Articles

Articles

You Will Know

Evangelism can be a tricky thing to follow because we don’t always know how things turn out. We might meet a visitor after a worship service, strike up a spiritual conversation, and then never see that person again. Perhaps we hand out a tract, article, or book to a neighbor or co-worker, then get transferred to another department or location. So we effectively lose touch with that person.

As a preacher, I’m frequently faced with a similar frustration. I like to see how things turn out. I hate missing the end of a football game, for example. I’ll finish reading a book that I don’t particularly like just to see how it ends (“Do they end up together? Does the villain get his comeuppance in the end?”) So, when I plant a seed by teaching a class, conversing with a neighbor, or reaching out to a visitor at church, I want to know how things end up!

Often, we kind of dismiss the angst by saying, “I guess we’ll just never know.” Maybe a little more optimistically, we encourage personal evangelism by stating, “You never know how one act of kindness, a word of encouragement, or an attempt at teaching the gospel will change somebody.”

“You never know...”

That might often be true in an earthly sense, but I realized recently that it won’t be true eternally. Someday, when we’re all raised together to be judged, we will know the results of our labors on earth (Matthew 25:31ff).

We will know if that co-worker ever obeyed because we either share eternity with him or not.

For the same reason, we will know if our grandchildren and great-grandchildren ever accepted the faith we hold so precious. We will know who heeded the call and who didn’t. We will know the lasting impact we made on people for the stand we took defending truth -- or we’ll know how detrimental our cowardice was when we failed to stand up for divine truth (Revelation 21:8).

We will know because each man’s work becomes evident in the end (1 Corinthians 3:13).

We will know because there will be no hiding on the Final Day. Everybody will be judged (John 5:28-29).

We will know because we’ll see the end result of every small act of love, every scripture we quoted in a moment of desperation or trial, every prayer we offered for an unbeliever, every enemy we made into a friend by our obedience to Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:44, and, yes, every little conversation we struck up with a grocery store clerk, bank teller, or cable technician in an attempt to plant the gospel seed.

The apostle Paul made an astute observation about his own role in the conversion of many, writing, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. So I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). He understood that he wasn’t always going to see the end result of his evangelistic efforts. He might plant a seed. Another one comes along later and waters. Was Paul keeping count? Was he worried about “making the sale” or getting the credit? Was his ego bruised when somebody else baptized more people than him? Clearly not (Philippians 1:15-18)!

Certainly, if God gives us opportunity, we might see the way our evangelism comes to fruition. Few things bring quite as much joy as being involved in the process of a sinner’s transformation to saint. But even if we do not get to witness it now, we will see the fruit in the end.

“You never know?”

Maybe for now. But you will know.