Have you ever heard a talk that just haunted you? That you could not get out of your mind no matter what else was going on in your life?
I am in the midst of that experience. I listened to a podcast* last week in which Nancy Guthrie interviewed several women from Middle Eastern countries after a conference where these women had been helped to learn to teach the Bible with a new depth and confidence. I hope to capture what has been haunting me since listening to these women speak. These are elusive thoughts, but I hope I can faithfully communicate what God has been impressing me with since hearing them speak.
First was the love that they expressed in being together with sisters in Christ from all around the Middle East. Some of these women live in countries where it is extremely dangerous to express their belief in Christ, much less teach the Bible or gather with other believers. They oozed love for the teachers who had led them, for their sisters who had learned alongside them and the God who allowed them to be at this conference.
I was also struck hard by their courage. Some of the women would return to enemy territory where the Gospel is not welcome. But their enthusiasm was not in the least dampened by this prospect. God has filled their hearts and minds with His Word and it is bearing the fruit of boldness and clarity and a mission to reach others for Christ.
Even more than this love and courage, their joy was so clear, even through an audio podcast. They could not wait to get back home and share what they had learned. They know the danger, but that seemed far from their minds. All they could talk about was how wonderful it was to have grown in their ability to understand and share the truths of Scripture with others! Their joy comes from their confidence in God’s Word, not from some new teaching skill or trick of the trade. It is in God alone and the Word that He has given us all. This confidence, this joy, is what is absorbing my attention.
These women have found life, meaning and purpose in the Word, as they never had before. They found answers. They found love. They found redemption, forgiveness and hope. These things overcome any fear they might face in returning home. By contrast I feel timid and fearful, though the opposition I face is not nearly as dangerous. I say my confidence is in the Lord, but how does that really play out in my life? I teach His Word, but is it with the confidence that in the Word is the only real life, meaning and purpose for my life? The word that keeps coming to me is ‘superficial’. My faith feels shallow, or shaky, kind of like a Jenga tower that if you pulled out one stick, it would all come tumbling down. Could I withstand the kind of opposition these women have faced? Could I endure the suffering so many of you here in my own community have endured or are enduring? These are some of the questions haunting me.
Answers? Well, I know at least one. God will prepare me uniquely for what He is going to give me. And Romans 8:28 stands true forever. I don’t need to compare what these Middle Eastern women face, or what any of you face to what God might bring my way. I need to walk in obedience in the race He has set before me. Let’s help one another run the race faithfully, as brothers and sisters in Christ. Stand firm, ECC, in the truth of His Word and the strength of His love for you.
*Help Me Teach the Bible with Nancy Guthrie, episode entitled Why Middle Eastern Women Want to Learn to Teach the Bible, May 29, 2019 This podcast is available from The Gospel Coalition or wherever you get your podcasts.