Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37–38—NKJV)

Understanding the believer’s role as a witness is one of the bugaboos of our time. We all know our job is to tell others the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that He died, paying the penalty for the sins of those who trust Him as Redeemer/Savior, and rose from the grave in victory so that we may live. We have studied witnessing techniques, examined our gifts, and focused on knowing all the answers, yet our consciences are harried by thoughts that we are not great witnesses, certainly not like our Lord intended.

As we all know, most witnessing plans were designed by extroverts who love confronting people. They have much to teach the rest of us such as schooling us in biblical answers and in the nature of people, especially if their programs are grounded in the Word and reflect good theology. We do well to give a great deal of time to honing our Bible knowledge and remembering the “pit from which we were dug.” We serve a Great Savior who does great things.

Our text goes a long way to allaying our fears of inadequacy and defines our role as witnesses for the harvest work of Jesus Christ. It is known as a great missionary text, and so it is. However, it should also be known to us as a great witnessing text for all believers. Witnessing is not just for “the professional, the called, or for the practiced.” It is for anyone who has personally witnessed the life transforming work of Jesus Christ in their own heart and recognizes the duty of passing along the same blessing to any who will listen.

In the context, Jesus is calling his disciples apart and is going to equip them to travel throughout the country with the good news of His future kingdom. He will later equip them with practical advice. As he begins to speak to them, He is moved with compassion by seeing the reality of the need of the people surrounding Him and His disciples. Verse 36 describes them as sheep weary (literally “flayed”) and scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Our Lord was mightily moved with compassion by the sight.

Without this same holy sense of vision, any current form of witnessing has no heart. Spend time observing the lostness of the people around you—observe their sheep-like wounds from Satan, the “roaring lion,” and from the treacherous dangers of their wilderness way. Notice their scattering to the wind as they each seek to pick out and pursue their own lonely “path.” A heart of compassion is indispensable for the soul who would be a great witness.

Moved with compassion, Jesus beckons to His disciples to recognize their place in the great mission of witnessing, for there is timely work to be done. It is harvesting work. The harvest is only one part of the farmer’s task. The Lord of the harvest has prepared the field, sown the seed, tended and guarded the crop, expectantly waited, and the day of harvest has arrived all at once, in abundance, and in its time. The problem is that the laborers are few, and this is where you and I come in. Recognize your uniqueness to the task; there are just not many true laborers and you are crucial to the work.

Prayer takes center stage at the beginning of verse 38. Just as there is no substitute for a compassionate heart in witnessing, neither is there a substitute for utter dependence upon the Lord in the harvest work. Without guidance from the Lord of the Harvest there will be premature picking along with mishandled and spoiled fruit between the field and the barn.

Finally, observe the role of the witness, for he is nothing more than a laborer. He is durable, determined, dutiful, and diligent—steadily seeking and gathering with practiced hands the harvest of the fruits of the labors of Someone else—the Lord of the harvest.

Examine your heart of compassion, your dependence upon Christ, and your role of a simple laborer in the harvest fields of the Master, and set yourself to labor while the daylight of redemption shines. Trust and obey.