"Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it." (Acts 28:24, The Message)
Paul was unquestionably one of the best and most effective preachers who ever lived. Yet, not everybody believed what he said. Someone once wrote, "When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done." Having preached for many years I know this is true.
It is interesting to observe the dynamics at work in a gathering of people who are hearing the truth of God's Word proclaimed with persuasive power. First there is a curiosity that inclines them to listen, which they do for a brief moment. If there is not sufficient reason to continue listening presented in those first minutes -- the talk is over before it ever begins. A skilled preacher knows how to get to the heart of the matter without delay.
After people decide to listen, then there is the eerie silence of uninterrupted focus. At times it seems you could hear a pin drop. People's minds are quiet and their heart's are open. Truth is doing a deep work.
Then there is a shifting in the seats as people process what they are hearing; in some there is an internal debate, while in others there is a dawning awareness of truth. Ultimately, all preaching comes to the moment of decision. What are you going to do with what you have heard?
Like Paul, all of us have our moments when we are effective in doing what God has gifted us to do. And, we also have our moments when, no matter what we do, it doesn't seem to make any difference at all. It is interesting to note that, in Paul's case, some were persuaded, convinced, and believed the things that were spoken. But others, note how the Bible puts it, "refused to believe a word of it."
It wasn't that they could not believe; rather, they would not believe. Paul had indeed convinced even them, but their hearts refused to accept what they were hearing because they did not want to change. Jesus said, "The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil" (John 3:19).
And so it is that when all is said and done -- and this World is no more -- this simple verse of Scripture will serve as the judicial summary of all human history: "Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it."
Which side of the line will you be on in that day?