Chapter 17 of John’s gospel is a powerful scene. Jesus prays for his disciples, and He prays for us. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are—I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,(v. 11, 20).
Jesus prayed, wept tears, sweat blood, even died, for us. He labored for our salvation in a way we cannot fully comprehend. Even to the point of dying on a cross. Why commit to all that pain? Why endure the heartaches and headaches?
I have often thought that while doing evangelism. In just about every meeting I have held the thought floats across my mind, why in the world do I subject myself to this? Anyone who has done evangelism understands the rollercoaster ride it can be. You’re happy one day, heartbroken the next. Excited one day, dreading the next. You start with a large group, but by the end of the series it’s been reduced to a faithful few, (sometimes no one). You labor over these people in prayer, visitation, preaching, and teaching. You plead for them from the pulpit, and pray with them in their homes. And whether you should or should not, you do tend to take it very personal when they stop coming, or they choose not to step out in faith on something you’ve shared. Was it something I said? Was it the way I said it? Evangelism is heartbreaking work.
As I was driving to one of my evangelistic meetings this past week. Feeling some of these emotions. It suddenly hit me. One of the greatest gifts of evangelism, and why it is so essential to the church, is the heartache. Evangelism isn’t just for the “people out there.” It’s essential to those who share it because it gives us a tiny glimpse into the heart of God. It helps us identify with the Gospel we’re sharing which is essential to effective evangelism. Jesus’ heart breaks for people, and He wants our heart to break for people too.
Isaiah 53:3 says He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Jesus knows infinitely what it is like to experience rejection, heartache, and sorrow. He knows what it’s like to have people He loves stop following Him after He shared something they did not like (John 6:66). Even worse He knows what it is like to have people you love murder you. And in the end all his followers forsook Him and fled. Evangelism is heartbreaking work. In fact, if it doesn’t break your heart you aren’t doing it right. Because any evangelism that does not love, identify, yearn for, the people it is evangelizing is not good evangelism.
I am daily reminded the heartache is healthy. As long as the church hurts for people it will grow. It’s when it stops hurting, that it starts dying. Jesus prayed, wept tears, sweat blood, even died, for us. He labored for our salvation in a way we cannot fully comprehend. Why commit to all that pain? Why endure the heartaches and headaches? Hebrews 12:2 tells us looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross—And just in case you did not know—you are the joy that was set before Him. Jesus experienced infinite heartache for us, what a privilege we can experience a little of it for Him.