"...When Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus."
- Matthew 14:29
I'm going to tell you some things that you will find hard to believe - that is, if you live in the cultural west. But they are true! The western rational mind has difficulty venturing outside the "boat" of rationality, as Peter did in the verse above. We must “see it to believe it.” It must make sense before we can expect it to happen. I'm writing this as I am in my third and final week on the eastern side of the world, in southern India, with 800 church-planting pastors from the far corners of this unreached nation.
The mindsets of the eastern and western cultures are so very different.
It is evident even in the way eastern drivers drive. The rules of the road - if there are any - have more to do with the potential of space in the road than lines drawn or laws passed. You can be passing a car when there is an oncoming truck driving toward you, and both the car in front of you and the truck coming toward you will slide over enough to give you the room to pass. You heard me right. At one point in that scenario there are three vehicles side by side on a two lane road with one headed in the opposite direction just because you believed they would make allowance for you. And that's nothing. Let’s make it four vehicles. Add a motorcyclist on the other side of the car in front of you. He's passing the car on the one side while you are passing it on the other side with a truck racing toward you... and around you. It's chaos! I didn't read this in a book. I've been riding in these vehicles every day for three weeks. We pay good money to ride roller coasters less thrilling than this!
Let's go a little deeper into your well-structured rational mind. I am at a pastor's conference. And a few years ago, when one of the men here became a Christian, he was illiterate and could not even read a newspaper. But when he opened his Bible, he could read it perfectly as he preached the gospel to his community.
Did I lose you on that one? Wait ‘til you hear the next story.
There was a woman in the same predicament. She had come to Christ but could not read. She would open her Bible and begin to preach, quoting the scripture from that page perfectly. Except – she was holding her Bible upside down. Someone noticed it and asked her how she was able to read. She said it was as though there were a tape recorder in her head quoting the verses. She simply repeated what she heard. She is here at this conference. Both individuals from our stories have now learned to read.
I can tell you are wavering. Let's keep going.
A man in a remote tribe in the mountains of Nepal came to Christ and began to openly preach the gospel for all to hear. The community was greatly disturbed, and they captured the man, planning to kill him. But instead, in order to instill fear into the hearts of the tribe, they gouged his eyes out, and left him alive as an example for all to see. Instead of fading away into oblivion, however, he rose up and declared, "They only took my eyes. I still have my ears to hear the word of God, and my mouth to preach the gospel." Now there are over 400 believers in this mountainous tribe. His brothers are here at this conference.
There are pastors here whose wives were executed for being Christian; some of the pastors themselves were stoned for preaching the gospel. One pastor was formerly a terrorist of believers in Christ. He was on his way with a mob to burn a church down when suddenly the Holy Spirit convicted him through someone's witness he had previously heard. He fell to his knees and gave his heart to Jesus!
And these are just some of the stories of the pastors who are attending this conference. Unbelievable, and yet true. Every story.
The story that took my breath away belongs to the man in the middle of the picture above. He is my age. When he was fourteen someone asked, “How many people do you believe you’ll lead to Christ in your lifetime?” So... He started walking. And now, tens of thousands of miles later, he has crisscrossed his state multiple times from village to village, preaching the gospel. He’s responsible for planting over 500 churches, and he trains pastors and leaders as he goes. His story is rivaled only by the apostle Paul himself.
I think it is time to open our hearts to a new level of believing. It would do us good to learn from those who may have less education, less money, and less position and status.
I, for one, am humbled. My Christianity is in need of repair. It hit me really hard two days ago, as I preached in a church where the pastor is reaching the end of his 40 day fast. In my soft western approach, I asked, "You mean the Daniel fast?" He laughed. "No," he said, "I have been doing this every year most of my adult life. My father, who started this church, is now in his 42nd year of fasting for 40 days – having water only. I’m being told all of this while his wife and mother are preparing a huge spread of delicious Indian home-cooked food for me, just before I speak to his church of 3000 people - who are also fasting in various ways with the pastor. They are fasting while I am eating. I wouldn't have, but one of the brothers said his mother would judge me based on my ability to eat her cooking. (No pressure!)
By the time you read this, I’ll be back home in my comfortable Christianity wondering if I have been dreaming for the last 23 days. The question will be, "What have I learned?" Will I let the power of the western rational mind overtake the call to a greater faith, a deeper life, and a modern day New Testament kind of living happening on the other side of the world? Or will I join my brothers across the earth in launching out into the deeper waters of faith, and take the necessary steps outside of my boat to bear the fruit to which I am called?
How deep is your water? Which side of the boat are you on: inside or outside? And by the way - a little advice - once you’re out of the boat, keep your eyes on Jesus! It turns out better that way.