Monday, February 03, 2014

Reflections on "The Soulwinner's Reward"

One of the books I'm currently reading is The Soulwinner by C.H. Spurgeon.  My colleagues and I on the pastoral staff are reading and discussing it together.  I have found this book and our discussions on it to be helpful and challenging.

The chapter we are reading this week is called "The Soulwinner's Reward."  In it, Spurgeon addresses rewards for those who are actively evangelizing.  Seeking to win souls.  And I thought I'd share a few passages that could encourage us in our evangelistic efforts.

The first paragraph encourages us when we don't see the conversions we would like to see.  When our evangelism doesn't seem to be "working."  We've all been there, right?  An evangelistic conversation is shutdown for one reason or another.  Then it happens again.  And again.  It's heartbreaking because we want to see people come to faith in Christ.  Does God really reward these unsuccessful attempts to evangelize?  Hear Spurgeon's words:
"Even if we did not succeed in it [i.e.- our evangelistic effort], the Lord would still say of it, as He did of David's intent to build a temple, 'Thou didst well that it was in thine heart' (1 Kings 8:18).  Even if the souls we seek all persist in unbelief, if they all despise and reject and ridicule us, it will still be a divine work to have at least made the attempt.  If no rain comes out of the cloud, it has still screened off the fierce heat of the sun.  All is not lost, even if the greater purpose is not accomplished.  What if we only learn how to join the Savior in His tears and mourn, 'How often would I have gathered thy children together...and ye would not!' (Matthew 23:37).  It is sublime honor itself to be allowed to stand on the same platform with Jesus and weep with Him.  We are better for such sorrows, if no others are." (p. 172)
It's good to know that there is reward in the going.  In the attempting.  In the sharing.  In the preaching.  In leaving a tract.  In trying to start conversations.  But some might hear this and be tempted to remain satisfied with never seeing people converted.  I don't mean we don't want to see people converted.  I just mean that we can become so satisfied in attempting that we lose our passion...our drive...our succeed in seeing people saved.  We can forget the joy of being part of God's work in the world.

Parents, surely there is a sense in which we must be satisfied with remaining faithful in teaching our children the gospel.  In faithfully praying for them.  In using every means God has given us to teach them the faith.  That's all we can do...really.  But how can a Christian parent not hunger for their child's conversion the way a starving man wants just one bite of food?  How can we not be driven to see it happen?  Can we really think of ourselves as "Christian" or "parents" if we remain apathetic?

Part of the problem is that we won't keep attempting if we become apathetic.  We won't keep sharing the gospel.  Very often, we would just as soon give up as keep failing to see conversions.  Well, Spurgeon has encouragement for us here, too.
"I may be speaking to a few who have not succeeded.  If so, I would recommend that they steadily look over their motives, their spirits, their work, and their prayers, and then begin again.  Perhaps they may come to work more wisely, more believingly, more humbly, and more in the power of the Holy Spirit.  They must act as farmers do who, after a poor harvest, plow again in hope.  They ought not to be dispirited, but they ought to be roused.
"We should be anxious to find out the reason of failure, if there is any, and we should be ready to learn from all our fellow laborers.  But we must steadfastly set our faces, if by any means we may save some, resolving that, whatever happens, we will leave no stone unturned to effect the salvation of those around us." (p 173)
He aims at two things to do...examine yourself, and examine your work.  Look into your heart.  Do we believe in the power of the gospel as we share it?  Do we know that the dead can be raised right before our eyes?  Are we sharing as a proud man who has religious insight or as a humble man who has received God's grace?  As one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread?

Also, look at your work.  What exactly are we sharing?  What is our focus?  Does our conversation focus only on how bad the world is?  Are we putting forward some message other than the gospel (e.g.- political, social, etc.)?  Do we ever express the truths of the gospel?  If we believe we need to grow, then what are we doing to grow in our evangelism?  How are we learning from fellow laborers?

One way to learn from others is to read what they have written about evangelism.  But BEWARE...reading about evangelism does not make us more evangelistic, but books and articles can help us grow.  With those warnings given, here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • The Soulwinner by C.H. Spurgeon - How could I not recommend the book I'm quoting in this post?  You can get it in Paperback or on Kindle (for only 99 cents).
  • The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever - This is a very helpful book to think about what the gospel is and some practical ways to improve your evangelism.  It's also not as long as Spurgeon's work.  Paperback or Kindle
  • Here's an article from Jim Eliff at Christian Communicators Worldwide that will help you think more intentionally about evangelism: "A More Spontaneous and Genuine Evangelism"
Let me quote one last passage.  It reminds us of the pleasure of God in our evangelism, and it is a fitting way to finish this post.
"When you bring others to His feet, you give Him joy, and no small joy, either.  Is not this a wonderful text: 'There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth' (Luke 15:10)?  What does that mean?  Does it mean that the angels have joy?  We generally read it so, but that is not the intent of the verse.  It says, 'There is joy in the presence of the angels of God.'  That means there is joy in the heart of God, around whose throne the angels stand.  It is a joy that angels delight to behold.
"What is this?  Is the blessed God capable of greater joy than His own boundless happiness?  What a wondrous thought!  The infinite bliss of God is more eminently displayed, if it cannot be increased.  Can we be instruments of this?  Can we do anything that will make the Ever Blessed glad?  Yes, for we are told that the Great Father rejoices beyond measure when His prodigal son, who was dead, is alive again, and the lost one is found.
"...It is a great pleasure to be doing a kindness to an earthly friend; but to be doing something distinctly for Jesus, something that will be of all things in the world most pleasing to Him, is a great delight!...
"Go, dear friends, and seek to bring your children and your neighbors, your friends and your relatives, to the Savior's feet.  Nothing will give Him as much pleasure as to see them turn to Him and live.  By your love for Jesus, become fishers of men." (p. 178-179)