Many of you already know that my daughter, Bethany, is on an 11-countries-in-11-months missions adventure. It’s rightfully called The World Race, and so far she has been to Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Zambia, and Malawi. She has worked with orphans, ministered to women rescued from horrific abuse, carried rocks to clear the ground, done door-to-door evangelism, and a host of other things.
I have expected it to a faith-stretching time for her. The challenge of raising support, along with the difficulty—especially for an introvert such as Bethany—of meeting and living with a team of six unfamiliar people, combined with the adventure of living without the comforts of home, often in a tent, with everything needed for the year carried only in a backpack would be intimidating at the very least.
Those who organize, train, and oversee these teams do a wonderful job of planning out details while encouraging the racers to anticipate the unexpected. I really didn’t think about what that might mean. Until now. It seems that six teams were crossing the border from Malawi into their next ministry site, Mozambique. Two of teams crossed without incident, but the final four were held up at the border. The officials claimed something in their paperwork was missing, and refused them entry. The teams were tired, very hungry, and uncertain about next steps. That was two days ago, and the teams are currently staying on opposite sides of the border while what is hopefully only technicalities are ironed out. But there is concern coupled with a huge amount of uncertainty.
The teams are praying for resolution. Their parents are praying. None of us would have chosen this challenge for them. After all, they were only doing what God had asked of them!
Then this morning God reminded me of Paul’s time in prison.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. Acts 16:25-33
Paul got thrown in jail because he openly shared his faith in Jesus, not because he did anything wrong. Regardless of the reason, there he sat. Along with Silas, praying and singing hymns! And because of his faithful testimony, the jailer and his entire family came to faith in Jesus.
Sometimes hard things happen because while it’s not part of our plan, it is part of God’s. He had a bigger plan for Paul; using him so that this jailer’s entire household became believers. If Paul had not been in jail, this family may never have heard the good news of Jesus.
it was no coincidence that Paul was in a place he didn’t expect to be. And it no coincidence that Bethany and the others are, either. I am praying that God will use this unsettled time to grant these young men and women divine appointments, where they are able to boldly share their own faith, and that God would use that to draw others into His kingdom.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28, 31, 35, 37-39
1. Have you ever found yourself in a hard position that you never expected to be in? If so, what was your response?
2. Looking back, do you see how God used that to not only strengthen your own faith, but to encourage the faith of others?
3. What are some verses God brings to mind that would encourage your heart should you be faced with such a situation again?
Father, how good it is to remember that You are a sovereign God. Nothing is a surprise to You, nor is there anything too hard. Thank You that Your plans for these teams, and for all of us, are for good. May they continue to rejoice in those good plans, trusting You to work out Your will for them. I ask that You would use them so that others may hear and respond to that truth.