Evangelists Are You Discouraged?

People have to be told of Christ before they can trust Him, and they must trust Him before they can call upon His name and be saved. . .

IT IS a frightening truth that no one will be saved who does not call upon the name of the Lord (Acts 4:12). This truth does not change even though some may rationalize or disbelieve what the Bible teaches.

The fact that should disturb evangelists is, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). People have to be told of Christ before they can trust Him, and they must trust Him before they can call upon His name and be saved.

God's way of saving sinners is to bring them into contact with the gospel. There fore evangelism is not just another phase of church work, it is the whole work of the church and especially of evangelists. Preaching is God's plan, God's method of bringing the gospel the "good news" to lost humanity so that by hearing they might have an opportunity of accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour (1 Cor. 1:21).

The Bible does not say that sinners will miss heaven because they are not elected, but because they "neglect so great salvation" and because they will not repent and believe. The judgment will reveal that men are lost, not because Christ did not choose them but because of their unwillingness to come to Him. God gives men what they choose, not the opposite (Rom. 6:23).

Paul teaches us two distinct factors about fallen man. One is that he "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:14). Two, he "is not subject to the law of God" (Rom. 8:7). Therefore it is instinctive to him to suppress and to evade and deny God's truth, and to shrug off God's plan of salvation. When he hears the gospel, it is natural for him to disbelieve and to disobey it. Man is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). He is deaf to God's word, blind to God's revelation, impervious to God's inducements. He is like a corpse there is no response.

Paul also states that Satan "now worketh in the children of disobedience" (verse 2), and that "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ . . . should shine unto them" (2 Cor. 4:4). This not only means that sinful man has two distinct objections to the gospel, it also means that Satan has put two distinct obstacles in the way of successful evangelism. We must never forget, however, that evangelism is God's method of bringing the good news of salvation to lost mankind!

Yet many have grown discouraged, disillusioned, and apprehensive about evangelism. Why? Because we have put our trust in methods rather than in an all-powerful God. Often we take it for granted that good organization and efficient techniques, backed by routine prayers, are sufficient to guarantee results. We once felt convinced that what: would bring life into a dead church was an intensive evangelistic campaign. Today we are not so sure; in fact, many fear evangelism. This may be because we do not always see the results from preaching that we had expected.

What can we do about our fears, our disillusionments? First we should admit that we were foolish ever to think that any evangelistic technique, however skillful, could of itself guarantee conversions. Second, because man's heart is impervious to the Word of God, it is no cause for surprise if at any time our evangelism fails to produce a large number of conversions. Third, we need to remember that the terms of our calling are that we should be faithful, not that we should be successful. Fourth, we should learn to rest all our hopes of a harvest from evangelism upon the omnipotent grace of God.

God does not send evangelists out alone.

He promises to send His Holy Spirit with Him. Let us always believe this and be assured that He is by our side when we go out to preach the Word. In Acts 5:31 we are told that the Spirit was given to "give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." We cannot make sinners repent and believe in Christ by our words alone; but let us believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, works faith and repentance in men's hearts. We must keep our eyes firmly fixed on the promise of God when He says, "My word . . . that goeth forth out of my mouth . . . shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:11). This is no less true of the preaching of the gospel than of any other divine utterance and if we believe this, our own preaching of the gospel will not in the long run prove fruitless. God will see to that!

Example of Paul

It was this faith in God's grace that kept the apostle Paul from disillusionment and discouragement. He knew that wherever the gospel was preached the Holy Spirit could convert sinners. He believed that the Word would prove a savor of life to those who heard it and accepted it. It was this knowledge that made Paul confident, tireless, and expectant in his evangelism. It would be well to notice that on occasional hard spells, with much opposition and very little visible fruit, Paul did not panic or become heartbroken. He believed his business was to be patient and faithful in preaching the good news till the time of harvest should come.

On one occasion when Paul was preaching in Corinth and things were hard and there had been few converts and opposition was mounting, even Paul, the dauntless warrior, seemed to question whether it was worth persevering in that place, then "spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city" (Acts 18:9). Yes, He was saying: "Go on preaching and teaching, Paul. Let nothing stop you, or discourage you, or turn you away from your work of evangelism." This gave Paul the confidence he needed and as he held up Christ, eyes were opened, stony hearts were moved, and he saw results. Paul was confident that where Christ sends the gospel there He has His people.

When we evangelize, our trust must be in the God who raises the dead. He is the almighty God who turns men's hearts, and He will bring conversion through the movings of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, our part is to be faithful in making the gospel known; sure that our labors will not be in vain.

Let us persevere in presenting Christ to the unconverted. We are not on a fool's errand. We are not wasting either our time or theirs. We have no reason to be ashamed or halfhearted or apologetic in delivering it. We have every reason to be bold, and free, and natural, and hopeful of success. We need not be discouraged.

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February 1970

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