My neighbours need Jesus!
About a month ago, I looked out of my kitchen window and a crowd was gathering around a yurt in the courtyard. Someone from the block of flats that I live in had died. Women were wailing, and I could see the widow of the 40-year-old man stricken with grief, then the mullah arrived and gathered the men – the grief and hopelessness was palpable. All the while crying for my neighbours, I prayed, ‘Lord, have mercy’.
In a majority Muslim country where evangelical Christians make up less than 2% of the population, this is all too familiar a scene. Feelings of hopelessness and despair are widespread in the face of difficulties, including corruption, domestic violence and, in this case, death.
As I looked out of my window the ‘poverty, brokenness, blindness, captivity, grief and despair’ of my neighbourhood looked back at me. How do these words from Isaiah 61:1-3 describe your neighbourhood or workplace? How does your neighbourhood need the good news that came with the promised Messiah?
The need is so great, isn’t it? Do you sometimes get overwhelmed by the brokenness of our world, the sinfulness of people (ourselves included!) and so many men, women and children who don’t have real hope because they don’t know Jesus?
Resilience in evangelism
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after difficulties, setbacks, or pain. In evangelism, we might add that resilience is the ability to keep going and bounce back after persistent disinterest, rejection or worse from those we share the gospel with.
How can we keep on sharing the good news of Jesus, who defeated death and holds out the promise of eternal life for those who believe? What does it mean to be resilient in evangelism?
Like the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 11:23-33), being a Christian in Central Asia, and especially sharing the gospel, can have big consequences. I have friends who have been thrown out of home and not allowed to return for a decade. There are students who, because of their faith in Christ, have risked failing at university by refusing to give the expected bribe for grades. In a village not far from the capital, a man was beaten publicly because he named Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.
Witness isn’t always this public or dramatic, but the quiet, persistent witness of a life lived for Christ, loving God and loving your neighbour, will be noticed. It may be uncomfortable at first for those looking on, but the Christian who truly loves their neighbour often ends up being the person they turn to when trouble comes because the love shown is genuine and hopeful.
With all the pressure from society and family, wherever we are in the world, we can become overwhelmed not only with the needs we see but also by the consequences for ourselves – spiritually, physically and emotionally. How do we keep going?
Do not lose heart
Have you noticed the phrase, ‘Do not lose heart’? It is found just four times in the New Testament, twice each in 2 Corinthians 4 and Hebrews 12, where it relates to the eternal hope we fix our eyes on, and the resurrected Jesus who we trust and follow.
Reading 2 Corinthians 4 we’re encouraged to speak the gospel, not to change the true message to make it more appealing to others out of fear of the consequences, and to be realistic about who we are as messengers of the good news. We won’t always get things right – we may stumble and people may reject the good news in their blindness – ‘but, do not lose heart’ (v16).
Remember God’s identity
Who is the God we serve? Reading Scripture for ourselves tells us who God is, reminds us of the gospel and feeds our souls. It is his message we proclaim (v2) and live by; his power that transforms and brings new life (vv5-7) to us and our hearers. There will be those who believe!
The results of evangelism are in his hands. This is immensely freeing – we can get on with the job of faithfully sharing the life-giving gospel – after all, we cannot change someone’s heart ourselves! How are you growing in your knowledge and love of God from his Word?
Remember our identity
Who are we? Paul was realistic about both the glory of the gospel and the fragility of gospel messengers! All of us in our humanness are fragile like pottery; we are limited and weak (vv7-12). This is not a surprise or a problem for God!
A good friend of mine is very sick at the moment. Hearing her cry out to God and hold on to him in the midst of so much pain is such a witness to those around her; her weakness only seems to highlight the gospel! What opportunities have you had to share Christ because of difficulties or weaknesses you have?
Rely on God and on community
You are not alone. Paul knew he needed to rely on God and have the support of other believers. Look at the example in 2 Corinthians 1 verses 10-11 and how Paul asks for prayer in Colossians 4 verse 2-6.
We need each other and we need each other’s prayers and gifts. We need each other to remind us of who God is and of his Word; to provide accountability, to help us deal with disappointment and to give us ideas. Who is praying for you and your witness, or who could you ask? How are you supporting others in prayer and in practical ways: hospitality, mentoring, providing food, helpful books, a listening ear? How is your church or small group looking to share the good news together?
Two other practices really help me too: the discipline of gratitude helps me change perspective when I’m getting weary, and a regular practice of sabbath rest helps me persevere in faith and in evangelism.
The world in its brokenness and despair needs Christ, and we have a wonderful task to speak of our Saviour!
So do not lose heart; fix your eyes on Christ and the hope we have in him; remember the gospel and rely on God and the fellow believers he has given you to walk with.