Lift Up Your Eyes
By David A Womack
When you were a child, your world was only slightly bigger than you were. At first, it was hardly more than your crib, your mother’s arms, your father’s voice, and the faces of family, friends, and relatives. By now you have forgotten the day you discovered your own toes, but at the time it was a wonderful breakthrough that entertained you for hours on end. Of course, it probably was easier to touch your toes in those days.
When you learned to crawl, an exciting new world opened up to you; and when you began to walk, the whole house became a marvelous place of things to do and places to explore.
And then one day you found the windows. You pressed your little nose against the glass and saw another world beyond the limits of your enclosed life. When at last you were introduced to the great outdoors, your parents told you to stay in your yard; and only later were you permitted to play on your block but not to cross any streets. Then came the big day when you first went to school and entered a much larger world of class-rooms, playgrounds, and friends. As you grew older, your world got larger day by day; and at last you left to seek your fortune in the even greater world of college, marriage, and work.
A big world still exists outside your windows and beyond your doors. It does not end with places to go or people to see, for there is a vast universe beyond your personal sphere to be discovered, experienced, and influenced.
The apostle Paul, writing about maturing from limited knowledge on earth to perfect knowledge in heaven, says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Every growing person must experience that progressive process; we must crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run.
The principle of physical, mental, and experiential growth may apply to anyone anywhere and at any time. However, as church people we have a special interest in this developmental process, since we face the dual challenge of (1) leading our children to personal salvation and commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and (2) leading believers into an understanding of and wholehearted dedication to the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. We must do more than get our children saved; we must acquaint them with the cause of Christ and produce the next generation of preachers, teachers, evangelists, prophets, and missionaries.
What we are talking about is missions education in the local church, everything that we do to motivate and involve people in the cause of Christ in the world and to pass down the church’s mission from one generation to another.
Our Worldwide Community
Missions education is not a phrase that occurs naturally in most conversations. Although as Pentecostal believers we are among the most missions-minded Christians in the world, our idea of missions often focuses on the bravery and dedication of individual missionaries and well-publicized projects and appeals rather than on missions as a whole. In today’s worldwide community, we often know the where or who of world missions, but we seldom know the how or why. Herein lies the challenge of missions education: to lead people into an understanding of and participation in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
While our personal world has been growing larger, the world itself has been shrinking. Missionaries used to travel for weeks on steamships to arrive at the lands of their calling, but today jet airplanes carry them to their fields in a few culture-shocking hours. The telephone, the telegraph, the television, and a range of telecommunications from radio to fiber optics to lasers to microwaves to orbiting satellites have combined to bring all the world within instantaneous earshot of the gospel.
National barriers are breaking down and the world is truly becoming one global village. Furthermore, the task of language learning is getting smaller. There are some 7,000 languages on earth, but most people now speak one or more of a few international tongues, such as English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Swahili, Hindi, and Arabic. The task still is not easy, but the goal of world evangelization seems much more attainable than in the past. The church of Jesus Christ now has more willing people with greater access to more effective resources than at any other time in its history.
Yet, while the world is getting smaller the task of world evangelization is getting bigger! In the first century when Jesus gave us the Great Commission, the world’s population was about 300 million people; and it was not until Columbus discovered America that the population reached 500 million. It took just over three more centuries before 1 billion people were alive at one time. Then, the population doubled in just over 100 years to 2 billion people. From the early Depression until about 1960, we added another billion; and then we added yet another billion in the 1970s, followed by still another in the 1980s. Now, with nearly 6 billion people in the world and the projection of 7 billion by the year 2000, we confront the awesome challenge of a world out of control, destroying itself and its environment, and with limited resources to feed its masses and sustain any acceptable quality of life. That is our mission field!
How providential that just as the Great Commission was about to be out of our reach, God gave us the technology to multiply and accelerate our evangelistic efforts. But the use of those resources and the development of creative concepts to apply them to our task will require a great increase in Christian awareness and commitment. If ever we needed effective missions education, we need it today.
That brings up the question, If we are to face the urgent challenge of motivating and teaching our people to reach the world for Christ, where may we best accomplish our task of missions education?
The answer is obvious: The most effective agency for missions education is the local church. Where else do we have the opportunity to shape the lives of people from the cradle to the grave? What other institution so deeply affects the lives, attitudes, and choices of Christian people as the local church? Mission boards and missionary societies may employ a wide variety of educational methods and promotional means, but all will fail without a strong identification with local churches and their deep relationships and influences.
How should we respond to the call to world missions, with the heart or with the head? Is personal commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ an emotional choice or an intellectual decision? It is both and more! We respond to the missionary call with the heart and the head and the feet and the hands and the mouth�indeed, with a total dedication that gives all we are and ever hope to be to the service of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Pass It On!
We have seen the why of missions education. Now let us seek the how. How may a local church educate its people for world missions? The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Notice the subjects in this verse:
EDUCATION Train up a child
DIRECTION The way he should go
MATURATION When he is old (or older)
CONTINUATION He will not depart from it
Missions: education must begin with the earliest impressions in childhood and continue through every phase and facet of life. The task of missions is the duty of the entire church, and we carry out that task by motivating an informed and committed congregation to teach its children, to support home and foreign missionaries, and to send forth its young people into full-time Christian service.
The Bible is absolutely clear about the church’s responsibility to pass on the faith and its obligations to the next generation.
I know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment (Genesis 18:19).
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons (Deuteronomy 4:9).
Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:7).
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (Psalm 78:2-7).
Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Continue thou [Timothy] in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14,15).
If, as we have said, the local church is the central agency of missions education, then why does the Bible place the responsibility on godly parents? Throughout its holy pages, God’s Word emphasizes individual responsibility and faithfulness. Every family certainly educates its children by word and deed; but beyond this, in the local church Christian families combine their efforts to teach and provide role models in an organized way. The church is a community of Christian families and single believers who join forces to accomplish together what God requires of them as families and individuals.
At first glance, we might have thought that missions education was simply one of many duties in the local church, but now we see that it is at the very heart of our whole obligation for passing on the faith to the next generation and reaching out to evangelize the present generation. Missions education is a vital ministry of the whole local church.
The Urgency of the Harvest
How may we educate our people, young and old alike, about the church’s task of world evangelization? How may we thrust in the sickle and reap the harvest? Jesus gave us the answers to those questions.
According to Jesus, missionary vision results from seeing the world through God’s eyes. He said in John 4:35, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”
As He spoke with His disciples, Jesus compared the church’s task to farmers expecting to reap a harvest. Yet He immediately pointed out that the work of the church is different from the work of the reapers of grain because there are no seasons to the worldwide harvest of souls. Farmers may say, “There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest,” but the human fields in which we labor are always ripe or “white already to harvest.” Therefore, the church always works in a dynamic present moment in which a harvest unreaped is grain forever lost.
Although we must plan for the future to have the people and resources to accomplish the task, we must always live and work in a vital now to bring in the present harvest. The apostle Paul wrote, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). It is always the right time to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Why then did Jesus use the illustration of the whitened harvest fields? When the fields are ripe and ready, farmers put everything else aside to give their whole attention to the gathering of the harvest. Jesus said the harvest of souls is ready now, and He expects His laborers to rush out to the fields, thrust in their sickles, and reap the ripened grain.
The challenge for missions� education in the local church is to make people of all ages aware of the harvest fields and to inspire and motivate them to commit themselves to the demands of the harvest.
Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes.” Let’s be certain we know what He meant. The New International Version of the Bible says, “Open your eyes.” The New Revised Standard Version says, “Look around you.” As in many passages, it turns out the King James Version is the most accurate translation of the original Greek text in which John wrote his Gospel. Generally today, people do not read as much as in previous generations, so they seek simplified and easy-to-read Bibles written in a style not found in the original Hebrew or Greek texts, No words for “open,” “look,” or “around you” appear in the text. Rather, John wrote the Greek word eparate (eh-PAH-rah-tay), a command form of a verb that meant to lift up, raise, or elevate. In different contexts it could be used to mean lift up your eyes, raise your voice, or lift up your hands in prayer.
Remember that Jesus was talking about the worldwide harvest of souls, the Great Commission or main task of the church. By saying, “Lift up your eyes,” He meant we are to make a conscious effort to relate ourselves to His harvest fields. We are to become aware of the spiritual condition of a lost world and to relate ourselves to the task of reaping in the waiting fields. We must become aware of the harvest, of the urgency of the Great Commission, of the need to thrust in the sickle of world evangelism and gather in the sheaves of the Lord’s golden grain. An old hymn says it very well: “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, / We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
By saying, “Lift up your eyes,” Jesus was telling us to give this subject our personal attention and purposely direct our interest to world missions. It is a command! All Christians are ordered to make the salvation of the lost a priority in their lives.
Jesus went on to say, “Look on the fields.” Most translations use the English word look in this phrase, but the Greek word theasasthe (thay-AH-sas-thay) includes more than that. It means to gaze, to discern with the eyes, or to give one’s full attention to something. The New Revised Standard Version says, “See how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” We are to do more than look; we are to give the Lord’s ripened fields our full attention! We must study, analyze, and reap the harvest.
According to the King James Version, Jesus then said that the fields “are white already to harvest.” Actually, the word “already” belongs with the following sentence, so this phrase should be translated, “Because they are white to the harvest,” followed by, “Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together” (John 4:36, author’s translation).
There are two activities related to the harvest: sowing and reaping. We must always be grateful for those who have gone before us to prepare the fields for today’s bountiful harvest; those devoted sowers and today’s faithful reapers will rejoice together in heaven over the results of their labors. But there is more! Those who reap in the Lord’s harvest of souls not only are gathering fruit for life in eternity, but also are benefiting now from God’s blessings. We have heard it said that God blesses a missionary-minded church. He also blesses people who become aware of the need, give it their full attention, and commit themselves to the task.
How ready is the harvest? When it comes to grain, we can say, “In 4 months comes the harvest,” because a whole field is planted in one operation, grows in predictable seasons, and turns ripe at the same time. Therefore the reapers may rest and wait for the precise time to go into the fields. But not so with the Lord’s harvest. New people are born every day, each one matures in his or her own lifetime, and people die every moment of every day. There is no season to God’s harvest, so the reapers cannot afford to wait or say that in 4 months they will launch a single effort. It is a constantly ripe field in which every believer must labor continuously.
Let’s try our own translation of Jesus’ words: “Don’t you say, ` Yet 4 months and the harvest comes’? Behold, I tell you, lift up your eyes and gaze intently on the fields because they are ripened white for the harvest.”
Lord of the Harvest
Matthew 9:37,38 says, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth la-borers into his harvest.”
RESPONSIBLE DISCIPLES REQUIRED
First, notice that those who are to consider the harvest are Jesus’ own disciples. This message is delivered directly to those who believe in Him. They are the ones responsible for personal witnessing, local evangelism, and home and foreign missions.
AWESOME HARVEST AWAITING
Second, there is an awesome and plentiful harvest. If Jesus could say what He did when there were only 300 million people on the earth, what must He think of today’s nearly 6 billion souls�at least half of whom have not heard enough about the gospel to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Fortunately, it is His harvest. He is Lord of the harvest, and we are His disciples.
SOCIABLE LABORERS SOUGHT
Third, there is a shortage of laborers. This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible, for the harvest is great and the laborers few. As if the numbers of lost people were not enough to inspire us to urgency, the failure of most Christians to grab a sickle and go to work is disturbing. It shows a lack of understanding of what Christ and His church are all about. The simple fact is that with the present number of workers and the size of the harvest, most people alive today are apt to go into eternity without ever having heard a clear explanation of who Jesus is or how to be saved.
What then are we to do? Should we launch a worldwide recruitment program? Should every church call together its congregation next Saturday morning and hit the streets? Should we mobilize a massive movement to knock on every door? Well, yes! However, most people are not won to the Lord through mass evangelization or blitzkrieg strategies; they come to Christ by the invitation of a friend�a method that requires the best in human relationships, social graces, and honest friendship. It would be much easier if we could evangelize the world in one fell swoop. However, except for occasional bursts to bring the gospel to the attention of the masses, the work of the Lord’s harvesters must occur one scythe swath at a time, with every reaper doing his or her part and overall progress resulting from the great number of harvesters in the field.
How may we attain such a widespread involvement of Christian people committed to world evangelization? Jesus said, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).
Pray ye! This is a challenge to spirituality, not just an alternative to good planning or religious strategies. Such human necessities as organization, mobilization, and structured evangelization will follow once we solve our spiritual problems.
Pray ye therefore! We must pray because of the plentiful condition of the harvest and the pitiful paucity of reapers. The reason for the lack of laborers is the spiritual state of the church. Only if the salvation of the lost is at the very core of its spiritual life will a church produce enough reapers to carry out its share of the harvest.
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest! It is His harvest, and He is the Harvest Master. We have said the lack of workers is a spiritual problem, and that problem centers on the lordship of Jesus Christ. If He is Lord, then we will be His disciples and do His will and His work. Once this relationship has been established, He will send forth laborers into His harvest. The harvest fields of lost humanity constitute the natural habitat of all true Christians. It is there that we belong and are ultimately most comfortable and best adapted. Unproductive Christianity is unnatural, uncommitted, and out of God’s will.
Notice that Jesus made no mention of the fields, even though that is where we generally put most of our emphasis. Our part is to pray. Once we have our attitudes, priorities, and relationships right, the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into His harvest. If every local church would lead its people into an awareness of the need (“Lift up your eyes”), attention to the need (“Look on the fields”), and aggressiveness in prayer for the need (“Pray ye”), we would have no shortage of reapers.
ATTITUDE AND ATMOSPHERE
The question is, How do we create the environment in which our people may become personally aware, practically attentive, and prayerfully aggressive in the harvest?
World missions is much more than a program. It rises out of the response of every believer in every church, because missions is a state of mind, of thinking like the Lord of the harvest because we are His disciples and have prepared ourselves with Him in prayer. On our knees before God we bring ourselves into focus with His will, and it is there that the Lord of the harvest says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
The challenge of missions education is to create an atmosphere in which people will respond wholeheartedly, individually and as a congregation, to the Master’s call. This is our task, what we are supposed to do and how intensely we are to become involved in it.
Throughout this book we will explore many means of missions education in the local church�what to do and how to do it. However, we will be working under a basic assumption that may or may not be valid for you and your church. We are launching ahead into this study in the belief that you are Pentecostal and that your church represents the kind of Christianity that should be spread to other parts of the world. We need to ask ourselves the question, If all churches in every nation were like mine, how long would it take to evangelize the world?
Our first priority for missions education must be to be the kind of church where developing young missionaries in our congregation may learn the attitudes and skills they will need on the world’s mission fields. If we are to expect them to see the heathen saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, healed, and delivered by the supernatural power of God, then we must train them by exposure to the same spiritual phenomena in their home churches. In the chapters that follow, we will assume that churches that want missionaries to spread the flame to the nations will themselves have that fire burning brightly in their own congregations.
This article “Lift Up Your Eyes’ written by David A. Womack and is excerpted from his book Spread the Flame.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”