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An evangelistic parable of butt-kicking proportions

December 11, 2017

Whether you’re watching Star Wars or reading Pride and Prejudice, parables abound that shadow spiritual realities.

The Old Testament stories are no different.

Upon reading the stories of David and Goliath or Daniel in the lion’s den, we learn history, and we find parables that apply to our lives today (see Romans 15:4).

The siege of Samaria

2 Kings 6-7 provides one such parable.

“Ben-Hadad king of Syria mobilized his entire army and besieged Samaria” (6:24).

In a time of famine, they surrounded the city, wouldn’t let any food or water enter, and determined to starve the Samaritans into surrender.

Inside the city, the situation got so desperate, a donkey’s head sold for $50 and a pint of dove’s dung for $3. Some people even ate their own children.

Meanwhile, there were four lepers at the city gate. To paraphrase, one of them said, “If we stay here, we’re going to die. If we go into the city, we’re going to die. Let’s go into the enemy’s camp. We might die there too, but if they spare our lives they’ll probably give us something to eat and we’ll live. What have we got to lose?” (7:3-4).

In our parable, the city of Samaria represents our dying world and dying churches.

Four thousand churches are closing their doors each year. Campus ministries are closing too.

Only 20% of churches are actually growing; the growth of 19 out of those 20 is mostly biological or transfer growth. Only 1% of US churches are growing by conversions (Comeback Churches, Ed Stetzer).

Like the lepers, if our churches and campus ministries just sit around, we’re going to die.

Entrusted with good news

In 2 Kings 7:5, the lepers walked into the enemy camp ready to surrender. To their astonishment, there were tents and provision but no Syrians.

The lepers didn’t know the Lord had caused the sound of chariots and horses to strike terror in the Syrians.

In fact, the Syrians thought the Samaritans hired foreign armies to rescue them, so they fled in a panic, leaving everything behind.

Imagine these lepers peeking into a tent to find a banquet table filled with food; they stuffed themselves.

Imagine them peeking into another tent to find clothes and gold; they hid it for themselves.

But in 7:9, one leper said to his friends, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news, and we are keeping it to ourselves.”

On our campuses and across the world, there are students with a hunger in their hearts that only Jesus Christ can satisfy.

Many of us have feasted on that spiritual food. It’s not right for us to not share it with those whom we’ve been commissioned to share it with (Matthew 28:19-20).

The lepers said in 2 Kings 7:9, “Even if we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once.”

These lepers had a moral sense of responsibility, knowing they’d be held accountable for the provision God entrusted to them.

They also had a sense of urgency—people were dying. So they went back that night to the city of Samaria and told them the good news.

Eventually, when the people were persuaded to investigate the story, they found it to be true, and the whole city stampeded out of Samaria to the feast and was spared.

Our parable concludes with the responsibility we have today.

Jesus said, “From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).

Reports say only 2% of Christians in America regularly share their faith (The Coming Revival, Bill Bright).

Is it a sin to not share the good news? I tremble to say yes, though clearly it is disobedience.

Will we be disciplined by God if we don’t share it? I tremble to say yes, though I don’t know what that would look like.

Possibly, it will be missing out on eternal rewards that could have been ours (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Something has got to change

The goal isn’t merely to save the church; it’s to save the world. But the change needed must begin inside each of us.

We need to echo the prayer of Psalm 51:12-13, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

Just as the lepers in the Old Testament told Samaria good news of God’s physical provision, so too, a woman in the New Testament told Samaria good news of God’s spiritual provision (see John 4:28-30).

So the saying goes, “Evangelism is just one beggar (or leper or woman) telling another beggar (or college student) where to find food.”

Ask each other, “Are you reaching out to people who are far from God? If not, why not?”

One of my professors in Bible college was once approached by a man after preaching a sermon. He said, “Preacher, your sermons are always stepping on my toes.” To which the professor replied, “Then I suggest you move your feet.”

If this parable kicks your butt like it does mine, we need to get moving.

Here’s a challenge:

Determine to help one person come to Christ in the next 12 months (so far as it depends on you), teaching them to do the same. Then, both of you do it again every year to come.

Here’s a commitment:

  • I will pray and give.
  • I will ask for help and learn.
  • I will read books and watch videos.
  • I will reprioritize and sacrifice.
  • I will take risks and initiate spiritual conversations.
  • I will share my testimony and the gospel.
  • I will be intentional and accountable.
  • I will uphold grace and truth.
  • I will balance patience and persistence.
  • I will obey God and be faithful with what He has entrusted to me.