In just a few days we will celebrate Labor Day. This was a day originally set aside to recognize and celebrate workers who built this nation. Tracing its origin to the labor movement in the late 19th century, in 1894 Labor Day became a federal holiday. Today it is primarily associated with the end of summer and lots of sales! The Bible has much to say about labor and laborers, beginning in Genesis after the fall, when God made it clear that man would be required to work the soil to get his food (Genesis 3:17-19).
Later God would make clear that despite our labor, we are to set aside a day for Sabbath. In Exodus 5:13-14 we read, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.” The nation of Israel labored to restore the walls of Jerusalem when they returned from the exile. The Psalmist also wrote about the fruits of your labors.
Even Jesus spoke about labor, but He put it in context of service. In Luke 10:2 He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” We are the laborers for which Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray. Isn’t it fascinating that all these years after Jesus spoke this to His disciples the words still ring true two thousand years later. The harvest is still plentiful and we are the laborers chosen in this generation to work the fields for the sake of Jesus. And the field is huge and continues to grow!
The Florida-Georgia District is almost 110,000 square miles, providing a home to over 30 million people. Our population continues to increase while many of our congregations experience a decrease. Jesus continues to bring people to our shores and to our doors, but somehow reaching them with His love has proved to be a difficult challenge for us. The fields are white unto harvest, yet fewer seem to be willing to answer the call from Jesus.
As I’ve considered these facts I have thought about reasons why it might be so. Perhaps people lack training? Perhaps they lack time? May it never be that they lack the inclination or desire to engage in the Master’s business to connect people to Jesus! To push this off on another, as if it is the responsibility of someone else, is to ignore the call of Jesus, who has called you and me and promised to give us all we need to carry out the task He calls us to. More than that, He walks beside us every step of the way to empower our witness for Him.
A few weeks ago I was preparing a sermon on Peter’s confession of faith in Matthew. That section of Matthew 16 ends with this line: “Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ.” I joked with the congregation that this seems to be the only part of the story that we, as followers, consistently carry out! Imagine if everyone who proclaimed Jesus as their Lord and Savior actually lived out and shared their faith with others. It could change the world as people are connected to Jesus!
This is where our labor really isn’t hard work. Years ago our Synod had an evangelistic push, “Each one reach one!” How the world would be different if we did! Telling people about the One who has transformed your life is a privilege! We get to tell people about how we have a God who provides; a God who heals; a God who forgives sins; a God who loves and cares with a deep compassion; and a God who claims us and will never forsake us. More than that, imagine the joy of adding brothers and sisters to our family as God uses us to rescue those lost in the darkness of sin.
Certainly making time to share our faith in Jesus isn’t always an easy task. It takes a level of commitment that is often reserved for other self-interests. It takes courage and vision, having our eyes open to the opportunities all around us, not to mention inspiration by the Holy Spirit. It also takes coaching and encouragement. Someone has said that the purpose of the church is to bring people in, build them up, and send them out into the world to proclaim Jesus. Looking to the future, we will be providing more intentional training opportunities to equip people for ministry. In fact, there are some great resources online through Lutheran Hour Ministries right now that you can learn from in your own home! The Florida-Georgia District will continually emphasize the need to engage in the Master’s business to connect people to Jesus. This is our calling! Another way of stating this is we have a great opportunity and privilege to multiply ministry and reach more people for Jesus while there is still time. Don’t wait for an invitation; as the old Nike commercial used to say, “Just Do It!” One of our former Synod Presidents used to remark that time is short and hell is hot, so we need to be out there reaching the lost and pointing them to Jesus!
In the midst of this, Jesus promises to be beside us all the way. In fact, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28–12:1). Jesus invites us to come and rest in Him so that we can be strengthened and renewed for service. His yoke really is easy, and His burden is light. He will equip us and empower us to go in His name to connect people to Jesus!
We don’t go it alone—ever! Jesus says He will never leave us nor forsake us. He always walks beside us as He empowers us to tell others about Him. We may not always see the result that we anticipate or want, but Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers [and sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I’ve often said that God is less interested in our ability and more interested in our availability.
As we live in a mission opportunity world, my heart’s desire is to see leaders trained in the Florida-Georgia District among our pastors, all professional church workers and laity to reach more people for Jesus while there’s still time. Could there be a more glorious labor for us to be involved with? As you celebrate Labor Day, remember Jesus’ call to be in His harvest field, engaged in the Master’s business, connecting people to Jesus!
Peace in Jesus,