Shannon Minter and Richard Bean, who clearly are proud of their alma mater, have been in a certain Middle East country for a month now. Their team is pioneering the work on two very prestigious universities that draw students from all over the Middle East. God has opened a window through these two schools to impact the entire Middle East!
They were told coming in that there would be very hard ground here—although there are very devout students there – they have met many spiritually interested students especailly in the last few weeks as classes have bgun. Some of these studsents have already asked to study the Bible with them. Shannon writes, “Students have invited us into their homes, which is a big deal here—they’re letting us into their hearts when they do! God has provided so many opportunities to share Christ. … Many students here are willing to talk about faith. We get away with asking a lot of questions about pretty much anything here too because we are foreigners and they are so hospitable! We are trusting God for big things here as we are sowing seeds broadly. We are hoping for several multipliers to be raised up this year and for many more students to come to know the Lord!”
On a personal and team front, Richard and Shannon’s team has faced some challenges. Already there have been times there when they have not been sure they would be there the following week—due to the political situation, ability to get their residency cards, etc. Shannon says, “We are trying to trust God in the midst of such uncertainty. Our attitudes and plans must always be very flexible here. Please pray for our continued safety/security of our ministry and for regional stability. We are bathing this year in prayer—there are times when there is nothing else we can do! God has been faithful, and we are continually blown away by what He is doing in student’s hearts as well as our own! And, swimming in the Mediterranean isn’t so bad either.”
Sometimes as leaders we find ourselves chillin’ at Club Med as things are going swimmingly and then there are times as Shannon writes that the only thing we can do is bathe in prayer. Maybe that prayer bathtub is not just for those times when there is nothing else we can do but perhaps that’s the best place to be, the only place to be … clinging desperately to Him no matter the circumstances.
One of my favorite passages is in Luke 18. Luke writes that Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. It’s a parable about a widow. She is in a desperate situation. She has no hope. Her only hope is changing the heart of a unjust judge - a judge who acknowledges that he doesn’t care about people or fear God. She pleads. She doesn’t give up. She won’t take no for answer. She can’t take no for an answer. She keeps coming back; begging, pleading, and bothering this judge until he acts.
Then Jesus concludes his parable with, "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
Remember, Jesus told this so that as his disciples we always pray and not give up. One of my co-workers commented on this passage once that we don’t give up when we fully believe that God is not like this judge. I would add that we don’t give up when we fully believe we are like this widow. We have to come to believe that we are in a desperate need of Him every day. We are without hope unless He shows up. I guess if we believed both of these truths - God is not like this judge and we are like this widow - then we would pray at all times without giving up. I know my prayer life doesn't relect this type of belief.
I posted a quote on my personal blog from today. "The leader who doesn't feel pressed to the wall often is not involved in a work that is advancing sufficiently against the forces of darkness. But the burned-out leader has allowed the intensity and exhaustion of his calling to take away the pleasure of hope. Every leader is desperately in need of hope, but two factors entangle us: unlimited need and expanding opportunity. And those factors do their best to extinguish hope."
You are involved in this type of work. You need the pleasure of hope. Jesus ends the telling of this parable of the Persistent Widow by asking if He will find faith on earth when he returns. We know the definition: “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” But do we really know it? Do we look at our situation and not really believe that it is so desperate? Do we give up praying because it seems like God is not acting or if He does it doesn’t seem to be as quick as we’d like? And yet the promise is there in black and white - or perhaps red letters in your bible. Jesus said, “Will not God...”.
Our faith is expressed in pleading, in continuing to come, in not giving up… in a desperate prayer bath.