Is a rich harvest waiting where we have feared to go?

Driving through the deserts of the Middle East, you suddenly come upon a beautiful, verdant valley with a treelined village surrounded by lush vineyards, orchards and gardens. The governernment has favored this village with a deep well that supplies all the water needed for their agricultural and domestic needs.

On the edge of the village you pass a lovely melon patch surrounded by a thick, bushy hedge. The fertile soil; plenty of water and constant painstaking care have brought the luscious fruit to fruition. The hedge does fairly well in keeping out the rabbits and dogs, donkeys and goats but Oh, the birds! How to protect the crop? That's the gardener's big worry. One thing helps—a scarecrow. The gardener dresses it, puts it up on a stake in the center of the patch, holds out its arm with a stick fixed in one hand, and puts his hat on the scarecrow. That will be a threat to all the fainthearted!

But as you quietly pass by, you can't help but notice with glee that—of all things—a wise old crow is perched on the outstretched arm of the scarecrow, deliberately feasting on a portion of a juicy melon! You look a bit more carefully and notice that fearful little magpies, excited and nervous, twitter about under the hedge, lusting after the thirst-quenching melons, but afraid to partake. The scarecrow is there!

Outside the village and beyond its fields and orchards is the desert. Here you drive for hours, seeing no water, no trees, no gardens, no melons, and no scarecrows! No crows or magpies, either. The thought strikes home: the scarecrow is where the harvest is!

Fear of scarecrow?

Twenty percent of the world's population is Moslems. We have come to believe that work for Moslems is very difficult, rarely fruitful, and often dangerous. Can it be that as a church, for over a century, we have been trying to find melons in the desert? Like the ignorant, timid magpie, have we been twittering around the edge of the melon patch, not realizing that the scarecrow is immobile, powerless, unobserving, impervious and dead? Oh, it may look formidable. It may have a stick propped in its hand. It may wear the hat of a frightfully powerful and avaricious authority, but it is there only to scare, not to punish. It cannot hurt anyone. In the words of Jeremiah, "Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good" (Jer. 10:5 NIV). 

Actually, the scarecrow marks the most valuable spot where the harvest is greatest!

Fear of insecurity, of traditionalism, hesitancy to try new things and methods and places, restrictive policies, doubtful hearts, distrust of the Lord's omnipotent power, and disbelief in his unfailing promises ail reflect our magpie-like dread of the scarecrow.

Defeated foe

Though Satan appears to be a "roaring lion" (often through his specially trained agents), he is nothing but a scarecrow! This fact was amply demonstrated at the cross. Till Jesus comes, our battle is with this defeated foe. We will never gain decisive victory over him by intermittent efforts. "It is only by long, persevering effort, sore discipline, and stern conflict, that we shall overcome. We know not one day how strong will be our conflict the next. So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place." 1

"True Christian principle will not stop to weigh the consequences. It does not ask, What will people think of me if I do this? Or, how will it affect my worldly prospects if I do that?"2

Government regulations and edicts notwithstanding, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrated a faith that ennobled their lives and beautified their characters. Ellen White, commenting on these three worthies, challenged God's representatives of today in these thought-provoking words: "What a lesson is here given to the fainthearted, the vacillating, the cowardly in the cause of God! What encouragement to those who will not be turned aside from duty by threats or peril!"

"Christ identifies His interest with this class: He is not ashamed to call them brethren. There should be hundreds where there is now one among us, so closely allied to God, their lives in such close conformity to His will, that they would be bright and shining lights, sanctified wholly, in soul, body, and spirit." 3

The prophet Jeremiah was one such! He received a very undesirable call. Even before his birth he was ordained to perform a certain task. Of him it is written, "Before 1 formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5).

What was he to accomplish? "Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you! Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them" (Jer. 1:17). Further instruction came to him as to what God could do with the impenitent people to whom he was to bring God's message—God could even change the most unpromising situation in the accomplishment of His eternal purpose. And he told the story of the potter who could change the clay vessel that was marred into a a different jar (Jer. 18:1-10). So God can take the most discouraging situation and bring about a glorious result.

Greatest victories

The secret of power and the strategy of victory are spelled out in the writings of Ellen G. White: "The greatest victories to the church of Christ or to the individual Christian are not those that are gained by talent or education, by wealth or the favor of men. They are those victories that are gained in the audience chamber with God, when earnest, agonizing faith lays hold upon the mighty arm of power."4

Is anyone of us ignorant of God's expectations? Have we not read the gospel commission in the closing verses of Matthew's Gospel? Have we not read and re-read the Apostle Paul's advice to a young minister, Timothy, in which he warns, "There will be terrible times in the last days . . . Preach the Word; . . . do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry" (2 Tim. 3:1; 4:2, 5).

"God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them." Has God, the Creator of the universe, ever given His people an impossible task? When He commands, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15), is it for our destruction? Has He ever made a mistake? To have tried and failed is honorable. To have tried nothing is inexcusable!

We are now living in those "terrible times" of which Paul wrote. "We are living in the most solemn period of the world's history. The destiny of earth's teeming multitudes is about to be decided . . . We have not a moment to lose. Events of vital importance are taking place around us. We are on Satan's enchanted ground [in his melon patch, if you please]. Sleep not."6

Do you recall the experience of Peter and John? Though they had been strongly threatened if they did not stop preaching in the name of Jesus, the record says, "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42).

Were the members of the early church afraid the "church would be closed"? Were they warned to avoid imprisonment? Were they to avoid persecution at all costs? Where in the entire Bible or in the writings of Ellen White do we find any admonition to "keep open the churches"? Where do we find advice to compromise the Message in order to carry on the Work? It is up to us to "preach the Word" and leave the results in the hands of the Lord of the Harvest.

Strengthen faith

To strengthen your faith and confidence in God's leading, read about the witness and stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 and of their results in Acts 8 and 9. Recall the victory of David over Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Build up your faith by reading about the victory of God's people over the Egyptian army in Exodus 14. Be strengthened in your trust in God by reading about the deliverance from Assyria's 185,000-man army in 2 Kings 19 and about Elisha and the chariot of fire in 2 Kings 6. Be admonished also that not all were delivered, but many suffered as recorded in Hebrews 11. "What we want most is ... heart power, prayer to God in faith for His converting power... It is not brain power or purse power, but heart power, that the people need now."7

"To every one who offers himself to the Lord for service, withholding nothing, is given power for the attainment of measureless results."8 What more can we, His servants, ask for? Or in the plaintive appeal of the Lord, "What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?" (Isa. 5:4).

Work only among Christians and not the Moslems? Leave the unchurched and the unreached to their woeful destiny? Listen: "When we bring a stream of water into a garden to irrigate it, we do not provide for the watering of one place only, leaving the other parts dry and barren, to cry: 'Give us water.' And yet this represents the way in which the work has been carried forward in a few places, to the neglect of the great field. Shall the desolate places remain desolate? No. Let the stream flow through every place, carrying with it gladness and fertility."9

Do you question the counsel of God? When Moses was in trouble, he went to God for the solution of his problem. The Lord, as though surprised at Moses' lack of faith, asked, "Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you" (Num. 11:23).

Daniel's example

We can't help but remember Daniel and the trying experiences that came to him. Though Nebuchadnezzar had decreed the death sentence upon all the wise men and astrologers, the soothsayers and their students in the University of Babylon, Daniel was not troubled. He slept well that night, leaving his life and his future in the hands of the Lord. And it was in that very faith and trust that God spoke to him in a dream. Had he been so worried about his life that he couldn't have slept, would he have been given a dream? Dreams come only when one is asleep.

lear conscience, for everything was right between him and his Maker as well as with his fellowmen. He "did not hesitate. The approval of God was dearer to him than the favor of the most powerful earthly potentate—dearer than life itself. He determined to stand firm in his integrity, let the result be what it might." 10 Here we have an example for God's present-day witnesses. "As God called Daniel to witness for Him in Babylon, so He calls us to be His witnesses in the world today. In the smallest as well as the largest affairs of life, He desires us to reveal to men the principles of His kingdom . . . There is need of men who like Daniel will do and dare for the cause of right. Pure hearts, strong hands, fearless courage are needed."11

Remember: "The battle is not yours, but God's. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Do not be amid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you" (2 Chr. 20:1 5-1 7). When we follow the example of Jehoshaphat and do "what was right in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Chr. 20:32), we will succeed because there is a greater power with us than with all the combined forces of the world (see 1 John 4:4).

God's power

The power of God is moving already. We have been thrilled to learn that almost one-third of the membership of the West Indonesian Union are former Moslems! And in Bangladesh and in some parts of Africa, work among Moslems is meeting with success. Still, amazing as it may seem, almost nothing has been done for the Moslems of the Middle East, in the very cradle of Islam.

We praise Cod for what has been done. But much more needs to be done! With courage in the Lord, trust in His promises and obedience to His commands, let us recognize the futility of the scarecrow and work where the harvest is, where the scarecrow is the biggest and most formidable! Let us go forth to victory in the dark corners of the world. If some of us cannot go to the population centers of the Moslem world, perhaps Cod is calling us to the plot of ground with a house full of Moslems right next to our own homes! "May God forgive our terrible neglect in not doing the work that as yet we have scarcely touched with the tips of our fingers." 12

Could it be that the Lord's servant is referring to our Moslem neighbors and friends?

By launching out into the deep, we will be accomplishing that for which the Lord has been waiting patiently so long. Our Lord's final injunction was: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20). He will be with us, even as we go to, the Moslems! And when His work is completed, He will fulfill His other promise: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).


1. The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 560, 561.
2. The Sanctified Life, p. 39.
3. Ibid., pp. 40, 41.
4. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 203.
5. Prophets and Kings, p. 486.
6. The Great Controversy, p. 601, emphasis mine.
7. Reflecting Christ, p. 121.
8. Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 30, emphasis mine.
9. Ibid., p. 100.
10. Prophets and Kings, p. 483.
11. Ibid., pp. 487, 488.
12. Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 35.

Article taken from Ministry, September 1976.