I spoke to a woman yesterday who was raised Muslim. She has had a very difficult life. When she was 8 years old, she had a near death experience in which Jesus appeared to her, filled her with His presence and instructed her on what she needed to do to stay alive.
Many years later, after moving to the US, she had another experience with God in which God spoke to her in a concrete way resulting in the rescue of her son from certain death. These are the things she related to me sitting across from me. The second experience led her to give her life to Jesus and become a Christian.
No one preached to her. She never went to church before these experiences. As an 8 year old, all she knew was Islam. Still, she knew who it was who encountered her in both instances, and as a result she is now a believer.
The thing that struck me as we talked was the matter-of-fact way she shared these things and a throw away comment: that she does not understand why other people are surprised. That led me to wondering why any Christian should be surprised that God does these things. Jesus did these things! Why should we be surprised?
This was her story. She lived it. God is very real to her even though she is currently jobless and lives in difficult circumstances.
I felt compelled to try to explain the reactions she has gotten to her story. I explained that people in the US seem to have been inoculated with Christianity. They have gotten just enough of the church that they seem immune to the “disease”! American Christians largely do not believe in miracles, and if they do they are more apt to believe psychics, supernatural phenomena and paranormal occurrences before they might accept the possibility that Jesus can appear to people in visions, heal the sick or perform miracles.
She also mentioned to me that she immediately began going to Church and reading the Bible after she gave her life to Jesus, but what she saw in church did not square with what she was reading in the Bible. So she stopped going there and found another church. She does not go to the other church any more either. In fact, she is not going to church anymore, but she still reads her Bible.
Throughout the time we spoke, alternating between her immediate issues and needs, her salvation story and God, the Holy Spirit filled our conversation. He was palpably present.
I prayed with her before she left, and told me something that made an even bigger impression on me: she said no one had ever prayed for her before!
No one. Her story is an indictment on the Church and a call at the same time for the Church to be obedient to God.
No one witnessed to her, but God reached her and drew her to Himself in very dire circumstances. She was so open to God that He simply showed Himself to her, and she embraced Him. She struggles in her life under difficult circumstances, but she has no church body to provide her support. The Church needs to be about God’s business to help people such as this woman!
We have been going through the entire Book of Acts at our church, and we are nearing the end. Acts is the sequel to the Gospels. The Gospels end with the Great Commission – the command to go into all of the World and preach the Gospel. Acts is the beginning of the church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to aid us in carrying out the Great Commission. The Great Commission extends to the “end of the age”; and as far as I know, we have not reached that point yet.
I had committed myself many months ago to help at a faith-based legal aid clinic. Yesterday was one Saturday that I was committed to being there. It was just another Saturday. I would have like to sleep in, but I was committed. If I had not made the commitment and had not shown up, I would not have met this woman who I have described.
I did not do anything extraordinary. I have felt God convicting me and gently urging me to be more involved and more committed. I have gotten to a place in my life in which I am not satisfied with life as I have known it. I have spent too many years brushing God aside, going my own way and ignoring His gentle urging.
I have experienced the reality that I can either have the World or I can have God, and I have seen that there is nothing in the World that compares to God. I know that because I have tasted of God’s goodness, then walked the other way. I have admitted to myself within the last few years that I am ruined for God. I know that I need more of Him and less of everything else.
The encounter I had yesterday has gotten me thinking: how ripe is the field for harvest that God is coming to people in visions and speaking audibly to draw them directly to Himself?! I suppose another way of asking the question is: how slack has the Church been in fulfilling the Great Commission that God must encounter people directly Himself without the help of the Church?
I know for a fact that this woman needs the body of Christ. She needs support. We are not meant to live separate from the body, and God intends that His Church bring the Gospel to the World.
Let us renew that commitment to the Great Commission today for people like the woman and her family that I met yesterday. Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion. If we are following closely enough to Jesus, we will do as Jesus does. The field is ripe for harvest, and the field is all around us!