Posted by: rcottrill | January 26, 2011

A Passion for Souls

Words: Herbert George Tovey (b. May 6, 1888; d. Mar. 20, 1972)
Music: Foss Luke Fellers (b. May 8, 1887; d. June 16, 1924)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

As I’ve shared elsewhere in these blogs, I’ve been to Moody Bible Institute several times for conferences, and my father was a student there (majoring in music) in the 1920’s. The Institute is in Chicago, and the campus is surrounded by a crime ridden neighbourhood. One time, I was told on arrival that there had been a couple of murders near there in the last week or two! We were warned not to venture out alone, and the buildings are on lock-down at night. Even so, the school has had a tremendous impact for good in the city of Chicago.

One of the students, around 1914, was Herb Tovey. As with each student, he was given an evangelistic project. He did it, because it was required. But like many others he didn’t find it easy. Nor did he believe he had a real heart for the work, and a compassion for those to whom he gave gospel tracts and a word of testimony. He prayed that the Lord would give him a real passion for ministry–and while he was still a student he wrote a song about that, A Passion for Souls. One of his teachers, Foss Fellers, provided the tune.

The dictionary defines “passion” as an extreme and compelling emotion. North Americans have many great passions–for making money, watching sports, gambling, consuming alcohol, and sexual excess. But what about those of us committed to Christ? Do we feel strongly enough about it that it molds and motivates our behaviour? Recent polls reveal a disturbing trend. In many cases, the goals and desires that animate professing Christians are not much different from those of unbelievers. That suggests the Christianity of many is only skin deep!

That was certainly not true of the Apostle Paul. He longed to see his people the Jews come to Christ. He tells us, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1). In other words, what would give him the greatest delight and satisfaction was their salvation. He also confesses, “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart….for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). Those who came to Christ brought him joy, but the ones who continued to reject Him were a heavy burden on his heart day by day. He was passionate about it.

There are at least a couple of things that should motivate us to share the gospel. One is our love for the Lord Jesus. He has commanded us to spread the good news (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15). And with Paul we should be able to say, “The love of Christ compels us [controls and pushes us onward], because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (II Cor. 5:14-15).

Then there’s the urgency of the hour. The glorified Christ told the Apostle John, “I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:12, 20). Any seeming delay is only so that more can hear the gospel and respond. “The Lord is not slack [or slow] concerning His promise, as some count slackness [slowness], but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9). We need to keep working.

1) What are some ways that a true “passion for souls” will show itself in our lives?

2) As well as (in some settings) the possibility of physical danger, what are some other obstacles and difficulties soul-winners face?

3) First Peter 3:15 says we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us], with meekness and fear [“gentleness and respect,” NIV].”

¤ How can we be better prepared to do this?

¤ What is the opposite of meekness and godly fear, and why are these negative qualities harmful to our witness?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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