God has a way of taking our moments of deepest confusion and doubt and using them to strengthen our trust and dependence on Him. He takes our seeds of faith and turns them into a tower of conviction and confidence. When we are most perplexed, He is most in control. When we are weakest, He is strongest. When we need Him, He is always there.
David Wilkerson, my friend and mentor, is a living testament to this truth. More than any man I know, he trusts God implicitly. He never allows confusion or doubt or other people to steer his decisions. Every worry, every question, every moment of concern is placed at the feet of Jesus until he hears an answer. He listens to God and God alone. That is why God has used him so mightily in his life and ministry.
David Wilkerson was just a country preacher from Pennsylvania when God told him to go to New York and reach out to the gangs. He had been watching a news program that discussed the gang problem in the inner city when God spoke to his spirit and told him to go. No one could imagine this skinny preacher being able to reach such a hardened group, yet he obeyed and went.
I’ll never forget his boldness in the face of danger. We cursed at him, humiliated him, screamed in his face, yet he kept coming back. I would never have stepped foot into a church building had I not been so fascinated by his guts, his complete disregard for his own safety. What would make a man do such a thing? What kind of God would give a man such confidence, such trust, such gumption that he could walk into the middle of hell and stare down the devil himself? What would make a scrawny street preacher think he could come onto our turf and tell us what to believe?
I had to know, so I went to his service at St. Nicolas Arena. In front of hundreds of strangers and dozens of my fellow gang members, I fell to my knees before the altar and surrendered to Jesus. I cried out for Him to save me, and He did. I gave up trying to do it on my own. I looked at David Wilkerson, at the love in his eyes, at the peace in his spirit, at the courage in his heart, and I knew that I wanted what he had. This was a God I could worship. This was a Jesus I could relate to.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
Where did the disciples start their ministry? Jesus sent them to the distressed, the poor, those who were bowed down with sin, bondages and life-controlling habits. “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
I think of the Teen Challenge drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry, with its 1100 centers worldwide. And I think of scores of other reapers who have gone to other countries and seen miracles of salvation as they’ve ministered to the neediest, poorest, most devil-bound people. They’re starting to reap exactly where Jesus started His harvest: among the lost sheep, the captives, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, the lepers, the blind, the poor, those who mourn, those with a spirit of heaviness, those who are distressed and disconcerted.
Consider Paul’s words: “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not . . . that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).
Dear saint, Jesus knew what we were going to face in these last days: a generation steeped in sin far more than any other; stress and loneliness such as has never been experienced by man; financial disasters; rampant divorce; militant homosexuality; immorality that would bring a blush to even the worst sinners just thirty years ago.
This is why Christ seeks laborers who have submitted to the fires and forgings. He wants a people who will stand before the world and proclaim: “God is with me! Satan cannot stop me. Just look at my life. I’ve been through fire after fire, pounded again and again. But I’ve come through it all more than a conqueror through Christ, who lives in me. What I have preached has worked for me. I am living proof that Jesus is all-sufficient!”
When Moses told Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” it was because God had announced the time for harvest. The moment had come for Israel’s deliverance from captivity!
But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh represents Satan’s demonic system, including false religions and oppression that hold people under bondage.
Before Israel could be delivered, the powers of darkness had to be shaken. So God struck Egypt with nine natural calamities. Yet those nine disasters only hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
Finally, there came a calamity so devastating that everyone in Egypt—from the rulers down to ordinary citizens—knew this wasn’t just nature out of control. It was God speaking. The Lord had sent an angel of death, and in one night the eldest son in every Egyptian family died, including Pharaoh’s son. The very next day, Israel paraded out of Egypt. Here was the harvest that came just before judgment.
Centuries later, when Jesus announced the ripe harvest in Jerusalem, He knew judgment was about to come. Years hence, Titus and his army would invade the city, and 1.2 million people would be killed. Many would be hung on crosses, and the city itself would be burned to the ground.
This is why Jesus warned His generation, “You say there are four months before harvest. But I’m telling you, the harvest has to begin now. You have to be about the will of God, because the greatest calamity is at your door. I’m commissioning you now to finish My work. The time to start reaping is today.”
How did Jesus describe the calamity that was to come? “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). Yet, before that calamity came, it would be time for the harvest.
Jesus understood men’s hearts and knew that we forget God in times of prosperity.
Christ knew that in times of distress and calamity, people are forced to face eternity. Suffering, fear and hard times ripen people for hearing and receiving the gospel. Consider the context of His words: “When he saw the multitudes . . . because they fainted . . . then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous” (Matthew 9:36–37, italics mine).
This truth has been demonstrated throughout the history of God’s people. Moses reprimanded his generation, saying, “God led you. He increased your numbers. And He greatly blessed you, giving you green fields, honey, butter, milk, sheep, oil, fruit. But you grew rich and rebelled. You lightly esteemed the Rock of your salvation, and forsook Him.”
“But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat . . . thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deuteronomy 32:15).
Scripture tells us Israel was brought low after this. Yet, in their distress, they called upon the Lord, and He delivered them: “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:6, italics mine).
Consider also David’s testimony: “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears” (Psalm 18:4–6, italics mine).
Trouble, distress and perplexity have always birthed a cry for help. This has been the pattern throughout the centuries. You remember what happened after the Twin Towers in New York fell: churches were packed! Prayer meetings were held in Yankee Stadium. Congressional leaders gathered on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, praying, and singing “God Bless America.”
For a season, God was the talk of the nation. Fear and distress had made people think about finding truth. And that sums up the law of the harvest: THE DARKER THE DAYS, THE WHITER THE HARVEST.
Jesus gives us a picture of what the last days will look like. This last-days picture began at His ascension and it will end only when He comes again—and we are getting very close to that point now!
Jesus’ disciples wanted to know the condition of things as the last days approach and He answered by speaking of famines, earthquakes, tribulations, nations divided. False prophets and false Christs will deceive many and lead multitudes astray. Believers will be hated for even mentioning Christ’s name. And the love of many will grow cold, with some falling away because of the bold increase of sin and lawlessness.
“Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25–26). In short, Jesus is describing the most anxious, depressed, stressed-out generation of all time.
So, are His prophecies happening now, right before our eyes? Think about it. This generation definitely is full of anxiety and worry. Multitudes are fearful as they watch incredible disasters unfold: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, tornados. Entire nations tremble with fear over the threat of terrorism. And heart failure is the number-one killer in the world today.
False religions, false prophets, false Christs are leading many astray. Millions are turning to Islam, with nation after nation infiltrated by Islamics. You would have to be in total denial if you didn’t see that everything that can be shaken right now is being shaken.
In the midst of all this upheaval and turmoil, I hear Jesus’ words: “The fields are white. The harvest is plentiful” (see John 4:35). I’m convinced that He is telling His Church, “People are ready to hear. This is the time to believe for a harvest. Now is the time for you to start reaping.”
Christ is the Lord of the harvest and if He declares that the harvest is ready, we must believe it. It doesn’t matter how wicked this generation becomes. It doesn’t matter how powerful Satan seems to have grown. Our Lord is saying to us, “Stop focusing on the difficulties around you. Instead, raise up your eyes. It’s time for you to see that the harvest is ready.”