The Kingdom of Mustard Seeds
Published on 09/22/2016 |
Before I came to medical school, I told God not to send me if He did not lead the way. I wasn’t interested in becoming just a doctor—I wanted to be a Christian doctor who would actively lead others to Christ. While I had no doubt about the academic training that I would receive in medical school, I questioned what training would prepare me to combine my medical practice with making disciples for Jesus. To simply pray with patients was not enough—I wanted to journey with them in their decision to commit their lives to Christ. What school would provide such a curriculum? And who would be my teacher?
When I first enrolled in the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University, I quickly realized that the school’s formal training would not suffice. If I wanted to become a physician soul winner, I would have to look beyond the lecture halls and the religion classes—I needed a parallel curriculum that would instruct and challenge me, test and critique me as much as my academic training would. In this curriculum, Christ Himself would be my Teacher. And so it was, at the beginning of my second year of medical school, I found myself with six full-time weekly Bible studies. All in all, I was studying with eighteen individuals.
I must have been crazy. I was a newlywed, and my husband and I lived an hour south of my school—a compromise for both of us since he worked an hour south of where we lived. Every day I battled through over an hour of traffic just to get to class, then an hour back home after Bible study. Through it all, however, I lacked nothing. My entire second year is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and His ability to provide. Below is one of the many experiences that I had giving Bible studies during my second year of medical school.
When I first began Bible studies, during my second year of medical school, with Faith*, Sarah, and their seven children, they did not even know how to pray. The kids knew nothing of the Bible—not the stories, not where to find each book, not even who Jesus was. They were having Bible studies because a Bible worker had knocked on their door and had offered to study with them—would they like that? Sarah had signed up her children, and her partner Faith had agreed. The kids, ranging from eight to nineteen years old, along with their cousins, would hear about the God of the Bible for the first time.
I remember one of the earliest studies that I gave on salvation—it was a doctrinal study, and the kids found finding the texts more interesting than the texts themselves.
“Wait a minute,” Jimmy, their nine-year-old cousin, interrupted. “Who is Jesus?”
I froze, caught completely by surprise. “He’s God,” I said. “He came to earth to die for our sins so we could be with Him again forever.”
Jimmy cocked his head to one side. “So does that mean God is dead?” he asked, confused.
“No, no,” I reassured him. “He came back to life again.”
“I thought God was God? How can Jesus be God?” Brittany asked.
My Bible study was going up in flames. “God is three in One,” I said, trying to explain the concept of the Trinity. Now they were even more confused.
I started from ground zero after that. I needed to give them some basic tools before jumping into the Bible stories, so I taught them how to pray first. We studied the Lord’s Prayer, staying in one passage so they wouldn’t get lost flipping through text after text. Afterward, I asked them who wanted to pray.
Alice raised her hand shyly, then retracted it.
“Pray for us,” I encouraged.
“I don’t know what to say,” she said, bashfully.
“What would you say to a friend?” I asked.
Alice thought for a minute. “I would say…” she hesitated. “I would say that I wanted to go swimming today, but I couldn’t because my skin peeled.”
“Well,” I said, swallowing my smile as I nodded vigorously. “Why don’t you tell God that, then?”
We gathered to pray, the kids discreetly taking my cue to bow their heads and close their eyes. Alice buried her face inside her hands.
“Dear God,” she said, timidly, her voice muffled.
“Speak up,” someone whispered.
She paused uncertainly. “I wanted to go swimming today but”—she swallowed—“but I couldn’t because my skin peeled.” There was a long, mortifying pause.
“In Jesus name,” I whispered.
“In Jesus name…amen.”
They have learned to pray for more since then.
I searched for what Bible story to start with them. I detected hints of pain and anguish in their past—hardship and trauma from previous family members betraying their trust. What better story than the story of Joseph and his brothers? They listened, wide-eyed, as we read about Joseph being sold into slavery. They could relate, all too well, with the vulnerability and sense of betrayal Joseph must have felt when he was falsely accused. God was becoming real to them through Joseph’s life—they could believe that God was with them in tribulation, just like He was with Joseph. We journeyed through Exodus next; as Moses brought down the plagues and parted the Red Sea, the kids encountered God like the enslaved Israelites had—first through His power, then through His providence, and finally through His Son Jesus.
Faith and Sarah did not join us at first. Faith always had some excuse for why she couldn’t make it—her job required her to stay, school was still ongoing, the truck broke down. I could sense the hesitation, perhaps fueled by fear, that kept her away. Little by little, however, by God’s grace I won her confidence—first through the engraved Bibles that I gave her for each of them (the church had been so generous), then through the birthday gifts that I gave to each family member. There were times when royally blundered-I gave Emma a book for her birthday (they don’t like to read) and Mark another book for his birthday (they still don’t like to read), and Sarah some terrible scones that I had baked for her birthday during an exhausting school week. Somehow, though, my intentions got across, and one day I got a text: “Can we reschedule for next week? I really want to be at Bible study.” Faith and Sarah have attended every Bible study since then.
I can see how much God wants to reach their hearts. Not long after both of them began attending regularly, I broached the topic of heaven. It struck a chord inside their soul—they all wanted to be there. I told them heaven is a place of no more suffering or death. (“No hamburgers?” Rick asked, shocked. “I’m going to eat all the chicken before I get there,” Faith vowed. We have yet to study the health message.) We studied death and the mortality of the soul, how life is only through Jesus and heaven is a place for those who love Him. Death is a sleep, I stressed, and there is no knowledge beyond the grave.
They were quiet when I finished that study. “Any questions?” I asked.
“I have a question,” Sarah said, slowly. I bent my body forward. “We’ve seen some things around the house.” The kids shifted their weight nervously.
“What…what kind of things?” I asked, cautiously.
“Before we first moved into the house, we used to drive by it to see if it was still open,” she said. “The ‘For Rent’ sign was still in front of the door, but one time when we passed by it, the light in one of the upstairs windows flicked on. So we went to ask the owner if he had rented the house out to anyone, and he said nobody was there, and the electricity wasn’t even on.”
“Then when we moved in”—Sarah hesitated, glancing at Faith. Faith was looking down at the floor. “Faith has seen some things.” More hesitation, more glancing around. “There’s a lady in white, and a little girl, and Faith’s dead mother has come to her and told her not to let me get near the lady in white, because she doesn’t like me.”
I sat there, gripping my Bible, my face calm even as I screamed internally for God to please help me because demons are above my pay grade.
“Another time, Faith and I were home by ourselves, and all the kids were gone. We heard someone walking around upstairs—they walked all over the place, in all the rooms, and then stopped at the head of the stairs.” Sarah looked at me earnestly. “What do you think it is?”
The kids started clamoring all at once. Rick had also heard the footsteps. So had Mark and Eddie and their oldest brother John. Multiple people had seen the little girl.
We turned to 1 Samuel 28. I explained that demons could mimic dead loved ones. We read Job 7:8-10—the dead cannot haunt. I told them that Jesus was stronger, mightier, better, and He could deliver from demonic oppression. I urged them to get rid of anything that might give the devil a foothold and cautioned them against turning to superstitious rites to cleanse their home. We prayed that God’s presence would take residence in their home and keep the demons away.
As of this writing, they have had no more manifestations. They had one incident where the fan turned on by itself and they arrived home to find their mirror cracked, but the church prayed for them and so far, the manifestations have stopped. The devil is angry, I know, but God is not finished with them yet.
I have made one discreet, failed attempt to address the delicate issue of their sexual identity. I had a Bible study prepared that centered solely on the Christian’s new identity in Christ – no matter what tendencies (inherited or cultivated) you may have. Christ makes you new. Just as I was about to get to that point, however, both Faith and Sarah were suddenly called away. I was left helplessly droning on and on and on to the kids, fervently hoping that Faith and Sarah would soon return while the kids’ eyes rolled back in boredom. Just as I finished, Faith and Sarah came rushing back. “Sorry—it was a call from work,” Faith said. “What did I miss?”
“I took that as the Lord’s providence. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) Not yet, He chided me, not yet.” I have left that and all matters of conversion up to the Lord. There is still much to teach them about the Bible, and much they will have to surrender, but in His due time, He will convict and convert. I have absolute faith that God will not give up on them until they are all safe within His fold. It will take, I suspect, months, if not years, for their testimony to unfold, but such is the business of planting mustard seeds. Not in days or weeks is its maturity realized, but with year upon year of steady growth, the mustard tree becomes an enduring, majestic plant, the “planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”
When I began my medical journey, I had no idea what God had in store for me. The only thing I knew was that I did not want to leave with just a medical degree. I knew that years after I graduated, I would never remember a single assignment or exam question—even the agony the night before my boards would be forgotten. What I would remember, however, would be the souls won to Christ, if God would be so willing. I realize that as important as my academic training is, my spiritual training is just as important, and if I do not learn in my early years how to win souls to Christ, I will not learn easily as a practicing physician. Though my testimony may sound unique, in reality, it is not. God is as willing to do for you what He has done for me—to every willing worker, He promises to sustain and provide. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” If you trust in Him mightily, He will use you for mighty things.
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