After a six-hour layover in Mumbai, I’m on another flight to Hyderabad, India. It’s early in the morning, in fact, the sun has yet to rise and Mumbai is all aglow. As we ascend over the city, I can’t help but notice how massive it is. Nearly twenty-million people live here – that’s four times the population of the State of Minnesota. Of these, about 67% are Hindus, 18 % are Muslims, 5% are Buddhists, 4% are Christians, and 6% adhere to some other religion like Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, or Judaism.
As I think about all of these people and their various gods, I feel overwhelmed and somewhat hopeless about the prospect of Christianity gaining a significant foothold here. It is said that the good news of Jesus Christ was first preached in India almost twenty centuries ago by the Apostle Thomas himself. There’s no way to be sure about this, but even if it’s not true, scholars are certain that the gospel has been preached in India for many centuries, and yet it’s still largely non-Christian. Indeed, it’s still widely hostile to Christians and the message they preach.
A sense of despair grows heavy in my heart, and I say to the Lord, “Father, I must be honest: it seems impossible to me. I want to believe that the gospel can capture the hearts of these precious people, but I just don’t see how that’s going to happen.”
Like a good Father and teacher, the Lord lets me sit with this feeling for a few minutes, after which I hear his gentle whisper: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Oh how I needed to hear that. How I needed to be reminded that the burden for winning worshipers for Jesus from every tribe, tongue, and language is on the shoulders of Jesus. His purposes may not be fulfilled in the way we expect them to be, but they will be fulfilled nonetheless.
As this truth sinks in, I feel relaxed and joyful in Christ, and so I turn my attention to the tasks I planned to accomplish on this leg of my journey. My flight is fruitful, as are the twelve hours I spend at the airport in Hyderabad awaiting my final flight. I continue to feel the relaxed joy of Christ, but two days later the Lord raises the issue with me again.
I’m sitting on the roof of a house in Ventrapragada, India. Many houses here are made of concrete, and thus they use their roofs as decks, if you will. So I’m spending a little time with the Lord before I go and teach prospective pastors and leaders about preaching the Word in the life of the church. It “just so happens” that among my assigned readings for the day is Psalm 46, and as I meditate on what it says, I remember the content and feelings of my experience over Mumbai.
The Psalm comes to a crescendo in verse 10 where the Lord says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” This is an emphatic statement, not a possibility. This is a declaration, not a suggestion. The Lord who created the entire universe with nothing more than the word of his power, has determined that his name will be revered in all the earth and we can be sure that this will come to pass. The purposes of God cannot be stopped, and the exaltation of his great and glorious name is surely his primary purpose.
And now that I’m here teaching a small group of Indian Christians and spending time with others who are not Christians, I remember – deep in my heart, I remember – that my part is simply to love Jesus and obey him day by day. His part is everything else! It is his job to exalt his own name among the nations. It is his job to bear the painful burden of those who refuse to acknowledge his name. It is his job to guide the march of history toward his own ends. It is his job to assign each person his or her part and give them passion and power to play that part.
The purposes of God in Christ are massive. And they’re unstoppable because he is God and he has the ability to do whatever pleases him. So, for a second time, I relax and feel an indescribable joy as I relish this declaration: “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations” (Psalm 46:10).