"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

Our Circle Of Responsibility

By James H. McConkey

    In our Lord's intercessory prayer, in verses four, six and eight of the seventeenth chapter of John, our Lord is speaking of three great gifts which the Father who sent Him gave unto Him, and which He in turn has also given to us. They are:

    "The God-given work."  

    "The God-given men."  

    "The God-given message."  

    What a wondrous thought that God has given to every man in Christ a definite work and service from all eternity (Eph. 2:10). Then He has given to every man a little circle of men whom He can touch through him as He can through no one else. He has also given to him a message, witness, and testimony which He will use for His own glory and his unspeakable blessing if he will only let Him give it through his yielded lips and life.

God-given Men

    Your Christian life is in touch with an encircling group of other lives. They are the inner circle of your intimates. They are bound to you by ties of kinship, friendship, business relations, social fellowship and a score of other ties and daily contacts. Because they are your little circle of intimates, and are the everyday folks with whom you mingle daily and hourly in the common sacredness and common experiences of life, God can reach them through you in a special way and with a peculiar power which no other individual possesses over them.

    Therefore He has, in a peculiar sense, given them to you. They are in a true and profound sense your God-given men. What a sobering and tremendous thought that the man to whom God brings you these coming weeks, with the opportunity of giving the Gospel, may be facing in you the last opportunity he may have to receive the Gospel before his life goes out from time into Eternity. For some of these God-given men the time is short!

Pray for These Men

    Sometimes the only thing we can do is to pray. Sometimes the resistance, the hostility to the Gospel, the reticence, the aloofness of men with whom we are dealing makes it almost impossible to do much but pray.

    I think of the beloved brother of my home in past years, the only one I had. He was not a Christian. He was one of those difficult men to approach. I seemed to produce no effect in dealing with him. Finally I betook myself to earnest prayer.

    I prayed for five years, ten years, fifteen years. Then I began to realize that probably God would have to touch him with the hand of affliction before He could get him for Himself. I prayed on for twenty years. Then one day my fear was realized. Off on a vacation in the wilds of Canada, I received a message: "He whom thou lovest is sick."

    I hastened to his bedside at a sanitarium. I was there a week. The whole burden of prayer came back with tremendous intensity. Day after day I prayed. One day I was on my knees in my room praying. There came a knock at my door. I opened it. There stood my sister-in-law.

    She said: "Brother, husband says do not worry. He believes he has been a Christian for three months." The joy those words brought was unspeakable. After twenty years God there made clear to me that He had been hearing my prayer and had been working with mighty power all these years in the life of my brother.

    A year from that time he died. The last word he uttered when I said to him: "Brother, are you trusting in Christ?" was "Certainly." That precious word of assurance, "certainly," was the last word I ever heard from the lips of my beloved brother for whom I had prayed twenty years.

    There are some mothers, some fathers and husbands and wives who know what I mean. Let me say to them, "Take courage." There are a good many conditional promises in the word of God. One unconditional about the Holy Spirit for a child of God is: "He when He is come, will convict the world of sin." That was the prayer I prayed all those years. That is the prayer you can pray with confidence. For it is an absolute promise that God will convict these God-given men as you pray for them.

Fatal Silence

    These friends of ours are one of God's greatest gifts. Yet, strange to say, when it comes to speaking with them about their souls we are mute. With everything else we are glib; with this wholly dumb. This goes on for years. And then some day comes the heart attack, the paralysis, the brain hemorrhage – and all is over and our God-given man goes out into an endless and hopeless eternity without one single word of loving warning from us to whom God gave him. Surely our silence has been a deadly silence before which we need to bow our heads in tears of shame, penitence, and humiliation.

Be a Voice!

    "The voice of one crying in the wilderness" was said of John. John was content to be called a voice. He had learned the great truth that it is not the messenger, but the message that saves. John hid himself behind the message. He did not care if men forgot him if they would only hear the message.

    Perhaps you are a Sunday School teacher. For years you have been sowing the seed of the Word in the hearts of your scholars, quickening it with prayer, watering it with tears. You are not especially able or brilliant as a teacher. You may think that you and your words will be forgotten.

    But in some life there comes a crisis. In the midst of it a voice from within breaks upon the startled conscience like a warning cry from the fatal cliff, flashing some message from the Word of God into his memory. He hears – hesitates – and turns back from the black abyss of sin. In the hour of his deadliest peril he has been saved by a voice!

    What though he does not remember it was a message that you gave him? What though he has forgotten you? The voice saved his soul. That is enough. Let us test our motives in God's service. "Would I rather have men forget my message and remember me; or forget me and remember my message?"

    Sit down in the quiet time and think over it. Ask the Spirit of God to bring to your remembrance these God-given men and women. He will do so. One by one their faces will come up before you. And your heart will be touched with a new tenderness for them.

    Then make your confession to God, even unto tears. Confess your utter failure with these friends of yours – your timidity, your cowardice, your procrastination, your oft-time avoidance of the supreme thing which down deep in your heart you know you ought to bring to them, your frequent turning of the conversation into other channels that you might avoid this very same transcendent theme.

    Ask God to forgive you for all this. Pray to Him to give you courage, and strength, and sacrifice to speak a word to them, however faltering, and feeble, and hesitant it may be. One such honest, earnest effort may mean the transformation of your whole spiritual life. And God will in due season give you a new power, tenderness and blessing in individual personal work that will make your God-given men some day rise up and call you blessed, while your own heart will be filled with joy and the blessedness of a new and precious service for Him who loved you and gave Himself for you.