Last summer, I was witnessing with a team of evangelists in New York City when we stopped to talk to people who were selling comedy club tickets. That is when I met Joel.
Joel was a young man who had been living in New York for some time, making his living selling tickets. After I spoke with him, Joel acknowledged that he was guilty of immorality. I went on to present the Gospel to him. Right there in the middle of the sidewalk, near Times Square, Joel bowed his head and confessed his sin to God. He then prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. Joel’s heart was ready. God had prepared him, and I had the privilege of leading him to Christ.
On another day, our group was witnessing in New York’s financial district. I presented the Gospel to a businessman who had just admitted to being an adulterer. I pleaded with him to confess his sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. The man knew he needed to, but he still would not. I told him that he was like a man walking toward the edge of a cliff, not knowing the road was about to end. Soon, he would meet the cliff of eternity and, finally, the Judgment Seat of God. As the man, sullen and sober-spirited, turned to go back to his job near Wall Street, I gave him a Gospel tract and a final urging.
These scenarios may be familiar to you. It is true that not everyone you share the Gospel with will make the decision to trust Christ. What does it mean if you hardly ever see fruit from your personal evangelism? I struggled with this for years. I would plead with my friends and others to place their faith in Jesus, but for a long time no one did. Through this, God began to teach me valuable lessons about His sovereignty in salvation.
He showed me that we will only be held accountable for our faithfulness to witness, not to convert. As long as we explain the Gospel clearly, urge people to place their faith in Christ and warn them of the dangers if they do not, we have been faithful in God’s eyes. The results of our witnessing are not our responsibility.
I learned to trust more in the work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to Christ. I could picture people mulling over the Scripture I had shared with them, unable to push the words out of their minds. It is the Holy Spirit who pricks the conscience and convicts of the truthfulness of the Gospel. Like farming, a period of sowing seeds and watering must precede the harvest. The Holy Spirit will see people through this process. We are only workers in the field.
In the case of the businessman, he did not receive Christ standing there with me, but perhaps he went back to his office–his heart deeply affected by the Gospel–and dropped to his knees beside his desk and prayed to receive Christ. I may never know. I do know, however, that we will be discouraged if we do not remember that God is sovereign in salvation. Let us just be faithful to do our part by sharing the Gospel.