Fishing for Souls: Success vs. Failure

Jonathan ScottBy Jonathan Scott8 Minutes

Welcome again to Strengthen Your Walk. I’m Jonathan Scott. When it comes to success and failure, we can easily identify that in certain areas of life. For instance, in sports, it’s what’s on the scoreboard. When it comes to agriculture, it’s the harvest you bring in. When it’s fishing, it’s how many fish did you catch? Unfortunately, in evangelism, we judge success and failure by how many people you lead to Christ, and if you didn’t, you failed.

I don’t think that’s correct. As a matter of fact, I want to reset what it means to actually be successful or a failure. Here’s the thing. If you want to be in a situation where there is no way that you can win in sports, don’t show up to play. Or maybe for a harvest, don’t plant any seeds. That’s a guaranteed way to lose. For fishing, don’t throw a line in the water or don’t send your boat out to go to where the fish are. Those are guaranteed ways.

Watch Fishing for Souls with Jonathan Scott

But in evangelism, to be a failure you keep your mouth closed. Say nothing. But if you do speak out of obedience and out of the compassion and the love for people, you are already succeeding in taking that step to be faithful to what Jesus has called us to do. As a matter of fact, if you take a look at what happened with Jesus on Good Friday, by the end of the day people probably thought that He was a failure because no one expected Him to rise from the dead on that Sunday. But by the end of Sunday, success changes because of His resurrection. And it continues, as Jesus calls millions and millions of people over the centuries into that dynamic life with Him.

When you look at what happened at Mars Hill in Acts 17, when Paul’s having a conversation with the Athenians, and he sees all these gods and he confronts them by saying, “I see that you’re religious.” He then begins and has this amazing conversation with them that is very clear and meets them where they are, respects them, but also strongly and confidently communicates the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

There is a response and a result. As a matter of fact, at the very end of that conversation, when he was finished with them, there were people that when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, they began to ridicule him. Others said, we’d like to hear from you again about this. And so, Paul left their presence. However, some people joined him and believed.

Failure? Of course not. As a matter of fact, sometimes when I present the gospel or when I preach, I let people know that there are basically three responses that people can have to the gospel. I tell them, I respect each one of the responses. Number one, a person can decide, “No, I don’t want this. I reject it. I don’t think it’s for me.” I respect them. I still love them and I still want a relationship with them. Or they may say, “I need to hear more about this. I need to have further questions answered,” or “I’m ready to receive Christ.” In other words, “I know enough to know about what you just said and it’s true for me. I’m ready to make that decision to accept Jesus Christ by faith.”

Folks, the truth about it is that the perspective of our success is about our faithfulness to do what God has called us to do and to leave the results to Him. Christ called us to respond with that kind of obedience and He honors and rewards every effort that we express in being obedient to what’s called. It’s misguided to think that whenever we present the gospel, that everybody is ready to receive.

As a matter of fact, there has been research done that people are on a continuum of responses all the way from being very hostile to faith in Jesus Christ to being receptive. And the truth about it is, is that when I speak to someone, you never know really where they are. You do your job to be faithful and to leave the results to God.

It’s one of the things I experienced in my life with my best friend growing up in high school. He was a non-believer and yet he was a musician. We were musicians together. We hung out together for six years, me at his house. I was at his house and we shared comic books and I shared with him the gospel on a regular basis and he never received it.

We graduated from high school and seven years later I’m at seminary in Texas when I find out that he is about 45 minutes north of me in Denton. He connects with me and lets me know that sometime in the last several years, he made a decision to receive Jesus Christ as his savior. I wasn’t anywhere near there, but do you think I was hurt and disappointed that I wasn’t the one? Of course not. I was just so grateful that I was a part of the process through which he came to faith in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3 reminds us through Paul, who says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything but only God who gives the growth.” So, to be successful in evangelism is to be faithful to share the gospel, to share what you know with a person that you love and respect as you leave the results to God.

When we come back next time, I want to share with you about the thrill of the catch, the exciting venture of what it means to actually see people walk across the line. Join me for that episode here at Strengthen Your Walk.

Watch Now!