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So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

We do not know when God’s purposes will be accomplished. We do not always know whether the divine plan is to harden the heart or to soften it. We do not know the outcome of our work. But we should know that our work in the word is never in vain. No sermon from the word, no bible study, no time of prayer in the word with your children, no memorizing of scripture, none of it is wasted.

If there is time spent in the word, God promises it is working.

Working something. The same sun which melts the snow hardens the clay.

Why should missionaries continue to labor in the hardest parts of the world with limited success, or no success at all? Because they are confident that God will have a people for himself from every tribe and language and tongue and nation. And so they stay.

John Newton once wrote a letter to Reverend Thomas Jones stating, “If I were not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men than in preaching to horses or cows.” Which is not much different than Paul saying he endured everything for the sake of the elect (2 Tim. 2:10).

One of the most common objections to the doctrine of election is that people do not see the point of sharing the good news and working hard for the gospel if God has already chosen who will believe. But human logic sometimes runs in the opposite of biblical logic. The world says “Why speak if God has chosen.” The Bible would have us ask, “If God has not chosen some to believe, why bother speaking?” Paul remained in Corinth because God told him there were many people in that city (Acts 18:10). This is precisely the reason to keep on speaking—because God has chosen some; because God is sovereign; because God has elected; because some will believe.

And if they don’t? God has a plan for our good and his glory in that too.

God’s sovereignty is fuel for our faithfulness–not a deterrent to hard work and sacrifice but the best motivation for it.

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6 thoughts on “Missions, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”

  1. Mike Minter says:

    I really enjoy much of what the reformed camp has to offer. But having traveled and having pastored for forty years I see victorious believers of every stripe. So my question is, what difference does it make whether you are reformed or belong to another camp if you can be a vibrant, Kingdom advancing, gospel centered , Christ exulting believer? Will Christ’s prayer in John 17 ever be answered if we keep those who don’t see things exactly as we do at bay? This grieves my soul.

  2. Scott says:

    Dear Mike Minter,

    This is what difference it makes: If it is true, we must proclaim it. Thus God is glorified. Of course there are those who love Jesus who do not agree with the reformed position of election. I don’t think Kevin is trying to keep anyone “at bay”. Wesley and Whitfield (at opposites on this position) were both successful evangelists.

    But again, what do the Scriptures teach? That’s why it is important.

  3. brad says:

    Great points Kevin! My only question is: “Why doesn’t proper doctrine lead to a practical passion for the lost, at least in our day?”

  4. JohnM says:

    No, human logic does not run in the opposite of biblical logic, rather illogic runs in the opposite of logic. I’m glad Calvinists preach the gospel, but they should ask themselves if their presentation is logically consistent with their concept. If not, either the concept or the presentation should change. For clarification, if needed, when I question the presentation I don’t mean that it is done, but how it is done.

  5. Rick says:

    “The same sun which melts the snow hardens the clay.”
    I don’t think that illustration works for Calvinism. Because doesn’t Calvinism teach that there is nothing in and of the person – neither good nor bad – that God considers when making his choice to harden or soften? Doesn’t calvinism teach that it is only according to God’s good pleasure? That illustration seems to teach the opposite. Because obviously the snow melting in the sun and the clay hardening has everything to do with the properties of those substances – it’s the properties of those substances which make all the difference. And that is exactly the opposite of what calvinism teaches right?

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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