I didn’t have the slightest clue where they were taking us. The old jeep bumped along the poorly paved roads as we left the highway and began descending the smaller side roads into the sprawling industrial district.
The buildings were nondescript, cookie cutter structures of poured concrete rising on every side. As we began weaving our way through the increasingly narrow alleys, I started to notice faces emerging from the many doorways all around us.
This was India.
After a lengthy period spent trapped in that tiny jeep with six other people, we finally lurched to a stop. We found ourselves in front of a small school where a number of small children stood at attention in crisp lines. A teacher led them through some form of morning rituals that reminded me of the Pledge of Allegiance. Turning around, we saw our guides and translators leading us toward the nearest house.
We filed into the home, finding it to be surprisingly larger on the inside than one may have imagined. Like the exterior, everything within was of poured concrete. The room we found ourselves in was large, squarish and completely unfurnished. One, small window was situated along the wall, which allowed for a small breeze to pass through, carrying the smells of curry and the factories just down the street—quite a delightful combination.
My translator indicated that we should be seated on the floor. Sitting on hard concrete with no form of padding or back support is something I’m not quite unaccustomed to. To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement. Excruciating might be nearer the mark. So we sat and waited. And then we waited some more.
After what felt like an hour, a few Indian women entered the room and sat down opposite from us. Another minute or so passed by, and then two or three more people joined us in the concrete room. Ten minutes later we were joined by a group of teenagers, who filled in the space. It was becoming quite clear that our little room was going to be pretty cozy.
We eventually had well over 20 Indians packed into that little room plus our team, which consisted of another American, two translators, two Indian pastors and me. We began with a little small talk and exchanged cultural information. This was my first time in their country, and I was fascinated by everything around me.
We continued to chat for a little bit, and then one of the translators turned to me and said a few words I will never forget. With a big smile, he said, “Now tell them the Gospel.”
To say I was caught off guard by the statement wouldn’t even come close to what I was feeling in that moment. Sure, we had come to India with great hope of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who had never heard it before, but I had drawn things up a little differently in my mind.
What happened next is honestly a blur in my memory. I started to share the Gospel with these people I’d never met, starting in the account of creation and working toward the cross of Christ. I’m quite certain I absolutely butchered it and remember thinking how sad it was that this would be these people’s first exposure to the Gospel. I finally made it to the end and turned things over to the local pastor who started talking to the group.
I lowered my head and just sat there, praying and asking God what went wrong. A few minutes later, the pastor turned to me and said the last words I expected to hear, “Okay, they now believe in Jesus. What’s next?”
Now, I know what you may be thinking. Are you sure they really believed? How can you really know this was real and not just something they said to appease the Americans? Those are legitimate questions I was asking myself in that moment. But as I looked into the eyes of those beautiful people, I saw something very real happening before me. It certainly wasn’t the result of my incredible presentation a few minutes before. There was no doubt in my mind it was the Holy Spirit at work, and I was getting a front row seat.
Power in Weakness
In that small concrete room in India, I found myself in one of the most uncomfortable positions of my life. I knew if the Lord didn’t show up and work, then I was in trouble. I was desperate for the Spirit to move, and I prayed like a desperate man in need of help. As I made my way back to the United States, I found myself reflecting on the experience and many others like it during my time in India.
While there, I had this constant sense of the Lord’s nearness and presence. At the same time, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more terrified and helpless because of my own inability. I was more keenly aware of my weakness sitting in that little house than at any other point in my life. The words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 came to mind. “Each time [Christ] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
I experienced the power of Christ in a whole new way in India. I was weak, but He proved strong. As I settled back into my normal routines when I got home, I realized how rarely I found myself in situations of weakness. In fact, it seems like much of my time and energy is spent trying to control my circumstances just so I won’t feel weak and desperate.
What if I’ve had it wrong all this time? In my attempts to not be weak, have I robbed myself of the very source of strength, Christ Himself? It was only there in India, in that incredibly uncomfortable position, that I started to realize how desperately I really needed him to show up — not just there, but in all of life.
What About You?
Here are some questions to ponder:
1. What things keep you from sharing the gospel?
2. What are some of your weaknesses you need God’s strength in?
3. What uncomfortable situations have you found yourself in where God’s presence and power were clear?
4. What would you have done in Nate’s situation?
5. Describe a time where you prayed “like a desperate man.”