It’s Harvest Time

It’s Harvest Time

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Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah is the 9th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He is married to Amir Ponniah and blessed with four children.

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26 September 2017

It’s Harvest Time

“Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.  Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.  Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.” John 4:31-38

Have you ever been so happy that you did not need to eat? In this account in John 4, Jesus did not need food because He was exhilarated by the prospect of many, many lives being hungry and ready to receive the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Our Lord’s vision of a mighty harvest was triggered by the openness and positive response of just one woman He met at the well. Hungry for love, this Samaritan woman was trapped in an immoral life. She was a social outcast. To avoid the glares and murmurs of people, she had come at mid-day to draw water from the well. There, she met Jesus and responded positively to his conversation with her. Struck by His person and His words, she forgot her social standing and ran excitedly to her community saying, “Come and see. Could this be the Christ?” The encounter ends with the villagers saying, “… we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.” (v42)

In Samaritan territory, outside the formal religious life of Jerusalem, Jesus sees the spiritual hunger of the common people and their readiness to receive the Good News of the Kingdom. In her response, Jesus saw a ripe mission field. And He was not wrong. Through her, her whole community came to believe the Good News of new life in Jesus.

Hence, with the eyes of faith, Jesus said to His disciples, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (v35)

HEAR AND BELIEVE WHAT THE LORD IS SAYING

“There is four months to the harvest’ is a Hebrew farmers’ proverb to mean that there is always a waiting time between sowing and reaping. But Jesus says that the fields are already ready for harvest, meaning that the moment you sow, you will find the crop ready for harvest. Dare we believe that such a time is upon us?

I believe it is so. This conviction has been brewing and growing in me for some time now. I believe the next three years (2017-2020) will be “Harvest Time.” The Scriptures (Isaiah 60:1-3; Micah 4:1-5; Colossians 1:4-6; Revelations 7:9-14) speak to my soul that in the midst of thickening darkness, the light of God is shining; in the midst of great moral confusion, there is spiritual hunger for the truth, and in the midst of hardened secularism and religious-ethno militancy, the love of Jesus will prevail.

I believe that God in His mercy is bringing about a spiritual awakening in all seven countries in our Diocese. Our church in Nepal is leading the way: the number of people worshipping in our Anglican congregations has increased from 9,000 to 12,000 over the last two years since the earthquake in 2015. It encourages us to believe that God will create a spiritual hunger in the people and He will revive His church to passionately reach out to them with the Good News of Jesus Christ that people are drawn to the light of God’s love and when we share the Gospel, that they will be ready to receive Jesus Christ personally as their Saviour and follow Him as Lord. It will be a time of a stunning, mighty harvest … a time when we don’t say, “four months to the harvest” but we testify that “the fields are ripe for harvest”.

Where is this harvest? This harvest in in our social networks, our neighbourhoods, our Anglican schools, our community service recipients and in the marketplace of work and business. The Lord is also opening up brand new mission fields. for example, one of our parishes is launching a ministry to children of those in prison. Our Deaneries are planting churches in new responsive regions.

So this is why we do not say, “It is four months to the harvest.” It is because the harvest is already here. When we share our faith and strengthen our witness to God’s tremendous love in Christ, we will find that people are ready to believe in Jesus and eager to grow in the new life of being His disciple (Matthew 28:18-20).

How do we enter this time of harvest?
 

PARTICIPATE IN WHAT GOD IS DOING

God is bringing about a mighty harvest. It will be a harvest of many souls, a harvest of new Kingdom workers (of all ages) and a harvest of holiness. With this conviction, let me briefly describe five ways in which we can participate in what God is doing.

Create space for God to act

Many of us tend to be overly active in doing God’s work. We need to step back from our packed calendas, and from over-managing our lives and programmes, to pause and listen to the Lord who alone is able to bring about revival.

We need to create space daily and weekly to walk with God more intimately and to listen to Him unhurriedly. Like Elijah (1 Kings 19), some of us need to bring our exhaustion, brokenness and emptiness to God so that we can be spiritually restored and redirected by the Lord’s still small voice deep in our souls. In our interpersonal relationships, both with our family members and those we seek to influence for Christ, we need to create more one-on-one time where there is a meeting of lives and an openness to God together.

And when we gather as believers, whether for a church business meeting (Acts 15), a ministry (Acts 13) or a time of corporate worship, both in small groups and in large services (1 Corinthians 14:26), let us take time to praise and adore the Lord God Almighty, to listen for His voice and to create space for Him to act through the exercise of gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12)

By creating space for God, we are allowing the Potter to would us into vessels for the Harvest.

Pray for revival

Revival is God’s work – when He acts in mercy and might to turn the hearts of people to Him, He does so in response to ‘crying out’ prayer – when we cry out in desperation from our hearts for God to intervene in a world blinded by Satan and hurtling towards self-destruction (cf Mark 5:1-13) because evil forces exacerbate the darkness of man’s self-love, animosity towards others and intoxication with autonomy and material comfort (Revelations 14:8).

Therefore, let us in personal intercession and in prayer bands and assemblies, cry out to God to break the stranglehold of evil and to pierce the darkness with the light and power of the Cross of Christ. And let us pray with perseverance like Elijah (1 Kings 18:41-45) until we hear the sound of rushing rain from heaven to cleanse and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Pray for healing and amazing signs of the power of Jesus to open people’s minds to the unique message of the Gospel. And pray that when the message is shared, the Holy Spirit comes upon the person with convicting and transforming power.

Consecrate ourselves for the work of the harvest

To be involved in the harvest is to engage in spiritual work for the LORD. A Spiritual battle is involved in the winning of lives for Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and the advance of God’s kingdom of love, justice and righteousness (Ephesians 6:1-10). Hence, Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things for you.” (Joshua 3:5)

To consecrate yourself is to repent of your sin and your sinfulness and to turn towards God for newness of heart, habit and conduct. It is to be set apart for God’s holy use in the purpose God has for you. It involves abstaining from routine activities in order to stretch yourself spiritually through prayer and fasting and other spiritual disciplines to be fit for the demands of fulfilling God’s purpose. An example would be our Lord in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) where He prayed in earnest anguish (an athletic term for a rigorous workout before the event). We need consecration to be spiritually fit and focussed to participate in God’s mighty harvest.

Prepare our churches for the harvest

We need both spiritual and practical preparation. We need to be renewed in the Holy Spirit to have the deep hunger and passion for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. We need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be bold and effective witnesses to God’s saving work to redeem and re-create persons through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

At the same time, we need practical preparation to equip our people to communicate the Gospel to their context and to strengthen our disciple-making processes so that new lives are grounded in the faith and growing from glory to glory as they follow Jesus. We will need to strengthen our pulpit preaching, our worship services, our prayer counselling and healing teams as well as our “children and youth” outreach ministries so that our nets are ready for the mighty catch (Luke 5:1-11; John 21:1-9).

Reach out to others with a new level of faith

If we believe that it is Harvest time, then we know that God is at work in wondrous ways. Let is therefore step out with faith, with love and holy confidence, to share the good news of Jesus Christ and His kingdom at every opportunity. This is something we can do individually, in teams and as a church. I am praying that your church will not only tell you that you must evangelize the lost but that your church will positively help you to reach the lost.

In 2019, the churches in Singapore, through the National Council of Churches in Singapore (NCCS) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore (EFOS), are planning a National Harvest event in a very large setting. It is important that we know that the National Harvest is not mass evangelism – rather, it is personal evangelism done on a mass scale. The whole body of Christ in Singapore is to be mobilized to proclaim and meaningfully share with fellow-citizens that there is ‘life in One Name’ (John 1:4, 12).

BE ENCOURAGED BY THE SPIRIT’S MOVEMENT

As I share what is before us in the next three years, let me quickly add that the Holy Spirit has already been at work in our Diocese to prepare us for a mighty harvest.

We can be encouraged by the following short-list of how the Spirit has been moving in our midst:

A chastening towards holiness so that leaders and churches are vessels ready for the Master’s use.

A connection among different parts of the Diocese, not least between Singapore parishes and the Deaneries, so that we are synergizing for collective mission.

Unexpected streams of new people wanting to know the Lord in several of our churches, Deaneries and outreach arms.

Upsurge in marketplace evangelism and discipleship

Progress in our three Diocesan goals of building strong parish churches, mainstreaming our Deaneries and harnessing our educational, medical and community services.

Without doubt, all this is the Spirit’s work and the Holy Spirit is leading us further forward.

CONCLUSION

As I look at how God has provided for the mission and ministry of the diocese thus far, I am encouraged to believe the axiom: “God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s resources.” I invite you therefore to give yourself whole-heartedly (your time, your finances, your gifts and graces and all that you are) to the work of God’s mighty harvest.

God’s chief resource for the accomplishment of His purpose is the person. A church made up of Kingdom-minded people wholly committed to the Lord Jesus is a powerful instrument in God’s hand. As much as we trust God to provide the financial and spatial resources needed for Harvest-time endeavours, let us give ourselves afresh to God that we may be energized by His love, emboldened by His promises and empowered for ministry by His Spirit.

Our God is faithful and our God is able. I look forward to leading you and working side-by-side with you for the harvest. God will send “the rain” of the Holy Spirit and He wants to send you and me out as workers into the world to bring in a mighty harvest. May we do so in the Spirit’s power for love of Jesus our Lord and to make glorious the praise of God our Father! Onward … people of God for the glory of such a great God!

About the Author

Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah is the 9th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He is married to Amir Ponniah and blessed with four children.

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