Never, ever give up on the people you’re praying will start walking with Jesus.

Even after facing rejection after rejection from the Jewish people, the Apostle Paul never gives up hope that his Israelite friends can be saved:

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

– Romans 9:1–3 ESV

Do you realize what Paul was saying? Paul was willing, if it were possible, to give up his salvation if it meant his family and friends would come to faith in Christ. He would have gone to hell itself for Israel to return to faith, and he determined that he would never stop working to that end.

Who do you feel like that about? Who would you go to hell for?

For me, as with most parents, it’s my kids. If one of them walked away from God, I would be up early and up late, on my knees praying for them to return to faith. I know a man at the Summit who prayed for his non-Christian daughter for 27 years, and she just recently professed faith in Jesus. I know many others who have prayed for longer and are still waiting for God to answer.

John Knox, who saw a massive gospel awakening happen in Scotland in the 16th century, was known to pray, “God, give me Scotland or I die.” People close to him testified that he meant it.

I know missionaries today who feel like that about the people group they serve. They are facing unbelievable obstacles, but they will not leave because they feel this kind of anguish about their people.

Have you developed that kind of burden for your friends? Do you see them as Paul saw his friends and family?

I know this can be painful to think about. But if Paul is our example, I believe that anguish in our souls is divine. God has put people on our hearts for a reason. And he urges us, do not give up.

Do not grow discouraged in your pursuit, Paul says, because there is good news: Those you love are loved by God. Just look at Israel. The Jewish people who turned from Christ were still loved because of the promises God gave to their forefathers. Your friends are loved, not only because they have been created by God and in his image but also because of the promises God gave to you.

Here’s one of those promises: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5–6).

As you weep for your friends and family now, remember that you will one day walk in joy as God brings in the harvest. He is faithful to fulfill every word of his promises. Don’t give up your faithful prayer for the people you want to see follow Jesus.