If you surrender your life over to Jesus and walk with him for your fullest joy, then you might understand this. The truth of Christ means responsibility rests on your shoulders: you see strangers and loved ones trying to quench a deep, internal thirst in a world that — without Jesus — is salt water. With the realization that life is meant to glorify the Lord, you can’t help but weep at the sight of unbelief and fading lives.
The overwhelming truth is how many don’t know Jesus, how many are living eternally insignificant lives. How can we cope with a reality that bleak?
An 80,000-Fold Influence
Let’s say that a person meets an average of two to three people a day. Assuming the average life span is roughly eighty years, this means that the average person will encounter somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 people in their life. The football stadium at the University of North Carolina, houses 62,980 people.
Imagine if you walked into this stadium at the end of your life. One by one the seats are all filled with old and strangely familiar faces, memories flooding back to you until the crowd starts to pour over onto the field. You have met each person here, though many were only for a single moment. Each person represents at least one opportunity you had to influence the trajectory of his life. Your life will impact the world through thousands of people, who will, in turn, impact millions.
What would you say to each person now if you had the chance? What would you say to your mother, your high school girlfriend, the custodian that held the door open for you at work last week?
The Weight of Love
Eighty-thousand opportunities for influence is a significant role for anyone, but only Christians can understand a narrative like this. God purposefully created every person to enjoy relationship with him (Genesis 1:26–27; 2 Corinthians 6:16–18), but every person sins and falls short (Romans 3:23). Nevertheless, we hope in that Creator who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, and paid for the sins that separated us (Romans 3:24). He died and rose again, acting not only as the pinnacle of human history, but as life-bringing change for individual lives (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Either these events are miraculous history or legendary tale — of all importance or no importance at all.
The gospel is the truth that causes us to tremble, to look with weighty awe. The weight upon any gospel-impacted heart is the weight of love. It is a love for those 80,000 people — for the countless cashiers, the homeless encountered on the street, the neighbors we met once and the neighbors that frequent our dinner tables, the siblings at our sides.
Christians of all people should be pitied if our hope for the fullness of joy and the eternal pleasures of God’s presence in a new, stainless creation held no water (1 Corinthians 15:19). But we know the truth and, therefore, our pity overflows with love for those who don’t know it yet. Jesus came to die to give every sinner a future, and he came for every saint with a past. Therefore, we weep for the unbeliever. We weep for the friends and family who could overflow a thousand stadiums that still haven’t heard the good news.
The truth is heavy, but we cannot look away. Why? Because Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). These 80,000 cannot hear without being told. Who is to tell them, then? You are, Christian (Romans 10:14–15).
To the Laborers
This task seems unbearably heavy. But our hope is found in the Lord, who loves to employ his children in the mission to bring everyone into his arms. Whether yours is a lifetime of twenty years or eighty, you are working the harvest. Christianity began in the hands of a few: the news of Jesus’s resurrection was entrusted at first to just three women (Mark 16:1).
As individual believers awaken to their joyful responsibility, the masses await. A lifetime has the potential of impacting tens of thousands of lives. Your impact on most may be no more than a tiny ripple in the ocean of their lives, but together with the faithful ripples of others, there is hope for a tidal wave that will finally bring them to God’s shores.
Paul’s ministry focused on a few, discipling them to embrace Jesus and, in turn, to disciple a handful. The Great Commission to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth has snowball-like momentum. It is time to pray and act for great numbers to come to Christ. It is time to see stadiums full of love, not a message left tragically unsaid.
This is Spirit-filled optimism born in the midst of sober realism. Though he is not with us now in body, he has promised greater things to be done by us through his Spirit than what he accomplished in his thirty-three years on earth (John 16:7; Acts 1:8).
The truth may be overwhelming. The responsibility is great. But the Lord’s friendship sustains, and the power he provides is greater than every obstacle we face in this mission.