Why Persist in Preaching the Gospel When No One Seems to Be Listening
The prophet Isaiah was warned by God that the people he was sent to would not listen to him (Is 6:9–10). The Jews refused to listen to the Apostle Paul, and he shook the dust from his sandals as he went to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 13:46). Near his death, Paul reported abandonment by all except his few closest companions (2 Tim 4:11, 16).
When God calls the man of God into the Gospel ministry, our Lord delights him with the Word of truth. This grace should never be overlooked or devalued in any way. Here is the primary mark of the called minister of the Gospel, he gives himself over to the study and the ministry of the Word and to prayer (Ezra 7:10; Acts 6:4; 2 Tim 2:15).
The preacher’s burden is great, however. Meditating on the Law of the Lord day and night (Ps 1:2), compels the servant of Christ to be faithful in the discharge of his duties (2 Cor 5:14). He claims that God’s Word is burning in his bones (Jer 20:9). “Woe” is all he knows when he is hindered from preaching the Gospel of grace to sinners (1 Cor 9:16).
Just as the prophets and apostles suffered seasons of being denied effective preaching ministries, so have multitudes of other faithful ministers of God’s Word. It is almost a required rite of passage to be thrown into the cistern with Jeremiah, prison with Peter, John, and Paul, the lions’ den with Daniel, the fiery furnace with the boys of Babylon, or the stomach of the big fish with Jonah.
No matter the circumstances of resistance, even persecution, the man of God must be dressed in readiness to once again proclaim the excellencies of Him (1 Pet 2:9), who also suffered at the hands of guilty sinners (Mt 26:45; Lk 24:7). Jesus Christ was the Word of truth enfleshed (Jn 1:14), and if men were to ever draw near to God, it would have been in the generation of the sent Messiah. Instead, the people despised and rejected Him (Is 53:5).
Jesus Messiah demonstrated the spiritual condition of His listeners through miracle acts of healing. This was to illustrate to people their sad state, in need of remedy. Jesus showed them they were deaf, blind, lame, dying and even dead. The people did not like what He preached to them. Eventually, they desired to kill the Son of God sent to them to seek and to save the lost (Mk 14:1; Lk 19:10; Jn 5:18; 7:1, 25; 8:40).
The proud and arrogant, with a twisted spirit of envy, insisted that Jesus was an awful sinner (Jn 9:24). Still, He told them the truth about God and about Himself (Jn 19:35). He also told them the truth about themselves (Mt 12:34; 23:33). They tore their clothes in anger and then insisted Jesus was a blasphemer (Mt 9:3; 26:65). He was presenting Himself as equal with God (Jn 5:18; Phil 2:6). Nothing apart from the grace of God could convince them about the claims Jesus was making.
There is no new thing under the sun, today (Eccl 1:9). The plight of sinful people remains the same as when Adam and Eve were banished from Eden (Gen 3). People still do not believe in the exclusive way of God’s salvation because they are still deaf, blind, lame, dead in sin, and dying in the flesh. Judgment for sin and sinners is still pending (Heb 9:27).
Who wants to hear the report of one’s futile life in this world, pending death and judgment for a life of incessant sinning, and the promise of eternal punishment in the fiery hell of the second death in the lake of fire? Here is your test, preacher man. If you are actually preaching that warning from Scripture, they are not going to listen. In fact, you may have already been fired once, maybe twice for your faithfulness. Well done! By the way, how is your new job at the package delivery company, or wherever you have been relegated in further crafting by the Lord?
What about that remnant that never stopped listening to you? Why do they still want what you have to say? It is the riches of His glorious grace. Yes, you told them about sin and the Law of God, but when everyone else stopped listening, you persisted in preaching salvation by God’s grace alone. The remnant heard the Word of life, and they believed what you preached. They know you are not trying to win a popularity contest or a political election. They want the Word of truth explained with clarity and in its entirety.
Man of God, this is your identity in Christ. It is who God has made you to be. Not everyone has this calling to be a man of the Word. There are disobedient women preachers, endless varieties of false teachers, and even those who claim to be prophets and apostles of God with new revelations to peddle to the people. You have noticed their popularity and their prosperity. You have refused to join the army of charlatans because His Spirit is your teacher and Guide into all truth (Jn 14:26; 16:13).
Man of God, remember the Lord and the mission — preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2), the eternal Gospel to all nations (Mt 24:14), even to all Creation (Mk 16:15). You must persist against all resistance, all distraction, all setbacks, all unemployments, all discouragements, all naysayers, and against everything that would replace the primacy of your calling to steward the mysteries of this glorious Gospel…your listeners’ only hope.
Got listeners? I would argue that you always have at least four of them. There is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and yourself. Preach the Gospel of God that they may be glorified by the grace given to you. Preach the Gospel of salvation to yourself and be reminded how God’s grace continues to visit you every moment of every day. To whom much is given, much is required (Lk 12:48). God’s grace is sufficient for you to meet the requirements He has designed for your life and ministry.
If God has called you to this work, dear brother, He will supply all you need to accomplish every good work prepared for you (Eph 2:10). God has begun this good work in you and His promise is to complete it…for His glory and for your joy (Phil 1:6). Therefore, you must be strong in the Lord (Eph 6:10). Press on with your high calling (Phil 3:14). A great cloud of witnesses from the Bible and from church history have gone before you (Heb 11). They relied on grace. They grew in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). They proclaimed Him when the people listened and when they did not listen. They were judged to be faithful. Now, how about you? Will you persist?
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 17, 2022