Scripture promises that when individuals are in a right relationship with God, then He will be active in their lives. Provided they take His commandments seriously and put Him first in their hearts they will experience the Lord working in and through them and be deeply conscious of His presence day by day. There are countless examples on record of what this means in practise but the following incident is particularly encouraging.
It concerns a church missionary called Upton Westcott who was called by God to work in Zaire over a hundred years ago. The people, he and his colleagues were ministering to, were cannibals and savages and they were steeped in superstition and witchcraft.
Upton and two friends pitched their tents near a cluster of huts not far from a huge lake. It was a beautiful stretch of water but it was infested with crocodiles. The people were generally friendly towards them and a pattern developed that every evening villagers would come and sit around the fire and listen to what the three men had to tell them about the Living God. Gradually, a few came to realise that this message of love and forgiveness was far more preferable than anything magic or their angel/spirit guides could offer. One by one they abandoned their worship of spirit entities, threw away their lucky charms and gave up reciting chants and spells. Instead they learned to live and behave as faithful Christians, worshiping and following a God Who really loved them.
As the number of converts grew, it wasn’t long before the message and ministry of the missionaries came to the attention of one particular witchdoctor. This man was greatly feared by the villagers, because it was acknowledged by all that spirit entities worked through him and they gave him power to curse those who dared cross him. This man became furious when he discovered that people were turning to follow Jesus Christ and he threatened revenge. Terror fell across the entire region as word spread and finally these threats came to the attention of Upton and his friends. One evening a member of the village warned them that the attack was to take place that very night after dark. The witchdoctor had gathered many men armed with spears, so there would be no chance of escape unless they fled immediately.
Upton Westcott and his two friends decided to pray about the situation and to seek God’s counsel. They had taught their new converts to trust in God and to rely on His protection - how could they just run away? What example would that set? On the other hand if they got killed, that wouldn’t help the mission either because it would give the impression that witchcraft was more powerful than the power of God. It seemed that the entire mission and all they had taught was in jeopardy. After earnestly praying for about half an hour, they sensed God say that they were not to run away but stay put.
That night they ate their supper as usual. Never had they been so conscious of the rustle of the leaves or the chatter of the monkeys. They sat around the fire praying, reading the Bible and waiting. The moon rose. The three had no desire to lie down. Better they thought, to meet death in the open seeing their enemies. As they waited it got colder and colder and an eerie mist arose from the lake. This must be the time, surely they will come now. But no one came. At long last the sun rose and the tired men who had never expected to see another dawn on earth heard the sound of the villagers getting up and going about their business. Never had life seemed so beautiful. They crawled into their tents and slept. The little group of Christians from the village were overjoyed – the Hand of the Heavenly Father had protected His messengers.
Months passed and because no harm came to either the missionaries or those who had given up witchcraft, others took heart and began to take Christian teaching seriously. Love and joy was far better than being subject to the spirit entities of paganism and witchcraft. Christianity really took off in the region and people became less afraid of the old witchdoctor because he seemed to have lost his power.
It was what happened next, however, that really sealed the success of Christianity. To Upton’s complete shock, one day he found the old witchdoctor kneeling before him in the door way of his tent. The witchdoctor said very simply “I want to learn about the True God”.
They talked for a long time. Upton spoke to him about the Creator of the Universe, how He had given the human race freewill and that one Day everyone would give an account of their actions before the Judgement Throne of God. He spoke of sin, the need for personal repentance, and how Jesus had paid the penalty of our sins by dying on the Cross. He explained that the spirit entities of paganism were described in the Bible as being evil spirits or fallen angels intent on deceiving the unwary and that their power was limited.
As the conversation continued, the witchdoctor became increasingly uneasy. There was so much sin in his life. But there was one sin which weighed heavier on his conscience than any other. Upton reassured him, that because the Price of sin had already been paid, he would be completely forgiven provided he truly repented. With these words of encouragement the witchdoctor told him an extraordinary thing. “Some months ago I sent my men by night with orders to kill the three of you. You were unarmed and it should have been easy. My men surrounded your tents but they would not attack because they were unnerved by a man dressed in bright clothing who sat with the three of you all night. I believe the God Whom you serve protected you and that is why I am here now. I know you serve the True God and I want to serve Him too.” The conversion of the notorious witchdoctor by this supernatural event sealed the success of Christianity in the whole region.
As Upton and his friends reflected on God’s intervention their thoughts were drawn to Psalm 34 which states “The defenceless cries out and the Lord hears them. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear God and delivers them.” That fearful night the three of them hadn’t been alone after all. The presence of an angel from God had saved their lives and saved the work of the mission.
In 2nd Chronicles ch16v9 it states “God shows Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him.” God will be active and powerful in our lives provided He is at the centre of our hearts. What would have happened if Upton and his friends hadn’t really loved God? What would have happened if they hadn’t been prayerful and obedient in their day to day lives? The reason many fail to experience God’s power in their lives is quite simply due to sin in their hearts. “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that He cannot save nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah ch 59 vs 1-2). Put God fully first and see His power in action!