John 9:4 – As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. (NIV)
When I first went to work in Maybole, Scotland, I used to enjoy visiting the local farmers. They loved the land — and their families had been working on it for many generations. From first light to twilight, they would constantly labour in the fields, checking on the crops. In late fall, they would bring in the harvest, working from dawn till dusk, usually with their whole family, neighbours, and seasonal farmhands. All day long, they would labour together, and as soon as darkness descended, they all would head back to the main farmhouse for a well-deserved dinner.
One year, things changed. Some agricultural inventor found a way to put a bright spotlight on the front of tractors and combine-harvesters. To save money, the farmers worked well into the night, which meant they could hire fewer workers and bring in the harvest more quickly. I used to pity them working so hard in the fields, when I headed home from church meetings late at night. Instead of using the natural cycle of work, from dawn to dusk, the farmers stressed themselves out trying to get everything done in a short space of time. It ruined their health, upset their families, and disjointed the community. Instead of bringing themselves blessings of later leisure, they were burdened by overworking and were totally exhausted at the end of harvest. Farming was always a hard life, but this made it even more so, and once a farmer decided to use spotlights for harvesting, there was no turning back.
In John's gospel, Christ speaks to us across the centuries about working in His light. For His disciples, there was a special urgency because He was speaking about His personal ministry in Palestine. Jesus knew that He had only three years to get His message across and that one day, His disciples would be without His physical presence. Without Him, it would seem as though they were in darkness.
For us, two thousand years later, His message doesn't have that same personal urgency. He is the light of the world that can never be extinguished, so the Church can constantly work in the fields of humanity, across the entire globe. Death is the only darkness that may stop us momentarily in our personal lives, but the work of the Church goes on. Unlike the farmers in Scotland, though, we don't have to depend upon our own strength, resources, and energy. Christ has given us the Holy Spirit to continue His great work amongst us. So long as there is time in the world, there are more souls that can be won, gathered, and harvested for God each day. Our mission is to do what we can, when we can.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep us working for You in the world. Energize our spirits and move our hearts; fill our souls and bless our churches, so that we may continue to add to the millions of those who are saved for Your kingdom — within our own lifetimes, from our birth to death, from life's dawning till its dusk. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.