John 4:35 Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”
But Jesus’s disciples couldn’t see it.
The “fields” before them at the moment were a large group of Samaritans walking toward them. Jews and Samaritans were suspicious of each other. Besides, Samaritans had their own religion. Except for a woman who’d believed the Messiah’s message just a few minutes earlier, there were no followers of Jesus among the Samaritans. Surely, reasoned the disciples, the Samaritans would have no interest in the Christ of the Jews. No fields white for harvest here. Not now, anyway.
Jesus calls us to believe that “the fields are white for harvest” even when we see few conversions.
How could Jesus say that the fields were white for harvest when He’s had just one convert among the Samaritans?
How can we believe the fields are white for harvest when we’re seeing so few converted in our place of ministry?
Let’s look at some of the trends in our culture.
Look at the current interest in practices like meditation and yoga. Almost everyone has heard of Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, or the Dalai Lama and others famous for promoting some form of non-Christian meditation. But meditation is so mainstream to the culture now that one need not be a devotee of a New Age leader or an eastern religion to advocate it. Attempting to argue for a purely secular form of the practice, ABC news anchor Dan Harris wrote an award-winning book claiming that such meditation can make us 10% happier. Yoga has so grown in popularity that about one in ten Americans has tried it.
Look at the interest in near-death experiences. Books about what Tim Challies called “heaven tourism” have, according to the Washington Post, “conquered the publishing world.” Despite their conflicts with biblical teaching, more than twenty million copies of such books have been sold, and at least one has been turned into a major motion picture. Most people want to know what’s beyond the veil of death.
Look at the interest in spirituality. A 2012 survey by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project indicated that 37% of Americans considered themselves “spiritual but not religious.” The group has become such a large demographic group that it now has its own acronym—SBNR. Everyone is “spiritual” today. Just try to find someone who will say, “I’m just not very spiritual.”
“Sure,” you might say, “all that interest is out there, but none of it is the right kind of interest. What does this have to do with the fields being white for harvest?”
Spurgeon compared this kind of interest in meditation, near-death experiences, and spirituality to spiritual thorns, but then said:
If I were going to take a farm, I would sooner take one that was overgrown with thistles than one which grew nothing at all, and it is better to lay hold of a man who really does think about something than of one who thinks about nothing at all.[i]
Am I saying that if someone has one of these interests then he or she is on the verge of becoming a follower of Jesus? No, for only God can know that.
What I am saying is that, like Jesus, let’s look for such interest in those around us and use that interest as a bridge to the good news about Jesus.
[i] C. H. Spurgeon, “Fields White for Harvest,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1867; reprint, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1980), 462.