Sometimes you get instant results. Some people you witness to will be at a point in their lives when they’re open, ripe, and ready to receive Jesus, and they will do so right away. Perhaps the Lord has had others witness to them already, or perhaps He has worked in their lives in other ways to bring them to that point. Then the Lord sends you along to help them take that final and all-important step of receiving Jesus.
Witnessing can also be a difficult and thankless job. Not everyone is interested in knowing about Jesus or getting closer to God, so don’t be surprised if some people reject your witness. Don’t be discouraged, either. It can be a bit disheartening when you reach out to people and offer them the most wonderful gift anyone could ever receive, only to have them brush you off, quickly change the subject, look at you critically, or even belittle or berate you. When that happens (as it does to everyone at some point), don’t give up. That person may not be ready to listen or get saved, but the next person might. If you persevere, sooner or later you’ll get positive results.
Some people’s first reaction is negative simply because they were caught off guard. They weren’t expecting or prepared to get into a discussion on such a deep topic as faith in God. Others may have had bad experiences with other Christians, or heard arguments against Christianity that left them disillusioned. Some need to be won over by personal example before they will listen to the “sermon.” Some feel that if they were to receive Jesus as their Savior they would be betraying the faith in which their parents raised them. Some fear that getting saved would mean they would need to give up certain things they’re not ready to give up. Some are simply too self-satisfied, or too satisfied with the things of this world. There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t open their hearts to Jesus the first time they have the opportunity. In non-Christian cultures, especially, it often takes time and a lot of patience to win people to Jesus. Some people have to be convinced by your example—the way you live and how loving and concerned you are for others—before they’re ready to accept what you have to say.
If some people don’t want to listen to what you have to say about the Lord, don’t try to force it on them—but don’t give up on them either. It may be that it’s just not their time. Try to end your witness on a positive note, and continue to pray for them whenever you think of them. Ask the Lord to keep working in their hearts, to water the seeds that you planted there, and to show you what more you can do to try to win them. Perhaps they will eventually be won through your personal example of living the happy, love-filled life that Jesus has for all those who receive Him. Maybe the Lord will tell you to tell them you’re there for them, and that you’d be happy to talk with them more about the Lord whenever they like. Maybe He wants you to keep in touch and encourage their faith by mail or email, or by giving them Christian literature from time to time. Or maybe the Lord has some other plan. Maybe He will send someone else along to finish the job that you started. Maybe later, under different circumstances, they will be more receptive.
If you’ve ever done any gardening or farming, you know that the one who plants the seed doesn’t have the final say in whether it grows or not. All the gardener or farmer can do is till the ground, plant the seed, and water and fertilize it. He can’t make the seed grow. Only God can do that. No matter how effective a witness you are, the results are in the Lord’s hands, according to the response of the individual. You can’t force results! One may sow and another water, but God gives the increase.1
The parable of the sower
A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. …
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the Devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.—Jesus2
Life is in the seed, not the sower
Winning people to Jesus is like farming: We plant little seeds of truth of God in the earth of people’s hearts. The great warm sunshine of His love and the water of His Word will cause some of those seeds to burst forth in the miracle of new life.
Of course, we hope to win others to faith in Christ, but that’s really God’s job and the work of the Holy Spirit. We can only give people the truth and show them the Lord’s love; we can’t force results or make the decision for them. Whether or not they choose to believe and receive and follow that truth is between each individual and God.
One person sows the seed, another may water it, but it is God that gives the increase.3 We can only try to prepare the ground, soften it with our prayers, and sow the seed. It’s up to the individual to receive it, and only God can make it take root and grow and produce fruit.
Our job is simply to go forth bearing precious seed and to plant it in fertile, fruitful, receptive hearts. We may not always see the harvest our-selves, but as long as we have faithfully done our part, we can leave the rest up to the Lord.—D.B.B.
Witnessing never fails
No witnessing is ever wasted! God will see to it that if you cast your bread on the waters it will accomplish the purpose whereunto He has sent it. His Word will not return to Him void.4 Witnessing always pays and it always gets results. Whether you win people to the Lord or not, you’re obeying God, doing His will, and fulfilling your obligation to preach the gospel.
The Word will do the work. Once you’ve delivered God’s message, once you’ve given people the Word, your job is done. What those people do about it is then between them and God. Even if you never win a soul, you’re still winning as long as you’re faithfully witnessing!—D.B.B.
Don’t ever give up just because you have a few defeats! The Lord didn’t say anything about being successful, He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”5—D.B.B.