2002-01-15 - The Most Unsuccessful Preacher
2 Peter 2:4,5 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly;"
In 1987 I had lunch with a man named Walter Miller. I had heard of him before and wanted to meet him. When I learned that we would both be in Dallas attending the same conference I made an effort to meet him and was fortunate enough to get a favorable reply. He was in his mid-80's at the time. He went to be with the Lord about 6 years ago. The reason I wanted to meet him was because I had heard about his remarkable ministry for over 40 years in Iran. During this time he lived among the people of Iran as a Christian in a fundamentalist Islamic nation. He adopted their culture, dress, in fact everything but their faith. But remember I said that his ministry was remarkable and this was the reason I wanted to meet him. You might wonder what was remarkable about his ministry. The remarkable aspect of his ministry was that in over 40 years of service to Christ in Iran, he never saw one person become a Christian.
This is why I wanted to meet him. I know my heart and I know that if after two years I was seeing little or no success, I would grow discouraged, and be likely to pack it in and say with confidence, "The Lord must have other plans for me." Certainly after five years I would have given up and if I lasted ten years I would probably have spent years eight and nine telling myself to reevaluate my ministry in the tenth year. But for someone to last over 40 years in a hostile and poverty riddled environment is quite remarkable.
However, Mr. Miller is not the most unsuccessful preacher that I am aware of. Noah labored 120 years and still only he and his family entered the ark. Can you imagine the ridicule Noah must have experienced from those around him when he set out to build this huge boat and probably spent his off hours catching animals. For 120 years he told his neighbors about the coming flood and warned them to repent. Most likely there never had been rain before because Genesis 2:5,6 tells us of the mist that used to rise from the ground and water the earth. So for Noah to talk about the sky pouring rain would have seemed absurd. However he persevered and obeyed the Lord. He was, arguably, the most unsuccessful preacher that ever lived. Everyone he came into contact with, excluding his family, parished.
Do you ever feel that you are having little or no impact in your efforts to share the love of Christ with others? There is great encouragement here for you in the lives of Mr. Miller and Noah. Both knew their calling from God and both, even when they saw no fruit for all their efforts and sacrifice, were faithful.
We may never see the fruit of our efforts, "Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together," John 4:36. This verse tells us to be mindful that we may not see the fruit of our labor. Someone else may reap the harvest of our labor to win souls, but it is no matter, we rejoice with all of heaven when a sinner is converted. "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance," Luke 15:7. Our job is to be faithful to the Lord in what He has called us and in the sphere in which He has placed us. Faithfulness to the Lord and His will for our lives will bring us peace and lasting joy in our service to Christ and His cause.
Soli Deo Gloria,