From pages 134-135, Jeremy Walker writes in his new book The Brokenhearted Evangelist,
We cannot say when [conversion] will occur. It might be many years in the future that fruit might be borne of our present efforts, long after some of us who labor and pray have ourselves gone to be with the Lord (if Christ does not first return). Who knows how many words of truth will come back to the minds of those who have read them? Who knows if some of those who hear preaching outside church buildings might travel thousands of miles before remembering that they once heard someone offer salvation from sins in Christ Jesus and repent and believe for their salvation? A young boy named Luke Short once heard the eminent Puritan John Flavel preaching in Dartmouth. That boy grew and immigrated to New England, leading a life without much thought of God. Michael Boland describes what happened years later: “One day as [Luke Short] sat in his fields reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America. The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ – eighty-five years after hearing John Flavel preach.”
The words Short heard so many years before from the faithful preacher of God’s Word came back to his mind with converting power, and he was saved through the instrumentality of a decades-old sermon. Perhaps parents whose children now are heading away from God will one day welcome their once-wayward offspring into the land of glory. Perhaps some of those nameless and faceless strangers for whom we pray shall, as a result of our prayers, be brought to faith in Christ many years after our praying tongues have been silenced by death. It might be immediate: Why should we not expect people to come in, hear, and be saved? Is that not within God’s power? It is not impossible that a sinner of any stripe should walk through the doors of a church building during a sermon or overhear two Christians speaking of their beloved Savior or pick up a tract or return to an old invitation or bump into an hold friend recently converted, and be within moments redeemed from sin and death and hell. God’s power is sufficient to prevent us imposing any limitations of time, either of shortness or length. We cannot say when sinners will be converted.
Indeed, we do not know when sinners will be converted through repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but repent they will. As Jeremy Walker previously writes on page 134 regarding Psalm 51:13,
it is God’s sovereign pleasure and solemn promise to crown faithful gospel preaching with genuine gospel success.
May we continue to be faithful in our proclamation of the Gospel, trusting the Lord to bring His sheep into the sheepfold through the means of preaching Christ and His marvelous work on Calvary.
The Brokenhearted Evangelist can be purchased for $11 at Reformation Heritage Books.