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The Answer to Prayer That Blew Me Away

April 22, 2014

“Help!” I cried out to the class.  “The speaker that was supposed to make a presentation on the book of Titus had an accident!  He was supposed to meet the crowd in the school gymnasium … and he can’t make it!  The audience is sitting in the gym, stomping and whistling, waiting to hear about the book of Titus!”

“What happens next?” asked Katie.

“You must take his spot,” I said.  “You have two minutes to prepare an outline 1bbbpresentation to give to the crowd – live.  I’ll try to hold them off until then.”

“But we’ve never studied the book of Titus,” countered Jeremy.

“Then you’d better start studying!  The crowd’s getting unruly!”  I headed toward the door.  “When I get back here, you must grab your notes and head to the gym with me.  We can’t let those people down!  Hurry!  Use your iPad and look up commentaries, notes, Bible studies on the book of Titus.  Go! ”

This situation I told them, of course, fictional.  There was no crowd in the gym.  There was no speaker.  There were, however, students who were going to head to the gym and teach the book of Titus.  The teens pored over their iPads and scribbled furiously. They came and stood at one end while I sat on the other end of the gym.  I was the “audience.”

There were two goals with this exercise. I wanted both to introduce the book of Titus in a novel way and also remind the students that as Bible leaders you must always be ready.  Always be ready.

The students rose to the occasion and gave their introductions to the book of Titus.  Their voices were loud, clear and direct.  They did a fine job, every one of them.

On the way back to the classroom, Alice looked at me with a grin.  “You always push for us to be ready at a moment’s notice, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I nodded.  “That will be a large chunk of your adult life.  Handling unexpected situations will be a constant challenge.”

She titled her head to one side.  “You mean more than just speaking situations, right?”

“Absolutely,” I replied.

I thought back to a good example of being ready when God calls, back when I first entered the teaching ministry in California.   My call was after what felt like years of a fruitless, wheel-spinning going-through-the-motions period of my life.

It was terrifying. I thought I had lost God, and so I prayed. Prayed hard.

I had attended a Christian leaders’ conference in Mount Hermon, California where the theme of the evening’s message was in reaching out to the lost people of California. Many of the Christian workers – myself included – felt a deep spiritual fatigue as we labored in the faith. Few places in America showed such a callous indifference to God as the West Coast. It was especially hard for me, being an Easterner – the cultural as well as the spiritual differences were two difficult mountains for me to climb. This conference was to be a time of refreshing and encouragement.

The main speaker was a no-nonsense type of guy. Short and bespectacled with a machine-gun cadence to his speech, he adjusted his suit jacket and gestured toward us. “You all feel worn you, don’t you? Tired because of your sacrifice day to day, don’t you? California’s pretty much run roughshod over you.”

We all nodded. Yes, yes.

He stepped to the side of the podium. “And you’re weary of the way you’re getting treated, how you get belittled, right?”

We nodded again. Oh, yes, yes. We’re so tired.

He looked across the crowd. “Well, get over it. There are missionaries who are serving and sacrificing a lot more than you ever will, and they’re not complaining.”

Our heads snapped to attention.

He raised a finger and pointed it to the ceiling. “Let me ask you something. How1d many of you personally led someone to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ this year? We’re now in October, and I ask you: since January, how many of you have personally – not by preaching from a pulpit or on a stage – personally eye-to-eye guided someone to the Kingdom?”

The packed conference hall was absolutely still.

“Well, then,” he said as he walked back to the lectern, “why don’t you stop complaining and start praying about that?”

Man, that hit home to me. I was in my second year serving in Hollister and I was miserable over the fact that I had not been able to personally lead a single soul to the Savior. I had tried, but with all of the other duties of service I had let it become less and less of a priority. But how could it change? I’m in a rut I can’t get out of.

I was broken. I stumbled out of the meeting room that night and wandered through the darkness across the conference center, torn by what the speaker had said. But how could it change? What could I do?

I found an unlit chapel at one side of the campus and tried the door. Opening it, I into the darkened sanctuary guided only by the moonlight coming in through the large stained glass window at the front. I fell to my knees. And I wept.

I cried so hard that I fell forward, face down on the wooden floor and called out to God. You know I’m trying to serve. You know I want to lead people to your salvation. And You also know that here are so many chores and jobs and things that eat up my day hour by hour. What do you want me to do, Lord?

I raised my head and, by the moonlight, saw the tears glistening on the floor.

Lord, you see these tears of honest anguish. I deeply want to do what You want in leading someone to Christ. I’m coming to you boldly and asking that You honor my request, Lord. Take it all over, Father. I’ve been trying so hard, and it’s been a dead-end road. Take it over. 

That was Saturday night.

On Monday morning I heard a knock on the door of my apartment. A girl of about twenty-one was collecting for the Red Cross.

“You’re not from the area, are you?” she asked as I gave her a donation. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken, you’re that new staff member at that church up the hill, aren’t you? A youth pastor, am I right? ”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said. “Wow, word gets around fast in this town.”

“Well, I kinda know about stuff that goes on in Hollister,” she said. “My name’s Sheila, and thanks for the donation.” She turned to go. “Religion’s a good thing, I figure.  I’ve been to every church in this town, really.”

“Is that so?” I could feel the Lord’s gentle push. “I mean, all of them, Sheila?”

“Yep,” she said. “Jewish, Universalist Unitarian, Catholic, Mormon, Buddhist, B’hai faith… you name it.  I haven’t felt the… well, the right answer, not just yet.”

“Hey,” I said. “Would you like to try one more? Special favor to me?”

She turned around again. “Where?”

“Up the road here,” I said, pointing. “I’m speaking on Sunday and I’d like you to be my special guest.”

“Well, uh, sure,” she said.

And that Sunday she came. After I finished speaking and the service concluded, I came down to meet her. “Thanks for coming, Sheila.”

“Sure, Brad. Hey… can I ask you something?”

“Yes.”

“Is Jesus the right way to Heaven? Seriously?” She turned her head and drilled me with her eyes. “I’m not kidding.”

“He sure is, and I’m not kidding, either.” I showed her the passage in John chapter 14. I let her read it herself.

She put the Bible down with finality. “Then,” she said, “I want you to help me with this prayer.”

And Sheila became a child of God, committed to His Kingdom, on that Sunday afternoon. God had given me an amazing answer to prayer. In fact, when Sheila came to my door and I was able to invite her, it had been the very next day we returned from the conference.

More specifically, God had answered my prayer by giving me the answer within 24 hours… right at my front door.

I learned a valuable lesson – that I had to be ready at any time.  God could move powerfully at any moment.  Would I be prepared?

I was amazed at how He answered my heart’s prayer.  I’m glad I was ready.

Jeremiah 29:12 – “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. “

 

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