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Compelled: The Irresistible Call to Share Your Faith

Compelled: The Irresistible Call to Share Your Faith

by Dudley Rutherford


Learn More | Meet Dudley Rutherford

Chapter 5: THE VALUE OF ONE SOUL

“Is anything worth more than a soul? The answer, obviously, is no. God values the human soul. And so should we.”
    GREG LAURIE

When I was young, my family and I would often drive over to a local lake in Kansas called Courtney Davis Lake Resort to spend the day. It was a picturesque setting with picnic benches nestled among lofty trees and songful birds flying overhead. There were large swings, diving platforms, and wooden rafts throughout the lake.

Sometimes we would head over with just our family. Other times we went with another family or a large group from church. My four siblings and I loved to run around and play, especially near the water.

One such idyllic afternoon took a frightening turn when someone ran over to my dad and shouted, “Debbie fell into the lake!”

Debbie is my older sister. She was six or seven years old at the time. Having been an animal lover from day one, it was no surprise that Debbie had become fascinated by little frogs that were swimming in the lake. Somehow she slipped and fell into the water.

No matter how hard she tried, there was no way she could get out because a sloped cement embankment surrounded the mass of water. And that embankment was covered in slippery moss.

She yelled to her friend Danny, who had been standing over her, paralyzed by fear, “Go get my dad!”

Meanwhile, I was in the picnic area, and I remember seeing Dad there with a full plate of food. He had just finished loading up his plate and he was about to sit down to eat. But when Danny ran toward us and announced what had happened to Debbie, my dad did not take the time to set his plate down on the picnic table. He immediately started running and just let the food fall to the ground.

My sister sent Danny to get our dad because she knew Dad would save her. As she groped at the slick embankment, she saw a group of people running across the grass toward her, with Dad racing way ahead of the pack. He swooped down, grabbed Debbie’s arm, and plucked her out of the water.

She was covered in slimy moss, but none of us cared. We were all so grateful that Debbie had been rescued. Everyone cried tears of joy.

Looking back, Debbie says it seemed like Dad rescued her in an instant. Though he had been enjoying conversation and was about to eat his lunch, he dropped everything in the blink of an eye and sprinted to the lake—to save his daughter.

She was without hope until he arrived.

Why did my dad save my sister? I know that may seem like a silly question. Any loving father would gladly save his own child from peril. And yet the rest of us were either frozen in fear or not nearly as fast as Dad was in getting to Debbie in time.

So let’s dig deeper to understand the reasoning and psychology behind my dad’s act of heroism. The answer is so critical to the topic of actually getting out there and sharing your faith. My dad saved my sister because of two compelling reasons:

  1. He knew who was lost. His daughter. The little girl his wife carried in her womb for nine months. A child to whom they had read countless bedtime stories. They taught her how to walk and talk. They changed diapers (and this was back in the day before the disposable kind!) and potty trained her. They took care of her when she was sick. She was the only Deborah Rutherford in the world with her exact DNA. She was a precious, irreplaceable child.
  2. He knew what it meant to be lost. Dad understood that if he didn’t act quickly, his treasured daughter could drown. She would be gone forever. There would be no bringing her back. He had heard about enough of these tragic accidents happening in families to know the danger was real and imminent.
My dad understood the value of my sister’s life, and he understood the implications of doing nothing about that desperate situation. He couldn’t remain frozen in fear of loss or failure. My dad knew he had to act, and because of his courage—and the grace of God, of course—my sister is alive today.

The Great Paralyzer

Fear is the biggest reason why we don’t get up from our comfy picnic bench and tell others about Jesus. Maybe you envision something going horribly wrong once you speak up about what you believe. Perhaps you’re afraid you’ll fail. Or look foolish. Or do more harm than good.

It’s true that any time we choose to share Jesus with others we risk being rejected. However, we cannot let fear rule over us because it will stand in the way of the work God has called us to do. His plan and purpose often reach far beyond what we can see.

Throughout the Bible, we can find multiple instances where fear tripped up God’s people:

  • Adam was afraid because he sinned in the Garden so he hid himself from God (Genesis 3:10).
  • Sarah laughed in disbelief at the Lord’s promise, and when she was questioned about it, she lied because she was afraid (Genesis 18:15).
  • Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah so he and his daughters lived in a cave. Fear led to isolation, and isolation led Lot’s daughter to devise the sinful scheme to get their father drunk and get pregnant by him (Genesis 19:30–38).
  • In Genesis 26:6–8, when Isaac and his beautiful wife, Rebecca, lived in Gerar, Isaac lied and said that Rebecca was his sister because he was afraid that the men of that town would kill him in order to have her.
  • Jacob, fearing his father-in-law, Laban, deceived Laban and fled from his home with his wives, Leah and Rachel. Laban pursued Jacob and may have harmed him had God not intervened (Genesis 31:22–32).
These are just some examples of fear in the book of Genesis! We could list many more instances of fear leading to many problems for God’s people in Genesis and the other sixty-five books of the Bible, but that would probably fill an entire chapter or two on its own. I’d like to highlight one other example from Numbers 13, because fear caused an entire generation of people to miss out on the blessing of the Lord. I believe this biblical account relates so much to our need to be obedient to the call of sharing of faith.

Just to recap: The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. God, through Moses, led His people out of bondage, and they forged ahead to the promised land. Moses wisely wanted to explore the land to know the danger they faced, so he sent twelve spies to scout out the land and report back what they discovered.

When the spies returned, they brought conflicting reports. Two of them, Caleb and Joshua, were adamant that the Israelites should march into Canaan with force and take the land for their possession. It was flowing with milk and honey, they said, and it was ripe for the taking.

However, the other ten spies disagreed. They were terrified by what they had seen. “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are,” they said. “All the people we saw there are of great size. . . . We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (vv. 31–33).

The people of Israel listened to the terrified ten instead of the tenacious two and refused to enter the land. Doubting and complaining, they turned away from what God had commanded them to do, so the Lord required them to wander in the wilderness until the next generation had replaced them (Numbers 14:20–35).

What was it that prevented them from entering the promised land?

Fear. Plain and simple.

They were afraid of the Canaanites, of their size and strength. And they refused to trust in the power of the Lord to see them through. The Israelites forgot about the One who had brought them mightily out of Egypt, who had split the Red Sea in two, and who had provided everything they needed. Subsequently, they succumbed to their fears and missed out on God’s blessings.

Fear is the biggest reason why someone who isn’t apathetic toward the lost and actually wants to tell them about Jesus won’t. It is the number one thing that keeps us from God’s work. It is what paralyzes us from telling the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fear is the best attack that the devil can launch against you and the primary arrow in his quiver. But the interesting thing is that fear is mostly an illusion. I’ve heard it described as “(F)alse (E)vidence (A)ppearing (R)eal.” It’s smoke and mirrors. The devil is a master magician, and fear is his best prop. That’s because 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen.

And yet fear stops us from moving forward with so many adventures and countless opportunities that God has set before us. It’s the source of the excuses we give for not sharing our faith:

I’m shy.

I’m scared.

I don’t know what to say.

It’s difficult.

I’m not gifted enough.

So how do we get past our fear of sharing the gospel? How do we disarm that which tries desperately to prevent us from seeing the great blessing of valuable souls won to Christ? Allow me to share seven ways you can fight fear for good:

#1 and #2—Prayer and the Holy Spirit

First, we must know as believers that we cannot accomplish anything worthwhile without prayer and the Holy Spirit—and evangelism is no exception to this rule. I call it “the dynamic duo.” The next chapter is dedicated to studying how prayer and the Holy Spirit are essential to sharing your faith. Both are truly your secret weapons in the battle for lost souls.

When you are faithful in prayer, with the Holy Spirit’s help, you will find strength and boldness you never imagined. Fear won’t have a foothold! As a result, you will see lives transformed for Christ and His glory.

#3—Adopt God’s Appraisal

Understanding the value of one soul is a huge motivator in helping us push past our fear—just like my father was able to spring into action that day and rescue my sister from drowning. If we could begin to see every person we come across as an invaluable soul with an eternal destiny, it would change everything. Billy Graham wrote,

    The soul longs for God. Down deep inside every person’s heart is a cry for something, but he doesn’t quite know what it is. Man is a worshiping creature. He instinctively knows that there is something out there somewhere, and he longs to know that something or someone. Your soul longs for vital contact with God. Your soul is valuable because it is eternal—it is forever.

The lost are of inestimable worth to God. This becomes astonishingly clear as we read through Luke 15, where Jesus shared the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law disdained the fact that Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners. Knowing this, Jesus told three stories to help them understand God’s heart for people whom the Pharisees didn’t think were worthy. In each story, Jesus told of the great lengths to which each person went in order to find that which was lost.

Sheep—Surely Jesus’s audience could relate to the value of sheep. Domestic sheep were of great importance in biblical times. “Herds of sheep formed the greater part of the wealth of the Patriarchs. The chief animal of sacrifice, and valued for both milk and wool. Sheepskins were made into rough coats. The horns were used as vessels for carrying liquids, particularly oil."

So Jesus asked the Pharisees and teachers of the law to ponder owning a hundred sheep and asked what a shepherd would do if one sheep went missing. “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”

Coins—Then He asked them to consider a woman who owned ten silver coins and lost one. Jesus probably was referring to silver coins called “drachma.” They were worth the equivalent of a denarius, about a day’s wages for the common laborer. That was a lot of money back then! Jesus asked, “Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’”

After these first two parables, Jesus revealed something powerful: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Why would all of heaven be exuberantly happy over a repentant sinner? Because lost souls matter to God!

A Prodigal Son—To drive home this point, Jesus told them a third parable of a prodigal son who asked his father for his inheritance early. You remember the story, right? The young man left home and squandered his wealth on foolish pleasures. Humiliated and starving, he was literally living in a pigsty—and the pigs were eating better than he was! So he came to his senses and decided to return home and beg his father for forgiveness. He intended to ask his father if he could become one of his father’s hired servants.

But the Bible says the dad was filled with compassion, ran to his son—which in that time and culture would have been an act of major humility—and hugged and kissed him.

    The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

    But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

Rejoice. Rejoice. Celebrate. Over and over again in these parables we see the great mercy of our God toward sinners—and His unbridled joy when they repent. The lost are valuable to Him.

#4—Understand Satan Set His Sights

But the lost are valuable to Satan as well. We learn in 1 Peter 5:8 that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I think of a bounty hunter who travels across state lines to hunt down a fugitive because there is a price on that person’s head. That fugitive is worth that bounty hunter’s time and energy because there is a monetary reward to be gained.

Have you ever been at a pool party and someone pushes you into the pool? When that happens, even though you are caught off guard, what do you do instinctively? You try to grab the person who pushed you and anyone else standing nearby to pull them into the pool with you! The devil is going to hell (Matthew 25:41), and he wants to take everyone with him.

Satan has set his sights on the lost, but we don’t have to sit on the sidelines. Knowing that souls are precious helps us get involved in the fight by sharing Jesus with as many people as possible in our lifetime.

#5—He, Not We

In Judges chapter 6, we are introduced to a fearful follower named Gideon. He lived during a very difficult time in Israel’s history. Israel had done evil in the sight of the Lord, so God allowed the Midianites to oppress them for seven years. Every time the Israelites would plant crops, the Midianites—who were too numerous to count—would come down and destroy them. The Midianites would destroy Israel’s sheep, cattle, and donkeys as well.

One day the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” It’s interesting that the angel called Gideon this, because it seems that Gideon was far from mighty. We see from the text that he was actually quite afraid, timid, and doubtful. But perhaps the title had less to do with who Gideon was at that moment than who he would later become. More importantly, the angel of the Lord put the emphasis on God from the get-go by saying, “The Lord is with you.”

Gideon questioned and doubted a little more, and then the Lord said to him, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon said, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (vv. 11–16).

Like we often do when confronted with a challenge, Gideon kept thinking about himself—his inabilities, his lack of qualifications, his past, his weaknesses. But each time God rightly turned the focus on Himself—His abilities, His faithfulness, His purpose, and His incomparable strength.

God is also trustworthy (Psalm 28:6–7), and when it comes to sharing our faith, we can trust Him to lead and guide us. We can trust God to send out His Word and that it will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). In the battle for lost souls, may we remember that it’s all about “He,” not “we.”

#6—Redefine Courage

The definition of courage has gotten confused and diluted over the years. Being courageous does not mean taking a popular cultural stance and receiving cheers, accolades, media coverage, or endorsements. We see this often in our world today, but the thing is, having courage rarely comes with reward or applause. It is doing what is right in the face of adversity—with no concern for one’s own wellbeing or the opinions of others.

I also want to dispel the misconception that courage is something you’re born with. While it is true that some people seem more outgoing or adventurous by nature, those are personality traits.

Courage, however, is a choice.

It can be developed over time and with the right mind-set. Maya Angelou once said, “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.”

The fact that you have come this far through this book is proof of your potential and desire to tell someone about Jesus. Now you must move from what you know in your mind and heart to action, and that takes courage.

If your heart thumps hard against your rib cage and your palms get sweaty, that’s okay! I don’t think there’s a single skydiver on the planet who doesn’t have butterflies in their stomach right before they’re about to jump from a plane. But when you are passionate about something, you push past that anxiety because you know it’s only temporary—and what you’re about to do is far greater than momentary feelings or emotions, or even pain.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24–28, we see that Paul endured extreme suffering for the gospel. His is a compelling example of risk for modern-day Christians:

  • Five times he received thirty-nine lashes from the Jews. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was pelted with stones. Three times he was shipwrecked. He spent a day and a night in the open sea.
  • He was constantly on the move.
  • He faced danger from rivers, bandits, fellow Jews, Gentiles, and false believers. He faced danger in the city and in the country.
  • He worked hard and often went without sleep.
  • He knew hunger and thirst.
  • He endured the cold and nakedness.
  • He faced the daily pressure of his concern for all the churches.
By faith, Paul had the courage to risk life and limb—literally— in order to deliver the gospel. To save souls. Do we care about the eternal fate of unbelievers as much as he did? American Christians usually only have to worry about possible ridicule or rejection. Perhaps that fear of taking risks is why we are not seeing as many lives changed for Christ as we could be.

Instead, let us become inspired by Paul, who was unconcerned for his own well-being and traveled the world teaching the good news to others who, in turn, taught others. And they, in turn, taught others. Courage is a choice, and it is one reason why the gospel continues to spread even today.

#7—Practice Perfects Your Witnessing Skills

When you choose to share your faith, you will learn and grow from each experience. And you’ll get better with practice.

My first ministry after college was in Des Moines, Iowa, where I became good buddies with a guy named Chris. He was also a young pastor. We were both single at the time, and we were always hanging out together.

One day we came up with a dare. Wherever we were, when one of us pointed out a person, the other had to go up and witness to them right then and there. We took turns with this. If it was Chris’s turn, he’d point out someone to me, and I’d have to go and introduce myself to the person. Then I’d tell them I was from the local church and talk to them about Jesus and the Bible.

As it often happens with young men, it didn’t take long before our little game became a full-fledged competition. We would take turns challenging the other person to share the gospel with a stranger, and each time we would try to find a person who appeared the most difficult to approach.

On one occasion Chris and I drove past a house that we both were convinced was haunted. It was an old house with an unkempt yard filled with every kind of antique you can imagine. During Christmas, the owner of the house would string corn cob Christmas lights on his house. Whatever person lived in the house would certainly be unique. Of this, there was no doubt.

As we were passing by the house, it happened to be my turn to pick. I turned to Chris with a big grin on my face and brought the car to a stop in front of the haunted house.

My friend’s shoulders hung low. But he did it. He went up and knocked on the door and spoke with the old man who lived there for a while and then came back to the car. When he got back in, he said, “That was the strangest person I ever met.”

Nothing crazy happened, and I’m not sure whether the old man from the spooky house ever accepted Jesus, but what was so important about our evangelism challenges was this: we were learning how to get past that initial fear, jump into an unknown situation, and talk to people about the gospel. By practicing our evangelism, not only were we actively sharing the truth of Jesus Christ, but we were also getting braver and braver the more we tried. After a while, it wasn’t such a big deal.

The first time you attempt to dive into a pool it can be scary! But the more you do it, the better you become. The initial fear of the unknown dissipates because you have invaluable experience under your belt. You might find you actually enjoy that activity. It may even become rewarding to you!

Chris and I jumped into the pool of sharing the gospel. Of course we felt pangs of fear at the prospect of being yelled at or mocked for our faith. Of course we worried that we might fail. But we couldn’t let that anxiety get in the way of what we were called to do. And the more we spoke with people, the easier it became to get past that fear. This practice affected our ministries for years to come, making us into the bold preachers we are today.

*

My father was more than courageous that fateful day at the park. He was motivated by immeasurable love and understood how precious my sister’s life was. So much so that he dropped his plate and ran and launched into the pond to save her.

Friend, this is exactly how we must feel about the people around us every day. There are precious souls who are lost in this world and without hope for eternity with Jesus Christ. They are drowning. But unlike my sister, Debbie, they might not even know it! It’s up to you and it is up to me to extend our arm—with the saving knowledge of the truth—and extract them from that slippery, miry, mossy lake of eternal separation of God.

I ask you, what could be worth more than the value of a soul? What could be more rewarding than seeing a person come to Christ? For such a great reward, should we not risk everything? Shouldn’t we risk our pride, feelings, reputation, and comfort to tell as many people as possible about who He is and how much He loves them?

Each and every person on earth is valuable to God. He risked His one and only Son, Jesus, to save the entire world. It’s been said that if you were the only person on earth, Jesus still would have undergone His suffering and crucifixion so that you could spend eternity with Him.

When fear creeps up in your mind and tries to prevent you from your sharing your faith with someone, say to yourself, “This person is worth it.” Then tell your fear to go take a hike.

Now let’s dive into the dynamic duo—prayer and the Holy Spirit—which will further embolden you to step outside of your comfort zone, put courage into practice, and step out in faith.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Has there ever been a time when fear prevented you from doing something important? What were you afraid of in that instance?
  2. What does 1 Peter 3:14–15 instruct believers to do? How does this passage encourage you during difficult times as a Christian?
  3. What do Romans 8:37, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, and 1 Peter 2:9 reveal about how God views you? How do these words help you to overcome your fears?
  4. Which of the seven methods of overcoming fear in this chapter do you most connect with? Write out some ways in which that method will help you to share the gospel.
  5. Read 1 John 4:18. How can God’s perfect love drive out our fear?
  6. How does the value of the souls of family members, friends, coworkers, or even strangers you’ve never met, compel you to move past your fear and share the love of Christ with them?

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