This past weekend we began a new series called “Questions & Answers in Jesus’ Day” based on the truth that some of Jesus’ most effective teaching happened when he asked and answered questions. So we’re spending several weeks looking at some of those questions and answers and applying them to life today.
I’ve known for a long time that I was going to begin with Matthew 16:13-17, where Jesus pressed the disciples on the issue of his identity (But what about you…who do you say I am?). I’ve also known for a long time that I was going to use this as an opportunity to preach a very pointed message aimed those who have never made any kind of profession of faith. I was prayed up and prepared, but when we closed the final service not one single person had responded to the invitation.
I’ve got to tell you that I was surprised…very surprised. Not because I thought my words and delivery were so powerful that dozens of people would stream down the aisle. I prayed several times that God would just use me as His messenger and that He would speak through me. I was surprised because, as I wrote earlier, it was a pointed message. I felt the emotion of how tragic it would be for anyone to reject Christ. And I asked people to admit the need of their life, step out in faith, confess that faith, and join me in the baptistery to experience a new beginning. But no one came.
I received some strong encouragement from different people after each service. I was genuinely appreciative and encouraged by what they said. I knew in my mind that “seeds” were planted and that one day there would be a harvest. But I was still surprised. Later in the day, that surprise turned into sadness and disappointment.
Then Monday morning came (it’s Monday at 4:46 p.m. as I write this). When I got to my office, I began to read the online devotion that comes to me each day. Today’s devotion was called “Only for the Lonely.” The Scripture reference was 2 Timothy 4:9, 11, 16-17, and the devotion itself was a prayer for those times when we struggle with loneliness. Here’s the part of the devotion that was most meaningful to me. We pray especially for those who are lonely because they are distant from You. We ask You to bring them to a knowledge of Your Son and keep them restless and sleepless and struggling until they have come to that place of faith in Your Son.
This past weekend, 2,908 people were in church. Of the 2,908 people, 2,195 heard, if they listened, a very pointed message about the need to recognize and confess Jesus as “the Christ…the son of the living God.” I’m praying that some of them are feeling lonely tonight and that they will one day find the comfort and companionship they need in Jesus. I hope you join me in that prayer.