One of the most tender parts of the book of Acts comes in chapter 18. Paul is feeling discouraged in Corinth: having been chased out of town after town, the Lord appears to him:
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (Acts 18:9-11)A few of us were considering these verses at the Lancaster CU small group leaders' meeting on Tuesday. Christ gives Paul an incredible promise - he had in Corinth 'many people'. These people had not yet believed in him, but they would do so because, as Stott puts it, 'already according to his purpose they belonged to him.' And so we considered the implications of God's sovereignty in evangelism: this conviction did not cause Paul to pack up and go on holiday, but he had the great conviction to keep going as an evangelist, knowing his efforts would not be wasted.
We haven't had a specific word about the campus of Lancaster University - but as we look forward to the great crowd in Revelation, we discussed as to how we can be very optimistic that Christ has 'many people' at Lancaster University - eternally his, but not yet trusting him.
Last night we maybe had a glimpse of some of 'the many' on the campus. The CU organised a 'toastie and question' event from 6pm to 2am. It was quite an amazing event: there were three 'stations' that were all making toasties, and dozens of CU members involved in taking the toasties out, chatting and answering questions.
The stories are still filtering through the CU. A whole football squad listened to a CU member explain something of the gospel; several people want to come to church on Sunday; the campus radio station texted in for a toastie and featured the answer on their station! Literally hundreds of conversations happened over the course of the night.
In a couple of times especially we were aware of God's leading the conversation. In one instance, the CU members were there for nearly 2 hours - a banterous conversation turned very serious, and the CU members were invited back to chat further over dinner. In another conversation, the final question was, 'So how would I become a Christian?'
As we prayed last night, we reflected on Christ's promise to Paul: 'I have many people in this city.' We couldn't help thinking that he has many people on the campus. How precious the conviction of God's sovereignty is in evangelism!