Helps for Evangelistic Apathy

Two weeks ago I met Dr. Henry Krabbendam, an 82-year old theologian, professor, and evangelist. He came to speak at our church about evangelism.

During the weekend there was a reception and Q&A with “Dr. K.” at someone’s house. When it came time for the Q&A, we went around the circle, each having a turn to ask a question. My question was deeply personal, one I’ve wanted to ask someone for years. I was a little nervous because 1) I’m still very new to our church and these people are just starting to get to know me, and 2) it wasn’t some polite, underhand pitch softball of a question. It was a fastball, right down the line, with years of history loaded in it, and fired right at my target. I wasn’t trying to hit him; my question was propelled honestly. For a long time I carried this question like a burden. It was a hard question which required a real, concrete answer:

Why it was that in all my years as a Christian, after sharing the gospel with many people in many different settings, I’ve never had one convert? Not even one person say to me, “I’d like to hear more…” No one coming to me and thanking me for showing them Jesus and now they are so thankful they know Him too. Why?

His answer had three main exhortations:

Get on your knees and plead with God for a convert.

Be willing to pay the price.

Don’t give up sharing the gospel.

The next morning in my time with the Lord, I did just that. I got on my knees and prayed for a convert. That next night my wife and I had dinner with Dr. K. We talked about a lot of things. One of the additional exhortations he gave was to pray for a burden; pray to weep for souls. (Something I admitted I don’t have, and don’t do.) This made me ask another blunt question, Do you literally weep for souls? Many preachers and writers talk about weeping, and I’ve wondered if they are using that word as hyperbole or if they really do themselves. Is weeping for souls supposed to be normative for every Christian? Dr. K. received my intensely personal question with grace and candor. He shared that he doesn’t always weep either, but that was proof he, too, needed to pray more earnestly.

I want to have that kind of broken, weeping concern for the spiritual condition of those around me, but I often don’t. But then again, it’s up to the Spirit to give that kind of intense burden, and perhaps He does not give that to every believer. My job is to be faithful in the measure God has entrusted to me, not to focus on straining to produce a kind of fleshly emotionalism. I believe all Christians should evangelize, both out of delight and duty, “in season and out of season.”

When was the last time you shared the full message of the gospel with someone? As I asked two professing believers a few weeks ago, if you had an opportunity to do so, could you even tell someone what the gospel message is? (They admitted they could not.) Incidentally, if you’ve been at a church for any length of time, and months or years later you can’t summarize the message of Christianity in a minute or so, you’re not being property trained and should find a Bible-teaching church immediately.

If you’ve been at a church for any length of time, and months or years later you can’t summarize the message of Christianity in a minute or so, you’re not being property trained and should find a Bible-teaching church immediately.

We don’t need tears to evangelize. But we do need to be able to articulate the points of the gospel. And then we need to pray for the Spirit’s help to step out in faith, over our human fears, and tell others how they can be saved.

God give me a love for people and concern for their spiritual state. Help me, as Dr. K also said, to see people not with my eyes as a man sees (i.e.: see them as black/white, male/female, rich/poor, clean/dirty, safe/suspect, etc.), but to see them as You see them, either saved or lost. There are no other categories. In short: Lord, I repent of my apathy, please let me bear fruits in keeping with repentance.

The Right Reaction to Being Wronged

We’ve all been there…double-over in pain from the sudden stab in the back from a family member, friend, client, or colleague. Why did they do that? How could they hurt me so badly (and not even care!)?

[Note: Months ago I wrote in the previous piece, Action and Reaction, about how I found myself stabbed in the back by someone. In the pain of the moment I stopped to consider my situation and what my response should be. I ended the post saying I would share what I wrote on my whiteboard; this is that post. I hope what helped me helps you. -AR]

We’ve all been there…double-over in pain from the sudden stab in the back from a family member, friend, client, or colleague. Why did they do that? How could they hurt me so badly (and not even care!)?

Since I became a real estate agent I’ve been lied to and back-stabbed more in the past two years than in my 28 years in corporate America. Worse, the other arena where I’ve felt the anguish of the blade has been from professing Christians. Over my 13 years as a Christian I’ve had people who I really loved as brothers or sisters in the Lord say and do unspeakably hurtful things.

I followed David’s example in the Psalms. When David was crushed in spirit he counseled himself: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope inGod; for I shall again praise him, my salvation (Psalm 42:45,11; 43:5).

In the same way, I talked to myself and to the Lord about my hurt. As I did, I wrote the following seven points to remember on my whiteboard:

  • God is sovereign.
  • God has something better.
  • “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” – Joseph
  • “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.” (Far better than whatever I missed out on!)
  • God is using this to sanctify me and make me more like Jesus.
  • What am I supposed to learn from this?
  • “Shall I not also accept difficulty from God?” – Job
  • Jesus lived his entire life as “the Man of Sorrows” (I have no room to complain.)

As believers, we do not get a free pass to self-pity. Also, while the world says, “I just need to vent…” that concept is not biblical; in fact, it’s sinful. Christians are to be led by our minds and hearts, by knowledge, and by faith. We are emotional creatures, to be sure, but we are not to be led by our emotions.

As believers, we do not get a free pass to self-pity. Also, while the world says, “I just need to vent…” that concept is not biblical; in fact, it’s sinful. Christians are to be led by our minds and hearts, by knowledge, and by faith. We are emotional creatures, to be sure, but we are not to be led by our emotions.

What’s most interesting to me as I revisit this list that I’ve had on my whiteboard for months is that, while I was very upset at the time and deeply hurt, now I have no idea what (or who!) it was who hurt me so deeply. And that also is a blessing from the Lord.

Learning to Walk with God: Going Forward by Turning Back

Learning to Walk with God Can Sometimes Means Going Forward by Turning Back

Learning to Follow God

It will take our whole life to learn how to walk with God. Learning to follow God’s leading is to learn to trust and obey. It begins with that dramatic moment when God leads us out in our own personal Exodus at salvation, out of our bondage to sin, into the joy of knowing and following him. And the learning process continues ever so slowly, moment by moment, the rest of our days.

Going Forward…by Going Back

We’ve been looking at the dramatic flight of the Israelites out of Egypt at the Exodus. God has led them through the Wilderness Way and the Dark Way, and now we see he is leading them forward–by going back?! Yes. Let’s consider this together.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon…” Exodus 14:1

Suddenly ejected from Egypt, by now the Israelites have traveled by a longer unusual route, at night with fiery pillar lighting the way, and now they are instructed to turn back so as to appear to be lost. And we know from all the pages which follow, they are only beginning to learn how to walk with God!

graceandpeaceradio.com learning to follow god's leading is to learn to trust and obey

Meanwhile their former captor and his armies are hot on their trail, hunting them down. Just as God said He would (14:4, 8) God intentionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart that he would see their steps as a opportunistic miscalculation whereby to pursue them and exact his revenge.

God, we know, had other plans. In fact, the LORD’s plans were infinitely above the present circumstances in their scope. God’s plans were not just temporal, they were eternal. This wasn’t just about God’s just wrath upon an evil people but about displaying his sovereignty over their gods.

I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. – Exodus 14:4

What about the Israelites? Was it cruel of God to use them to appear confused and thereby to use them to lure Pharaoh to them? Absolutely not. Like a mother bear just feet away from her vulnerable cub, they were not in any real danger at all.

The Illusion of Being in Control

The Israelites were turned back and panic was setting in. Despite God giving them a glimpse into His plan, all they saw was their enemy closing in for the kill. (More about their reaction next time.) Little did they know that in God’s plan they were very much surrounded by Him and still moving forward in God-wrought victory. I’m sure it wasn’t how they would’ve had it if they were in control.

I know that feeling.

Learning to Walk with God Means God’s Will, Not Ours

Learning to walk with God means putting feet to our faith. Believing faith is inseparably joined with a desire for God’s will above ours. When God saves a person, they would much rather stay in their sin and be His enemy than to bow in submission and repentance.

Some may ask, “But how do I trust and obey God?” The Holy Spirit gives saving faith, we can’t believe the Good News of salvation through Christ unless he imparts faith to us. And in that believing faith is the supernatural desire to want what God wants–for us to be saved and reconciled.

From the moment of a person’s new birth, if it is true, there is a desire to always ever want what God wants more than whatever it is we might want, no matter how much. And that, like a tiny sprout, grows into the kind of believing faith that matures to trust and obey the Lord.

Conclusion

The Christian reads this passage and exults in God’s strategic brilliance in orchestrating their rescue (a rescue that was promised 430 years earlier, mind you). We can’t help but rejoice in seeing the wicked cast down, but the best part is seeing God getting the glory due Him. It’s why we should always look forward with hope to that Day when, at long last, the Lamb receives the full reward for His sufferings.

Walking with God along the Dark Way

There is no greater joy in life than walking with God. Anyone who has walked with God for sometime will tell you: Walking with God along the Dark Way is lonely, frightening, and even heartbreaking, but Christ is always there leading us. Oh, what a life he blesses us with along the way!

As we discussed in Part 1 about God leading us in the Wilderness Way, learning to walk with God is a process. That process will take a lifetime, Immediately following the previous passage in Exodus 13 we read,

And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (20,21)

God had suddenly and recently led the Israelites out of Egypt. Then He led them by the unconventional way toward the Red Sea. And soon (Ex 14:1-4) He would have them change course once more to even appear to be lost in the furious eyes of Pharaoh. But they hadn’t even gotten to that point yet. For now, He was reinforcing His guiding Presence via the cloud and the fire.

You might also like: Part 3: Learning to Walk with God: Going Forward by Turning Back

Seeing this story from the other side of the cross, and being reminded that all they went through was for my (and, if you are in Christ, your) example (1 Cor 10:1-7), and again reminded of the Wilderness Way already discussed, the lesson of the fiery guiding pillar moves me forward this day.

graceandpeaceradio.com walking with God
graceandpeaceradio.com

My Lord will (without a doubt) lead me in unconventional, seemingly purposeless paths. He will (absolutely) have me travel through times of darkness if it is necessary to accomplish His good plans. But the fiery pillar of The Comforter will lead me through the night. His Word is, after all, “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).

Move forward today in Spirit-given faith and the illumination given from the applied Scriptures. This is what it is to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).

Following God in the Wilderness

Following God is learning how to how to walk with him, but not ahead of him. And it’s a lifelong process. In love he will lead us into the wilderness, often taking us ways we least expect, or want, to go. Over the next few posts we are going to look at lessons from the Exodus about following God in the wilderness.

When Pharaoh let the [Israelites] go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. – Exodus 13:17-18

He Leads, We Follow

The way by the Philistines was nearer, but nearer wasn’t better. The children of Israel were learning who their God was, and who they were in Him.

You may also like: Part 2: Walking with God along the Dark Way

Leading them along the longer way, the wilderness way, was another example of the manifest wisdom of God. Moses and the million men, women, and children following him, and their bleating and lowing flocks and herds and hastily grabbed bowls full of unleavened dough were learning Lesson One in God’s primer: Trust Him. It’s a lesson they would have to return to again and again.

You may also like: Part 3: Learning to Walk with God: Going Forward by Going Back

He Leads in Love

God never leads His people by the obvious path. The nearer “way by the Philistines” is rarely the way the Spirit will lead us. God loves us too much to squander an opportunity to teach us dependence upon him. He wants to lead us, always, to Christ. We need not worry. He sees the dangers along life’s way we often do not. “He knows our frame and remembers we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).

following God

The broad way maybe easier but the narrow way is best. The way of the wise isn’t the easy downhill but upward (Prov 15:24). The strait (difficult) way is reserved for His own, just as the impassable cup of divinely-appointed and undeserved wrath was the Father’s will for His Son. It is a holy privilege to be counted among the Lord’s people. Better to be numbered among them and led like them.

Conclusion

The Lord will lead his children in the wilderness way at times. Life will have its dark, uncertain, and unsettling moments. This is not the directing of an inefficient or capricious deity, but the loving way of our Lord and Father. The Lord is my Shepherd, David wrote, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures and leadeth me beside still waters. Whether it’s our first time or our thousandth time, may God lead us along the wilderness way for a time, but he does so in love, and always back to Lesson One: Trust Him.