By Sandy Ravan
Passing The Test
There are moments in life where we are affected in such a way by either a person, situation or event that it alters the direction of our life from that moment on. Just like the markers alongside the road give us reference, the milestones of our memories provide specific reference points that are retrievable whenever and wherever a situation dictates.
One particular reference point came for me as a young girl while reading Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. Corrie’s family was sent to concentration camps for hiding Jews during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. Her faith became stronger and bolder as a result of the suffering she endured. One day Corrie’s father asked her, “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Just before we get on the train,” she said. “Exactly, and our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t run out ahead of him. When the time comes, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.” I couldn’t help ponder the question, would I also be able to stand boldly for Christ in the midst of trials and testing?
My husband and I lead the ministry Global Connectors which focuses on the Middle East region of the world. We are committed to advancing the Kingdom of God in sensitive and closed countries. Some of the people we partner with are at great risk. They have family members and friends who have been martyred, imprisoned, tortured or persecuted simply based on their commitment to Christ. These bold believers remind me of those in Acts 4:29. They cried out, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” They knew what their mission was. They did not pray for God to make the persecution stop, for evil men to be destroyed, nor for God to allow them to cease their witnessing until things quieted down. God may not remove all our struggles and persecutions but give us victory to overcome them. The Church desperately needed then, as it does now, for the Lord to remove fear from our lives and go forward with courage to fulfill the mission referred to in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” As followers of Jesus Christ most of us would agree we need to possess a greater boldness to fulfill our individual God-given purpose.
Two young women in Iran were suddenly thrust into a fearful situation where their faith in Christ was severely tested. In an Iranian court room Maryam and Marzieh were told to recant their faith in Christ. Their only charge was converting to Christianity and possessing Christian literature. After a year’s imprisonment they were in court to hear their sentence. For men convicted of similar charges, the sentence could be death. For women, the sentence could be life in prison, and that doesn’t mean they are sitting in a cell watching television. It means they suffer abuse in every way imaginable. To some, death would be preferable.
The prosecutor addressed both women by asking them if they were Christians, to which they replied, “We love Jesus.” Then he asked if they regretted becoming Christians, “We have no regrets,” they said. Then he demanded they renounce their faith! Their bold reply was, “We will Not deny our faith.” When the women explained their conviction by the power of the Holy Spirit the prosecutor said, “It is impossible for God to speak with humans.” They proposed the question back to him saying, “Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?” “You are not worthy for God to speak to you,” said the prosecutor. Not backing down they said, “It is God, and not you who determines if we are worthy!” Hearing this, the prosecutor instructed them to return to their cells for two weeks and think about their decision to recant their faith. Standing their ground they replied, “We don’t need two weeks, we have already decided, we will follow Jesus Christ.” “You do realize this could mean your life?” said the prosecutor. Their reply, “Then expedite it!” These courageous women have been released from prison, although they still face ongoing legal charges and pressure from the government.
This past July my husband Tim and I attended The Fellowship’s 2011 International Conference. Although we knew just a few people we were excited to meet other ministers actively answering the call on their lives. On the last day of the conference I attended the women’s brunch, led by the inspiring speaker, June Evans. An invitation to be prayed for was given at the close of the session, and without thinking, I found myself standing in front of June, along with a dozen or so other women. June came directly up to me and said, “God is working with you, but He is having to pull it out of you! Why do you keep telling Him you cannot do what He has asked of you? It’s almost like you are standing in the middle of a wind tunnel, and like most women, we all know what happens when we are facing strong winds blowing all around us — we get distracted. We put our heads down trying to deflect the wind and keep our hair in place. However, do not be distracted by the things blowing all around you. Plant your feet deeply as if you were in cement. You have a destiny. The only way you will find out what that is, is to stay grounded.” She could not have known her words had been spoken over me on more than one occasion. God was definitely getting my attention.
A few hours later I was in the women’s restroom freshening up when a woman walked in with her clothes on hangers and placed them in one of the stalls. I assumed she was changing her clothes between sessions. We introduced ourselves and talked for just a few minutes before she excused herself to change. As I walked towards the door I could hear her praying quietly in her spiritual language. Suddenly the Holy Spirit’s presence came into the room so strongly, and yet so gently. The reverence I felt in His presence stunned me into silence…which doesn’t happen often. I was literally frozen ‘like a deer in the headlights,’ staring at myself in the mirror. I did not want to miss what He was saying to me. This visitation with an Almighty God was even more veraciously authentic because I could not see the person he was speaking through, as if He was talking directly through the walls to me alone. Can you imagine — God wanting to talk to you so badly that He would choose the women’s restroom of all places?
Again, the Lord was reminding me for the second time in one day to be bold in my calling. This brief trip to the women’s restroom turned into twenty minutes. My mind was spinning with so many thoughts as I thanked her before leaving. I knew I had to write this down quickly before I forgot all the wonderful words I had heard, but soon realized I was not even able to form one sentence. I looked down at my iPhone remembering I had an App for this, and an amazing thing happened to me — I felt boldness come over me! Without even thinking how it might sound, I was back in that restroom asking her if she could do it again. I know, it’s crazy, but she agreed to highlight some of the bullet points she remembered, and again the Holy Spirit came into the room. All I could think of was, don’t anybody else come into this restroom because God was talking to me! Why am I telling you this? Because God wants to speak to you too. He is looking for opportunities to get your attention in the most personal and meaningful way possible.
I needed to know God saw my heart and my fears, but what was more important, I needed to see my heart as well. Deep in the recesses of my heart and mind I had been harboring fear. I had never verbalized these things out loud, nor even been consciously aware of them, but they were there. I was so afraid if I boldly stepped forward, declaring anything in public just as I am declaring here on this site, then someone out there who didn’t like what ministries like ours are doing for God’s kingdom might retaliate.
In that restroom, the Lord repeated seven times, “Do Not Be Afraid!” He had to get my attention. He had to show me the places deep inside that I was afraid to look at myself. He did not, however, intend to leave me exposed, rather He ministered comforting and encouraging words like, “You will have my comforting Spirit within you! Be assured my daughter, my Holy Spirit has encompassed you day and night. As surely as I have sat upon this globe, my Spirit abides in you. Don’t let anything disturb you this hour. Will I not meet every situation? Will I not make it right for You? I will, says the Lord, I will. Be led of the Spirit, and now, come a little closer daughter and commune with Me.” I knew at that moment God was calling me to a deeper level of intimacy with Him.
I am learning when it comes to this ongoing journey of overcoming my fears and fulfilling God’s purposes for my life, that it all Ties together as I focus on these basic progressions:
1. Committing to passing my personal times of Testing,
2. Pursuing Intimacy with my Lord,
3. Maintaining a sensitive Ear to the Holy Spirit, and
4. Stepping out in faith and boldness because I know more anointing comes as I move beyond my fears.