Isaiah 55:11 and Evangelism

One of the constant criticisms when evangelizing regards our “success” rate. The unbelieving cynic or worse, the professing Christian, often measures success through the lens of pragmatism. If it works, then it must be effective. At Christ in the Wild Ministries, Isaiah 55:11 drives us to labor for the Lord no matter the outcome, knowing that God determines success.

God's measure of success can be summed up by one phrase: faithfulness to his Word. When proclaimed accurately, the gospel message is always “effective.”

The 55th Chapter of Isaiah is a general call for sinners to come to Christ for salvation. The faithful evangelist is 100% successful no matter the outcome. While we should seek the Lord and work diligently for souls to be saved, the outcome is in the hands of Almighty God, not the evangelist.

What could be more encouraging to our gospel labors than perfect success every time we proclaim the gospel?

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 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 55:10-11

It is important to include verse 10 with verse 11 because we see the picture God draws about how evangelism works. Similar to the parables of Christ, we see the natural world being used to draw spiritual implications. Water falling from the sky, seeds sprouting from the earth, and bread produced for food, show us the simplicity of the evangelist proclaiming the word of God, proceeding from God’s mouth to the ears of the hearer. We act as ambassadors for Christ, pleading for the souls of the lost to be reconciled to God.

Calvin commenting on verse 11 says:

This doctrine must be frequently repeated and inculcated, that we may know that God will do what he hath spoken. For this reason, when we hear the promises of God, we ought to consider what is his design in them; so that, when he promises the free pardon of our sins, we may be fully assured that we are reconciled through Christ. But, as the word of God is efficacious for the salvation of believers, so it is abundantly efficacious for condemning the wicked; as Christ also teacheth, “The word which I have spoken, that shall judge him at the last day.”

A powerful statement, to say the least, and we can have the assurance we are not laboring in vain, nor will our time be wasted, though barely a soul comes to Christ through our ministry. We can look back to Noah, Jeremiah, even Isaiah himself and understand that God was accomplishing his plan through “unsuccessful” ministries.

Francis Schaeffer, who saw himself as an evangelist above all else, reminds us that evangelism will not always be successful, yet we still have a task to perform:

Christianity is not a modern success story. It is to be preached with love and tears into the teeth of men, preached without compromise, without regard to the world’s concept of success. If there seem to be no results, remember that Jeremiah did not see the results in his day. They came later. If there seem to be no results, it does not change God’s imperative. It is simply up to you and to me to go on, go on, go on, whether we see the results or whether we don’t. Go on.[1]

Go forth in the power of the Spirit, knowing that effective ministry is in the hands of a Sovereign God, no matter the outcome.

[1]Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1969), 94-95. 

Kevin Jandt