Recent years have seen a steady drumbeat of bad news for Christians in America. The number of young adults who profess no faith continues to rise. Church attendance continues to plateau or decline. Christianity is supposed to be waning in our culture.
Not so fast, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Study released this week. It is still true that nearly nine in ten American adults say they believe in God. And those who practice a faith are just as committed as they were in the past—in some cases, even more so. According to one Pew researcher, “We should remember that the United States remains a nation of believers.”
No culture is beyond the reach of an omnipotent, omniscient God. Not even ours.
We are learning to advance God’s kingdom by engaging others with biblical truth. We have focused on understanding the culture, standing courageously, working strategically, and living joyfully.
Today let’s think about the importance of persistence.
Paul spent more time in Ephesus than any other city, devoting nearly three years to ministry there. And no wonder. Ephesus was known as “Lumen Asiae,” the light of Asia. It was the wealthiest city in the region. If Paul could reach the people of Ephesus, he could leverage their influence to reach the region and beyond.
As was his practice, he began in the Jewish synagogue. For three months he “spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). However, “some became stubborn and continued in unbelief” (v. 9a), so he changed strategy.
The apostle was able to secure use of the “hall of Tyrannus” (v. 9b), one of the public spaces in the city. There he began “reasoning daily” with all who came. Ancient tradition indicates that Paul held his daily lectures between 11 AM and 4 PM. This was the hottest part of the day, when people would leave work for a nap.
By lecturing then, Paul was perhaps able to secure the lecture hall more easily. He spoke at a time when other activities did not compete and the people were away from their jobs. His strategy was enormously successful: “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia [western Turkey today] heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (v. 10).
If Paul had abandoned Ephesus when the Jewish authorities resisted his ministry, the story would be far different. Significant life change seldom happens quickly. We are asking people to dedicate their lives entirely to Christ as their Lord, the most pivotal decision of life. We can expect the enemy to work against them even while the Spirit works with them. Our job is to be consistent in our witness and persistent in our compassion. We may never see the results of our influence, but eternity will never be the same. (Tweet this)
George Mueller, the great minister and man of faith, prayed patiently for five personal friends who did not know the Lord. After five years, one came to Christ. In ten more years, two more were saved. After twenty-five years, the fourth friend came to Christ. He kept praying for the last friend for fifty-two years, then died. The fifth friend came to know Jesus a few months afterward.
Are you facing discouragement today? Remember that persistence is vital to Kingdom advance. It’s always too soon to give up on God.