Recently I have been impressed once more by the amazing variety in the ways of God with men. This is observable in conversion. It seems that rarely, if ever, does God meet with us in identical ways. There are, of course, certain basic unalterables, such as repentance and faith, but even the way in which these are expressed varies from person to person. God deals with us as individuals, and he is a creative God. A glance through the Scriptures will confirm this. Compare how God met with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Saul of Tarsus, to name but a few. God is sovereign in conversion.
God is also sovereign in gifting (Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-31; Eph. 4:7-11). This is vividly illustrated in the glorious Puritan era. Although the Puritans had so much in common, especially in terms of doctrine and their emphasis upon preaching, they varied widely in their skills and abilities. William Perkins (1558-1602) for example, had a profound influence in Cambridge, and, notably “[h]is writings exceeded in quantity and quality all other Puritan authors up to that time.” [Erroll Hulse, Who Are The Puritans?, (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2000), p. 43]. Yet he lived only 44 years! By contrast, Laurence Chadderton (1537-1635), a powerful preacher, lived to be nearly 100, yet published little.
God is also sovereign in results. This should be an encouragement to us all. We must endeavour by God’s grace, to live godly lives and work hard, for God will not bless lazy and ungodly preachers. Yet even the most hard-working ministers can only leave results with God. One sows, another reaps, but God gives the increase ((1 Cor. 3:5, 6). An illustration of this truth is also found among the Puritans. Richard Greenham (1531-1591) laboured for 20 years in the village of Dry Drayton near Cambridge. He was a most diligent and hard-working minister. He rose at 4.0 am both summer and winter, preaching powerfully several times a week, his first sermons before men went to work! He diligently visited his flock, even at their work in the fields. He became renowned for his counselling skills, and needy souls came from far and wide to seek his help and counsel, returning home with their needs met. Yet it is recorded that he knew of only one family converted in his own village parish. By contrast, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) saw almost the whole of Kidderminster converted, and has left a rich legacy of spiritually uplifting literature. Different gifts and different results. If we labour faithfully and earnestly in biblical ways, especially earnest prayer and the ministry of the Word, we can leave the results with God.