Fear overtook Val Sleeth, missionary to Kenya, as she was blindsided by the statement, “I am an atheist.” She thought to herself, “Here was a clearly intelligent man, antagonistic towards a church that had betrayed him, who had deliberately chosen to deny the existence of God.” What could she do?
Jars of Clay
By Val Sleeth
“I am an atheist.”
These words derailed me.
In taking Michael’s history I had asked, “Do you smoke? Drink? Do drugs? Do you believe in God or consider yourself a spiritual person?”
This last question gives me vital prognostic information. My limited experience has shown that those with faith and a community do better in the hospital and at home. The research backs me up on this.*
And, all studies aside, this gateway question often leads to rich discussions and opportunities for prayer.
However, Michael’s answer shut me down. Lest I think he was flippant, Michael went on to explain how he had grown up in a Protestant church, been disillusioned in his teens by hypocrisy, and—after years studying secular humanism and atheism—had concluded that there is no god.
Here was a man directly stating, “I am lost.”
I would love to say that I boldly took Michael’s hand, shared with him the reason for the hope that I have, and asked him to pray to make Jesus Lord.
I did not.
I was afraid. Here was a clearly intelligent man, antagonistic towards a church that had betrayed him, who had deliberately chosen to deny the existence of God. I prepared to move on to his surgical history.
“Do you believe in God?”
I was not expecting his question. “Uh, yes.”
“And do you believe in all that Jesus—Son of God, raised from the dead—stuff?”
“Yes.” I was sweating. Uncomfortable. Never before had I felt such a desire to initiate discussion of an oozing rash. Anything to change the subject.
One word answers would no longer suffice. Michael continued to ask questions until, after about thirty minutes, I realized that I had shared with him the reason for the hope that I have.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” II Corinthians 4:7
We have been studying this verse as we prepare for our departure to Kenya this fall at the Center for Intercultural Training. I keep thinking about Michael.
I have this treasure: the truth of the gospel. However, I’m like a pot my sisters and I used to build pulling mud out of the Columbia river. An hour in the sun and our “masterpieces” were flaking and cracked.
I’m realizing though that through those cracks, God’s power shines through.
Michael reminded me that, not because of me (actually, in spite of me!), I have this great treasure and any power I have to use and share it is from God.
I encourage you to consider what imperfections—what hardships or struggles—God may be using in you to reveal His power to others. And thank Him that His power is in us and works in spite of our weaknesses!
With Michael, I was busy and inept and fearful. Nevertheless, that day the Lord moved Michael from “I am an atheist” to “Will you pray with me?” We must not forget the all surpassing power we have in Him.
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
*Koenig, Harold G., M.D. 2015. Religion, spirituality, and health: A review and update. Advances in Mind – Body Medicine. Summer, http://ezproxy.uky.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.uky.edu/docview/1698024209?accountid=11836 (accessed August 28, 2017).
God is moving today—right now—where you are, and He wants you to join Him!
ACT: Pray today that God will put someone in your path who you can speak truth in to and be a witness to. Be a missionary today!