THERE WAS THIS ONE TIME WHEN…
A large number of African pastors came to our seminar, ready to examine Biblical principles about effects that sin and/or repentance have within the community, its people, and even the land. Our teaching team prayerfully and carefully prepared for weeks; and the leaders’ eyes were opened as they realized that the current state of their villages and districts had spiritual causes, and also a spiritual remedy. They were eager to take action!
That March day began with the usual sunshine and heat of the African bush. Thus it surprised us when, during the Biblical exploration and testimonies, we began to hear the plink-plink-plink of rain on the church’s iron sheet roof. “Oh, isn’t that nice?”I thought, “Lord, add your blessing of rain to these crops and the surrounding fields!” However, as my team member continued to teach I began to see the pastors leaning forward--not because of interest and engagement, but because they had to strain to hear as the rain intensified. I began to see that some were no longer able to “catch” what was being taught. As clouds darkened the sky, they could no longer follow the reading in their Bibles.
I felt agitated, frustrated; yet I argued within myself: It was just a few months ago when God sent His blessing of rain in response to the pastors who repented and returned to the Lord. But this feels different. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but this is not the same. Something wasn’t right about this. And so I silently prayed,
“Lord, what’s going on? Is this rain from you?”
As I quieted my heart and inclined my ear to God, I was reminded of Jesus’s actions when his disciples were with Him on the boat in the sea. Mark 4:35-41 tells us that Jesus rebuked the winds and waves, and they obeyed Him. Well, that was a nice Bible story to remember, so…
Lord, is it possible that this storm is not the “blessing of rain” right now? If that is true, then…Lord, would You rebuke the storm again now?
Immediately I felt an internal sense of God’s answer: “YOU speak to the storm.”
Now, I would love to report that I boldly and confidently obeyed, but in honesty I admit that I wrestled against the doubts about my spiritual “hearing” and about my capability to command anything. After several minutes, with very meager and timid faith I reasoned: Well, I can sneak out to the front church entrance and close the door. I can try it and…. Well, if it doesn’t work, no one will know. I will not look like a fool for trying something so audacious.
I slipped out of church. Then standing alone outside, I paused to pray.
Lord, I don’t know how to do this. Teach me right now. I will say whatever You put in my heart.
Then in a voice no louder than if I was speaking to one right in front of me, I addressed the territorial spirits that held authority in that region, denying them the right or authority to hinder the work that God was doing in the pastors’ hearts. I declared that they may not distract or thwart with counterfeit, false “blessings” of rain, when in fact this was meant to keep this land in bondage. I commanded the clouds to hold their rain until God should release them.
As I turned to reenter the church, I felt pangs of worry that I had overstepped my God-given authority with such presumptuous declarations; however, when the deafening roar of rain on the roof slowed again to the plink-plink-plink…and then ceased, I began to tremble. I was shocked and humbled, amazed at how God led me to pray and proclaim. I certainly did not have stellar and bold faith, but I did have enough faith to follow His prompt and obey. He didn’t just make the storm disappear; rather He used this experience to teach me. I sought Him for discernment and direction, knowing that if He asked me to act, then He would infuse that command with the authority needed.
THEN, THERE WAS THIS OTHER TIME WHEN…
A few years later we were endeavoring new outreach into a war-torn Asian nation. The nation had recently emerged from a decades-long civil war which had ravaged the society and its economy, leaving the people in an impoverished state of shock. The few Christians scattered throughout the country faced threats and violent persecution from other radical religions. Pastors struggled to minister to the deep needs of a church full of highly traumatized people, all while surviving their own physical wounds and emotional trauma.
A village church on the outskirts of town had arranged a small seminar for struggling pastors and evangelists, and they asked us to come. We arrived to a concrete building with large open sides to allow air to circulate the humid tropical air. A few dozen pastors gathered under a corrugated metal roof, which radiated heat from the intense sun, but they displayed joy encouraged them in their Covenant with God. They were like sponges, soaking up every word and digging into their Bibles! No one wanted to miss a thing.
And then…that familiar plink-plink-plink began on the metal roof. It didn’t take long before the rain was falling in sheets. We couldn’t even see the neighboring houses! Again, we observed the leaders leaning in and straining to hear. Of course, our experience in Africa immediately came to mind. Two of us (those not teaching at the moment) slipped to the back. Motioning with hand gestures, we agreed to pray. Standing at the doorway, we lifted this matter to our Father:
“They can’t hear, Lord! What’s going on? Are we supposed to rebuke the storm again?”
I felt uneasy about repeating the rebuking command (as done in Africa). When my praying teammate came and shouted in my ear: “I don’t think we are supposed to pray against this storm. When I asked God in prayer, I heard an answer in my spirit ‘No, this is your covering.’ But that doesn’t make any sense to me!”
Our “covering”? What could that mean? But since I too felt uneasy about making bold declarations, we dutifully returned to the seminar and did our best to continue at a slower pace, straining our voices to yell through the storm. The pastors truly struggled to hear, yet at the day’s end, no one seemed to have missed or misunderstood. In fact, they seemed refreshed both by the teaching of the Word and by the rare opportunity for such fellowship! And as the meeting drew to a close, the rain ceased. Everyone was able to quickly and quietly leave the meeting place and return home with only a bit of inconvenient mud to hassle them.
It was only later that we learned the dangers we had dodged—
· People gathering for “training” in that region were considered highly suspicious, seen as potentially uprisers, stirring up trouble or promoting societal unrest
· Neighbors reported “suspicious” religious meetings, especially in light of anti-conversion laws
· Thugs may surround and rough up the leaders
· Though we had come to uplift and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ, the non-believers and authorities deemed our very presence a threat, for we may leak to the outside world the truth of what we witnessed and learned there.
Only much later when we grasped these dangers did those words made sense: “This [rain] is your covering.” For without that covering, the gathering would surely have been observed. Now, we dare not sensationalize or exaggerate; however, we will never know how God’s covering during the training may have averted trouble, persecution, or even this team’s safety. Quite literally the sound of the rain covered our voices, our worship, and our spiritual strategizing. God protected via the rain, which is why He did not encourage us to rebuke or command it to stop!
DO YOU SEE IT? --SIMILAR PHYSICAL SITUATIONS, BUT OPPOSITE STRATEGIES!
When we experience a victory, there is temptation to create a formula out of that strategy. Then when a similar battle presents itself, we confidently want to copy what we have done before. We must not put our trust in prior, proven strategies; rather, we trust that our Commander-in-Chief knows this battle and has the best strategy. We may not see or understand, but He knows exactly what to do.
We are quite aware of our human limitations and weaknesses. I am not certain that we are as aware of the assumptions of our own “understanding.” Proverbs 3:5-6 is so well known, but let’s not skim past its difficult instructions: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
Our responsibilities: consult Him, trust Him, and then align our words and actions with His plan.