Researchers think they’ve discovered a strange phenomenon in the area of persuasion. The more a person believes strongly in a future, the more likely he thinks that others will eventually come around to his belief. But there’s more.
“… partisans believe they are so correct that others will eventually come to see the obviousness of their correctness,” says behavioral scientist Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School, lead author on the research. “Ironically, our findings indicate that this belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality.
Some Christians, however, have been known to hold a different, equally ineffective opinion—and one gets the impression that their number is not insignificant. They know the Lord guarantees a favorable future. Their belief in this future is absolute. But they don’t believe that others will come to see the obviousness of this truth.
On the contrary, they believe that next to none will come to embrace the second coming of Christ, prepare for his appearance, and be ready to enter into the eternal kingdom.
Their belief about the faithful few and the remnant of God is so strong and their conviction that others are not interested in the gospel is so sure, that it leads them to a similar position of the “partisans” studied by the researchers: The likelihood is diminished that saints will take action to ensure that others are prepared for this favorable future.
Their attitude, which can frequently be heard in the churches, is, “Nobody wants to hear the gospel these days, so why bother trying to convince them?”
This view of modern resistance to the gospel places a distance between the first century and our time. What worked then, they reason, will not work now.
Such a view disregards many lines of positive evidence, among them:
1. Jesus promised to be with his proclaiming disciples, guaranteeing that converts would be made, Mt 28.18-20. His command to make disciples and teach others presupposes a measure of success. With the command to teach others what he had taught the disciples who were with him comes the promise of his presence and power.
2. The indwelling Spirit brings the power of God to the life of the saint and to his service of proclamation in the kingdom, Rom 15.13; 1 Cor 12.6, 11; Eph 3.16. First-century miracles are sometimes given as evidence of why the gospel was effective then and their absence today, as evidence of why it is not effective in the present age. They willingly forget that miracles did not automatically guarantee a response of faith. The same word preached then is preached now, and the same power of God’s Spirit active then is active now, Rom 1.16. “He works through all of us and in all of us” Eph 4.6 ERV.
3. God makes his people coworkers and puts in their hands the word of all power—”the power to save … souls” Jas 1.21 NLT. Their place is to sow the seed of the Word; his, to bring forth the harvest, which he will certainly do when the seed is sown. He “causes the growth” 1 Cor 3.7. God has given his promise to all Christians in all ages and locations that his word will produce fruit, that some will respond to the message of Christ, Jn 15.5, 8. We ought to have the same faith Abraham had, in “the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do” Rom 4.17.
God sees people being saved in every place, 2 Cor 2.14. Can we see it? He sees sinners who are not now his people being formed into communities of his children, 1 Pet 2.10. Can we see it? God sees you and me becoming powerful and effective proclaimers of the wonderful news of Christ. Can we see it?
Let us take urgent and consistent action so that others may come to participate in the favorable future promised to the obedient.