How Long Dare We Go On Without Tears?
By J. Allen Thompson
Early one morning A. B. Simpson was discovered at his devotions, his arms wrapped around a globe of the world, and his tears falling down upon it as he prayed for a lost world:
A hundred thousand souls a day
Are passing one by one away
In Christless guilt and gloom.
O church of Christ, what wilt thou say
When in the awful judgment day
They charge thee with their doom?
Indispensable to effective evangelism is the inner spiritual drive we call “burden.” It is a soul sensitivity toward the unsaved, an attitude of brokenness, a heart crushed by the plight of the unrepentant.
Hudson Taylor was angered by the self-satisfied, hymn-singing congregation in Brighton, England, in June 1865. He was so burdened for China, he could not tolerate the cold apathy among Christians. Biographer John Pollock writes: “Taylor looked around. Pew upon pew of prosperous, bearded merchants, shopkeepers, visitors; demure wives in bonnets and crinolines, scrubbed children trained to hide their impatience; the atmosphere of smug piety sickened him. He seized his hat, and left. ‘Unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual agony.’” There on the beach Taylor prayed for “twenty-four willing, skillful laborers” that shared Christ’s burden for the lost in China.
I meet few Christian workers who share Simpson’s or Taylor’s deep concern for the unsaved. Most prayer meeting requests are for physical and financial needs; unsaved persons seem forgotten. No one seems able to get a handle on praying for the billions without Christ. I see limp missionary prayer groups in Bible colleges and churches, devoid of that spirit that breaks men’s souls.
My burden for the lost seesaws. Sometimes God’s Spirit overwhelms me with a particular need, but I do not consistently weep for sinners, as Jeremiah wept for Jerusalem. I do not plead with men and women from house to house with tears, like Paul. In desperation, I cry out with Jim Elliott, “Lord, fill preachers (missionaries) and preaching with Thy power. How long dare we go on without tears, without moral passions, hatred and love? Not long, I pray, Lord Jesus, not long.”
There is an antidote to this calloused indifference. Burdenless Christians suffer from sick consciences. They are either not fully aware of sin, or of God’s pardoning grace.
A Biblical perspective on sin deepens the burden for the lost. …As we understand the Biblical concept of lostness – a sinner dead in sin, enslaved by Satan, and under a Holy God’s judgment – we are prepared to receive the gift of a shepherd’s heart, full of dynamic pity for sheep astray from the fold.
A Biblical understanding of God’s pardoning grace gives urgency to the burden. The Gospel is the good news that Christ came to save sinners. His salvation delivers us from sin. By grace we are forgiven and reconciled to God. At Christ’s return we will be given new bodies, and placed in a new world from which sin is excluded. Praise God!
This liberating message burst on the world in the first century with great enthusiasm and courage. Believers proclaimed it with conviction and urgency because they were deeply conscious of their great salvation. If we are to announce the Gospel with “soul aflame,” we, too, must recognize the greatness of our sin, and rejoice in the greatness of our God.
– From The Gospel Witness and Pillar of Fire.