Inspiration is a powerful tool that can lead to action. As a young tennis player I would be moved watching my favorite tennis players on television. Following a match on television I was greatly motivated to head to the courts and try imitating my heroes. John McEnroe, the top-ranked player in the world from 1981-1984, was my favorite player. His passion for the game and artistry in which he played the game moved me.
“Johnny Mac” was a fiery competitor. Unfortunately, aside from his incredible shot-making ability, he was also known for his confrontational on-court behavior, which frequently landed him in trouble with umpires and tennis authorities. The one thing about McEnroe that was undeniable was that his heart was totally into the game of tennis. In fact, you might say he was “all in!”
As we ponder our witness in this submission, the Apostle Paul’s heart is front and center. For when it came to reaching out to the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was also “all in!” In fact, his heart for God and for people is a tremendous inspiration and example that should move you and me.
In Romans 9 & 10 Paul revealed his missionary heart for people in three specific ways:
A Heart That Breaks For The Lost
In Romans 9:1-3, Paul expresses a deep love for his Jewish brethren:
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh…
The word accursed is the Greek word anathema, which means to devote to destruction in eternal hell. Although Paul here is describing the impossible, it certainly reflects the powerful expression of love for his people. And although Paul’s primary mission was to bring the gospel primarily to Gentiles, he always maintained a burden for his Jewish people, even maintaining a pattern of preaching in synagogues upon entering city, town, or village.
And why this expression? Because many Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah. In fact, the Jewish religious leadership in that day categorically rejected the Lord. But Romans 9-11 teaches that the Jewish rejection of Jesus was neither complete nor final. Rather, there has always been a believing remnant of Jewish people and following the church age, the “age of the gentiles,” God will turn His redemptive focus back to His Chosen People – Israel (Ezekiel 36:24-36, Zechariah 12:10-12, Romans 11:11-36).
How about your heart and my heart for the lost? Do our hearts break for those who reject Jesus? Do we grieve for those who don’t want to hear the truth?
A Heart That Yearns For People’s Salvation
In Romans 10:1 Paul states: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”
Paul’s yearning for the salvation of his people, coupled with prayer, illustrates desire in action. The apostle brought lost souls to the ‘throne of Grace,’ imploring the Lord to do that which only He can accomplish—salvation.
One proactive measure of our heart’s desire for the salvation of others is expressed in intercessory prayer. Do you regularly lift up people in your sphere of influence who don’t yet know Christ? If so, I would encourage you to make a list and begin interceding. To help you pray I would commend you to an excellent website devoted to evangelistic prayer called kingdompraying.com
Additionally, our ministry prays regularly for the salvation of lost souls. If you have someone you’d like us to add to our prayer list, give us their name(s) and any specifics you’d like to share. We’d count it a privilege to pray with you for these precious people.
A Heart That Proclaims The Gospel
Finally, in this series of rhetorical questions in Romans 10, Paul emphasizes the necessity of gospel proclamation in the evangelistic process:
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? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:14-17
We can never assume people have actually heard and understood the gospel message found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (and these other main verses: Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9; Romans 10:9-10; John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21). For we are living in a society where an ever-increasing percentage of the population is unchurched or de-churched—a reality which should beckon us to elucidate clearly the person and work of Christ.
If verbally articulating truth is a challenge, simply ask the Lord to give you His words in His time for His glory—and God is faithful (Matthew 10:18-20). Pray also for boldness and courage to speak as the Lord opens doors of opportunity (Ephesians 6:18-20).
As we ponder our hearts’ condition as it relates to our witness, may the Lord grow our hearts for the lost – giving us a missionary’s heart that breaks for the lost, yearns for their salvation, and proclaims the gospel. And as we do, may the Lord also open up the hearts of those in our midst, that they might hear the gospel and call on the name of the Lord. Amen.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24