This month we are praying for and talking about miracles in our Indian Creek message series. A miracle that changed my life took place while I was in India with Sam Stephens traveling with the India Gospel League. I thought of this memory because Sam is in town and I hope you will take the chance to come to Indian Creek and meet him either Thursday from 11-1, lunch is served, or Friday evening at 6:30 supper is served.
I was the newbee on the team but for some strange reason Sam said he felt led to have me share the first message on our teaching trip. I was very unprepared. I was hoping to ease into the schedule and go to school off one of the veterans before it was my turn to speak. I had a huge case of culture shock, I’d just traveled 30 hours and my nights were days, the food turned my stomach, the smells were strong and spiritually I felt off kilter most likely because of the spiritual warfare. But I was selected. God had something up his sleeve.
I gave the message at a new church dedication. This is a big big deal in a village. Practically the whole village turned out, there were bright colors everywhere. Music like I’d never heard before blared loudly from an outdoor sound system. There was a celebration about to happen and we got to be in the middle of it. It was exciting. But for all the adrenaline that was flowing fear took the lead in me; I’m sorry to say.
What should I say? How would I connect? What if I was the Debby-downer of a foreign missionary speaker who put a damper on their party? It is amazing how our minds can go to town if we are outside of our comfort zone. I didn’t even bring a message with me that I thought was appropriate and there was no time to prepare one. God was setting me up.
I hurriedly thought through what might be an appropriate message for a dedication of a church–what about speaking on building a firm foundation for the ministry. They had a new building so how would they use it to reach their community? There were four corners to the building how about the four cornerstones for effective mission? They would be prayer, the Word, worship and outreach. That was the best I could do on short notice. And actually, by God’s grace, it went very well. I was surprised how the Holy Spirit made up for my weakness and it was obvious to me it wasn’t me.
At the end of the message it occurred to me that every person and every ministry must have the power and the flow oft he Holy Spirit to be fruitful. So I read Acts 2 and said, Let’s pray that the power of the Holy Spirit would fill us and fill this place so we can be sent out like the early apostles.
I closed my eyes and began to pray. Little did I know what God had planned. As soon as I started praying the whole place erupted in prayer, so much so that I opened my eyes to see what happened. People stood to their feet and started shouting in prayer while others fell prostrate on the floor interceding. It was like a bomb of prayer went off in that church. That’s cool I thought but I had no idea what was coming next.
I continued to pray a little more loudly and confidently than before. I asked the Holy Spirit to move powerfully among us and He was ready. There was a wave of the Holy Spirit that came in the church that was so strong you could physically feel it. The Hebrew word for “Spirit” is translated “wind” in English and as a boy who spent some time in western Kansas I knew the feeling physically but this was the first time I ever felt the wind of the Spirit blow powerfully in a place. Another appropriate word to describe the feeling is the what it feels like to be on the beach and be hit with a wave.
Everyone felt it and it had a huge effect. People rushed to the altar to pray. There was shouting and crying! Some men ran to the walls of the church as if to hold them up–like this is so strong it might knock the church down. Demons came out of people and left screaming. People spoke in tongues and this was just the beginning.
By now I’d finished my weak little prayer and watched in amazement at what God was doing. The prayers went up in intensity if that was possible. And then a second wave of the Spirit came through the room. People cheered like they were at a sporting event. It was then I realized, they fully expected this! This is what they were praying for and they celebrated that the Holy Spirit was manifest in such a tangible way. I was stunned but I was also so covered in God’s glory that I joined right in praying for people and healing took place right before my eyes. It was like Acts 2 was happening all around me. And then there was another wave! I felt like heaven had come to earth.
The afterglow from that experience lasted a couple of days. I felt like I was bathed in light, warmth and truth. There was a cleansing and joy like I’d never experienced before. It is no exaggeration to say that that one experience has affected my faith and expectation more than any other single experience in my spiritual life.
There are many take-aways from this experience but the primary one is that God is here and available ready to work. He isn’t just the God of the scriptures. He doesn’t just work in India. He is ready if we will seek after Him in faith. It was the combined faith and expectation of the whole church that welcomed Him into our presence that day. The gifts of the Spirit are real and they are for us. God is not stingy. He gives liberally and He is more ready to share than we are ready to receive.
I rarely miss a day when I’m not asking for the Holy Spirit to fill me, cleanse me and use me. I have high expectation. I expect God to show up and move. I lament the fact that, as Westerners, we have experienced so little of the Spirit’s work that we’ve settled for less and we don’t even know what we are missing. What happened was in large part because a whole church knew what it was to intercede, to fight in spiritual warfare and to pray through. I pray for that at Indian Creek but struggle to get us to picture and imagine what God could do if we prayed.
We have much to learn but let’s seek after God with devoted hearts. Let’s pray and press in to what the Spirit would do in our lives in these days! I’m not giving up or giving in. If this happened for me it could for us and it doesn’t have to be in India.