CENTRAL ASIA (BP) – My friend Henry* was an interesting mix of driving ambition, inspired by Western ideals, and Central Asian relational energy. He radiated positive energy that motivated others.
I was encouraged when I found out he was studying Scripture with my teammate. He seemed close to the kingdom in many ways, and yet some days he would pull back defensively.
One summer afternoon in frustration Henry complained that he needed a priest who could help him.
“I need someone who can explain the Bible to me better than you guys can. I just can’t understand it, no matter how hard I try. I need a religious professional,” he said.
My teammate protested: “We are telling you plainly what the Bible says; you don’t need a priest or a pastor.”
“No! I need a priest. I need a professional religious teacher. Then this book will make sense to me.”
The back and forth continued. I eventually chimed in as well: “Henry, you don’t need another human teacher. We’ve been telling you clearly what this book means, but you can’t understand it because you need God’s help. You need the Holy Spirit of God to be your teacher. Only He can open up your eyes now to understand this book.”
Henry ended up leaving, frustrated. Perhaps we could connect him with a like-minded pastor. Maybe that would make the difference.
The next day Henry came back to our office, pale as a sheet. His entire demeanor was changed. No longer was he projecting a confident, ambitious, driven persona. For the first time, I saw in his eyes what could have been humility. And fear. There was definitely fear.
Henry insisted we go into an inner room of the house and lock the door behind us. “I have to tell you what happened last night. You need to help me know what to do,” he said.
“Last night I was reading in the Bible you gave me. I was reading the book of Proverbs for the first time. I got to chapter three or four, I think. I remember thinking about the part where it says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding.’ Then I fell asleep, with the Bible on my chest.”
Henry paused as he collected his thoughts in the dim light of the inner room.
“I had a dream. In my dream I saw a man in shining white robes that came to me. I do not remember everything that he said, but he said to me, ‘My son!’ in my own language!”
“Do you know who that was, Henry?” we asked.
“I know it was Jesus. I don’t know how I know, but I know it was Him,” he said.
“He had an open book in his hand. He told me that I need to read it. Behind him were several people, also wearing white robes, also with books in their hands. It was you guys. I saw you in my dream standing behind Jesus. I asked Jesus who you were and he said to me, ‘These are my people. You need to listen to them!’”
At this point my teammate and I turned to one another, wide-eyed. “What else did he say?” we asked.
“I can’t remember everything. The only other thing that is clear is that he said, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal things. …’ Strange sentence. Does that mean anything to you?”
We pulled out our Bibles and found the verse in Proverbs 25: “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search them out.” We showed the passage to Henry.
He backed away from us, looking frightened.
“I … I didn’t read that part of Proverbs yet. I fell asleep in chapter four. I didn’t read that! But that’s what Jesus said, and there it is, in the Bible, right there! How did He do that?”
My teammate and I couldn’t stop grinning and shaking our heads. At the time, we were a couple of college guys who had volunteered to spend a year in the Middle East. We never expected anything like this. It was enough to get to share the Gospel with our friends and study the Bible with them. But it seemed that the Holy Spirit was out to rescue some of our friends, like Henry. And He was displaying His sovereign power in doing so.
“Guys,” Henry said, his face now in his hands. “It all makes sense to me now. Everything you’ve been trying to tell me. Everything that the Bible says. It’s so clear now, when yesterday I just couldn’t grasp it. Something has changed.”
“Henry,” we said, “it seems that you found your teacher … or that He found you. The Holy Spirit has given you the light you need to understand God’s Word.”
“So what do I do now?” Henry asked.
We proceeded to walk Henry through the Gospel one more time, and he affirmed his belief. After we prayed Henry looked up, no longer afraid, but now full of joy. He was now a brother. He has quietly continued in his faith.
While Henry had wrestled and debated and searched Scripture, ultimately only the Holy Spirit could remove the veil from his eyes so that he could see the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ. Why? So that it would be all of grace — clearly all of grace with no room for boasting (Ephesians 2:8-9 ).
Henry didn’t deserve to be given spiritual sight. Neither did I. It is the glory of God to conceal things. Yet praise God, it is also the glory of God to reveal them.
Russ Jeffers* is an IMB worker among Central Asian peoples. *Names changed for security.