"The Greatest Mercy in the World"

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

I just finished reading (ten minutes ago) Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt—a book about prayer written in 1747 “for the revival of religion and advancement of God’s kingdom.” It ended on a note that is full of encouragement and hope. I want you to taste some of this. But first …

Some of you—the great unknown people after God’s own heart—have been persevering in prayer for evangelistic awakening at Bethlehem for many years. You long to see more and more people “delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.” You have prayed that God would send a spirit of irrepressible love and courage to our church so that we would be bold and fruitful in taking the good news of salvation to the people of our city. Edwards called the answer to this prayer “the greatest mercy in the world.”

God is answering your prayers. Sunday night we heard from Oscar and Cathy Huerta about the evangelistic teams being formed. Sunday morning Brad Soukup (one of our apprentices and a student at Bethel Seminary) handed me a sheet describing his own burden for evangelism. Here is just an excerpt:

My main focus of ministry preparation and interest has been evangelism right from the start. I have read and studied and practiced much evangelism. But one thing has haunted me consistently … How to motivate Christians to want to tell other people about Jesus …

It seems that Christian Hedonism is the answer! [He quotes the simple but profound truth from C.S. Lewis:] “Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ … It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not be able to tell anyone how good he is …”

Brad concludes that “Christian Hedonists make the best evangelists because they cannot help telling other people about the inestimable delight they have found in God.” It seems that the time may now be ripe for a movement at Bethlehem in personal evangelism. God is answering prayer for “the greatest mercy in the world.”

Now for the encouragement. Edwards acknowledges that we must often wait for God’s timing. But then he assembles these great texts to help us persevere in prayer:

Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)

The vision is yet for an appointed time; but in the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it: because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2:3)

God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord has spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God! We have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:8-9)

Don’t grow weary in your prayers! Wait, yes wait, for the Lord! And may the “greatest mercy in the world” come to this city.

Pastor John