In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded all believers to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That passage from the gospel of Matthew is a very familiar passage to those of us in the Christian faith, or at least, it should be.
We all know pastors and ministers and fellow believers in the church who have had great success when it comes to making disciples; when it comes to leading people through the prayer to receive Jesus Christ as their savior. They seem to know exactly what to say at just the right moment to convince someone, in the most sincere way possible, of the need to receive Christ as his or her savior. They just have that special gift from God for bringing people into the faith and they almost make it look easy. And then……………………..there are the rest of us.
I have a confession to make. And not only is it a confession, it also provides some insight as to why I chose the user name that I chose for this blog. My confession is this: I have never led someone through the prayer to receive Jesus Christ; not one single person. It’s not from lack of effort. It’s not because I don’t share my faith. I do, and I do it with a passionate love for Christ and a sincere desire to see that person saved. But the answer’s always been “Let me think about it.” – “Not now.” – “Not today.” – “Some other time. Maybe later.” Either they say something along those lines or they just walk away. I have to admit, if there’s one area of my walk with Christ that’s been discouraging, that would be it. And I know I’m not alone. There are many others like me who share the gospel and talk to people about why faith in Jesus Christ is so crucial. But we just never seem to be able to close the deal. I understand that our responsibility is to share the the gospel and that we’re not responsible for those who choose to reject the message and walk away. I get that. Even so, it’s still frustrating.
However, it’s comforting to know that God understands our frustrations. He understands how we feel when we share our faith, and get no response. God even wrote a book of the Bible about it. The prophet Jeremiah served as a messenger of God for almost 50 years, yet in all that time he did not win a single convert. Of course the message he preached wasn’t very popular. He warned the people of the impending downfall of the southern kingdom of Judah, and that wasn’t exactly what they wanted to hear. His condemnation of idolatry and false prophets didn’t win him any friends, just like telling people that the only way to be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ is not a popular message in our time. But had the people of Judah been listening, they would have also heard Jeremiah preach a message of hope, that there would come a day when Jerusalem and the nation of Israel would be restored. They would have heard Messianic prophecy, had they listened. Overall, Jeremiah never enjoyed any real popularity among the people of his day. By any human standard, Jeremiah’s ministry would be considered a colossal failure. But Jeremiah was not a failure in the eyes of God.
Like Moses, Jeremiah initially resisted God’s calling, but he went on to become a faithful and obedient servant who went where God sent him and preached the message that God gave him to preach. But God did not promise Jeremiah success, at least not by our standards. In fact, God pretty much guaranteed Jeremiah that his calling would be a difficult one that, in large part, would be met with failure. For his efforts, he was put in stocks, beaten, thrown in a cistern, threatened with death, and eventually carried off to Egypt where it’s presumed he spent the remaining years of his life. There were times when Jeremiah got discouraged, just like we do when we feel like we’ve failed time and time again in our efforts to reach lost people for Christ. But in spite of all the difficulties he endured, in spite of preaching countless messages straight from God that the people routinely ignored, Jeremiah never quit. And that’s why Jeremiah was never a failure in God’s eyes. Jeremiah’s life was a lesson in perseverance.
And as followers of Jesus Christ, Jeremiah’s perseverance is a valuable lesson for us. No matter how people respond when we share the gospel message, we can’t give up. Like Jeremiah, we must persevere and here’s why: Of all the pastors and ministers and fellow Christians who have led others into the faith, how many of them have prayed with an individual to accept Christ AFTER another Christian spent years witnessing to that person? In other words, even though they reap the harvest, someone else probably planted the seed! And what we don’t know, and won’t know until we go to be with the Lord, is how many seeds we’ve planted.
So even though many of us have never personally prayed with someone to receive Jesus, we never give up. We can’t give up. We never stop sharing our faith. We never stop talking about Christ. We might be the one who plants the seed that someone else harvests weeks or months or years later. I said earlier that some pastors and ministers and lay people make it look easy when it comes to winning souls to Jesus Christ. Well maybe that’s because someone else planted the seeds of salvation in that lost person’s heart, seeds that the Holy Spirit was able to use to cause the word of God to grow in the heart and mind of that person.
When we start feeling like Jeremiah, let’s remember that Jeremiah himself was actually not a failure, not at all. It was the people of Judah and Jerusalem who failed. They failed to listen. They failed to heed the warnings. They failed to turn from their sins and turn back to God. In spite of their failure, Jeremiah never stopped preaching the word of God, he never quit, he never gave up. So if you ever feel like Jeremiah, consider this: Maybe feeling like Jeremiah is not so bad after all because nowhere in the Bible does it say that he was a quitter. He was obedient to God to the end, and obedience is what God desires most!