One November night, a certain young Muslim laid on his bed in a hostel on the University campus. He could not sleep because he was being haunted by words that he had heard spoken over time and again by his fanatical Christian friends over the course of the previous year. As he lay quietly in the dark, a phrase kept running over in his mind in an unrelenting vicious loop; you will not die before Jesus comes. That cannot be he thought; Jesus is just a dead prophet who the Christians had exalted and turned into a cult figure. Surely the stories about him are all but rumors. God does not have a wife, if he did, who conducted the wedding? If He is single, how then can He possibly have a son? It did not make sense, but there was something different about those Christians, they were nice and funny and really believed those ludicrous stories in their Bible. But what if the stories were true? What could he possibly loose by believing it? No, this was insane, he could not possible contemplate becoming a Christian. What would his family think of him? His father had hired teachers for years to teach him Islam and even bought him his own Quran when he got admission into the university. What would his friends say? They all knew him as a Muslim. Perhaps he should not have said that prayer of confession they made him say last week. He only said it because his friends were relentless and he thought saying the prayer would get them off his case. God would not hold that prayer against him, or would he?
He walked out unto the balcony to clear his head in the night’s fresh breeze. It was two days before his eighteenth birthday and he had just been admitted into the university, so it was silly that he was contemplating these thoughts in his mind. No matter how hard he tried to drive it away by reason, those words just would not go; you will not die before Jesus comes. Over and over it rang until finally he gave up. Okay he thought, I will dedicate my life to you, I will follow you and serve you the rest of my days.
Over the next year, he studied the Bible diligently, attended fellowship meetings, joined the prayer team and even started preaching the gospel to strangers. But not once did he mention his conversion to his family whenever he went home. One day during an evangelism outreach to the city, he wore a customized t-shirt advertising Jesus as the way to salvation. There were drums beating fervently, trumpets blaring, over a hundred people singing praises to God and dancing on the streets. It was a carnival for Jesus; then out of nowhere his father appeared beside him and the spiritual honeymoon was over. Then began the conflicts and persecutions that lasted for years. His days of being fed manna in the desert were gone and the days of standing his ground for God had begun. His walk through spiritual valleys and climbing of mountains had started.
As the years have passed, I have lived under both conditions of plenty and of need. I have had moments when fear gripped my heart; and I asked myself; could I have been wrong? Is God real? Did I imagine His voice? Were all my testimonies purely coincidental? Why do these things happen to me? Can I have but a brief respite, a moment when everything is just right? Why must I hurt? Am I the greatest sinner ever or why is He hidden from me?
When I look back now, I know He has always been there. He quietly watched and patiently taught me, never once allowing me to be broken. Whenever things became unbearable He always came through for me, He would speak to me in His own way and show me unimaginable things in His Word. He has taught me patience and endurance in the face of trials. I have learned that life has its seasons so when a storm rages, I grip my hat, brace myself and lean into the gale. But when the opportunity presents itself, I know how to walk beside the still waters and to lie down in green pastures. In the darkest hours when I cannot see, He has taught me to reach out for Him and to hold on to hope in impossible situations. He delivered me in such astonishing ways that some of my friends simply call Him the God of the eleventh hour. He has guided my choices by His wisdom and like a skillful potter has patiently molded me into the vessel He wanted me to be. On occasions, I wandered away and strayed from His will, but like a true shepherd He always guided me back home to him. When I walked through the valley of miseries and found myself in deep waters, He kept my head well above the waters. He loved, taught, blessed, corrected and often chastised me in a bid to mold me into His likeness. With a gentle arm and a reproving rod He worked on me till I finally learned that it is not the potter, but the clay that determines the final shape of the vessel.
This series is written with a primary focus on the clay rather than on the potter. It is designed to emphasize our role in God’s workings and how crucial our choices are in determining the outcome of our faith. A broad classification into three parts is adopted each dealing with different factors that determine the character and attitudes of the Christian in the hands of our potter. A general theme throughout is the choice between two available options presented to us in every situation in life. A choice that is ultimately influenced by knowledge of the potential outcome of each as well as the admonitions of our God through the teachings and examples of men of faith that made those choices before us.
Our limitation in choice is often a consequence of social programing in us since childhood. Consequently this series opens with an introductory article on the origin and power of fear. My ultimate purpose is to express some of the things God has taught me over the years that sustained me. Through my journey across four continents, He has guided my feet and illuminated my paths by His word. It is my desire that this series may encourage anyone that might be sitting alone in the cold darkness. That they may bring hope to anyone burdened by afflictions or pain and show the way to a wandering soul lost in the maze of this world. I pray that your confidence may grow in Him and that you may understand how precious you are to him. When you are presented with a choice between a blessing and a curse, may you find grace to choose a blessing and live a godly life. May your faith increase in leaps and bounds and your loins girded in truth and strength. When you pass through the waters He will be with you, the rivers will never overflow you, the fire will not burn you and you will not be wasted in the wilderness places.