying out His assignment – but it’s just Him. Now He enlists some other guys and He calls them “Ones sent.” They hadn’t been sent yet but that’s what they’re going to do, that’s what they’re going to be. Now, for a few chapters we have these guys in the school of Christ. They’re watching Him. They’re learning from Him. They get a few tasks here and there. But then we come to chapter nine. Look at Luke chapter nine – remember, these are apostles, ones sent, messengers.

“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,” and watch this in verse 2, “and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” And then in that paragraph, you have got some instructions that sound a whole lot like what we read in Chapter 10 a minute ago, “And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.’ And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6 ESV)

Do you see what’s happening now? Jesus was commissioned, He was sent out. It was in the context of prayer. Then in the context of extended prayer, He enlists some other guys. He names them “sent ones, messengers.” Then He equips them. And now He does what? He sends them out. What is Jesus doing? He’s broadening the circle of involvement. It doesn’t stop there. Look across the page, maybe the next page to the end of the chapter, verse 51. ”When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51 ESV)

Let me just tell you that what Luke is telling us there, this is the last stage of Jesus’s ministry. Most of Luke’s Gospel is about this last phase of Jesus’s ministry – when He is directly and intently and purposefully moving toward Jerusalem. And that is the stage we’re in. Look at verse 52, “And he sent messengers ahead of him.” (Luke 9:52 ESV)

What does Jesus do? He broadens the circle. He broadens the circle of involvement. It started with Him in the venue of prayer, he broadened the circle with His apostles in the venue of prayer. Now He sends them out, and now He’s broadening it behind them. We’re not given any names here, in fact in the last paragraph of Luke chapter nine, there are three potential guys that were recruited or are considering this. We’re not told who they are. Then we come to chapter 10, that we read a moment ago, and guess what we find? The same thing – Jesus broadening the circle. He appointed 72 others. Others that are part of these ever widening concentric circles of evangelism and mission. He organized them and put them together in groups of two for safety and for the verification of their testimony which would be the custom. They laid out a strategy in the different places that they were going to go, and then Jesus says this, “Oh by the way, don’t even think about doing this without praying that the Lord of the harvest would send others in addition to you.”

So you have two things going on right here. You have Jesus, who is broadening the circle of involvement. He’s been following the same strategy, and as He broadens it, he does with those people the same thing that was done to him – He sends them out. It’s all been undergirded, it’s been founded in, it’s been permeated by prayer. And now He comes to this place with people, whose names we are not given, who now represent a whole host of generations following – including this one right here at this church today – of unnamed individuals who day in and day out are doing the exact same thing Jesus set in motion 2,000 years ago. And that is broadening the circle of sending one another out. And Jesus says, “Here’s how you do it. You start with prayer. You don’t even think about doing this without prayer.”

You come to these verses right here at the beginning of chapter two and you have all of this “sending” language. He appointed them in verse one, He sent them out in verse one. Then in verse two He says, “Call on the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.” Verse three begins this way, “Go your way. Be sent. Get out of here and go do this.” But right in the heart of that, Jesus says, “Pray. Pray. Pray.” What we have here – don’t miss this now – praying and sending go together.

But there’s something else that’s not mentioned here, and it’s not mentioned in any of these other passages that really has become the order of the day. It’s the temptation. In fact, it oftentimes is associated with a token acknowledgment of prayer, and that is, “I’m praying to find out where the Holy Spirit wants me to go and what the Holy Spirit wants. I’m waiting and I’m asking for a sense of feeling of what He wants me to do.” Listen, I don’t want you to hear me this morning say that the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak to us and He doesn’t give us specific guidance sometimes and tap us on the shoulder. I just want you to see that the strategy of Jesus was not characterized by that. What it was characterized by is praying, and praying for more laborers, and then sending one another out. This missional strategy that Jesus followed and adopted was a missional strategy of sending. It was a sending mission, not a sensing mission. We know that there are about 1.5 billion people on the planet today that still have not heard the name of Jesus. That they’ve not heard the gospel and we’d like to believe that all of those are somewhere else. But some of those people, even though they’ve had it all around them, are in our homes and they are in our communities and in our schools, and these 1.5 billion people can’t wait for us to sit around waiting for a feeling to take the gospel to them. This is a sending mission. And this sending mission – listen to me, church – is fueled by prayer.

Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of sovereignty.

Now, look at a second truth. Prayer fuels this missional strategy of sending rather than sensing. Get this also: prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of sovereignty. One of my favorite prayer quotes is actually from an unknown source and it goes like this, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” Isn’t that good? That statement, whoever said it, I believe was right in tune with Scripture in understanding this balance, this healthy balance, between the omnipotence of God and that He is all-powerful and all-doing, and yet, the human responsibility of prayer.

It is the acknowledgement that somehow, unbeknownst to us, hard for us to get our minds around, there is this mystery of a connection. We don’t manipulate God. We don’t tell Him what to do. His work in this world is not dependent upon us, but somehow, someway, when you read the pages of Scripture, there is some relationship between our prayer and what God does – His effectualness in this world. I’ve adapted that quote for this point right here because it seems to show up in this passage, or at least a similar idea. Certainly the idea of omnipotence, but I think in even a broader way, the idea of sovereignty. That God is not only all-powerful, He’s in charge of everything.

Look down at your Bible. You see it there in verse two? Who’s He telling us to pray for? He’s telling us to pray for the Lord of the harvest. That is a word that Jesus’s listeners that day would have understood to be a reference to the person that is in charge. He is over everything. He’s in charge of all things harvest. We know He’s in charge of everything. In this context right here, everything that has to do with the harvest – the sending, the planting, the kinds of seeds, the response on the part of the people – He’s in charge of that.

This idea of the harvest was an image that is used in both Old Testament and New Testament to refer to the gathering of God’s people at a particular time, usually. That particular time was impending judgment. It’s an incredible picture, the idea of God gathering together His children in the face of impending judgment, and they would be spared from that.

Luke 10: 1–20 Shows Us that the Harvest Indicates Readiness

Let me tell you something else a harvest indicates. It indicates readiness. Right? You talk about, “The harvest is ready.” What does that mean? It’s time to go get it! This imagery is used here because this deal that we’re about is always ready for us to tackle. We don’t have to wait for it. In fact, that’s underscored with the description there in verse two when Jesus says that it’s a plentiful harvest. That ought to be so encouraging to us, beloved. Watch this. We can always know that there is somebody out there that is going to say “yes.” The idea that this harvest is plentiful means it’s always ready. My New Testament and Greek professor when I was in seminary used to tell us, “A lot of people will criticize me because I believe in election. I believe in God’s sovereignty in salvation. They say that dulls the fire of evangelism.” He said, “Whoa! It doesn’t dull the fire of evangelism. It fans the flame for me! You know why? Because I know somebody out there is going to say, ‘Yes.’ There is somebody out there that is going to embrace the gospel and say, ‘Yes.'”

Jesus says this is a plentiful harvest. By the way, in John chapter four – we won’t take the time to go there – Jesus even seems to push back a little bit at this idea of this being seasonal. Sometimes we’re planting and sometimes we’re harvesting. All of those Samaritans were coming out of the city because they were curious about Him. He told his disciples, “Look at the harvest. Don’t say, ‘There are still four months to harvest.’ That is true in the agricultural norm, but this is different.” He said, “Look, the fields are ripe unto harvest right now.” This is an image that we have all the way through Scripture. We don’t have to wait. Yes, sometimes we plant. Sometimes we actually see the harvest that is being reaped. But God would have us to know that the harvest is always plentiful. There are always people that are out there that are going to say, “Yes.”

But then there is a reality check, do you see it? Look down at your Bible. Same verse, Jesus says, “…but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2 ESV)

Here is the deal. The harvest will always outnumber the laborers. This is a truth of this business that we do. This task that we’re on. This harvest will always overwhelm in size the number of laborers there are to go and reap this harvest. Beloved, you know this. You know this in your family. Probably not as much in a region like we live in, but I promise you, if you carry it out far enough, it’s still true here. Even within our families, as we carry out the circles, there are more lost people than there are saved people. You know it’s true, in your work, the place you go. You count the numbers of people that are living for Jesus and have given their lives to following Him and being His disciple. There are going to be more lost people than there are saved. It’s true here in Birmingham. It’s true in the state of Alabama. It’s true in Bihar, India. Everywhere we go, this size of the task is so much bigger and Jesus gives us this reality check here to remind us of that reality.

Luke 10: 1–20 Calls Us to Pray to the Lord

So what is He saying when He gives us the answer? There are four. Look at it. My English translation says, “… pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest.” (Luke 10:2 ESV) In the language of the New Testament, this idea of praying earnestly is a word – It’s really interesting, it means, “To be reduced to want. To lack for one’s self.” So, to make one’s need known. That’s why it’s associated with prayer and came to be used to describe prayer. Because it is the picture of someone that looks at their situation and says, “Whoa! I’m in trouble here. I’m toast in this deal unless I get some help from the outside.” So this person cries out and makes their need known and Jesus takes that word. Now it’s not the only word, not even the most common word for prayer in the New Testament, but He uses it here. Why? Because of the size of this harvest. Because of the size of this task. He says, “You look around you and you see that the harvest always outnumbers the laborers and you see yourself in want. We can’t keep up with this. There is no way we can tackle this. There is no way we can penetrate this. So you make your need known to the Lord of the harvest.”

How do we do that? How do we do that right here? We do it by challenging one another, beginning with personal evangelism, don’t we? Praying for more people to be involved in opening their mouths, sharing their faith, so that our family members and our friends and our coworkers and our classmates can hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We want to do everything we can to extend that out and mobilize people in other areas. This is why you hear so much about getting involved in a small group, and appeals for people to lead small groups – where people can see the gospel in community, and they can hear about Christ in a context where they can ask questions, and about church planting teams. You saw some of the testimonies a while ago that you’re a part of in helping resource and fund, and yet there is so much more to be done.

Just this week, the IMB field leader of South Asia, which includes India that I was mentioning a moment ago, reported that there are still over 18 unengaged unreached people groups in India, each of which have more than a million in population. 18 in that one country still left unengaged. That means these population pockets of more than a million apiece are less than two percent evangelized. They are less than two percent Evangelical Christian. Here’s what he said, “There’s not a single active church planting work going on among them.” Incredible! The overwhelming need that is out there, for us to continue to mobilize and send. But to understand this, that we will never do it effectively and efficiently in the long haul without prayer. There are so many other things that I could mention. The short term trips that are on the website. This is not a promotional deal, I just want you to know that there are all kinds of things that you are involved with. I want you to be encouraged and affirmed in that. But know that all of these – 24 short term trips on the docket for 2013 – these are avenues which we seek to mobilize people, but that will not happen in a way that brings honor and glory to God, and the most effectiveness, without prayer.

Pray for God to …

So what do we pray for? You say, “Jim, is it as simple as that? We just keep saying, ‘Lord send out laborers.'” Well that is a good start, but I want you to know that the Bible gives us more than that. You’re holding your Bible there, I want you to take a real quick journey with me. Acts chapter one. What I want to do is I want to show you some places in Scripture where the Bible makes this connection between prayer and the sending out of laborers. What I want this to do is to become a prayer strategy for us. I want it to become a guideline that we take into our personal worship times, into our small groups, whatever venues we have to pray, and make sure that this is the way we’re praying. Because this is not something out of a book somewhere or something we just made up. This is where we go to Scripture and we see what kinds of things people prayed for in relation to the mobilization of laborers.

The first one, in Acts chapter one shouldn’t surprise us because this is where Jesus gives us another picture of this ever widening circle, this strategy of sending people out. You remember that the disciples in verses four and five were told by Jesus after the resurrection, “Don’t depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father.” He’s talking about the Holy Spirit. So He says, “Wait in Jerusalem until you get what I’ve promised you and that’s the Holy Spirit.” Then He tells them in verse eight what that is going to look like, what is going to happen when that takes place. You know the verse, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

There are those ever widening circles right there, and Jesus said that this is the way it is going to happen. Then watch this, they understood “waiting” to mean “praying.” You see verse 14? “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” (Acts 1:14 ESV) This is how they waited. This is how they did what Jesus said.

Send out witnesses with the gospel.

You know the rest of the story. Chapter two, the Holy Spirit is poured out, the church is born and the ever widening circle continues. These people are all sent out and they begin to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Born in the context of their prayer. So what are we praying for? Very simple. For God to send out witnesses with the gospel. God, do what Your Word says! Do what You said You’re going to do! This is when we’re praying most potently, when we’re praying according to the will of God. He says this is the plan. Pray for it, let it be fueled by prayer. He says when that happens – because the Holy Spirit is the one that gives you other-worldly power to do what doesn’t come naturally – then witnesses are going to be sent out. Pray to that end. God just do what You said You were going to do. Do it here at The Church at Brook Hills. God, do it in my life. I am a witness, I have the Holy Spirit. Send out witnesses. Pray to God.

Give boldness to share the gospel.

Look across the page, let me show you another one while we’re right here close. Chapter four. Remember Peter and John have been interrogated by religious leaders who were opposing their preaching. So the throttle is being turned up against Christianity and the disciples get some persecution there. They go back to the church, and in verse 23 of chapter four, the church begins to pray. We’re not going to read the whole thing, but what an incredible prayer. They recognize the Lord of the harvest is the Sovereign Lord. I want you to look at verse 29, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29-31 ESV)

Let me ask you something. In relation to the amount of time that you find yourself feeling inadequate – feeling a little nervous, feeling timid, intimidated by witnessing – in relation to the amount of time that happens, are you balancing that out with an equal amount of time praying for God to do what He says He does with the Holy Spirit, and give you boldness? We’re just talking about some no-brainers here, some things that are the norm but these are things that people in the Bible prayed for. They were on their prayer list. They asked for these things, and they touched the heartbeat of God. So send out witnesses to the gospel. Pray this, that God would give boldness to share the gospel.

Open doors for spreading the gospel.

Turn over a few pages to the book of Colossians. I want you to go to Colossians chapter four. Take you into the heartbeat of the apostle Paul. This is a guy that got this right. He lived on mission for the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to show you a little bit of his heart for what to ask God to do in sending out by way of prayer. Colossians 4:3, this is what he says, “At the same time, pray also for us.” So, Paul is asking for prayer from the Colossians. What does he want them to pray for? “That God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” (Colossians 4:3 ESV)

Are you praying for doors to be open? This is what we must pray for, that God would open doors for the spreading of the gospel. Some of us this morning have people and personal relationships where there is a closed door. The conversation is not happening right now. Those people don’t want it to happen. Closed doors at work or at school. We know of closed doors across Birmingham and Alabama, across the planet that right now we can’t – even if we were sending – get workers into. We can’t go in there with our witness. We can’t verbalize our faith because there is a closed door. It is one thing to recognize closed doors. It’s entirely a different thing to be crying out to the Lord of the harvest that He would open them. Paul does that. This is part of mobilizing laborers. He’s praying, “Oh God! Open doors for the spreading of the gospel.”

Clarify understanding of the gospel.

But there is another one in that passage there. Do you see it there in verse four? He says, also pray for this, “that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:4 ESV)

Now this is Paul now. It is Paul asking prayer for this. Doesn’t it encourage you that the greatest Christian, the greatest missionary ever to live still found himself in need of being a little bit more clear in sharing the gospel? Have you ever looked into somebody’s face when you’re sharing the gospel with them and there’s just this blank stare like deer in the headlights. You just look at that conversation, and you think they’re just not getting it. Are you praying that the gospel would be made clear in that person’s life that you’re witnessing to? Or what about this? You ever find yourself, like I find myself sometimes, being a little bit timid and thinking, “Man I’m just not sure that I have what it takes to be in that conversation. To be able to share the gospel and defend my faith and give the right answers.” It is one thing to recognize our limitations, it is an entirely different thing to have this on our prayer list, praying, “God, make this clear. I can’t do this.” So clarify understanding of the gospel. Pray for that as you pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.

Advance the message of the gospel.

One more passage. Just turn over a couple of pages to 2 Thessalonians 3. Paul is still asking for prayer. Man that encourages me. It encourages me that he didn’t have it all together. He didn’t see himself as being able to do it. He was praying for God to do stuff in the advancement of the gospel, and that’s exactly what he prays for here. This one may be my favorite on all of this list. Let me tell you what he’s asking for prayer for – that God would advance the message of the gospel.

Look at chapter three, verse one, “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1 ESV) Do you know what that means? It means, “To run rapidly.” Paul says, “Here’s what I want you to pray for. Mobilization of laborers. Advancement of the gospel. Pray that the gospel would run quickly and it would be honored, it would be received, it would be treated like it ought to be treated.”

Let me ask you something. What situation or circumstances are in your life right now, where right now there’s opportunity? Right now there’s possibility, but you can see down the road – whether it’s with an aging parent or a grandmother or grandfather that won’t be here forever – that you need the gospel to run quickly. Students, as you look in your school at how a few months down the road, seniors will be graduating and they’ll be scattered other places, are you praying that the gospel would run quickly?

We learned of the reality of 5,000 people in Bihar, India dying everyday without the gospel of Jesus Christ. Right at 5,000 people. That is a situation where it’s not going to be there forever. We need the gospel to run quickly and speed along and be honored for what it is. The point: we need to pray this. We don’t need just to assume it. We don’t need just to think about it. We don’t need just to talk about it. We don’t need just to tweet about it. We need to pray this: “God, in my situation, in these circumstances, in our church, let the gospel run rapidly.”

Deliver messengers of the gospel.

Then Paul says to pray that God would deliver messengers of the gospel. You see it there in verse two? He continues his prayer request, “And that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.” Here’s the statement of all statements, “For not all have faith.” (2 Thess 3:2 ESV) We know that, don’t we? You know that in your situation, your ministry, your circumstances. There are some people here that are just not buying this, they’re just not getting it. In fact, some of them are pushing back and making life difficult. And that is escalated the farther away we get from Bible belt places like this where there are real life situations. We know about them. Some of those people that were on the screen a while ago. Ones that we hear about, and reports from our Global Missions team that are in situations where not all men have faith. And some of them are really angry toward those who do have faith, and where it’s illegal to advance the gospel. The apostle Paul says, “Pray. Pray that we would be delivered. Pray that we would get deliverance from this.” It’s not wrong to pray that, beloved. We know that sometimes God is honored in martyrdom. Sometimes God is honored in people losing their lives for the gospel but that doesn’t mean that we should ever stop praying that servants of the Lord would be delivered so that the gospel can be advanced through their testimony.

I want to challenge you to find somebody, some Christian somewhere if it’s not you, that has push-back against the gospel, against their witness. Pick out one of those that we hear these reports on and pray. Cry out to God that He would deliver them and He would come to their aid.

Luke 10: 1–20 Shows Us that Pray-ers are Laborers and Laborers are Pray-ers on God’s Mission

Finally, let me give you this one. I told you we weren’t going spend a ton of time here. Let me say this to you, I don’t want you to miss this. Don’t miss how verses 1-3 connects with the rest of this. Know this: pray-ers are laborers, and laborers are pray-ers on God’s mission. You got it? Not prayers. Pray-ers are laborers, and laborers are pray-ers on God’s mission. You see, when you get to verse three, Jesus sends them out. He says, “Go your way. Behold I am sending you.” Then we have all of these practical instructions right here. We have this practical strategy. But watch this – it comes right on the heels of Jesus saying, “Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers into his harvest.” What do we draw from that? Just this. That there is a connection between these that pray and these that go. In fact, in this passage they are the same people.

I think sometimes we give ourselves a pass by dividing this up and compartmentalizing it. We say, “Well some of us will pray, and some of us will give, and some of us will go.” The fact of the matter is, we know that all of us can give and all of us can pray. Maybe we should add to that, all of us in some way, form or fashion can go. It may not be that we can all go overseas or even pick up our family and move across town, or the way of some of those manifestations, or all of those. Let’s at least not give ourselves a pass in separating these out and say, “Well God has given me the gift of praying, and there are other people that have the gift of going.” In this passage right here, at least, the pray-ers were the go-ers and the go-ers were the pray-ers. We must understand that relationship.

Pray for laborers who …

You know another thing it does? It gives us something else to pray for as we pray for laborers. I think that’s what this strategy does. Let me tell you, the details of the strategy are going to change. Some of the logistics. In fact, in chapter 22 of Luke’s Gospel – if we had time, I’d go there and I’d show you where Jesus takes what He says right here and He said, “You remember when I told you not to take a knapsack or a moneybag or that, did you lack anything?” The disciples say, “No, we don’t lack anything.” Then Jesus said right before he died, He said, “Now I’m telling you, get your knapsack, get your moneybag, grab a sword. Things have changed.” You know what changed? The cross. The cross changed everything. The cross changes strategy sometimes in detail. But you know what? The cross didn’t change the principles that are laid out here.

Depend on Jesus completely.

Can I tell them to you real quick? Of course I can, this is my sermon, I can do anything I want to. So you listen real quick because we’re about done. Pray for laborers who will do this: first of all, depend on Jesus completely. That’s why He told them, don’t take any of this stuff right now. Time is short, the task is urgent, you need to be able to move quickly. Principle: depend on Jesus completely.

Don’t waste time unnecessarily.

Secondly, pray for laborers who don’t waste time unnecessarily. He said, “Don’t greet anybody on the road.” Why? He wasn’t telling them to be rude. He just knew the nature of oriental greetings. They took a long time sometimes. You’ve got to hug people. You’ve got to kiss them on both sides of the mouth, and then you’ve got to bring one another up to date. Nobody comes into the conversation saying, “Hey, I’ve been following you on Facebook, on Twitter. I know everything that’s going on.” You had to tell them all of that. Jesus said that in the urgency of the task, there is no time. There might be a word there for some of us with regard to how much time we spend on Facebook and Twitter, right? Jesus said this task is huge. Pray for laborers who don’t waste time unnecessarily.

Discern openness to the gospel.

Number next, whatever it is. Pray for laborers who discern openness to the gospel. That’s why He said to find this person of peace and stay there. Hang out. Use it as a hub. It’s the principle of low hanging fruit. As David Platt told us the other night at Multiply, “Make a list of all the people in your circles who are least likely to kill you when you share the gospel and start with those people.” That is a great exhortation. Why? Low hanging fruit. Start with that. Guess what? We need people to be able to discern that. Let’s pray for laborers who can discern that.

Desire provision instead of luxury.

Pray for laborers who desire provision instead of luxury. Jesus said, “Don’t be looking for a better deal.” You find somebody that meets your needs, hang out right there and don’t be looking for how to increase your convenience or your comfort zone. That’s something we know, isn’t it? We need laborers who get that. Who desire provision instead of luxury.

Demonstrate and share the gospel.

Pray for laborers who both demonstrate and share the gospel. That is what He says, heal the sick. Sign of the coming kingdom. It was evidence. And then speak into that. Show the gospel. Share the gospel.

Declare God’s impending judgment.

Then finally, declare God’s impending judgment. Jesus knew this. The Good News isn’t good news if it’s not against the backdrop of the bad news that is out there. That is that the wrath of God is coming against all sin and we need to be clear about that.

Pray for laborers to remember …

There are three truths that are added to this list that are woven throughout this passage of Scripture. I want to give them to you and let them lead us into communion because they are such an encouragement. We need to pray for laborers to remember some things.

The Sender of the servant is the Shepherd of the sheep.

I hope you’ll pray this for some that you know are persecuting and persecuted and struggling right now. Pray for laborers to remember that the sender of the servant is the shepherd of the sheep.

Jesus, in verse three, said, “I am sending you to the wolves.” That’s weird thing for a shepherd to do, isn’t it? He’s supposed to protect sheep from wolves. Jesus says, “I’m sending you.” But the “I” is in the emphatic position, beloved. Jesus says, “Don’t forget that it’s me that’s sending you. Lord of the harvest. Your shepherd. The ruler of the universe. I’ve got your back here.” Be encouraged by that.

Rejection of the message is rejection of the Master.

Secondly, pray for laborers to remember that rejection of the message is rejection of the Master. That’s what He says in verse 16. He says, “Don’t forget, when they reject you, they’re really rejecting Me. And when they reject Me, they’re rejecting the one that sent Me.” Jesus and God are the same, right? There’s a oneness there. But notice in verse 16 Jesus said, “You and I, we’re one. We’re together. I’m with you in this. Don’t take this personally.”

Security in the Lord trumps success in the labors.

Then finally, security in the Lord trumps success in the labors. The Church at Brook Hills, we need to hear this. God has blessed us. He’s graced us with so much fruit. David was talking about it a while ago in the report on what God’s doing with your giving. He even made mention of the fact that it’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the success of the laborers. In that paragraph when the 70 returned, Jesus said, “Don’t rejoice in that the demons are subject to you, that you’ve got success in your labors. Rejoice in that your names are written in the book of life.”

Now, I know one of the reasons Jesus was doing that was to curb the danger of pride, and we do need to hear that. I think the primary reason He gives us this story is because He knew that every mission story won’t end like that. Everyday at the end of the day won’t have a happy ending when you are sheep among wolves. Sometimes that gets discouraging. Jesus says, “I want you to know that what’s going to carry you is not going to be your rejoicing in the success of the mission. When you put your head on your pillow at night, the thing that’s going to carry you is that you are still secure in the arms of your Savior.”

  • Prayer fuels a missional strategy of sending rather than sensing.  (Luke 10:1; cf. Luke 3:21–22; 6:12–16; 9:1–6,51–62; 10:2–3)
  •  Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of sovereignty.  (Luke 10:2)
  •  Pray for God to…
    • Send out witnesses with the gospel. (Acts 1:4–5,8,14; 13:2–3) Give boldness to share the gospel. (Acts 4:29–31;
    •  Ephesians 6:18– 20; Philippians 1:18–20)
    • Open doors for spreading the gospel. (Colossians 4:3–4) Clarify understanding of the gospel.
    • (Colossians 4:3–4) Advance the message of the gospel. (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
    • Deliver messengers of the gospel. (Romans 15:30–31;   Philippians 1:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–2)
  •  Pray–ers are laborers and laborers are pray–ers on God’s mission.  (Luke 10:3–20; cf. Luke 9:1–6; 22:35–38)
  •  Pray for laborers who…
    • Depend on Jesus completely. (Luke 10:4a)
    • Don’t waste time unnecessarily. (Luke 10:4b)
    • Discern openness to the gospel. (Luke 10:5–6)
    • Desire provision instead of luxury. (Luke 10:7–8)
    • Demonstrate and share the gospel. (Luke 10:9)
    • Declare God’s impending judgment. (Luke 10:10–15)
  •  Pray for laborers to remember…
    • The Sender of the servant is the Shepherd of the sheep.   (Luke 10:3)
    • Rejection of the message is rejection of the Master. (Luke 10:16)

Security in the Lord trumps success in the labors. (Luke 10:17–20)

Jim Shaddix

Jim Shaddix is a professor of expository preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado, and as dean of the chapel and professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Shaddix is the author of several books, including The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen.

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