While in Troas during his second preaching tour, the apostle Paul had a vision in the night. In the vision, "A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us'" (Acts 16:9). The text reveals that Paul was obedient to the vision, Luke recording him as having concluded "that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them" (10).
The journey took Paul and his companions to Philippi, where they were beaten with rods, and placed into prison (cf. 16:22-24). After traveling through Amphipolis and Apollonia they went to Thessalonica, where again they fell afoul of the enemies of the cross (17:5). This necessitated a departure under cover of darkness to Berea. Some from Thessalonica followed them, and stirred up the crowds against Paul yet again (17:13). Finally Paul traveled to Athens, where his message was met with mocking (17:32).
Opposition was found at every turn, but Paul was resolute in his commitment to help the Macedonians through the preaching of the gospel of his Lord. And everywhere he preached - Philippi (16:15,34), Thessalonica (17:4), Berea (17:11-12), and Athens (17:34) - men and women responded in faith to the salvation of their souls.
That same request, "Come over ... and help us" resonates in our time. There are so many mission fields in our time, both in other countries and here in our own. As Jesus told his disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38). Just as Paul was obedient to the heavenly vision, we too must be willing to proclaim the gospel to the lost of our community. If we will not, souls will be lost in the vacuum of our failure.
As Paul and Apollos, preachers of the gospel are needed to equip the saints, and care for the lost of the world. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
Each individual Christian has his or her own responsibility in this. In the infancy of the church, the disciples had an evangelistic fervor, despite persecution. When they left Jerusalem to avoid the severe duress levied by the Jews, Luke records, "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). Do we have the same spirit to preach, or do we offer the excuses of the worldly minded? "But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come'" (Luke 14:18-20).
Of course, evangelism is not the only way you can be helpful to God and His people. There are other things that must not be left undone. There is, for example, the call to assemble with the people of God. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25). The purpose of such assembly is first to worship Him, (as He deserves, cf. Revelation 5:8-14). But it also is to encourage and edify the brethren. Our responsibilities do not lie solely with the lost, but also with those of like precious faith.
Another way to help the Lord's cause is through our free will offerings. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Lord commands us to lay by in store (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2), but the spiritually minded are eager to support with great liberality the works of benevolence, edification and evangelism.
The call to help can also be partially answered in the work of teaching. Building up the brethren for the work of ministry is helpful and needed. "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). The sword of the Spirit needs to be wielded with skill and conviction. The teacher aids the student to become skillful in the promulgation and defense of truth.
Finally, we must have a mind to work diligently in whatever duty is laid upon us. Paul commended Timothy in this, and he is certainly one to emulate: "But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like- minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me" (Philippians 2:19-23).
The harvest truly is plenteous, and God is in need of workers. Only a few are capable and willing to work in His vineyard. What about you? Are you zealous for the Lord? What are you doing to accomplish His will on earth?