“I’m an 11th hour laborer.” I felt the blood drain from my face as the realization struck me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I had been in Pentecost since early 1977. I had started teaching Sunday school by around, 1984 or earlier. I worked every meal, I cleaned the church, I sang solos and was in the choir. I headed up the Ladies Ministries for a period of time. I did fund-raisers, I was submissive to my Pastor and loved the Saints. The trouble was… I was not a soul winner.
I wasn’t even a soul-inviter or a soul-Bible-study-teacher. Oh, I was faithful. I tithed and gave as generously as I possibly could. I became a core member of the church and was a part of the leadership group. I was proud to be called a “Mother of Zion” by my Pastor and loved Saturday night prayer…but I was not a soul winner. I raised my children in this Holiness Way and got them to every camp and youth event. I made sure they dressed modestly and stayed out of trouble…but I was not a soul winner. I made sure to greet every visitor and shook their hands, I might have even gone so far as to sit next to one or two upon occasion, but I never cherished them or took them to me as a mother would her children or brought them into my home and made them a part of my inner circle of friends. I was content to be friendly at church but I did not Love that Soul. I was not a soul winner.
While the Faithful Ones labored in the field of harvest, day after day, week after week, month after year after decade…I lived the same minutes and hours and months and years and was like a sleep-walker, a dreamer. I dreamed I was working for God, but when I awoke, it was but a vapor and a night vision. There was nothing of substance to offer the Master. Martha’s house was kept running like a well oiled machine, but there was no fruit on the vine. My hand was not in the harvest.
Then, in God’s Mercy, He woke me up. I shook myself and looked around me. I was stricken when I realized that my service in my church had been like a white-washed tomb, a cloud without rain, a bird feeder with no seed. I wondered where I had been and what I had been doing all of these years. I looked at Matthew 20 more carefully.
Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.”
Where were those laborers when the householder went out early in the morning? My guess is that they just couldn’t be stirred. They were sleeping. The “do not disturb” sign was on the door.
3-4 “And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard,”
The 11th hour laborers missed this opportunity also! Why?? My guess is they may have actually stirred themselves after their leisurely morning and maybe even went so far as to check out the marketplace to look for work. They maybe even saw the other workers way out there in the field, but some thought they had missed their opportunity to be laborers and so, sadly went back home. Others saw how far they would have to walk and the time and effort they would have to invest to join them and so they thought, “Next time. I will join them later.”
5 “Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.”
Hmm. Let me see. If I understand the Jewish clock a little bit, the first hour is about 6 am and the twelfth hour is about 6 pm . That would make the third hour about 9 am. The sixth hour would be around noon and the ninth hour would be around 3 pm. (please have patience with me…I am but a Sunday school teacher) so what was that laborer doing from noon to 3 pm? The way I see it, (because I’m talking about me) is, that laborer was belly up to the church buffet, crying, ” feed ME, feed ME, feed ME!” Then, sadly, as I’ve seen too often through the years, laborer after laborer decided it was time to, “take a break”.
6-7 “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us.”
That wasn’t exactly true was it? There were plenty of opportunities to do the work of God, to bear fruit, to care for and love souls. It’s just that, there had to be a “want to” and there was precious little “want to” to get the work done.
Folks, it’s the eleventh hour. It’s the eleventh hour of the church for sure and for some, the eleventh hour of their life. You don’t have to be old to be in the eleventh hour of your life. That little 16-year-old I read about, didn’t know she was finishing her hours here on earth when she hit that truck. And as I wiped the tear that slid down that lady’s cheek as she realized that the stroke she had suffered was going to take her, I wondered at what she must be thinking, knowing she was finishing her hours here on earth.
As I have been writing about since early 2012, God graciously, mercifully woke me up and stirred me. I am an 11th hour laborer, but I am going to be the best 11th hour laborer I can be.
Jesus! Let me strengthen the arms of your servants that have labored these many years, turning neither to the left nor to the right in serving you. And Lord! Let me refresh your servants that have labored through the heat of the day, unfailingly faithful, no matter the field, whether the rain fell or it did not, whether the soil was soft or fallow, they worked for you. Lord! Send Me! Send Me! Send Me!
Matthew 20:7 He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
Proverbs 6:9. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
10. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
11. So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
I would say, “Take care” but; I think we’ve done enough of that. Instead, I will say, “Throw caution to the wind! Jump in! Do something! Catch this wave!” As Rev Lee Stoneking says, “This is That which was spoken by the prophet Joel! Another That is not coming!”