"Did I tell you what happened in Australia?" mentioned my new friend Jonathan. He's a friendly bi-lingual Japanese guy who moved in about a month ago.
After nodding my head, he continued. Feeling a sense from the Holy Spirit that he had something powerful to share, I leaned in.
"Living in Australia and applying for jobs was brutal. I ended up totally broke. Practically every company in town had received my resume. No replies, out of the nearly 100 I sent. Devastated, I called up my friends back in Japan. 'Looks like I won't realize my dream of studying abroad.'"
That conversation mirrored a separate exchange I shared with a new Japanese co-worker named Sara.
"Actually, I studied at a university in Canada for three years. Sometimes, I miss my old scenic town nestled between the Great Lakes. Sault Saint Marie's claim to fame was a rustic valley train ride, always popular in the Fall for the leaves! Otherwise, not a very busy place.
"My host family、懐かしい！ They practically adopted me. I joined their family my first two semesters. Fortunately, for me they even lived close to my university campus at the time. Quite a large family, they had six children. All had grown up and moved away except the youngest," Sara shared with a relaxed smile.
Out of the blue, Way Maker, the popular song written in 2015 by Sinach, a Nigerian gospel singer, popped into my head.
🎶 "Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper ~ light in the darkness"
What an interconnected world we live in. An American talking to Japanese people about their adventures in Canada and Australia, that prompted a Nigerian gospel song.
(There is a connection in those stories by the way...)
People are important. Eternally valuable even. That makes all of our stories between here and eternity significant as well.
The exact details associated with being "created in the image of God" are a bit perplexing perhaps. Certainly poignant.
More relevant to this discussion, is the KJV image of Jesus as "an author, and finisher" (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).
Moreover, our author has etched monumental, and mysterious things into our very souls:
Eternity is written on our hearts, yet we cannot fathom what our Heavenly Father has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
God is a mystery author, perhaps. A mysterious author, certainly.
To care for these key friends with their own the way Jesus does, what a task! What a privilege.
Maybe you can relate to these things.
People occasionally enter into our lives, not as a mature saints, but as eager first recipients of the Gospel message. With the wrong perspective (of which I am occasionally guilty) we plant or water that seed in our relationship only excited at the beginning.
But when that person is called elsewhere in life or their affections for the Lord are momentarily dulled, our feelings color a shade of disappointment. As if, we "saw little fruit" but hoped for much.
Jesus is justified in exclaiming, "Oh, you of little faith." Forgive us. (Matthew 8:26)
Our internet generation doesn't usually hold the values of farming very close to our hearts (or wallets). The concept, "You have to wait, and are also subject to potentially harmful things out of your control" doesn't really find it's way into the advertising campaigns floating around.
For some reason. 😆
The Holy Spirit is always trying to grow my (our?) patience, I believe.
Patience is conspicuously the first item listed in Apostle Paul's enumeration of love in his famous 1st Corinthian love chapter (1 Corinthians 13:4).
In relationship with the Father, patience has much to do with our trust in Him. And much to reveal about how much we actually do.
Is God still good if he doesn't two-minute microwave our ramen-noodle-cup-problems into our desired solution?
Yes. Absolutely he is good. There is no other standard for good.
But I still don't consistently act in my knowledge of that absolute goodness.
Hence, an irritating two-minute-noodle-cup problem of the day may be: So-and-so isn't a believer, yet.
Not something I enjoy thinking about. But it's something God has put an immeasurable amount of thought into. (Psalms 139:17-18)
Frankly, it's something that bothers our loving God about the people he made *in His image* more than it bothers me.
God's working, and has already done the work through Jesus. (Romans 8) 🙌🏻
The conclusion is clear to Him.
🎶 "Even when I can't see it, you're working."
Ramen-noodle-cup problem of the day, may alternatively come down to the personal question of: "Am I bearing good fruit?"
I've seen that the enemy will try and confuse us about fruit that one is prayerfully producing.
It seems a bit absurd to write this out, but the enemy would attempt to confuse our thinking to conclude: "The only fruit someone produces is a completely saved and justified saint. And it only counts when you can watch it all happen."
Well, this is a lie.
It's very reassuring to know that God is even counting gifted cups of cold water that are given in kindness and faith:
"And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." Matthew 10:42
We're not the ones that "produce" any sort of salvation anyway. God through Jesus' work and the Holy Spirit's influence does that. We are the ones helping water and plant a bit.
I'm encouraged to see a big piece of the larger puzzle that is Jesus' work here in Japan. More encouraged than I have been in a little while, in fact.
Back to my friend Sara's conversation. "I believe my host family was protestant. Every Sunday the father went to Church. He prayed before each meal. It was a major culture shock to see people who believe God in Canada, when in Japan most people are non-religious. They wrote me a letter as I left, and even checked up with me about this virus to make sure I was safe."
Seems like God's the one writing her story, and all the people that come into it.
And let's return to my friend Jonathan's story, "After calling my friends in Japan, I talked with my friends at the church in Australia. After meeting up with them, suddently their whole group including the pastor surrounded me. Like 5 or 6 people in a circle. And they started to pray. The pastor was praying in a language I couldn't understand. Then he placed his hand on my head. After they finished, I got a call for an interview that day at 3 am! That job allowed me to save up for two years to finally start studying abroad at a university in Malaysia!"
I had to ask, "Are you a Christian, Jonathan?"
He said, "Yes, I am."
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1st Corinthians 3:7)
Sometimes we plant. Sometimes we water. But you know what, God is giving the growth all over the world.
Seeing His work like this in people's lives that I've just met, means surely he is at work in people's lives that we have shared the Gospel with as well.
Be encouraged friends.
🎶 "You never stop, you never stop working"
God's working. 😄