It took studying the Bible with Muslims, and trying to live so they could see Christ through me, for me to see how desperately I need a Savior.
I grew up in church, surrounded by loving people, so it is easy for me to act kindly under good conditions. But when I am tired, hungry, and stressed to the limit, I am a different person. One of my triggers is getting taken advantage of because I am a foreigner. I have spoken impatiently to people taking honey from the beehives on our property without asking. I have also acted out of frustration towards neighbors who help themselves to my things because they believe I have so much that I will not care.
Once, in Phnom Penh traffic, during a very long, unfruitful day of searching for needed supplies, I honked heatedly at someone who was blocking me from turning. I had been getting progressively hotter and meaner throughout the day. In the car with me were two Bible students from the Great River People. They could feel my anger, though I did not think it was a big deal until one of them promised to pray for me.
Now I am starting to pray about everything. I have to.
God, I have negative feelings toward this person right now. Please take those feelings away from me.God, my wife needs to see a supernatural change in my life. Please make me a new person! Please fill me with your Holy Spirit and make me obedient. Since then, there was an instance when I felt wronged by merchants who sold me a phone that did not work. I took it back to them and they exchanged it for another. But it did not work, either. When I went to exchange it, they would not do a second exchange. Again, I was mad and frustrated. So I talked to God about it. He told me to return the faulty phone to them, plus pay them for it once again. Throughout my life, I have heard of giving your shirt to someone who takes your coat, but I had never actually done anything quite like that.
The merchants refused the money at first, but I explained to them that it was my money and, therefore, I was asking them to take it as an act of friendship. After that, I did not feel any bitterness toward them. What God asked me to do was not for them. It was for me. Since then, they have helped me troubleshoot phones without asking for money and shared with us delicious desserts they made for Ramadan. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
I have asked God why I have been struggling so hard to have more patient, gentle responses to conflict, and God said, “I cannot help you when you are filling your mind with media that has contaminated speech or violence. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
“But God,” I reasoned, “it is just because I miss hearing dialogue in my own language. I do not enjoy the occasional bad parts!”
“My Book has dialogue, too,” He said gently.
With God’s message, I began feeding my soul by memorizing His word—and it has become the joy and rejoicing of my heart. On the cover leaf of my Bible, I penned these words from the song “You Are My All In All” (written by Dennis Jernigan): “Seeking you as a precious jewel, Lord, to give up I’d be a fool.”
I love words—their origination, evolution and current meaning—and I am in love with the words that burn with truth throughout history and culture. I started pondering how the Bible is the source of many of the most famous and profound quotes of wisdom in the English language, plus the values that the foundations of Christian societies around the world are built upon:
The Lord is my Shepherd. A Christian society believes God cares about us. No other religion teaches that.
Let My people go. Freedom, including freedom of speech and freedom of worship, is based on the Bible.
Be sure your sins will find you out. Don’t play around with sin. Even if no one else ever knows your sins, your sins know you and will grow stronger and enslave you until you repent and seek forgiveness through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for you.
Man shall not live by bread alone. Peace, joy and an abundant life are found in a focused relationship with God, through His Word, and not a focus on worldly needs and wants.
A soft answer turns away wrath. This is the perfect way to dissolve tension and resolve situations.
I had lived my life without realizing what the simple Gospel should mean for me when I am pushed to my limits. Until now, I had been floating on the breeze of good habits, good parents and common expressions like, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But me? Saved from what?
It was not until I saw myself through the eyes of the Bible workers that I realized there was something inside of me that needed to perish. It was not until I spent day after day trying to share a simple Gospel message that our people group could understand that I realized a changed life is the only thing we have to offer. Did my faith have the answer to my neighbor’s marriage problems, someone’s addictions or societal ills?
There is a simple message that changes lives—that makes the angry person patient, the selfish person generous and the miserable person glad. The answer is Jesus. For that answer to become visible and believable, our actions must demonstrate His life, love and forgiveness.
Will I remember that the next time someone steals my honey or overcharges me because I am a foreigner? Yes, if I continue feeding my soul with God’s word.
Let us be so changed that we feel selfish if we do not share the Gospel by living it before others.