Martk Griffiths recalls a time when God was powerfully at work and he didn’t know it
My thoughts have been strirred by an article from David Goodwin’s book, “Kids Ministry is for Real” published by Kidsreach Inc. David Goodwin is a New Zealand born pastor and Children’s Ministry legend who now lives in Sydney Australia. The story is about me! It happened over 15 years ago on one of my early visits to New Zealand. It involves a story / preach that I really have used a lot of times, but on this Sunday God decided to use the story in a way that I’ve only recently become aware of. And the story isn’t in any way to show how wonderful I am (I could line dozens of people who would testify that I’m not!!). But it does illustrate such an important principle, God is usually doing more behind our backs that in he is front of our faces.
The words that follow are used with permission and taken verbatim from David’s book:
This story is not about something that I was directly involved in, but I was a witness to it.
I had invited prominent children’s ministry advocate and author, Mark Griffiths from the UK, to speak at one of our conferences. On the Sunday following he was invited to speak at a local church.
With more than 1000 people present Mark spoke on Ephesians 3:20 … and God can do more than we ask.
It was an intergenerational church service, meaning that all ages were present. There were a group of young children sitting on the carpet near the front. Mark chose a young girl, about 5-years old, from amongst them and in front of the congregation interviewed her. As it was his first time in that part of the country, Mark didn’t know her.
They chatted for a while, and then Mark produced a bar of chocolate and told her if she listened to the sermon carefully, and could answer three questions at the end, he would give her the chocolate bar.
Throughout his message, Mark kept a connection with the little girl. He reminded her of his agreement to give her the chocolate and encouraged her to keep listening. Her beautiful face seemed to be lit up like a Christmas tree with expectation.
When the message was over, and the prayer time finished, Mark called the little girl back to the front. The congregation were on the edge of their seats as he asked her the first question, then the second and finally the third.
‘Yes,’ Mark said, ‘You have answered each question correctly, and so I suppose you should get the chocolate I promised? Well, I have changed my mind. I am not going to give it to you.’
For a brief moment, there was a silence across the congregation. People were gobsmacked! It is hard to know what they were thinking. Mark, however, was wise enough not to prolong it for more than a few seconds or he might have been lynched! He then produced, from under the pulpit, a huge slab of chocolate and gave it to her.
The girl’s eyes just about popped out of her head. She looked like she had never seen such a large chocolate bar and it was all hers! It was, of course, an illustration of his message that God often gives us far more than we ask.
There was another chapter to the story. Unbeknown to Mark, or myself, but certainly known to the congregation, the little girl had been in remission after a lengthy period of treatment for leukaemia. But it had returned, and that very week she was to undergo another, more aggressive, round of chemotherapy. Specialist’s advice given to them was that when leukaemia returns, treatment is not usually as effective as the first time.
This was a powerful illustration made to the whole church that morning. God reminded them, very strongly, that He can give far more than we can ask. This was exactly what the girl and her family needed to hear.
Many years later when I went to speak at that church, I was thrilled to see the same girl. She was at the front leading worship. She ‘shone’ as she did on that morning with Mark and I was able to encourage her in front of her church family.
In reality, it was over ten years before David returned to that church and another five before David and I happened to be in another conference together and he was finally able to share this story with me. I was oblivious – but I guess that it didn’t have much to do with me anyway. I just stand there and say the words, like lots of readers of this article do every week. In that home, in that primary school, in that children’s club, at Messy Church, at the front of that intergenerational services, face to face with that individual… And many years later we learn about the impact of our words and our actions. Well, sometimes we do. Every now and then God gives us a glimpse of his extraordinary grace and compassion and power. Every now and then God gives a glimpse of how the Holy Spirit worked through you and changes a life, brought transformation, allowed a person to break free and stride forward. But not always and not often! I suspect we rarely see! We stand in obedience and do what we do. But every now and then it is good to be reminded that God takes what we do, what we say, how we pray, our stumbling, inarticulate words and uses them to his praise and his glory and the transformation of lives. It’s exciting isn’t it. Every now and then. A glimpse. A conversation with a person you’ve long ago forgotten who tells you that their life changed as a result of the work the Holy Spirit did in them from the words you spoke. Wonderful!
But how incredible those people who just keep pushing and speaking and acting and they never see what God is doing? But don’t think for a minute that God isn’t doing it. You and I serve a God who is always doing more behind our backs than he is in front of our faces. All over the world right now there are outbreaks of the Spirit of God, revivals, which are happening because decades before, sometimes centuries before, someone sowed by faith and prayer and words into that land. And they may have gone to glory many years before, but God uses faithful sacrifice to change nations. It is really exciting to see the fingerprints of God stretching back for generations. But it is the reality. God is always doing more behind our backs than he is in front of our faces. But he is doing it. It involves faith and trust and often sacrifice, but our God is active and involved. Always working, always bringing about His purposes. And we get to be a part of that. Whether we know it or not, whether we see it or not.
God is always doing more behind our backs than he is in front of our faces.