Just Go For It?

JUST GO FOR IT?

An article by Dr. Ron Sheveland

            My friend John is one of the gutsiest guys I know. As the director of training for an elite outdoor leadership school, he has taught everyone from mountain climbers to astronauts and been a part of risky adventures all around the world. But back when we were in our twenties I saw him terrified on the top of a bridge in Colorado. His fear was understandable. Not only was the bridge that we were planning to jump off quite high but he had almost drowned an hour before.

That morning John, my cousin David, and I set out on a wild ride down the Gunnison River in a rubber raft I had recently bought at a garage sale. For quite a while we did pretty well. We paddled through rapids and avoided a variety of dangers. But the addition of a new passenger did us in. 

It started quite comically. Up ahead on the river bank, we saw Jim, John’s brother-in-law, waving his arms and asking for a ride. Since the current was too swift for us to stop he just took a running leap and jumped into our midst. When he hit, we were all trampolined up into the air and by the time we came down it was too late to take control of our craft and steer around a fallen tree. Splash! Suddenly we were all underwater being swept through branches and debris. When I finally surfaced I looked around and spotted everyone but John. After a way-too-long time he popped up at last.  

He later told us how when he first came up he found himself trapped without air under the raft. He tried to swim for safety but swam the wrong direction and once again came up under the raft. With desperation he punched the boat’s floor, gulped some air and then managed to pull himself sideways where he escaped the water’s grasp.

We collected our stuff and John finished the trip. But he was shook; for him, it was a near-death experience.

And that was just phase one of our adventure. After sending Jim on his way we drove to where the Gunnison River empties into the Blue Mesa Reservoir. We had heard that daredevils would jump off the bridge at that site and we wanted to try it ourselves.

We were full of bravado until we got on top and looked down. The distance to the water was scary. Repeatedly we would all pledge to jump on the count to three but would then chicken out. Finally Dave gave a war cry and leaped. His example motivated me and I went right after him. After being in the air about a half-hour we finally hit the water. (Okay, that may be an slight exaggeration.) And John? Well, he was still up on the bridge.

“Jump, John, it’s a blast,” we yelled. “Go for it. Just go for it!

But John went nowhere.

Sometimes it is not easy to “go for it” — especially when our insides are crying out, “Oh no, I won’t go.”

That is the way many of us Christ followers feel when we hear God tell us to “go.” We read the biblical command to “Go and make disciples of all nations” and we are afraid to take the leap — especially when it comes to an intimidating moment of trying to share our faith with someone. I certainly struggle with this. Do you?

There is a passage of Scripture that has, however, really helped me.

Matthew 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (36) When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (37) Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (38) Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” … (10:5) These twelve Jesus sent out…

What did Jesus do? He went. He went to people doing two things: caring and sharing. He cared for people in their suffering and shared the good news of salvation. What should we do? The same thing. Simple, huh? Just go, care and share.

There is a problem here. Most Christians know what Jesus did. They know what they should do. But they usually don’t do it. They talk about it, teach about it, and sing about it but they rarely go and tell others about the “good news of the kingdom.” It could be fear, busyness or lack of confidence but it is always something. It is for me. I struggle to be the witness that I should be.

How do we motivate ourselves and others to actively care for people and share the good news of salvation? A common technique is guilt and shame.

After David and I swam to the bank and climbed up to the top of the bridge I told John that he didn’t have to jump if he didn’t want to. He looked relieved until my rascal cousin Dave said, “That’s right, you don’t have to jump… chicken-wimp, sissy baby.” That pushed him over the edge of his apprehensions and off John leaped.

That approach is often used to motivate Christians. Perhaps we are not quite this blunt but in essence we still say, “Come on you chicken-wimp, sissy-babies, just go! Just share your faith. Unfortunately, guilt and shame only has short-term effects. It may get you to jump once or twice but it doesn’t make you want to jump.

What’s the problem? I don’t think that God tells us to “just go for it.” Internal adjustments must be made before there can be the right external actions. Before we even ask, Will you go like Jesus went?, there are other “inward” questions that we must first ask before attempting to go “outward.” This passage shows us how to ask the key questions that will stair-step us naturally toward the goal of sharing and caring like Christ did. 

1.         WILL YOU SEE WHAT JESUS SAW?

(36) When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd

Jesus looked at their hearts and saw their sad, spiritual plight. They had no direction, no guidance, no understanding and no protection because they had no shepherd. Like lost, wandering sheep, they were harassed and helpless. Sometimes sheep that had no shepherd would be chased and attacked by packs of wild dogs. Finally exhausted the sheep would be left lying on the ground unable to exert or protect themselves. There they would viciously mauled. Jesus saw people like those poor sheep. All people.

It is easy for us to view video clips of emaciated, bloated-stomached starving Africans and be deeply moved or to drive past a disheveled, homeless man and be gripped with pity — and well we should. Jesus cares about people in physical suffering; this passage shows Him providing healing for people with afflictions. But his greater fixation seems to be on a deeper suffering — the spiritual brokenness of souls. When we look at people, do we see them that way? It is even harder to look at those that are financially and physically well off — the ones with the good homes, good jobs, good families, good this and good that, and to remember that if they are without Christ they are helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd. If we could see them through God’s eyes, we would see them as spiritually lost, lonely, and hurting.

This is admittedly difficult. Seeing the physical is much more tangible than seeing the spiritual. Many years ago, when I was even more foolish than today, I had my deacon chairman help me with an illustration. He interrupted me in the middle of my sermon with a note (which, to let you in our scheme, I had written beforehand). Pretending like I was reading it for the first time, I announced, “There is a boy who is lost and in apparent danger. Would anyone be willing to immediately join a search party?” Hands went up all over the auditorium. Then I told them that the boy wasn’t lost physically, he was lost spiritually and there are many more in our community just like him. “Now how many of you feel the urgency to quickly join a search party?” This time I didn’t have the same level of volunteerism. I think that is because we don’t see people like Jesus sees them.

But God will correct our vision if we prayerfully request His help. Ask God for spiritual eyes so that you can see as Jesus saw.

2.         WILL YOU FEEL WHAT JESUS FELT?

(36)When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus often looked at the lost through tear-filled eyes.  “The word which is used here for moved with compassion (splagchnisthesis) is the strongest word for pity in the Greek language.  It is formed from the word splagchna which means the bowels, and it describes the compassion which moves a man to the deepest depths of his being” (William Barclay, “The Gospel of Matthew”, p.354).  The modern equivalent to this deep gut-level love would be our expression, “I love you with all of my heart.”  Jesus looked at the lost through tear-filled eyes.  He had a passion for them.

Many years ago, evangelist Charles Alexander wanted to learn more about the life conditions of the people of inner New York City – one of America’s largest towns.  So Sam Hadly, the director of the Water Street Mission, gave him a late night tour of a district filled with bars, gambling dens, and houses of prostitution.  About 2 AM Alexander was sick of what he had seen and asked Hadly to take him back.  Just after they parted, Alexander looked back and saw Hadly leaning against a pole with his head against his arm.  Thinking Hadly was also ill, he approached him from behind, only to hear Hadly sob out this prayer, “Oh-h God!  Oh-h God!  The sin of this city!  The sin of this city is breaking my heart.  Oh-h-h God!!”  Sam Hadley’s heart was broken with compassion for the lost.

Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, used to say, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” There are still so many lost…in our families, neighborhoods, city, state, nation and world.  How do we feel about that? This year an estimated 30 million people will die without Christ.  Six major nations have no known believers.  Hundreds of millions believe in false gods.  Hundreds more believe in no god. And I am not just talking about overseas; America is estimated to be the fifth largest mission field in the world.  Do we care?  Do you care?  Will you feel what Jesus felt?

3.               WILL YOU ASK WHAT JESUS ASKED?            

(37) Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (38) Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

We have the idea that those around us aren’t ripe for salvation.  That is an inaccurate assumption.  People have an inner hunger that only Christ can satisfy.  Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful.”  In John 4:35, Jesus declared, “…open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.”

Bill Bright said, “We Christians are often guilty presenting the gospel with an attitude that says, “Uh…you wouldn’t want to receive the greatest Gift available to mankind, would you?”  We don’t realize how many people are really ready to accept Christ, if only someone would show them how.  Our philosophy of witnessing should not be, “I’m sure he’ll say ‘no’ to Jesus?,” but rather, “Who could say ‘no’ to Jesus?”  We should always presuppose a positive response.

When I was a child my family moved to a new home that had two large apple trees. When we arrived the yard filled with rotting apples. The problem was that there had been no one to pick them. They were only good for, ah, well… throwing at my siblings. The next year my father, “the lord of the harvest” sent his sons out to pick them. We took them to a local Amish farmer who made them into enough containers of apple cider to last us for six months.          

How do we move people to reach out?  By prayer! We can pray generically for workers but we should also pray specifically for each other. Paul said, Pray also for me that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Eph. 6:19-20).  In Col. 4:2-5, he said, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  If the apostle needed others to pray for him to be bold and clear, we all need it. So let’s help one another with our prayers.

By faith we believe that there will be a harvest.  By prayer we obtain harvesters. Before we attempt to talk to people about God, we should talk to God about people.  Will you ask what Jesus asked?

And now we are ready for the big question that we surfaced earlier. After asking whether we are willing to see like Jesus, feel like Jesus and ask like Jesus, it is now the right time to ask…

4.         WILL YOU GO LIKE JESUS WENT? 

(9:35) Jesus went… (10:5) These twelve Jesus sent out…

Prayer and work goes hand in hand.  In chapter ten, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples that he had just instructed to pray for workers.

Martin Luther and another monk became burdened for the revitalization of the church.  They formed an agreement.  Luther determined to get on the front lines and the monk declared he would stay in the monastery and support Luther with his prayers.  But after several months the monk had a dream where he saw a huge harvest with only one man swinging a sickle — Luther.  He realized prayer was good but he too needed to get out into the field.

We must pray and act.

Will you see, feel, ask, and go what Jesus did? Visualize it (and as a memory aid, pantomine it) this way. See with your eyes (point at your eyes), feel with your heart (point at your heart), ask on your knees (point at your knees), and then step out (point at your feet), and go.

There is a natural progression here.  When you SEE what Jesus saw, you will FEEL what Jesus felt.  When you feel what Jesus felt, you will ASK what Jesus asked.  When you ask what Jesus asked, you will GO like Jesus went. You will be ready and willing to take the leap and start sharing the good news! 

These four steps, which could also be labeled, Vision, Passion, Intercession, and Mission, will help you reach out to your world. It is not enough to reorganize our lives so that there is more room for our compassion, we need to realign our lives.  We need to seek to be more like Jesus.  We need to see like Jesus, feel like Jesus, pray like Jesus, and then, go like Jesus.  As we become more Christ-like we will be transformed into the kind of disciples that follow His footsteps right to the people that surround us. Do this and you will be ready and willing to…

GO FOR IT!

 Dr. Ron Sheveland is an author and the director of I-Training, a missions ministry that specializes in international teaching and internet resourcing. Please visit the I-Training website at www.i-training.info. 

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