This notion that the whole world isn't better off if we just do everything ourselves is true no matter what realm you're talking about. It's true in your job, whether you work construction or are a corporate banker. It's true in your family, whether you're the parent, the child, or the golden child. It's true in your church, whether you're the pastor or a pew-warmer.
And it's true when we talk about personal ministry and evangelism, the kind of work that we do for Christ just by being His people who love Him.
We're talking here about all the pressure that we feel to be the 'one' who leads someone else to Christ. We're talking about that person that is just on your heart all the time, the one you want so badly to know the Lord. We're talking about that person you pray for every night, fingers crossed and hands folded, because you know - you just know - how much Jesus could do in their life, for their life, through their life.
Are you thinking about this person yet? We've all got one. We all have at least one. Now, here's the truth that you need to know about that person, contrary to so much of what we often hear from the pulpit:
That person's salvation is not entirely up to you.
We often hear it the other way around, that the persons in our lives are just waiting for us to be the one to open the door for them. That our neighbors, friends, and family are just sitting around in their horrible, non-Christian existences, waiting for us to finally convince them to come to church. We are told that everyone we come in contact with is our responsibility, that if we don't bring them to Christ, no one will, and it will be our fault that they burn in Hell for all eternity. (And there are postcards in the lobby for our Easter service, if you need to leave one on someone's door.)
That's what we hear, but here's the truth: every individual that we come in contact with has a lifetime of experiences and encounters behind them, ahead of them, and all around them. They are going to have all kinds of opportunities to hear the Gospel from all kinds of persons - including, but not limited to, you. We live in a world with Christianity and Christian symbols all around; our calendar even marks our holy days. Even someone who is out in the yard looking for hard-boiled or candy-filled eggs understands that it's because that day is Easter. Everyone who sees a tree or a Santa Claus or a present understands that it's Christmas, even if he or she doesn't know yet the significance of Christmas morning. And everyone has someone in his or her life who isn't available on Sunday morning or who carries a Bible in her purse or who wears a Cross around his neck. We are talking about a culture where Christianity is very well integrated; this isn't some lost native people of an untouched land.
And that means, it's not entirely up to you. It's not your job on earth to make someone a project, to stake your own being on their conversion. Your life is not a failure if Joe never comes to Christ, no matter how hard you try. Your life is a failure if you fail to live in fellowship with Joe whether he's in the church or not.
And that's the danger when you think that you have to do it all yourself, when you think that it's up to just you. You spend so much of your energy focused on 'converting' someone, on 'completing' your project that you forget to just love your neighbor. You forget to see him for who he is and the very real life that he's living, a life in which you could have a tremendous impact if you weren't so hyper-focused on thinking that your impact has to look one certain way.
Then, if Joe dies without ever coming to church, then what? Are you a failure because you never closed the deal? No, you're only a failure if you never made a difference in Joe's life. You're a failure if his life was not better off for knowing you, whether or not he ever came to know Jesus.
Moses could have let the pressure get to him. He could have thought that he was going to be a failure if one Israelite failed to have a case settled by him. Even one. If Moses did not judge every single case that ever came up, he could have thought he failed someone. And maybe that's where he was headed until Jethro spoke.
But the truth about Moses's life is that he was only a failure if he didn't continually meet with the Lord and lead the people through the wilderness, whether or not they still had beef with one another (and the testimony of the Scripture is that they did - forever). He could have judged his impact by the wrong metrics, though, and planted himself at the foot of that mountain and stayed there forever because he thought what he was doing was so important and that he was the only one who could do it. And if he had, no one would have ever seen the Promised Land, let alone set foot in it. At that point, even if Moses settled every dispute the Israelites had during his lifetime, we'd have to ask ourselves what the real impact of his life was.
We have to ask ourselves what the real impact of our lives is.