We live in a world that often says hard work and doing the right thing will bring the desired results. To promote the desired result there are a myriad of tools at our disposal – self-help tools, user guides, how to’s, the three steps to this and the four steps to that. They come in the form of seminars, youtube video’s, DVD’s, CD’s, books, television shows, and so on. And we get it – do this and you will get the desired result.
As we think about the desired results in evangelism, it would be good for us to think in biblical terms, and not according to worldly standards. Because according to God’s economy, we know that A+B doesn’t necessarily equal C. In fact, there are times the results of our evangelistic efforts will be anything but desired, as any cursory study of the book of Acts will reveal.
The Apostles and early disciples were often met with opposition, rejection, persecution and sometimes death as they spread the gospel. Yet they remained faithful amidst the difficulties, because they also saw the wonders of God’s salvation also bestowed upon many people as the gospel spread and the church grew!
But what about a spiritual field that is brutally hard, with closed hearts and little chance for fruit? What then? Do we just give up and assume God’s not in it? Or are there people to whom God has called us to love, pray for, and even witness too, even when there is no marked change for years…even many years. What then?
The prophet Jeremiah is a wonderful example of faithfulness in proclaiming the truth, even to an audience with hard hearts – an audience who responded categorically – with outright rejection of the message.
Jeremiah is a tremendous case study in rejection management. But his ministry to his people is a powerful teaching lesson for us, as we ponder those in our midst whom God is calling us to minister.
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: “From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. – Jeremiah 25:1-3
Stunning! These verses record the date to be 627/626 BC. Jeremiah began his ministry in 13th year of Josiah, King of Judah, and had been faithful to preach repentance and judgement for 23 years up to this point. And his message was met with obstinance! Talk about a tough calling! Ouch!
In fact, the number of illustrations of God’s judgment the Lord gave Jeremiah to communicate to HIs people if they didn’t repent were rivaled by the number of trials that befell the prophet! For during his ministry Jeremiah experienced death threats, isolation, violence and prison, starvation, and was rejected…repeatedly.
Yet, Jeremiah’s faithfulness is exemplary! For when God commissioned Jeremiah to go, He told the prophet what to expect, namely rejection:
“Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.” – Jeremiah 7:27
What compels a man to wake up day after day and continue obedient service to the Lord, knowing he’ll not only experience opposition and rejection, but sometimes overt hostility? A man of great faith!
And lest we think this man was simply running on auto-pilot, blindly and robotically doing the bidding of his Master. We must remember Jeremiah was a human being like you and me, with emotions and pain amidst the struggle. Here are just a few words reflecting his pain from Lamentations 3:1-5:
I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely He has turned His hand against me. Time and time again throughout the day. He has aged my flesh and my skin, And broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and woe.
And this from a man who is referring to the God he loves, obeys, and serves…even to his utter brokenness!
In my journey of faith, I have had many people come across my path, whom the Lord has had me witness to. I’ve prayed for, loved them, and shared the gospel with them. And the result – sometimes rejection, but most often the response has been apathy. I can tell you that in my personal life and as a missionary, the most deflating response is apathy. I can handle rejection, opposition and hostility better, as I sense the convicting Spirit of God doing His work. But apathy is the most challenging response to my evangelistic efforts.
Many people have come and gone in my life. But there are some who remain, whom I’m bound too. Just like Jeremiah was bound to his people, I’m bound to my family, in that I feel compelled to continue praying for, loving on, and witnessing to as God gives me opportunity. They certainly know Jesus is preeminent in my life, and no one or no thing can or will separate my allegiance to Him – for I am bound by faith, to Him first and foremost!
Being the first and currently only believer in my family, I have prayed for many years, loved on my lost family members, and shared the gospel – having numbers of spiritual conversations about truth, reality, and the afterlife. And up to this point, they still don’t know Jesus – they are lost. I’ve been a Christian 32 years, having been saved in 1987. And it pains me immensely to ponder their future without knowing the Lord!
Is their someone or some people in your life you feel bound to – that despite years of their rejecting Jesus, you are compelled continue praying for, loving on, and witnessing to? Well, take heart my friend. Because Jeremiah did – as he experienced comfort in the hope of God’s mercy:
Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” – Lamentations 3:19-24
Jeremiah rested in God’s covenant promises to His people. Although they would experience judgement and chastening from the Lord due to their rebellion, the Lord would restore His people in the future because of His grace, mercy, and faithfulness. Jeremiah found comfort in God’s covenant promises.
As we ponder lost people dear to us, may we take comfort knowing that until a person takes their final breath, there is hope, an opportunity to trust in the Savior. So carry on, staying with those you’re bound to, just as Jeremiah did. And may God’s saving mercy extend to those precious ones that come to mind as you read these words. Amen.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16