THE GLORY OF GOD ON CAPE COD

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Matthew 9: 35 - 38 :: "I HAVE A DREAM"

by Ed de la Cour on September 16, 2012

 

I have a dream. I am certain every one of us also have dreams. You have visions of what you would like to do in your life. Such a dream is a force that burns in your belly, excites you, and makes you want to get out of bed and live. There is something significant you feel you are called to become, something you believe you are called to accomplish during your lifetime. Certain events may have caused a yearning within you that became a dream empowering you to create something, or to seek something bigger and better.

As soon as you say you have a dream, people may think you are trying to emulate Dr. Martin Luther King, and that would not be a bad thing. If you have ever listened to a recording of Dr. King’s message delivered at the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963, you know his message was much more a sermon than a speech, an event of powerful vision casting. His dream was to see an America in which a person’s character counted for more than the color of his skin.

The Lord Jesus also dreamed some seriously incredible dreams during His life. John 17 contains His prayer in which He dreamed of a body of people – the church, the Body of Christ – so united, so much of one mind and heart, that the declaration of the Gospel would be powerful and efficacious because people actually would see Jesus in the people who claim His name. In our text for today, Jesus spoke forth another dream. Neither of these dreams are night dreams, brought on by stress or a poor diet. God gives dreams and visions like these. These are the dreams and visions that clearly and accurately represent the will and desire of God for His people.

Something specific stirred the heart of Jesus in this passage. The text says Jesus was moving from town to town, from synagogue to synagogue, teaching, preaching, healing, and delivering. As He traveled, Jesus saw large crowds of people, all of them different with different problems, but in one way everyone was alike, they were identical. They were “like sheep without a shepherd.” That is such a poignant description of people who are oppressed by their circumstances, who are wandering hopelessly an aimlessly through life. They have no clear purpose in life and no real awareness of God’s love for them. Matthew says Jesus was filled with compassion for them. His heart ached for the pain in which these people lived every day of their lives without relief, without hope, and without the possibility of any real change.

Circumstances being what they are in the American church today, you may well be living your life unmoved by the plight of the thousands of people who live right around you. Here’s a fact: your neighbors are in trouble right now. You know in your heart whether you really care about what they are experiencing. Certainly, you may be super busy. You may be unwilling to involve yourself in potentially messy situations. Listen, lots of folks are cold-hearted and self-absorbed. If that describes you, you are someone who believes unless it concerns you directly, you have no desire to lift a finger to help, or any motivation to interrupt your life on his or her behalf. If you find that describes you today, if you are compassion free, you stand in need of an infusion of the life of Christ into your heart. You can see, can’t you – why Jesus felt compelled in His heart to ask for prayer! There is simply no way you can be a Jesus follower if your life does not include a heart of compassion for the people around you who are suffering for want of the love of Jesus.

My dream doesn’t mean very much without you having a part in it; because this dream, this vision, this calling, is not the sort of thing in which one person can be successful. It’s not because I am inept. Jesus Himself, walking from village to village, was overwhelmed by the need. He was touched by the brokenness. He was stirred by the helplessness of the people He was meeting. It was not as though Jesus can be encouraged by the presence of some people who were in pretty good shape. No one is healthy. The wages of sin have worked a terrible toll on the parents, the children, and all the families we see. There is a true sense of desperation in the air, and that sense is so tangible, so palpable, even we can sense it and we can touch it all around us today.

Jesus turned aside to His disciples and He told them to pray. This was not a suggestion for some day later on, when times get tough. You can’t do this yourself. You cannot meet these needs. You cannot touch every life. At the same time, you must not become cynical and throw in the towel. You must not give in to the enormity of the task before you. You cannot give up. Very literally, lives hang in the balance. It really is that important. When people cry out for help, they are not being petty or immature. If something does not happen for them, if they are not rescued, if they are not delivered, if they are not saved, they will be destroyed and they will perish.

In my dream, we have decided as a church that we will become a band of brothers. We are committed to the Gospel and committed to the evangelistic task before us. I do not believe a Christian can read these words of Jesus and remain unmoved or unimpressed by the seriousness of His heart. I don’t care what other generations before us may have faced – you and I are living today in the midst of a global emergency. We are witnessing a breakdown of the social order. If there was ever a time for Christians to stand up, step up, and be recognized as followers of Jesus, this is that day. That is why in my dream we have become a church of people who have decided, no matter what, we’re going to live for Jesus.

There is a need for the people of our community to see Jesus followers, to see believing Christians, not as judgmental, right wing bigots, but as people who are willing to love other people, for better or for worse. There is a need for Jesus followers to know why we behave as we do. We love for Jesus’ sake, not because it is easy, but because Jesus would have us love. Godly love does not stop because reciprocation ceases. Love says, I will love you anyway. Love continues. Love is faithful and it is incessant. Love does not go away. Surely, love grows tired and certainly loves grows weary. But love finds its strength renewed in relationship with God, and in the power of that love, “they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40: 31) It’s not just poetry, and it’s not just a song to sing. This is God’s truth that feeds and nourishes our lives and our ministry.

Jesus couldn’t help Himself – He had to state the obvious, although it is possible some of us may not see it as self-evident. But the plain and unadorned truth is, “the harvest is plentiful.” We tend to see the crowds of people around us as unwilling, antagonistic, and hostile, but not Jesus! He saw them accurately and He saw them through the lens of love, as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In my dream, we would see people the way Jesus saw them, through the lens of love, through the eyes of Jesus.

Let’s talk about this harvest field. Here’s some truth, and I have shared this before: the Barnstable/Yarmouth area i.e., Cape Cod as a whole, is tied with Pittsfield, MA, as the second least evangelized area in the United States, with as little as 1.5% of the population being evangelical. In other words, for all our bluster about how many churches there are and how wonderful that is, we have not been at all effective in reaching Cape Cod for Christ. Think about this: if we represent only 1.5% of the population, that means 98.5% of the people around us do not have a vibrant and life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus’s call to prayer struck me, even though I have read these verses many times in my life. Jesus stated the problem: there are not many willing to be workers. He even provided His disciples with the script for their prayer: Ask God to send out workers into His harvest field. Friends, the fields belong to no one other than God Himself. It is a simple agricultural truth: no one desires to see a harvest more than the One who owns the fields. So, when you pray to the Owner of the fields, you are praying in complete agreement with His stated purpose when you ask Him to send out workers to do that work.

Now, here is what struck me: why are there so few workers in the Lord’s harvest field? The answer seems to be, there are few workers because harvesting is hard work. In the King James Version, Jesus calls for laborers. Laborers are blue-collar workers. By the end of a hard day’s work, a laborer’s clothes are sweaty and his hands are dirty. There is dirt under his nails and his armpits smell. There is not a lot of prestige in being a blue-collar worker. It’s hard work. Most people want to be white collar. We would much rather supervise. We want to walk around and look important. We want to be well paid without having to invest a lot of sweat equity in the task at hand.

I have a dream today of a church comprised of people who are willing to get their hands dirty, who are willing to say, “Yes!” to Jesus’ prayer request. You know that when you pray a Jesus prayer, God begins to work in your heart so you become willing to be the answer to your own prayer. That is not only why there are so few workers, it is also why there are so few people willing to pray. Our rebellious and sinful hearts don’t want to give the Sovereign God that kind of access to our lives! We want Him to do all kinds of favors for us, but we are unwilling to give ourselves to Him. Friends, when we give ourselves to God, that is the very moment stewardship begins in our lives.

I have come to believe that one of the points of believing prayer is for us to be willing to say, “Yes” to God. What does it mean if we insist on praying that God would give someone else the desire to love another person in Jesus’s name if we are not willing to do the loving ourselves? That is hypocrisy. It means I am willing to pray that God would use you, but I am unwilling for God to use me to answer my own prayer – my prayer that I am making in the name of, and in agreement with, the nature and character of Jesus!

Immediately following this at the start of chapter 10, Jesus called His disciples and charged them with authority minister freedom to the demonized and to heal the sick. They said, “yes” to God. Jesus sent them out to minister the Gospel, and in a very real way, this act was a direct answer to this prayer. It’s true; they were willing to go because they were not going alone. They were also willing to go because they found the impetus; they found the inner charge to fire their imagination and their passion in their relationship with Jesus. Only a fool would work hard for something he didn’t believe. They were willing because their hearts were drawn close to Jesus so that His priorities became their priorities. When the disciples prayed this prayer, they had no idea how God might answer it. But we know. Our experience with God tells us He is honored when His children agree with His purpose. That dream of mine has not yet come to fruition because we are not yet at that place in our own walk with Jesus. It is not so much that we don’t want to go to some poor and struggling nation overseas; as it is we do not know Jesus well enough to find His passion burning in our hearts to reach across the street.

In my dream, none of that is a problem any longer because we have become a church of people who are unwilling to be embarrassed by our love for Jesus. In our culture, that is a huge statement. “Jesus, come be the fire inside of me.” That is what it will take, friends, for you to share this dream I have. You and I need to find the heart of Jesus beating and burning within us. It has to mean something to us that 98.5% of the people living on Cape Cod have no personal knowledge of the Savior!

I want to ask you to dream a little dream with me. Let God speak to you today and allow Him to give you the same dream, of a Cape Cod in which the revelation of God flows like a river. This field does not belong to you or me; the field belongs to Him who is Lord of the harvest.

Would you pray along with me: Jesus, I am willing to say, Yes to you this morning. I want to dream for Cape Cod what you dream for this region. You are the Lord of the harvest. You are the owner of this field. This field is ripe and this field is ready. God, I want to take your point of view. I am also not willing that any should perish. I am not willing that Cape Cod should pass into eternity with no hope for tomorrow. Take hold of our hearts for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

--
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559

Church Office: 508-563-3164
www.pocassetbaptist.org

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