Last night I worshiped in Mata de Platanos, the small community where I help teach English two nights a week. Around 20 people meet in a one room house made of wood with a scrap metal roof. Songs are sung a cappella, as there are no instruments. It is a simple service, but filled with the Holy Spirit.
The sermon was on the passage in II Kings where the Israelites are besieged and starving to death. It’s a grim, horrifying story in many ways. The cost of everything was inflated to unthinkable levels. It’s so bad that people are actually becoming cannibals. In the midst of this hunger and desperation, comes the prophet Elisha.
Elisha tells the king that even though today the prices are impossibly high, at the same time tomorrow, flour and barley will cost next to nothing. One of the officers near the king voices his disbelief: “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” (II Kings 7:2).
Meanwhile, outside the city, four lepers are contemplating their fate. Essentially they say, “If we go into the city, we’ll die, if we stay out here, we’ll die. How about if we go surrender to the enemy army? After all, the worst they can do is kill us.” Off they trudge, resigned to death.
But, God has another plan, and it’s going to show His glory in a powerful way. The lepers arrive, and the enemy camp is completely deserted. God has transformed the sound of four lepers’ weary feet into chariots and horses and a great army. Panicked, the enemy forces flee, leaving behind all of their provisions. A feast and victory in place of starvation and defeat.
Mata de Platanos is not a wealthy place. In many ways, the people have even less than El Callejon, which benefits from being closer to the main road, and having several missions (including SI) working there. While their situation is not as bleak as the Israelites, most of the families in Mata de Platanos scrape out an existence day by day.
The speaker (who lives there, too) challenged them with this story. Even if. How often do we say that? We say we believe that God can provide, but then we sigh and shake our heads. We say nothing is impossible with God, but then we say He can’t possibly use us because we’re poor and don’t have a lot of education.
God is calling all people to be a part of making disciples, preaching, baptizing in His name, the speaker reminded us. He used four lepers who were almost dead to drive out an entire army. He is calling each one of us to be used, too. But the question is, do we just say we believe God, or do we really believe Him?
As I sat there, I, too, felt challenged. How often have I said I believe God is great, and yet, my attitude and actions deny this truth? Even if. Even if God can save an entire city from starvation, can He change the hearts of the women of El Callejon? Even if He used weak, sick, outcast lepers, can He possibly use me and my faltering Spanish to share His Good News?
Even if. The officer who spoke those words was trampled to death by the eager people. He heard the miraculous news, but died before being able to join in the feast.
Miracles are happening all around us. The Holy Spirit is at work in powerful ways. Am I joining in, or standing off to the side, missing out as I allow circumstances and doubts to trample me? Worse, am I standing in the way? That’s not only a hazard to me, but may hinder others.
Today, as I head back into El Callejon, I pray that I can go with a heart open to our amazing God. That feeble, weak and pitiful as I am, I remember that God used four lepers to route an army.
Even if. I pray that each time I begin to think those words I remember Who it is we serve. May I rejoice – and join! – in the impossible work of our great God. Surely, He is doing more than we ask or could even imagine.