Have you ever been bemused by God’s way of doing things? I have, and in the end have stood in awe of His timing, patience, grace and goodness.
A number of years ago (in another world) I taught at a Bible college deep in the jungles of Kalimantan (formerly known as Borneo). For several years I had a student who was a source of great consternation to me. It seemed that no matter what subject I had him for he just could not "get it"! His academic situation came up repeatedly in our faculty meetings but no one had the heart to say, "Sorry, he just isn’t making it – let him go!" So from year to year we granted him a provisional pass to the next level of study and every year we wondered. But he kept pressing on. Everyone loved him. His gentleness, humility and transparency captivated all who knew him.
I was responsible for student accounts at the time and one day he came to my office to ask for some money from his account. I had just reviewed the books and his account was more than empty, so I asked him, "On what basis are you asking me this?" (literal translation). He pulled himself up straight and declared, "On the basis of the grace of God!" I could hardly contain myself and found some extra funds that we had for just such an occasion – grace funds! Total dependence on the grace of God seemed to be the theme of his life.
In his fourth and final year I was assigned to be his practicum supervisor and evaluator. He was pastoring a church in a nearby village and I went with him several Sundays to evaluate. I had taught him homiletics but his sermons bore no resemblance to anything we had studied. I was seriously considering recommending to the school that he was not cut out for the ministry. However, after the services I went with him as he walked from home to home in that village, praying for people, encouraging them to be strong in their faith, counselling, advising and loving – and the people loved him in return. The church in that village had never been so healthy and vigorous. We graduated him that year (with no little sense of misgiving) and that was the last I saw of him for 14 years as my wife and I were denied extensions to our visas and returned to Canada that summer. In the intervening years we have often wondered.
I had the privilege this summer of returning to Kalimantan and visiting in this same young man’s home and witnessing the amazing grace of God. He is married with three children. He and his wife are involved together in a marvelous cross-cultural ministry. As we spoke I learned that he has already planted a church amongst a very difficult people group. He has turned that church over to another man to continue the pastoral work and is now in the process of building a second work which involves not just a church plant but also a Christian school as well – again, in the midst of a most difficult ethnic group. It defies human explanation.
Oh, the wonderful grace of Jesus! God’s economy is one of utter grace.