OUR PREACHING REQUIRING PATIENCE AND ENDURANCE
We cannot bring anyone to the Lord merely by good fortune. Rather, the work of preaching the gospel to bring people to the Lord requires much patience. We need to learn Christ as our patience so that we may continually fight the battle to preach the gospel. The real preaching is a battle. We should not think that we can bring the gospel to people so easily. The apostle Paul used the phrase striving together (v. 27). This indicates that we need patience and endurance. George Müller prayed for a certain person to be saved, but that person was not saved during Müller’s lifetime. It was after Müller’s death that this one was saved. It is not very easy and quick to bring certain persons to the Lord. It requires a real struggle. We all have to learn this lesson. We cannot do a quick work in the preaching of the gospel. To preach the gospel is to have a harvest, and we cannot have a harvest in a quick way. We have to learn patience.
I was saved in such a way. A brother in the Lord worked on me for a very long time. For a time there seemed to be no result. I was too hardened in my heart, and I made up my mind to not care for what he said to me. I believe that more or less he was disappointed, and at a certain time he stopped coming to see me. However, one day after he stopped coming—although I did not know why—I made up my mind to go to a Christian meeting. That was the result of the work of that brother over a long time. We all have to learn patience in this work. As the members of a local church, we all must have this life of preaching. In this preaching life we should not expect to do things in a quick way. Rather, we have to labor. If we all will labor for a certain period, perhaps for two or three years, the doors will be wide open to us.
This is similar to a business in that we need to build up credit. I have seen this happen. In the north of mainland China, in my hometown, we spent more than eight years trying to build up credit for the gospel. In the first eight years, from 1932 to 1940, we never baptized over forty people at one time. Within those eight years there was a real struggle. By the mercy of the Lord, however, the brothers there did their best to keep preaching all the time. Then around 1940 the results burst out. From that time on, we always baptized one or two hundred people. Families, factories, hospitals, and schools—all the doors—were opened, and the gospel was very prevailing. In Taiwan we spent at least one or two years in this way. By that time we had learned more, and a group of trained persons came over from the mainland to carry on the work. This is why the work that began there went so fast. Eventually, the doors were opened.
Now we are just starting in this country. On the one hand, we need some time to be trained, and on the other hand, we need time to build up credit. We cannot sow a seed tonight and have a harvest tomorrow. That is the behavior of mushrooms. Mushrooms are not the right life; they even damage the genuine life. A tree bears fruit in its time. We have to learn patience and endurance. The neighbors, relatives, colleagues, and schoolmates with whom we are working may not be saved in this year. Some may be saved this month, but some may be saved only after five years. We do not know when they will be saved; only the Lord knows. I cannot explain why this is so, but it is a fact. Some will be saved very quickly, but some will be saved very slowly. We cannot care about that. We must simply go on and believe that gradually some fruit will be brought in. Therefore, we need patience.
OUR PREACHING REQUIRING MUCH PRAYER
This will be a real test of our prayer life. Do not think that to save a soul is an easy task. It requires a certain kind of prayer. When we pray much for a certain person, that person will be saved. We may compare this to a balance. The person is on one side of the balance, and our prayer is on the other side. The more prayer we add, the more weight we have. When the weight of the prayers exceeds the weight of the person, he will be saved. There is no such thing as fortune in the preaching of the gospel. We cannot expect fortune. Rather, we have to spend much time to pray, to kneel before the Lord for a certain need. This is a real test.
NEVER ESTIMATING THE RESULT OF OUR PREACHING
No one can tell what the real result of our gospel preaching will be. The brothers and sisters throughout the centuries who did much work of preaching eventually learned one thing. At first, they liked to estimate, to reckon, what kind of result their work would have, but after going on with the Lord for twenty, thirty, or forty years, they eventually came to the point that they would no longer estimate. This is because the result of our work cannot be clear to us. Strictly speaking, we can never know the result of our work. In our preaching of the gospel we may work on six unbelievers in a diligent way. Eventually, three may be saved, while the other three remain stubborn. We cannot do anything with the stubborn ones, so we may become disappointed. It seems that the first three are wonderful, but that is their condition today. After another fifteen years, they all may become backsliders. Of the second three, however, one may become an apostle, and two may become the most profitable elders. If we would ask them how they were saved, they may say, “The first time I heard the gospel was fifteen years ago. At that time I was very impressed, yet I was too stubborn. However, that impression never left me, and after many years, I was saved.”
Out of six persons who are saved, two may be weak and four may be strong. After only a few years, though, the four strong ones may be very troublesome in the church, but the two weaker ones may become so living with much spiritual understanding. If we knew these stories, we would never estimate the result of our work. Our responsibility is to work and to pray. As to the result, we must leave this matter to the Lord and to time. I can never forget what C. H. Mackintosh said: It will only be in the presence of the Lord one day that we will know the real result of our work. The proper way to work is simply to bear responsibility. Never estimate the result. If you estimate the result, you will be either disappointed or proud. Learn the lesson to fellowship with the Lord, to work for Him, and to work in Him. That is good enough.
BEING IN ONE SPIRIT AND WITH ONE SOUL
We must learn always to be in one spirit and with one soul with the brothers and sisters. To have one soul, to be joined in soul, and to be like-souled are repeated several times in Philippians (1:27; 2:2, 20). Chapter 4 speaks of two sisters, Euodias and Syntyche. These two were good sisters, but they had a problem. They were not in one spirit and with one mind. Paul told them to think the same thing in the Lord (v. 2).
Philippians is a book on the experience of Christ, and along with the experience of Christ there is the preaching of the gospel. This book tells us clearly that the preaching of the gospel is a matter of fellowship. In fellowship the most needful thing is the harmony. You can never play good music on the piano if all the keys are not in harmony. In order to work together shoulder to shoulder, there must be harmony. Someone may be an extraordinary ball player, but he is useless if he does not stay in harmony with the team; he even becomes a damage to the team.
There is the need of real harmony, especially in preaching the gospel. The more tender and delicate something is, the more it needs harmony. We especially need harmony in the things of the spirit, because the spirit is tender and delicate. The church life, the Body life, is something in the spirit. Do not think that the preaching of the gospel is merely a kind of activity to be carried out in a rough, crude way. We cannot preach in this way. Rather, preaching the gospel is a matter in the spirit. We must have the tender harmony, not only in one spirit but also with one mind and soul.
Many people have been brought to the Lord through a certain brother. He is not eloquent in speaking, but many persons have been saved through him. The special characteristic of that brother is that he always keeps the harmony. He opens his home to invite people to come. Then he never speaks, but he invites other brothers to speak. What harmony, meekness, and humility is in his spirit! This paves the way for the Holy Spirit to convince people. If among us there is no harmony, no tenderness and humility, we cannot expect people to be saved. We simply kill the saving Spirit. I have seen a group of brothers who meet together. They cannot preach much, but they have the harmony in tenderness and humility. Among them there is not much preaching, not even much speaking, but people are saved through them. Preaching the gospel is a matter absolutely in the spirit, not in the mentality and not in argument. Therefore, we need the harmony.
All the foregoing matters require our real practice. We cannot expect something according to our imagination. We cannot expect that today we will do something so successful, and then tomorrow we can forget about it. The preaching of the gospel is a lifelong matter. The word of the prayer of the apostle is that He who has begun in you a good work will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (1:6). We have to keep going on and on. We must pray that the good work that has begun and been established among us by the Lord will keep going on and on, and that we all will learn the lessons. Not only must we preach the gospel to save others, to bring souls to the Lord, but we ourselves must learn the lessons. Then we will be built up together by the outreach of the gospel.
(Preaching the Gospel in the Way of Life, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)