Faithfulness and obedience to the Holy Spirit may not always produce the results we hope for. This Spirit may say, “Go!” but the one we speak to may respond with, “No.” Perhaps our enthusiasm will be met with anger or violence. The opportunities may have presented themselves, and we may have been frozen in fear or stand unprepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us. We may ask God to make us a blessing to someone today and find ourselves having said nothing about the Lord of love and His gift of salvation. Whatever the failure, it can feel devastating.
Failure can provide an opportunity to deepen our dependence on God and trust His power of redemption. A negative response to the gospel isn’t something that we should necessarily take as a sign that our words have not hit the mark God had intended. Perhaps we have been given the task of tilling some very hard ground. Truth can bring pain, and pain isn’t often warmly welcomed. It is crucial to walk carefully with the Holy Spirit when dealing with hardened hearts and scarred lives. But we must be faithful to His leading and direction.
Jesus warned His disciples of certain rejection as He shared the Passover meal with them before His crucifixion and resurrection. In John’s gospel, we read His words, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you … if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18-20).
Evangelism is about connecting people, made in God’s image, with the One who made them and loves them best. These same people have been given the freedom to accept or reject His gifts of salvation. Rejection could very well be a test of the love and grace we describe in our witness. If we are genuinely concerned about those to whom we speak about salvation, we will see them as more than tally marks or members. They will continue to be valued and loved as people who will one day no longer be able to resist the powerful grace of God.
It is important not to let the hard and challenging opportunities keep us from saying something about Jesus and His power to forgive, cleanse, heal and transform lives. We must say something … it is what a witness does. So, whether our words are welcomed or rejected, we must remember that it is best to love, even if one is not loved in return. It is worth it.
God does not waste anything. He is the master of redemption. Even the failure to recognize the Spirit’s leading in opportunities like this can be used to draw us to grow more sensitive and responsive.
Failure can provide an opportunity for reflection. Could our motives have been muddled? Is it time to sharpen our skills? Do we need to deepen our understanding of Scripture? Does a greater sensitivity to the Spirit need to be nurtured? Rejection can inspire us to love as Christ loves. Fear can be transformed into bold determination. Missed opportunities can call us to intentional living and careful attention to the Holy Spirit. Failure is redeemable if we offer it to God for use in His transforming work.
Excerpted from “Say Something” by Stephen Banfield and Donna Leedom, © 2013 Crest Books Available at crestbooks.com