After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
- Luke 10:1-12
Quite some time ago, I heard a marvelous sermon with a marvelous concept for our ministry of spreading the Gospel, but then I wondered if people thought “This is all we have to do.”
In the story above about Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in pairs, God had ordained this in His plan. The Holy Spirit went out ahead of them. And people had been oppressed by foreign powers, made to work hard for little in return, and made to feel like foreigners in the land God had promised them.
What was the sermon’s concept? In Jesus’ instructions above, they were to act like guests. First, do not enter the house and slap them across the face with Scripture. Then, if offered food, eat it as if it were the best thing you ever ate. The pastor said that in Samaria they might have been exposed to things that were far from kosher, maybe things they were told never to eat. Stay at the one house, not roaming from house to house, like these were long lost cousins, as they were, and you really got to know them. Just starting off saying “Peace to the house” showed that you were not there to antagonize, argue, or bully. You were a guest.
My mind wandered to my feelings upon coming home after a month in India. There is the tourist who sees the wonderful things, often shielded from the “ordinary.” There is the person on the mission trip that sees the needy in a certain area. But then, there is the person who goes to work. You have no one who shields you; you can look behind the curtain. And you are truly a welcome guest. So, having done that many times, I know what the pastor was saying.
The 72 disciples also had the instructions of shaking the dust from their feet if being a guest did not work, but all the 72 came back with positive reports. The pastor’s conclusion was to be a guest when you visited someone that you would like to share the Gospel with.
Great! Rather than the spiritual hand-waving and uncertainty, we now have a concrete set of instructions, but…
If it is not God’s plan for us to go into that house, we might end up shaking dust from our sandals. This does not mean that the household is doomed. It could be someone else’s job to lead them to Jesus.
If the preparation is not done, nothing can be accomplished. First, we need to be well trained. Second, we need to pray. I was reminded in a Sunday school class about Billy Graham crusades. I had never been to a crusade, but in my youth, our little church in a small Mississippi town had an interim pastor who was a crusade front man for Billy Graham. He, along with others, would enter a city on the crusade route. They would prepare the pastors for what would happen, but also pray with them and have the pastors set up teams of prayer warriors, long before Billy Graham ever reached the city. With so many people praying that their neighbors would be convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit, it rarely depended upon Billy Graham’s beautiful sermon to push them onto their feet and down the aisle to the front. It was the preparation, the faith of the faithful, and the hearts of many who pleaded with God for the revival to occur.
And in most cases, Billy Graham was prepared. He knew the plight of the people. He listened to the front men (and maybe women) who counseled Graham on what was the nature of the suffering. When the research and preparation was done, with the Holy Spirit guiding each step in the process, Billy Graham knew just what to say. And even then, I feel that he varied his speech from the well-practiced to a side trail at the last minute on occasion, maybe subconsciously, because the Holy Spirit knew a different way of saying something would get that one person’s attention.
I recently finished a Bible Study of the book of James, one chapter each week. A friend said how much he loved James because of the practical applications in the book, but just as in the book of James and these instructions directly from Jesus, the prayer, research, and preparation done in advance can make all the difference. I cannot remember the exact quote because it was a cute play on words, but let’s say that the speaker was speaking about “glee” from the Joy of people coming to Christ. The saying might then be “To have the “glee” time, you will need to do a lot of “knee” time.”
For the concept of being someone’s guest to lead someone to Jesus, we need to spend much more time on our knees in prayer before we ever go, praying for the person to be touched by the Holy Spirit, that person that we have yet to meet in some cases, and pray for that more than praying for us to have the right words. For it is not us that saves anyone. God does the heavy lifting and even the light lifting as well, we just pray that we are in the right place at the right time to be His instrument.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.