The Secret Of Soul-Winning
Mr. Jerry Clark, formerly of Morrison but now of McMinnville, Tenn., continues to provide us with practical instruction in this the seventh of fifteen articles on Psalms 120-134.
Mr. Clark’s recent move prevented him from getting his material to the editor in time for the July-August issue. This, then, is the understandable reason for the break in his extended series of studies on the “Songs of Ascents.”
A song of the goings-up:
1. When the LORD turned the captivity of Zion,
We were like dreamers.
2. Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the Gentiles:
The LORD has done great things with them!
3. The LORD has done great things with us!
We are the “glad ones”!
4. Turn, O LORD, our captivity as the brook in Negeb.
5. Those who sow with tears shall reap with shouts of joy.
6. The one who goes forth, walking and weeping, bearing a basket of the seed,
Shall surely return with shouts of joy,
Bearing his sheaves.
The term “soul-winning” is actually used only once in the Bible (Prov. 11:30), but the concept is a common one. Psalm 126 deals with this concept and reveals to us what is, perhaps, the single most important principle necessary for successful soul-winning.
This psalm begins with a testimony: Israel, speaking collectively, praises God for the return from captivity (1-3). This may indicate that the song was written after the Babylonian captivity. However, the phrase “to turn the captivity” was a common one in Biblical times for the restoration of blessings or fortunes generally (cf. Job 42:10) and not always applied to physical captivity exclusively. There is no reason, therefore, why this psalm could not have had reference to incidents in the life of David (such as the restoration of his “fortunes” upon the death of Saul and the establishment of the united kingdom: 2 Sam. 5:1-3). Likewise, the psalm could have been used by Hezekiah as entirely appropriate to Jerusalem’s “dream-like” amazement upon being delivered “overnight” out of the hand of their enemies (2 Kings 19:35).
This joy of restoration is more than a mere carnal happiness upon repossession of material wealth; it is a spiritual joy resulting from the demonstration that the LORD, whom to all appearances — they had thought — had surely forsaken them (cf. Psa. 74:1, 2), had not, but was still “for them” (cf. 13:5).
The second section seems almost contradictory. In the first part, God is praised for restoration of blessing; in the second He is entreated for the same. Perhaps the best answer is that here Israel is pleading for God to effect a TOTAL change in their situation, a change as striking as that affected in the dry Southern Desert (the Negeb) when the rainy season turns the normally dry wadis into raging torrents.
This idea is best illustrated in the return from Babylonian captivity. True, Israel was in the land again, and for this they praised God, but they desired for the LORD to “consummate” the return by restoring their fortunes — full blessings and prosperity — as well.
Such a plea is well understood by the New Testament believer: we praise God for salvation, but we plead for sanctification; we earnestly entreat the Lord to complete that work which He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6), a work which is absolutely certain and which will be consummated only at the return of Christ Himself, but for which, nevertheless it is our duty and desire to pray. We rejoice for what God has done, but we groan (Rom. 8:23) as we desire the completion of this work.
Sowing (5, 6)
Having praised God for what He has done and pleaded with God to complete this work, the psalmist now realizes that the extent to which God is able to work in us and through us is greatly dependent upon our own attitude toward God and this very work which is in progress.
The irrefutable principle is that tears must precede joy, weeping must come before laughter. “Sowing” — soul-winning and ALL godly work engaged in by the believer —must be done with the heart and not just with the hands or lips. There must be a complete surrender to and identification with the work to be done.
This principle is best illustrated in the case of Christ Himself. Truly He “sowed with tears” (Calvary and that which preceded it), but we know that “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied” Isa. 53:11).
As for Israel, her contempt for and attitude of superiority toward the Gentiles had made her useless for God’s service. Israel was to have been a “light to the Gentiles,” a medium through which they could be blessed by the Lord. Israel, however, did not have the heart of God and, rather than weeping for the Gentiles and their abysmal darkness, she chose to disdain them and failed to fulfil her ministry (a ministry which will be fulfilled in the future, but only after “tears” shall flow abundantly and her heart is softened by the Holy Spirit: Zech. 12:10-14).
As for us, we too must realize that our blessing is dependent upon our attitude. A cold, hard heart which is unconcerned about others — Christian as well as non-Christian; an attitude of superiority towards others (it is, after all, “by grace …” that we are saved); the substitution of mechanical organizations for prayer, tears and personal work; the obsession with “statistics” (more concerned with the quantity of decisions than with the reality and quality of these decisions) — all such attitudes are foreign to the heart of the Lord (Matt. 23:37).
We have the mind of Christ (nous: knowledge, 1 Cor. 2:16); now it is important that we have the attitude of Christ (phren, translated “mind” in Phil. 2:5) as exemplified by His humility, compassion and concern for others.
Soul-winning is vitally important. William MacDonald has stated that “One of the greatest privileges of the Christian believer is to be associated with God in the important work of winning souls to the Lord Jesus Christ. Few things that men can do are as far-reaching in their consequences” (Winning Souls the Bible Way).
Yet the “methods” of soul-winning pale in significance when compared with this underlying necessity: tears and prayer, genuine and intense concern for the souls of others. When we cry out for the salvation of men’s souls, then truly the world will be amazed — as will we ourselves — at what the Lord can do “with us” (2, 3)!