Only God Can Do That

Read: Matthew 11

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)

Less than twenty-four hours ago*, I saw something that makes no sense—except in God’s economy.  I stood in a twenty-by-fifteen foot building in a rural village in Ethiopia. It was a church, made out of mud and sticks. The back wall was nothing more than a ratty and ripped plastic tarp.  There were perhaps twenty people there when I walked in, most of them were under the age of 15, obviously very poor, and they were worshipping Jesus with such a passion that I rarely witness in my own country—or my own life.

One of the most amazing things about this rag-tag fellowship was that it was only five months old in the Lord.  Five months—and the joy in their hearts and the praise that flowed from their lips was at once profoundly moving yet at the same time deeply convicting as it revealed a spiritual lassitude in my own walk with Jesus.

Yet, even more amazing than the vibrancy of this young congregation was the horrible ordeal they had just endured.  Just thirty days prior, the Ethiopian pastor who planted this church was shot and killed by an enraged husband upset over his wife’s conversion to Christ.  The beloved shepherd of this fledgling flock, Gire Daba, was martyred for his faithful witness, leaving an infant congregation to makes its way in a hostile community.

Gire Daba’s Widow

In the small, dark sanctuary sitting among the worshippers was Pastor Gire’s widow.  A mother of four and seven months pregnant with her fifth child, this grief-stricken woman had decided to stay within the very village where her husband gave his life to make a new life for her family.  I and the team that traveled with me prayed over her, asking God to take what Satan had meant for evil and turn it into something outrageously good.  After we were done, she simply thanked us for our prayer and our pledge of support.

Sitting less that ten feet away was the wife whose husband was now in jail for murdering Pastor Daba.  Like Gire’s widow, she now has no means of support, not to mention an unbearable load of shame for her husband’s despicable act.

Wife of Gire Daba’s Murderer

When she surrendered her heart to Jesus, her husband savagely beat her in order to force her to recant her newfound faith.  She refused, saying, “I cannot deny him—I love Jesus now!” We prayed with this young woman as well, asking God to turn her husband’s evil act into a testimony of grace in her life.  We prayed that rather than living under the shame of her husband’s awful crime, that she would be embraced by her new church family—including Gire Daba’s widow—and that this act of forgiveness, acceptance and reconciliation would be an irresistible testimony in the community.

Unbridled joy, heart-healing forgiveness, open-armed fellowship—only God can do that!  It makes no sense apart from God; it cannot happen apart from a powerful work of the Holy Spirit.  And only child-like faith can embrace something so humanly illogical!  The wise and learned of this world recoil at the notion of a widow embracing the wife of his murderer—but among those to whom God has revealed the kingdom, even so mind-boggling as this becomes a sign of his presence and a token of his grace.

Only God can do that!

“How naturally does affliction make us Christian!” ~William Cowper

*This blog was written while I was in Ethiopia on April 5, 2011.

What If God Took Over?

Ask God to give you a child-like faith that opens your heart and mind to the mystifying ways and means of his kingdom.



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