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The Unsuccessful Californian Evangelist

Do you know this story? I came across it recently, I can’t remember where (I’m told it’s not strictly historically accurate – but it’s the moral that counts). It featured, as you can imagine, an evangelist in the western parts of America.

I can’t remember his name; and that’s really the point of the story. He held lots of meetings and spoke often – but very few people came, and they weren’t very impressed by his message.

One night, he did particularly badly, and even less than normal turned out, and hardly any chose to give their lives to Christ. In fact, only one, some kid at the back, Graham somebody – no, somebody Graham … Billy Graham … and he went on, through his evangelistic campaigns and international organisation, to convert thousands and thousands to new life in the faith of Jesus Christ.

So the Californian evangelist really wasn’t unsuccessful at all. How many people you reach is irrelevant; what matters is what you communicate. In fact, of course, it was neither the Californian evangelist, nor Billy Graham, who converted people, but the Holy Spirit.

The important thing is that both of these men – and millions more – chose to put themselves into the hands of God, and offered to try to do his work.

It was not their work, it was his, for as long as something is “my work” it will have no real purpose or effect; its legacy may seem immense, at first, particularly if we are “successful” in this-worldly terms (plan for wealth, fame and excessive media attention); but none of it will really last, except that part which is in the truest sense good, of God. What we do in this life, that is his, will be eternal.