Dear Friends,

Sometimes the Christian life is hard. Sometimes God calls us to a “long obedience in the same direction.” The belief that the church or Christ-follower will always be “successful” is not a biblical idea. Remember, we follow Jesus, the crucified One!

This is the third week that we are thinking about Jesus’ command to His people and His church to “pray earnestly”. Listen again to
Matthew 9: 26 – 38, When Jesus 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 labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.

Jesus’ words are clear and bracing. The problem comes when our cultural categories shape the way we understand Jesus’ words. In particular, our culture shapes our expectations around this Bible text.

A few years ago I was invited to a remote fishing camp. The “host”, who was a member of the private camp, invited several Ottawa
pastors up for a couple of days of fellowship and fishing. The “camp” was pretty remote and the facilities were pretty basic. I confess that I had low expectations for the food. To my surprise, the food was really good! Now, if I had gone to the camp and the host had boasted about how great the food was, I might have thought it was only “all right”. You see, expectations have a great effect on how we experience and interpret things.

So, we have this powerful Bible text where Jesus calls us to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers out into His harvest.” Our culture can subtly shape us to think this means that: our prayer will be easy to do, “labourers” will find “harvesting” easy; that the “harvest” will be large; that the harvest will be steady. So our culture, not the Bible, creates expectations about prayer and harvesting and the harvest. Then, when we actually pray and actually try to act on what Jesus has said and our experience does not match our expectations we can become disheartened and discouraged. We can be filled with doubts and accusations and recrimination.

But Jesus does not tell us that this will always be easy for us! Sometimes, the Lord calls us to do hard things for Him. Ottawa is a very rich mission field. The Lord does have a “harvest” here of people who will respond to the Gospel with saving faith. We are called to pray earnestly. We are called to make ourselves available to Him as His labourer in “our” sphere on influence. But, sometimes the Lord calls us to do hard things for him, to practice a “long obedience in the same direction.”

Please pray!