Summary: There's a difference between pity & compassion. Pity is a mere emotion; compassion compels action. God wants us to exhibit this true compassion, the same kind He had for a lost and dying world, which compels us to DO something for the lost.

Compassion for a Lost and Dying World (Shorter version)

Missions Series

Chuck Sligh

October 12, 2014

NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation of this sermon is available by requesting it at

TEXT: Matthew 9:36-38 – “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”


This Thursday through Sunday we will have our bi-annual missions conference. In your missions bulletin, you’ll find a Faith Promise commitment card for you to pray about giving regularly a certain amount towards missions through Grace Baptist Church. In this week’s conference, our keynote speaker, Rodney Kidd, will preach, and missionaries will show slides and tell us about their mission works, and challenge us about missions. On Saturday night of the conference, we’ll have an international dinner and some special things planned to further inform and challenge our hearts for missions. At the end of the conference, we’ll take up the Faith Promise commitment cards from all who participate, which will be what we will use to support our missionaries. [EXPLAIN HOW IT WORKS FROM FAITH PROMISE CARD SLIDE.]

¿Why have a missions conference, and preach on missions and challenge people to give their hard-earned money to support missionaries?—The answer is compassion. Our text tells us that Jesus had a true heart of compassion.

I want you to understand that compassion is different altogether from pity. Now, pity is purely an emotion; compassion compels ACTION. If you see a person in the church with a financial need and say, “Boy, I sure feel sorry for so-and-so. They don’t have any money to pay their bills”—that’s PITY. But if, as you say that, you give him $50—then you’ve shown COMPASSION.

The Trinity didn’t simply have pity on this world lost in sin.

THE FATHER didn’t look out of the portals of heaven and say, “My, my, what a mess they’re in. Well, it’s their own fault”—and then go about the business of heaven. No, His very essence DEMANDED ACTION for our dilemma. He sent His only son to die for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

THE SON didn’t merely have pity either. He didn’t just feel sorry for the condition of the lost world He saw below. He was stirred to ACT—to DO something about the world’s plight, compelling Him to leave the ivory palaces of heaven to come and die for sinners like you and me.

I hope you’ll attend the conference this week, and in it you’ll be challenged to go beyond mere pity for the world and like Jesus, show true compassion by being compelled to ACTION. I hope you’ll ask yourself, “What can I DO to help reach the lost for Christ.”

As we look at our text, six words come to my mind about missions and true compassion that should lead to action in missions:

I. FIRST IS THE WORD VISUALIZE – Verse 36a – “But when he saw the multitudes…”

The thing that rent the heart of Jesus with compassion was when he SAW the multitudes.

In John 4:35, Jesus says this: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”

¿What stirred Christ to compassion for the lost?—He SAW their lost condition. Lift up your eyes this morning and see a world filled with people without Christ. Visualize the reality of teeming millions without the Gospel.

Illus. – It’s thought that the world’s population in Jesus’ day was about 250 million.

• It took until 1650 for the world’s population to double to 500 million.

• It only took another 200 years for the world’s population to double again for a population of 1 billion in 1850.

• Only 80 years later, in 1930, it had again doubled to 2 billion.

• Today there are 7.3 billion people in the world.

• Every single individual in that population total represents a human soul who will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.

Can you visualize them walking down the wide road that leads to destruction? Can you envision adults and kids without Christ, the Gospel or a Bible? Can you visualize what a wonderful thing it would be if an army of missionaries could go and give to these lost billions the message of the Gospel?

Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields…”

II. THE NEXT WORD I THINK OF IN OUR TEXT IS THE WORD TENDERIZE – Verse 36 goes on to say, “…he was moved with compassion on them…”

Jesus was ever broken for the lost around Him. We’re so caught up in this world that we don’t see what Jesus saw. Jesus looked over this crowd and He saw them as sheep having no shepherd. You or I would have looked over that crowd and only seen…a crowd.

Illus. – I remember when my brother-in-law took us up on the twin towers in Dallas. It was right at sunset and when I looked west, I could see the sun going down over the faint skyline of Ft. Worth way off in the distance. From our perch, it was awesome to look out at the whole city of Dallas. I could see tiny tree-lined streets and on those streets the lights of hundreds of thousands of cars that looked like little ants from where we were. Houses and buildings looked like little play houses on a model train set.

Suddenly, I thought: One day when Jesus looked over Jerusalem, He cried out in agony, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how often would I have gathered you children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Jesus didn’t see houses and streets and lights and skylines. He saw a city teeming with people who needed Him, and it broke His heart.

When you see the need of the world, do you have a tender heart to get the Gospel to them? We need to be burdened about the need of the world. But don’t just get burdened with PITY about it; let that burden have feet and hands that DO something about it with a heart filled with COMPASSION.

III. THE THIRD WORD I THINK OF IS ANALYZE – Verse 36 continues – “…because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”

Jesus thought of the lost in that crowd that day as sheep having no shepherd. Sheep must have a shepherd, or they’re in constant danger. Evangelist Bill Rice used to say that “sheep are geographical morons.” Sheep have no natural defenses. They’re susceptible to every predator and have no way to defend themselves. Without a shepherd, they’re LOST; they’re IN DANGER; they’ll DIE.

Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a)

That’s the condition of THE LOST without Christ; of YOUR LOVED ONES who do not know Christ; of YOUR CO-WORKERS without God’s forgiveness; indeed of every EVERYONE on earth who has not been saved by God’s grace. They’ve gone astray; they have no shepherd; they have no one to lead them and show them the way to God; they have no protector to protect them from that predator, Satan, whose purpose is to destroy and to kill them.


• So brethren, we need to visualize, tenderize, and analyze.

• Now, I said earlier that there’s a difference between pity and compassion.

• I hope you have more than pity that’s nothing but emotion.

• I hope you’ll show true compassion that says, like Paul said on the road to Damascus, “Lord what will you have me to DO.”

• To go beyond pity to compassion, let me share three things you can do for missions:

I. FIRST, AGONIZE THROUGH PRAYER – Verse 38a – “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest…”

You need to pray for missions and for missionaries. What can you pray for?

• Pray that the Lord would send laborers to the fields of the world that desperately need the Lord Jesus Christ—places like China, Muslim lands and North Korea where governments do not allow missionaries to go.

• Also, pray for the missionaries who are already on the field. – They often face many difficulties, barriers, burdens, and discouragements and at times, danger.


What did Jesus say to pray for in verse 38?—for LABORERS to evangelize! “Missions” is just another word for evangelization outside your own Jerusalem. You see, EVERY BELIEVER is to evangelize. The only difference between you and a foreign missionary is the distance you have to go. Some are called to evangelize HERE—where you live. But some are called to evangelize THERE—on foreign fields.

Are you willing to go?—Either here or there? Maybe you unhesitatingly say, “yes” to evangelizing here, but going to be a cross-cultural missionary on a foreign field...well, that’s a different story. Not everyone CAN go to a foreign field, but many CAN, but WON’T.

Illus. – On a furlough to the U.S. a few years ago Susan and I visited some former members or our church in Wiesbaden, then living near Dallas, Texas. Their oldest daughter I’ll call Marie had married a Mexican I’ll call Juan who had emigrated legally to the U.S. and was very successful in the computer field. He was a dedicated Christian and they were faithfully attending a Spanish-speaking service, but he was mainly just sitting on a pew.

I thought to myself, THAT man could win more Mexicans to Christ than 20 American missionaries. I don’t know what made me say it, but I looked at him and said, “Juan, why aren’t you a missionary to your own people?”

He gave some excuse about not being a speaker, and wanting to earn a good living, so I said, “Juan, you speak the language; you know the culture; you understand the Mexican psyche. You’d be more successful than any Anglo.”

I asked again, “Why aren’t you going to Mexicans with the Gospel?” He didn’t know what to say.

I said, “Juan, I believe EVERYONE should surrender to be a missionary unless they’re disqualified for some reason. You should surrender to be a missionary to your own people and ask God to stop you if it’s not His will.”

I could see that I had irritated him, so I dropped the subject. A few months later, we got a call from the woman who had been in our church and she shared how my words had affected Juan and Marie. He tried to get away from that question, “Why are you not a missionary to your own people?” and he knew he had no valid reasons.

Finally, he realized that is exactly what he ought to do. They surrendered to be a missionary to Mexicans, starting with the Spanish church right there in the Dallas area, which he later became the pastor of.

Now let me ask you the same question I asked Juan: “Why are YOU not a missionary?” Can you give a good reason why you have not said, “Here am I Lord, send me?”

You say,…

• “I’m not a good speaker.”—God can give you the ability through practice and training.

• You say, “I don’t have a Bible education.”—That’s what Bible colleges and universities and seminaries are for.

• You say, “I’m too old.”—My dad became a missionary when he retired from the Air Force.

• You say, “I’m afraid!”—That’s why we have Christ’s promise at the end of the Great Commission in Matthew 28, where He says, “…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

I urge you to ask God, “Lord, what would you have ME to do?” And then say to God with a willing heart: “Here am I Lord, send ME.” We can AGONIZE for missions in prayer and EVANGELIZE by going ourselves…


“Deputize” means “to empower and send forth someone to act in another’s behalf.”

Jesus commanded, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

We’re ALL commanded to GO, but there’s more than one way to go. As I’ve already said, you can go in PERSON as a missionary; you can PRAY for laborers to go; but you can go by PURSE by giving to our Faith Promise missions program so we can deputize others to go in our behalf to preach the Gospel wherever they’re called to go and minister.

You say, “Brother Sligh, what is the Faith Promise Plan of missions giving?” The Faith Promise plan is where individuals choose voluntarily to give a certain amount of money each month by faith over and above their regular tithes and offerings exclusively for the cause of missions.

Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 8-9 the idea of the Faith Promise: Voluntarily choosing to make a commitment for a specified period of time to give for a cause for others. Yes, if you CAN go, you SHOULD; but don’t minimize the importance of the role of sending others to go as well.

Note Philippians 4:15-19 (EXPAND AS LED) – “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Here Paul says that when he left Macedonia as a missionary, the Philippian church was the only one that supported him “once and again,” which may mean they sent two large gifts to him, or it may be an idiom meaning “regularly.”

But here’s the precious truth to see here: Paul says in verse 17, “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to YOUR account.” Paul says that the benefit for their investment in his missionary work was not to him alone, but fruit that may abound to THEIR account because of their support for him.

Jesus said that God knows the number of hairs on our heads. If God knows the number of hairs on our heads, don’t you think He keeps track of how your money is used in laying up treasure in heaven?

I’m speculating here, but I believe that when we get to heaven, every person won to Christ by a missionary will not only thank the missionary who came to evangelize them where they lived, but may also go to those who SENT the missionary. I can’t prove that, but one thing is for certain: Fruit abounds to our account when we have a part in a missionary’s soul-winning efforts.

Illus. –Dr. Don Sisk, the former president of the mission board I’m with, BIMI, tells of winning an old “papa-sahn” to Christ, the father of one of the ladies in his church. He had such a grateful spirit for Dr. Sisk, whom they referred to as “Sensei Don” which means “Teacher Don.” He lived way up on a mountain and couldn’t come as often as he wished to church, but when he did, he would position himself at the front door of the church, and when Dr. Sisk arrived, he’d bow in respect for Dr. Sisk. By the way, in Japan the person who stops bowing first is the least polite, so bowing sessions can go on for awhile…

After several bows, he’d look at Dr. Sisk with tear-stained yes—a display of emotion unusual in Japan—and say, “Sensei Don, thank you for leaving your land to come to Japan to teach me the Gospel so I could be saved.” Now that’ll keep a missionary going for quite awhile!

Later Dr. Sisk became the Far East Director of BIMI and several years later had the opportunity to revisit the old church he’d started and pastored. When he arrived, there by the door was the old papa-sahn, who, at seeing Dr. Sisk, bowed repeatedly, tears rolling down his cheeks, and said, “Sensei Don, welcome back to Japan. Thank you again for leaving your home to come and teach me the Gospel so I could know Jesus.”

My what a great welcome!

Months later learned that the old man had gone home to be with the Lord. Tears instantly came to his eyes, but just as quickly disappeared as a happy thought came to his mind. He thought how one day he too would go home to glory, and when he did, a short Japanese papa-sahn would be at the gates of glory and when Dr. Sisk entered those gates, the papa-sahn would bow, and Dr. Sisk said they would bow for about a thousand years! Then the old papa-sahn will say, this time with a gleam in his eye, for tears have no place in heaven, “Sensei Don, thank you for leaving your land to go to Japan to share with me the Gospel so I could be here in heaven.”

But this is where Dr. Sisk drilled home a glorious thought in telling his story: He said he firmly believed that the papa-sahn would go to every person who ever gave a penny to help him get to the field so he could preach the Gospel, and bow many times and thank them for making it possible for Dr. Sisk to get to Japan to preach the Gospel.

O, beloved, do you not see it?—When you have a part in missionary giving, the fruit of the labor of the missionary can abound to your account! What a glorious thought!


Dear brethren, let’s not simply have pity for this wretched, lost world. Let’s have true COMPASSION—the kind that compels us: to AGONIZE for missions and missionaries through prayer;…to EVANGELIZE by going ourselves if we can;…and if we cannot go ourselves—to DEPUTIZE others to go in our place by giving to missions through our Faith Promise missions program. One thing you CANNOT do if you will have true compassion like Jesus had on lost humanity: you cannot do NOTHING; for true compassion requires action.