The Consequences of Losing Heart
There are two consequences of losing heart in evangelism. One is obvious. We simply give up and stop preaching the gospel. The less obvious consequence is seen in Paul's words to the Corinthians.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)
Instead of ceasing to evangelise, we change our methods of evangelising. Notice the contrast.
‘We do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.’
In other words, when we lose heart, we may begin to evangelise in disgraceful, underhanded ways. Paul continues by explaining what these ways are: ‘practicing cunning and tampering with God’s word’, or as the NIV says, ‘using deception and distorting the word of God.’
When I was in Fiji, I heard about a politician who had attempted to get votes by promising gifts to voters. “Vote for me and get a toaster.” As you can imagine, he got lots of votes. This campaign was a form of deception. And it is the kind of thing we can easily do with the gospel if we begin to lose heart.
An example of this might be the prosperity gospel. People want health and they want wealth. We tap into this desire by subtly altering the gospel to make such things the focus. “Come to Jesus because He promises to make you healthy and rich.”
This approach seems to work. You can grow big churches that way. But when you do, the converts you get are most likely false converts. They are not attracted by the glory of Christ shining in the gospel; they are attracted by the glory of money and health, and so are not genuinely saved. Distorting the gospel is really making another gospel. And another gospel can’t save. Losing heart leads to such deception and distortion.
Paul tells us that he didn’t lose heart and therefore didn’t resort to such things. So what did he do instead?
“We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.”
He persevered in preaching the truth openly without any deception or distortion. He says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” We know we haven’t lost heart when we go on faithfully and openly preaching the gospel.
Think for a moment about the gospel you proclaim. Have you distorted it in any way? Have you moved the focus from the glory of Christ to something else? What parts of the gospel are you tempted to water down?
Losing Heart in Evangelism