What interesting times Jesus must have had with His disciples. Sometimes these hand-picked associates just did not get it. Take, for example, the well-known and often-preached story of John 4:1-38 about the Samaritan woman, aka, "the woman at the well."
In it we find Jesus breaking through cultural, religious and gender barriers to talk with a woman who would have been the target of gossip in plenty of today's churches. She had been married five times, and at the time she met Jesus she had a live-in lover. Any Christian in his or her right mind would have seen that she was an awesome candidate for God's redeeming love.
Strangely enough, Jesus' associates didn't. They could not see the potential for ministry right in front of them. They lacked a vision for the likely transformation of this Samaritan woman's life.
In the midst of their apparent cluelessness, Jesus issued this clarion call: "Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35, NKJV). With that statement, He was nailing His trainees' lack of vision for the lost right between the eyes, so to speak.
Vision--without it we perish, Proverbs 29:18 says. Must be pretty important. Yet what does it mean to have a "vision" for people who don't know Jesus?
Well, first, it does not mean that you have to break out in hives and sob uncontrollably when an unsaved person walks by (although a little brokenheartedness over people wouldn't hurt). Rather, it begins with making God's heart your heart.
To have God's heart includes having God's desires in your heart. And one of His desires is for no one to perish but for all people to repent (see 2 Pet. 3:9).
So how do you develop your own vision for the "harvest"? It's not as difficult as you think. Here are a few practical steps you can take.
Pray. Everything starts, continues and ends with prayer. Prayer always changes things. How and what you pray is important.
Ask God to help you "lift up" (or "open") your eyes to see that many people you come in contact with daily are in desperate need of Jesus. Do you pray for unsaved people? Repent, if you need to, for not caring about the lost.
Soak it up. Vision can rub off on you. Proverbs says the righteous should choose their friends wisely (see 12:26). If you want a vision for reaching people for God, hang around people who are upbeat, enthusiastic, positive and involved in winning the lost (remember the effect Jesus had on His own disciples).
Try it. You won't have a vision for seeing lives transformed if you live like a spiritual couch potato stuck on a church pew. Don't be afraid to tell others about your experience with Christ. Try different types of evangelism. If you try something and it doesn't seem to work for you, try something else. You can develop vision while doing.
Change your diet. God has two primary "food groups" for believers: the Old Testament and New Testament. It is our supplementary diet that affects us more than we realize. There are two that most believers choose from. Both will affect your vision for harvest.
One is self-help books, even religious ones, the so-called how-to stuff--how to look better, feel better, lose weight or get more. If all you read, watch or listen to is this, then your vision extends no further than you.
The other is a passive rather than active faith. This is exemplified in the question asked of the disciples in Acts 1:11: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?"
It was another instance of Jesus' associates not getting it. They were trying to figure out how Jesus would return, but they had already forgotten what He had just told them about receiving power to become His witnesses (see Acts 1:8).
If we are self-absorbed or craning our necks skyward in an attempt to figure out some superspiritual thing, then we cannot experience the joy of sharing God's vision for those who might be right in front of us. Like He did with His first disciples, Jesus wants to show you the incredible possibility you have for touching someone with His love.
Scott Hinkle is founder of Scott Hinkle Outreach Ministries in Phoenix. A veteran evangelist, he regularly leads street ministry teams during Mardi Gras and other major events. He also sponsors evangelism training conferences. For more information, visit his Web site at www.scotthinkle.org.