Do you ever feel like giving up in prayer for something or someone? I do. There are times when I wonder, “What’s the use?” At times like that, I need encouragement—a faith booster. This “Jesus story” occurred sometime in the last year. A friend in South Africa shared the story with me. Get ready to have your faith boosted.
In this past year, a group of missionaries met to pray for God to move among Shiite Muslims. As they were praying, they were impressed with two things: first, that they were to pray specifically that God would give the same dream to many Muslims on the same night; and second, that entire families would come to Christ. This prayer was prompted by the persecution that converts experience from family members when they come to Christ. They began to pray along these lines and invited brothers and sisters from all over the world to join them in prayer on Fridays at noon. Saints from China, the US, and many other countries joined in the prayer effort.
A member of the group of missionaries attended a conference in a Middle Eastern country. She was approached by a stranger who had heard that she worked among Shiite Muslims and felt impressed to share with her what had happened in their community and ministry.
A man and his family were called by God to plant a church in a Shiite community. Shortly after moving into the neighborhood, he was killed. One evening, three masked men rang his doorbell, and when he answered the door, one of the men put a gun to his head and murdered him.
A few months later, God called another man to take his family and move into the same apartment and plant His church. In obedience, the man and his family moved into the former church planter’s apartment. Shortly after getting settled, the doorbell to his home rang. When he answered the door, he was met by three masked men who threw a hood over his head and forced him into the trunk of their car. After a long ride, he was removed from the trunk and led up a long flight of stairs into a large room where they removed his hood.
He was shocked when he found himself in a room with 900 Shiite men sitting on the floor with their eyes trained on him. His initial thought was that they were going to publicly execute him. Then the three men removed their masks.
The leader spoke. “Sir, we do not mean to frighten you, but do you remember the man that lived in the home before you did?” Of course he remembered him.
Then the man confessed, “Well, I’m the one that pulled the trigger. The three of us are the ones that murdered him. The night that we killed him—do you see the men in this room?”
“The night that we killed that man, every single one of us in this room had the same dream. We dreamt that the blood of that man was on our hands and that God in His mercy would send someone in his place who could tell us how to get his blood off our hands. Are you that man?”
That night the pastor had the incredible privilege of sharing the gospel with 900 Shiite Muslim men who had had the same dream on the same night. All of the men in the room responded to the gospel and became Christ-followers. In the following days, all of their immediate family members came to Christ, and Jesus’ church was planted in that Shiite community. (You can listen to this testimony here: Jesus Converts 900 Muslim Men in One Night
What seems impossible to you?
I have had two prayer requests that I have prayed for four years. I’m still waiting on God to answer those requests. How about you? Do you have seemingly impossible situations or relationships for which you have been praying for years? Are there people that you love and wish that God would save them? Do you struggle with bouts of unbelief and discouragement due to the long wait? This story reminds me to be steadfast and persevering in prayer. It’s a faith booster to me that reminds me of Jesus’ encouragement to His disciples.
His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” In Jesus’ answer, He said, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:5-8). The take-away lessons here are that prayer is simple (ask God for what you need in order to serve others) and prayer must be persistent (pray until the Father answers). I need those reminders. How about you?
Ask for God to help your unbelief.
My faith is boosted also by the simple, honest, humble words of a father who brought his demonized son to Jesus’ disciples. The disciples’ prayers were apparently ineffective, and when Jesus arrived, the boy’s father said, “If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22b-24). The Lord Jesus helped the man’s unbelief. He healed his son!
The father’s honest request encourages me to ask the Lord to help my unbelief as well when circumstances are overwhelming and seem impossible to rectify. I’m sure the faith issue is this: Do we believe that God is with us and that He is doing, and will do, what is best for us in order to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ? The waiting period is necessary for unbelief to be purged, our faith to be purified, and the humility and love of Jesus to grow in our hearts. The story above suggests that God is at work in our hearts through the burdens He places there. The struggle we have in our trials is a matter of focus. Do we focus on the presenting problem, or do we focus on who Jesus is and His presence in our lives?
How well do you know God?
Few people would imagine that God uses martyrdom of His loved ones as a means of redeeming and converting thousands from the darkness of Islam into the light of the Kingdom of His beloved Son. It shouldn’t surprise us that He ordains some of His children to be martyrs, however, since our salvation was accomplished through the martyrdom of His own Son. Most people expect God to orchestrate their lives in ways that result in a happy, trouble-free, prosperous life. Their prayers, if they pray, reflect that mindset. If suffering, rejection, enduring pain, and deep disappointments occur, then their faith in God is shaken to the core. In such cases, they can easily find themselves seeking an explanation for why these things occur in their lives. Usually, they either blame themselves or others (and there may be plenty of evidence for blameworthiness in either case), but few have come to believe that God loves them and has redemptive and glorious purposes in their pain, loss, and disappointments. This story could trouble these people very deeply, and instead of boosting their faith in God, it might shake their faith.
I’m not suggesting that we should not grieve when we or our fellow human beings suffer deeply. The affection and compassion of Christ in us shines in times like these. We should have compassion and sorrow for the tremendous losses and disappointments in people’s lives, especially if we may have played a part in their pain. I’m also not suggesting that in grievous times we turn off our emotions and coldly, callously, praise God for His wonderful works because He is sovereign. We should grieve with the family who lost father and husband in a cold-hearted act of hatred and murder. At the same time, we should look for how God redeems the wickedness and loss through the blood of Jesus Christ. We should praise Him for how He brings glory to Himself as He saves, comforts, and encourages His people. However, sometimes we have to wait months, years, and maybe a lifetime for a clear understanding of God’s purposes and redemptive plans. That’s when our faith needs boosting.
The story above reminds me to believe in God’s goodness and purposes even when terrible things happen and reality doesn’t line up with what I thought about God and His love. True faith lets go of what we thought about God and settles on and rests in what God’s Word unquestioningly reveals, namely, that God is love (1 John 4:8), and He is going to sum all things up in the history of mankind in His Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10). He will right all wrongs. Although we may have to wait until we are before Him to understand what deeply troubles us now, with each trial we practice “fixing” our faith and hope on Jesus Christ in the midst of the painful realities of this life.
Let faith rise and look to Christ.
I hope your faith is boosted by the story above, as mine is. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising (making little) of the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God (Heb. 12:2). Let’s keep praying specific, focused prayers as the Holy Spirit directs us. Let’s endure for however long our Father would have us endure in prayer for our growth and for His glory. Take heart, and do not become weary in prayer and faithfulness to forgive, love, and forbear. He will meet you there in that place of faith.