Minnesota is famously known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and the staggering beauty of Minnesota’s vast northern terrain thrills visitors. But all that beauty comes with danger. Reverend S. B. Shaw tells of a farmer who lived on the edge of one of those lakes. One evening after sunset he was on the water when a sudden gust capsized his sailboat. The man tried to swim for shore; but the water was frigid with large chunks of ice floating all around him. He grew disoriented. Though the man was a strong swimmer, he was stunned by the cold; and in his confusion, he swam toward the middle of the lake. Just as he was about to succumb to the lure of death, he heard a voice crying in the distance, “Father! Father!”
The man’s spirits revived. He couldn’t tell where the words had come from, but he thought to himself, “If only she would call again, I think I could tell which way to go.” Just then another call sounded through the darkness: “Father!”
“I turned and struck out in the opposite direction,” the man later recalled. “I had been going away from home. I fought my way; the ice broke before me. I reached the shore and home at last. But if my dear little girl had not persisted in calling me, though hearing no reply, I would have died there alone under the ice.”1
That story reminds me of the hymn that says, “There’s a call comes ringing over the restless wave, ‘Send the light! Send the light!’” So many people around us are losing their balance and missing the way. Without a persistent voice calling through the darkness, they’ll perish. It’s the sound of our voice—our words spoken in Jesus’ name—that can become the means of their salvation.
The Bible says, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13-14)
The use of the word “preacher” in that verse isn’t limited to a person who stands in a pulpit and addresses a crowd of church-goers on Sunday morning. It’s referring to anyone and everyone who shares the Good News about Christ. In the Old Testament, a wide variety of characters proclaimed the message—angels, prophets, politicians, priests, widows, judges, poets, and even, on one occasion, a donkey. In the New Testament, the most effective “preachers” were fishermen and tentmakers—ordinary people who couldn’t keep quiet. The apostles were “uneducated and untrained men . . . (who) had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The apostle Peter put it well when he declared: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The Purpose of Proclaiming God’s Word
There’s someone we can reach for Christ if we have the same attitude. People need the Lord. They need Him presently in this life, for He can give peace and comfort to their hearts. But how much greater is their eternal need! The subjects of the wrath and judgment of God are about as neglected as a library book that’s not been checked out in years. But the Bible still says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). It still says, “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12). It still says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
In his book, Biblical Evangelism in Action, Dr. Robert L. Sumner, says, “How strange it is, in the light of what the Word of God teaches about the doom of the lost, to see so much dry-eyed compassionless Christianity.”2
Were we to spend five minutes in solid, earnest contemplation of an eternity without Christ, we’d be much more zealous in proclaiming the Gospel. Were we to dream vividly of the horrors of hell, we’d awaken to tell someone about Christ. Our purpose, like that of our Lord, is to seek and to save the lost. Just as His love compelled Him to die for the world, His love in us compels us to tell the world of His redeeming death.
The Process of Proclaiming God’s Word
If the thought of proclaiming the Word seems daunting, remember that it’s a team effort, coordinated and synchronized by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul explained it like this: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
If you’re sitting in a church service or an evangelistic rally when an invitation is given and you see a man or woman step forward to follow Christ, how do you feel? You rejoice! When you have the joy of leading a friend to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer,” you’re thrilled. But remember. When we see a harvest, it’s only because others have already done a lot of planting and watering.
To me, this is what’s so encouraging about soul-winning. If I don’t see immediate results, I leave that in God’s hands. If I share the Gospel with someone who rejects it, I consider it a sowing opportunity. If I give an altar call at the end of a sermon and no one responds, I don’t consider the meeting a failure. It takes multiple contacts with the Gospel—sometimes over a period of many years—before a person chooses Christ as Savior.
A missionary in Japan recently reported that a man named Mr. Sato wanted to be baptized. That was a source of joy and answered prayer for the missionaries, for their first contact with Mr. Sato had been thirty years before when he had slipped on the ice and fallen on a city street. One of the missionary children had run to help him. The two chatted for a few minutes, and Mr. Sato had expressed interest in the child’s family and their work.
Many years later, another missionary, Nathan Snow, started meeting with a group of Japanese friends in a café in Sapporo. This same man, Mr. Sato, frequented that coffee shop because it had Internet access. He joined the discussion and later signed up for a Bible study. After a few months, he prayed to receive Christ while sitting with Nathan at a coffee shop. By then the fellow was old and frail, and some in his family were opposed to his baptism. But some time after his conversion, he sent word that he wanted to be baptized. All in all, his conversion and baptism was the result of a chain of events spanning thirty years and multiple contacts with the Gospel. One person planted, another watered, and God gave the increase.
Don’t grow discouraged if your invitee doesn’t come with you to church. Don’t be downhearted if your witness seems to fall on deaf ears. God’s Word doesn’t return void, and in the end we’ll reap a harvest if we don’t give up.
The Power of Proclaiming God’s Word
Remember that the power of the Gospel doesn’t reside in your personality or in our powers of persuasion. It’s not a matter of giftedness. We don’t all have the “gift” of evangelism, but we’re all to do the work of an evangelist. The power is in the Gospel itself. The apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
If you can quote John 3:16 or Romans 6:23, you can witness. If you can invite someone to church or tell them you’re praying for them, you can be a soul-winner. If you can meet a deep need with a good deed, you can preach the Gospel. You can proclaim the word by saying something as simple as “I once was blind but now I see.”
Let’s send a clear call across the restless wave. Let’s preach the Gospel. Let’s send the light—the blessed Gospel light. Let it shine from shore to shore. Proclaim the Word, and let God give the increase.
1S. B. Shaw, Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer (Noblesville, IN: 1893), 257-258.2Robert L. Sumner, Biblical Evangelism in Action (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1966), 131.