|Vol 5 No 8||February 27, 2000|
THE FRUIT OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS A TREE of life and he that winneth souls is wise." In Philippians 2:14-17, Paul sees us as "lights in the world . . . holding forth the word of life" and says, "I joy and rejoice with you all." There is wisdom and joy in soul winning. But what must one do or what must one be in order to exert the kind of influence upon others that can lead them to Christ? In Isaiah 37:31, the remnant of God's people will "take root downward and bear fruit upward." The longer I live, the more I am convinced that the reason our current efforts in soul winning are so ineffective and inept and the source of great frustration is that our "roots" are too shallow. In our "now generation" we are looking for quick fixes, new high tech methods, some neat, easy package or memorized spiel that will get the job done without any great effort or personal sacrifice.
The influence of one godly life in a world of sin in a beautiful thing to behold. My mother-in-law, Emily Beever, was the finest Christian I ever met. There was nothing spectacular about her 70 years in God's vineyard. She had a limited education, she probably never had a course in "personal evangelism," but she fed the hungry during the depression, she took her children to every service, often walking in bitter Michigan weather, she volunteered to help polio victims during that epidemic, she knelt and prayed with 5 children as they left for school each morning, and lived such an example of true Christianity before her husband and prayed so fervently for him over 50 years that she finally won him to Christ. We made a survey of her life recently, tracing her influence through 3 generations of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and found 6 gospel preachers, 3 elders and deacons, dozens of Bible class teachers. If you tried to add up the number of souls won to Christ by her, it would number in the hundreds or maybe thousands. If you ask why she had such an indelible influence upon so many people, the answer would have to be -- she had "deep roots." Anyone who knew her observed very soon the priority she gave to Bible study and prayer every day and the sincerity and depth of commitment to her Lord. Her influence was not so much due to method as it was to motivation.
It is so easy in trying to find the "secret of soul winning" to think in terms of new approaches, special methods (use of computers, mass media advertising, telephone call-ins, etc.), but why not go to the master soul winner of all time, the one we are to imitate (1Cor 11:1), to walk in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and the one who had a greater influence upon people and the world in which He lived than anyone who ever lived? There were certain "roots" in Jesus' life that gave Him such a great influence on others. One was His deep and abiding love for lost souls and the burden He bore for them. "Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1Tim 1:15). Nothing else could have brought Jesus "out of the ivory palaces" to this low world of sin and sorrow but a determined purpose to save lost souls. He showed that love by feeling their hurt and their need. "When he saw the multitude he was moved with compassion for them because they were distressed and scattered as sheep not having a shepherd" (Matt 9:36-38). Because of this, He took His message to the sinners. He went where sinners were to be found . . . in the marketplaces, street corners, mountainsides, seashores, or in the homes of the lost. He was criticized by the religious leaders for receiving sinners and eating with them (Luke 15:2). His was not a planned program of soul winning, it was His lifestyle! He prayed for lost souls and shed tears over them, "and wept over it saying, 'If thou hadst known the things that make for peace'" (Luke 19:41).
Do you want to have an influence on others to lead them to Christ? Be Like Jesus! Walk as He walked! Do you pray for lost souls? Do you pray with Paul, "My hearts desire and prayer to God . . . is that they may be saved"? (Romans 10:1). We are not praying for miracles, but for open doors of opportunity (Colossians 4:2-3), for boldness to speak without fear (Acts 4:29), for wisdom to say the right thing (James 1:5). Do you shed any tears because anyone is lost? David said, "Rivers of water run down mine eyes . . ." Jeremiah said, "Oh, that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears . . ." Paul said, "I wrote you with many tears." These men were not wimps! They wept, not because of personal pain, insults or hardships, but for the lost condition of those about them.
We live in a world of 5 billion lost souls, dying at the rate of 260,000 every day - and how many Christians feel the burden or shed a tear for those precious souls? Do we take the message out where people are? Church buildings are places where Christians are nourished in the faith, exhorted and encouraged, but for the most part soul winning is done out where sinners are. A fisherman doesn't go fishing in his bathtub . . . a farmer can't harvest a crop in his living room . . . and a soul winner doesn't win souls by staying inside a church building.
So what is the greatest thing you can do to influence others for Christ? Be a committed Christian! Live in such a way that others observing your life will say, "I don't know what that person has, but I want some of it." Let me emphasize that it will not be our programs, our advertising, our gimmicks, that will lead the world to Christ. It will be God's power working through the gospel, coupled with our fervent prayers that will accomplish the task.