When I look at my own spiritual health and the spiritual conditions of people around me, I often wonder what went wrong. Why am I still struggling with the same plaguing issues? Why is she still unable to get past that hurt? Why can’t he get his act together and lead in the way God has called him to lead.
- Maybe if my sermons were better.
- It might be a programming issue.
- If we just had a little more of this or a little less of that, then maybe they wouldn’t be spiritually stuck.
- Maybe I wouldn’t be either.
While we typically assume spiritual immaturity is a content issue, it often is a connection issue.
The Surprising Nature of Jesus’ Suggestion
As Jesus’ ministry was exploding, he was addressing every type of need imaginable (Matt. 9:35). Each day was full with another list of issues for him to address. Did he get tired? Frustrated? Do we see him wanting to throw in the towel?
Actually, when Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). He saw their pitiful dispositions and instead of it angering him, it caused compassion to rise up. He recognized that they had been harassed by hurtful people in this world. He acknowledged that they were helpless to experience change in the greatest needs of their lives.
They were like sheep. They were like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus then turns his eyes away from the sheep to the potential shepherds. He looked at his disciples, the guys who had a front row seat to the awe-inspiring level of commitment Jesus had to minister to people, and he told them what they needed. He told them what he expected.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37). These sheep are prime for success. Through natural eyes, that would have been difficult to see. They looked like train wrecks and not potential harvests. To those watching, these people were never going to produce anything. If change was ever going to happen, it should have happened by now. Jesus said the reason it had not was because no one was willing to put in the work. No one was willing to roll up their sleeves and get going in the type of ministry Jesus was calling them to do.
The Surprising Tactic Jesus Used to Get More Shepherds
Jesus didn’t ask them to commit just yet. He didn’t instruct them to do a volunteer push. He wasn’t calling them to put a guilt trip on anyone. He asked them to pray. He wanted them to really pray. And what was his prayer request?
“Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38). If these sheep need some people who didn’t mind getting their clothes dirty by the places they would often stray into and need help getting out of, he asked them to pray. We don’t need people who see this as a smart, tidy career path with natural eyes. We need workers who see souls that need guidance. These type of folks could only be those with spiritual eyes up to the task.
This harvest would be of a spiritual nature. These sheep would mature because their shepherds would watch over their growth.
The Surprising Reality That Needs to Change
So, what about you? Are you exasperated by the lack of growth in your life? In the lives of others?
Maybe it’s not a content issue. Maybe it’s that they need a shepherd. We all need someone watching out for our soul conditions.
Maybe the reason for lingering spiritual immaturity is because we don’t have anyone mature intentionally watching over us.
- If you are called a shepherd, are you truly caring for the sheep with compassion?
- If you have too many sheep in the flock to care for by yourself, do you have a plan to make sure every person has access to a shepherd (even if it isn’t you)?
- If you are a sheep, are you positioning yourself where you can be protected by a shepherd?
Jesus had compassion on those who needed it. We live in a time when many people need protection. They need a shepherd.
Sheep need shepherds more than they need courses on how to be sheep.