Not everybody is ready to respond to the gospel, no matter how good the news is. This can get you down – it certainly bothered the apostle Paul who said that this gave him a “great sorrow in my heart”. To the Corinthians he said that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel”, thus giving us something concrete to think about when we pray for someone – that God would remove their blindness. Paul soon goes on to the great antidote to such discouragement – the multiplication principle: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” Maybe this is why God allows us to see any fruit for our work at all – he knows we need all the encouragement we can get.
During the last term of my last year at Trinity College I was invited to a party thrown by a ‘society girl’ to celebrate the fact that she had recently become a Christian. I even remember some of the music! She played Yesterday by Lennon and McCartney and halfway through she stopped it and spoke into the silence, “I don’t believe in yesterday any more!” Afterwards some of us said we would remember to pray for her and we did. I must admit my prayers fizzled out after a while – partly because I heard nothing more about her and partly because my faith got thin. I thought her home background might swamp her enthusiasm once she graduated.
Twenty-seven years later I was meeting a student at Heathrow Terminal Three and discovered he was also being met by his mother. We all drank sociable coffee once he had arrived and his mother and I chatted, compared notes and discovered we had attended Trinity at the same time. She said that it was unlikely that we would have ever met because, although she was now a missionary playing a key role in Bible translation in a sensitive part of the world, in those days she was a bit of a society girl who had just become a Christian. The same one! Why did God allow that chance meeting? Maybe to ensure I never lose heart. And maybe to remind me that, in the end, they are his disciples.