If I never won souls... Charles Spurgeon

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

Today I came across these piercing words from Charles Spurgeon:

I have heard many discussions amongst my brethren, about whether or not every earnest laborer may expect to have fruit. I have always inclined to the belief that such is the rule, and though there may be exceptions, and perhaps some men may be rather a savor of death unto death than of life unto life, yet it seems to me that if I never won souls I would sigh till I did; I would break my heart over them if I could not break their hearts; if they would not be saved, I would almost cry with Moses, “Blot my name out of the book of life.”

Though I can understand the possibility of an earnest sower never reaping, I cannot understand the possibility of an earnest sower being content not to reap. I cannot comprehend any one of you Christian people trying to win souls and not having results, being satisfied without results. I can suppose that you may love the Lord, and may have been trying your best for years unsuccessfully, but then I am sure you feel unhappy about it. I can not only suppose that to be the case, but I am thankful that you are unhappy. I hope the unhappiness will increase with you, till at last in the anguish of your spirit, you shall cry, like Rachel, “Give me children or I die! Give me fruits or I cannot live!”

Then you will be the very person described in the text: you go forth weeping, bearing seed that is precious to you; and you may have results, you must come again rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you.

Are you unhappy with the fruits of your evangelism?

May God break our hearts, redouble our efforts by the power of the Holy Spirit, and give the grace that we might come again rejoicing!

(SeanO) #2

I like the phrase ‘bearing seed that is precious to you’. I think if the Gospel is precious to us, we naturally share it with those whom we love as best as we are able.

(Helen Tan) #3

Hi @CarsonWeitnauer, I think that while it’s imperative that we have the earnestness in us to share the Gospel, we do have to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in meeting and addressing the hunger that’s in people in a wise manner. I’ve met many who have been turned off by over-zealous Christians who have not discerned the questions or needs of people they meet.

Perhaps too that when our lives reflect the Gospel that others would want to know what we have. We are different from the world - we show kindness, honesty, integrity, and do not seek personal gain at the expense of others.

While I seek to see the fruits of my labor, I am aware that I am often one of many seed-sowers in a person’s life. In that respect, as long as I am sowing at every opportunity, I pray and trust the Holy Spirit to water and grow that seed. Some of these have been surprising harvests and some I may not know on this side of heaven but I believe that there is no wasted seed and we should be faithful to this calling.

(Melvin Greene) #4

Those are sobering words, @CarsonWeitnauer. I believe it was Charles Spurgeon who was also known for crying every time he preached on hell. It is good to do some self-evaluation on this from time to time. Do our hearts break at the thought of a soul spending eternity in hell?

I’m in agreement with @Helen_Tan. I don’t think we will know the full effect of our efforts this side of Heaven. I’ve shared the gospel countless times and not seen any fruit. But then, God will occasionally send someone my way who has thanked me for sharing the gospel because it had eventually led them to Christ.

(Carson Weitnauer) #5

Hi @Helen_Tan, a wise reminder.

There’s a song from the O.C. Supertones which has these lyrics:

Religious fanatic, that’s what they say
True, I may be on the brink
I hear them yell at us, "shut up and play!"
Well, who asked what you think?
No time for mediocrity, convenience, or practicality.

He went all out for us, say what you will
I’ll answer to my God
I’m a freak, they say I’ve lost my mind
But I know, I’ve never seen so clearly
When I speak, they say I’ve gone too far this time
Which lets me know that I have not gone nearly

In the whole context of their song, I do think they are at risk of alienating people by being over-zealous. However, I’ve often taken their lyrics:

When I speak, they say I’ve gone too far this time
Which lets me know that I have not gone nearly

in a different direction. If my words lead to the response, “Hey, you’ve gone too far, that was over the line” then I need to reconsider how I am loving someone. I need to demonstrate my passion and concern for them with greater humility, wisdom, sacrifice, and kindness. I have not gone nearly far enough in showing love.

I think one of the common ways to “rev up” evangelism is: if you really love people, you’ll blast them with the gospel. Well, that doesn’t follow! If you really love people, you’ll really love them. Which will include, as led by the Spirit, at times, to invite them to consider the gospel. But it needs to also include the many thousands of other ways we can show someone we love them.

I simultaneously want to be in a place of earnest desire to see others know Christ, and have that desire aligned with a mature expression of love for my neighbors.

(Tim Ramey) #6

A number of years ago, my pastor friend and I did the something for 3 summers that was “not me.” We went door-to-door telling people about Jesus and asking them what they believed. No one got on their knees in front of us but I was so overjoyed to be speaking the name of Jesus in households that never heard the name used unless they were swearing. I ached watching people live their lives and not have the treasure that we do in Jesus. There is such a zeal in my heart for others to know Jesus. Not even one of my 6 siblings know Jesus though I’ve talked with about Him so many times. In my academy class, I used 2 of my siblings for the assignment to ask questions and listen with those of another worldview.

The Lord knows the desire of my heart and I pray for my siblings as well as light from the Holy Spirit to bear anything that is in my heart that would be blocking them from knowing Him. But, especially as I went around the community talking about Jesus, I had such a peace knowing that the Holy Spirit was the One at work in spite of myself. I agree with @Helen_Tan that our lives have to reflect the gospel.

(Jolene Laughlin) #7

These words are so convicting and troubling to me. I’ve become very quiet and even apathetic in my efforts to engage other people with the Gospel. I don’t really know what changed - perhaps because of a long period of overall depression and frustration in my own life and with church in particular, but I really need to do some soul searching about this and make some changes in my life that will allow me to truly seek opportunities to share Christ with others. Thank you for sharing, Carson.

(Melvin Greene) #8

I think I was a lot like you @Jolene_Laughlin. I am an introvert and very shy. After I was first saved, I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to walk up to someone and start sharing the gospel. I have an uncle who will walk around downtown and had out tracks and talk to people about Christ. I could never do that, and still can’t. But, as some years past, God seemed to start sending people into my life who actually would start the conversation about God, or spiritual things. I found it very easy to share the gospel with them. Of course, there was already an established relationship. Eventually, God directed me to take the position of assistant director of a gospel rescue mission. It was a male only homeless shelter, and one of the rules to stay there was that the men had to attend a chapel service. Well, I bet you can guess who had to frequently give the message. I believe God loves to pull us out of our comfort zone to grow our faith. When men have responded to the invitation to accept Christ as their savior, I definitely know it’s not me, but God working through me. I now manage a group home for homeless veterans, and I’ve been trained as a drug and alcohol counselor. God has used me several times to share the gospel. I’m not telling you this so I can boast on myself. I just want you to know that God can use the least likely people to reach lost people. And, if He can use a bumbling, stuttering, awkward person like me to do that, He can definitely use you. It may be that at this time, He is molding you and shaping you so you can be the witness He designed you to be.

(Jolene Laughlin) #9

Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Melvin. I enjoyed hearing your story and it gives me hope that God is indeed preparing me for the next step in what has been a fairly long season of silence and spiritual dryness.

(David Cieszynski) #10

@Helen_Tan I really like what you said in that we need be lead by the Holy Spirit and that we will probably be part of someone’s journey to Christ.

I feel it’s very important that the Church doesn’t forget to help and encourage Christians staying on the proverbial ‘straight and narrow’, we can sometimes get fixated on ‘evangelising’ and meeting the (Church’s vision) that we can forget about the saved members of our congregations until their in dire straights.

Yes it is important that we show the seed but it’s equally important that we reach out to those members on the fringes of the church.

Hope everyone had a enjoyable Christmas Day.

(Amanda Jane Garner) #11

For 20 years I have witnessed to my coworkers. I have shared the gospel with some, I have walked the car park praying for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and I have payed for open doors. Not one person has come to know the Lord. It makes me sad and it makes me question myself but I take solace in the fact that maybe my role is to plant the seed and another will water. I think God works in so many different ways that all I need to do is be faithful in serving Him, doing what He asks and leaving the results up to Him.

(Tim Ramey) #12

@mandy You are so right. We are to never give up but HE has to do it. My concern about the Spurgeon quote is that it is so good but just so the enemy doesn’t use it to hop on us and whisper to us that “nothing will ever happen” and we feel guilty. “Apart from Him, we can do nothing.”

(Jolene Laughlin) #13

So much this! I am struggling in my own church with this concept right now. There is a huge emphasis on the lost, or on “those people out there” who are persecuting Christians or are perceived as “going against Christian values” politically. In the meantime, very little attention is paid to the faithful attenders who are living out their own struggles with sin, understanding scripture, living in a godly way within their families. What about discipleship? If Christians were growing and living out godly lives, the evangelism would take care of itself, IMO. I have often wished that there was a list of churches or pastors who are involved with RZIM, who have ministries that focus on discipleship and spiritual growth after the initial profession of faith.

(David Cieszynski) #14

@Jolene_Laughlin you may want to look into starting your own discipleship / Bible study group within your church.

I’m in my first year of Lay Reader training, with my aim of starting a Bible study / theological center up within the church I attend.

Just an idea.

(Jolene Laughlin) #15

Hi David,

I appreciate the suggestion. Our business model is changing and I am going to be doing less travel on a regular basis, so I’ve been thinking about starting a Bible study in our home. I did start a women’s Bible Study at our church, but kind of floundered around with it as apologetics material was really hard for them to comprehend. I’m thinking that just starting with a more in depth study of the scriptures - book by book or something - might be the best place to start. Prayers for guidance would be appreciated.

(David Cieszynski) #16

Hi Jolene an in depth Bible study is what I’m contemplating for me it’s a medium term plan as I need to concentrate on my course.

A book by book could be hard to keep up, maybe topics I.e. creation, repentance, forgiveness but ask questions that will make people think.

I plan to make the group more of an open session where ideas get thrown around, studied. I.e. that’s an interesting idea let’s explore that further.

Let us know how you get on.

(Brian Weeks) #17

I’ve been reading and thinking about this thread for the past week since it began, and much of it rings true in my own life. I’m thankful for all of the thoughtful suggestions and compassionate advice that has been given here. I need it because I think I often make the mistake of either saying too much or saying too little when it comes to talking about the gospel of Jesus to unbelievers. I would consider myself to often be guilty of being under-zealous or overzealous. But then, if I consider why I come to this conclusion, I think it’s most often based solely on how the other person reacts. However, after giving this some more thought, the following has come to mind.

Jesus’ first recorded sermon resulted in his listeners being “filled with wrath” (Luke 4:28) and trying to kill him (Luke 4:29). And, in John 6, Jesus’ crowd of perhaps as many as 5000 dwindles to 11 following his proclamation of the gospel, which was considered by his hearers who walked away from him to be unyieldingly harsh, offensive, and intolerable.

In Galatians 5:11, Paul refers to the gospel as offensive. And, Acts and the Pauline letters record Paul as having suffered beatings, death plots, imprisonment, and other severe persecution as a result of what he said concerning Jesus and the gospel.

And, of course, both lives, along with almost all of the other apostles’ lives, ended in being killed for their claims and beliefs.

I’ve never had anyone try to kill me for what I’ve said to them. I’ve never had anyone get violent and try to physically hurt me for telling them about Jesus and the gospel. I’ve never even had anyone yell at me for my witness. And if I ever did address 5000 people with the truth and had 4989 people walk away from me, I would be certain that I had blown it big time.

Yet, Jesus never did anything apart from the perfect will of God. And, I would imagine that if I spent just five minutes with either Jesus or Paul in person that it would become immediately clear to me just how woefully under-zealous for the preaching of the gospel I was compared to them and, thus, how woefully under-loving I was compared to them.

In addition to this, I consider how 1 Corinthians 1:23 says that the gospel is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” And, 2 Corinthians 4:4 seems to introduce yet another aspect to negative responses to the gospel by saying that it is the devil who " has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

So, all of this almost sets the stage for me to expect some (or even much) of my evangelism - even done in Christ-like love, compassion, and commitment - to be met with anything but a warm welcome. And it causes me ask, how should I/we discern how much to consider the other person’s reaction when evaluating my/our evangelistic efforts in light of the inherent offensiveness of the gospel and the devil’s having blinded the minds of unbelievers? How should what the Bible says concerning how nonbelievers’ reacted to Christ-like evangelism inform how I/we evangelize and evaluate our evangelism?

Any thoughts here?

(Melvin Greene) #18

That’s a tough one, Brian. I’ve heard sermons and read articles that stated the belief that if you never face some sort of “persecution” for sharing the gospel, then you are either not sharing it, or your not sharing it right. I don’t necessarily believe that is true. I do believe that if you consistently share the gospel, eventually someone will be offended. But, it’s been my experience that that is a rarity. Now, if you’re standing on a street corner preaching, or out handing out tracks, then you are more apt to be accosted by people who are angry and offended. Personally, I’ve never shared the gospel that way. I’m not saying we shouldn’t; I just don’t.

My experience has mainly been that God somehow manages to send people my way who are the ones who initiate that conversation. One time when I was working in construction, I was working with a carpenter who somehow knew I was religious. He would just start with asking what the Bible says about something. For example, one time he said something derogatory about another race of people and then he would ask what the Bible says about that. I know he was trying to get me rialed up. I would calmly answer his questions. One time he got very frustrated yelled, “Look, I don’t care what the Bible says, what do you think?” I don’t remember the question, but I said what the Bible says, I think. In fact, just today I was meeting with a coworker about something when he suddenly turned the conversation to spiritual matters. He is agnostic and has really been searching. He seems to be concerned with what happens after you die. We ended up having a wonderful deep conversation.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I believe you don’t have to offend someone in order to properly share the gospel. If your main concern is not offending, then there is a problem. I think if you share the gospel with love and respect, you’ll mainly have amicable conversations. Eventually, you’ll make someone angry, but I don’t think it will be the norm.

(Brian Weeks) #19

That’s good advice, Melvin - that if my main concern is not offending, then there’s a problem. I can certainly be guilty of that, and that’s part of what I was asking about.

I sometimes tend to think that if someone I’m talking with about God responds with mockery or repulsion, then I’ve done something wrong. But, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Sometimes, sharing the gospel with love, gentleness, and respect might result in someone being offended, and I have to be willing to experience that sort of response if I am going to faithfully share the gospel with others.

Would you say this is accurate?

(Helen Tan) #20

Hi @Brian_Weeks, here are some thoughts which came to mind. I think the strong reaction to Jesus’ preaching can also be seen in the context of the revolutionary nature of what He was saying at that time. The most offended were mainly those high in the religious hierarchy while the common people generally heard Him gladly. Either way, He was not swayed by both types of responses.

I see a great model of the right frame of mind and response to opposition and antagonism in the RZIM team - the way Ravi diffuses tension inspires me. Personally, I have been guilty of taking things personally and allowing the taunting to get to me so much so that I lose the plot. Watching Ravi and the other speakers and getting myself prepared have steadied me and enabled me to see the questioner in a different light and to continue the conversation in a manner in which I maintain calmness and control. The focus has to be on understanding what the barriers are to the questioner and why they are failing to appreciate the beauty of Christ. I am just a vehicle for God to use to reach that person and my feelings have to be secondary to that purpose.

As such, I should be prepared for different reactions. Paul says we are to be all things to all people. I am still learning how that plays out in real life without me losing authenticity and credibility. I am thinking that it comes about as I learn to increasingly lean on the leading of the Holy Spirit and not on my own sight and gut reaction. I look forward to learning more on speaking the truth in love.