I recently had a very good friend who is an avowed atheist ask me, “is there anything that would cause you to loose your faith in God?” That is a very good question. The short answer is no. I have been through many trials and tribulations in my life as many Christians have. No matter what, God is and always will be faithful. As I left our conversation I asked my friend a question that I wanted him to consider: “what do you do with the witnesses? Both today and all through history?”
I would like to share this short story with you: Excerpted from the Series “Deliver Us From Evil” With Ravi Zacharias of Ravi Zacharias Family Ministries http://www.gospelcom.net/rzim
“Can I now share with you one of the most magnificent stories I can bring to you at this time. The year was 1971 and I was still in Vietnam. I was still in my mid-twenties, an undergraduate student doing theology, ministering to the American soldiers there and the Vietnamese and so on. I was still so young and training for ministry. A friend of mine traveling with at me that time – well, he became a friend because he was my interpreter – a seventeen year old lad by the name of Hian. Hian and I became VERY close. We became almost like brothers. And I remember when I said goodbye to him in ’71, I didn’t know if I’d ever set eyes on him again. We embraced and I got onto the plane and left.
Seventeen years later, I got a telephone call from him. All he had to say on the phone was, ‘Brother Ravi’. I paused and I said, ‘Hian?’ I couldn’t believe it. It was the way he always pronounced my name with the stonal language background, and I would say, ‘that’s him’. And we talked. My eyes got moist as we relived the memories of 1971. I said, ‘Hian, what are you doing here?’ He said, ‘have you got a few minutes?’, I said, ‘yes’. He said, ‘I want to tell you my story’.
Hian said, ‘Shortly after Vietnam fell, I was taken away by the Vietcong and by the North Vietnamese and I was put in prison. They did everything in their power to knock out of me my commitment to God, my ideas of political tyranny. They worked away and worked away and worked away at me. Finally one day I thought to myself: Maybe I have been lied to. Maybe Marxism is the answer to our utopia. Maybe democracies have told us all that is wrong and ill. And maybe God really doesn’t exist and Christ doesn’t care for me, as I’m here in this prison now suffering’. And all this was going through his mind and he made this commitment, ‘tomorrow, when I wake up, for the first time in years, I’m going to block God out of my mind. No God, No prayer, No reflection on my Christian commitment’. And he said that’s what he would do.
Next day he was assigned to cleaning the latrines in the prison. He said it was a horrible chore. He said, ‘As I was cleaning these dirty parts and just walking through the floors there with all of the stench in that prison latrine, all of a sudden as I was emptying a can with used toilet paper, I thought I saw one piece of paper with some English on it. I looked around to make sure nobody was watching – I hadn’t read English now in many, many months – (I think he said about a year and a half. They’d only given him his books on Marxism in either Vietnamese or French and so on. They were trying to even knock English out of his mind to remove a world view through language). He said, ‘I saw this and I thought it was English, but I didn’t want anybody to see me, so I quickly just washed it off without even looking at it and put it in my hip pocket. That night when my roommates were sound asleep, under their mosquito net, I removed this damp piece of paper, took a flashlight, and I shone it on that piece of paper. He said, ‘Brother Ravi’, and he choked, he said, ‘this is what I saw.
On the top right hand quarter it said, Romans Chapter 8. And I began to read these words: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.’
Can you imagine that? As he was sitting under his mosquito net, alone, in a prison, in Vietnam? The one day that he’d said he would not think about God, not think about his commitment to Christ, and the one piece of paper he finds is Romans Chapter 8? That God has a purpose, even through the darkest moments of our lives. He said, ‘I cried. I cried like a young lad. I said, ‘God, you cared for me so much, you would not allow me to go for 24 hours without reminding me that you were right there beside me and You would carry me through’.
You know what Hian did? He went back to the commander the next day and said, ‘Do you mind if I clean the latrines again today?’ He had an idea in his mind. He was cleaning the latrines everyday. Somebody – it was one of the commanders – who had been given a bible years before, and he was tearing out pages from the bible, using it as toilet paper, because that was what he wanted to express his resistance towards and hatred towards God with. Hian would go in there, wash it, and put it in his pocket and he was collecting chapters from the book of Romans and other parts of the scriptures. God was speaking to him under his mosquito net at night.
He finally managed to get out of prison, they let him out. And then he planned an escape with about 52-53 others. Just a short while before he was to leave, four Vietcong came to him and said, ‘We hear that you’re trying to escape, is that true?’ Hian said, ‘No, that is not true’. And Hian lied. So, the men went away. Hian fell on his face and said, ‘Here I go again God, trying to run my own life, believing I can manage it the best way, when you’ve already taught me so much’. He said, ‘Forgive me’. And then he prayed a prayer he hoped God would never take him up on. He said, ‘If you send them back to me before I leave, I’ll tell them the truth’.
Hours before he was to leave the four of them came back, took him by the collar, rammed him against the wall and said, ‘Hian, we heard you are trying to escape. Is that the truth?’ Hian said, ‘Yes, with about 52 or 53 others. Are you going to put me back in prison now?’ They said, ‘No, we want to go with you’. He said, ‘Ravi, you’d never believe what happened when those four joined us. We were caught up in the high seas in a wild storm and if it weren’t for the skippering ability of those four men, we would never have made it. We would have drowned. But we made it safely to Thailand. Today, Hian is in the United States having done his degree now at Berkeley. And a very dear and a very special family friend. He looked my children into their eyes and said, ‘What I have learned over the years, is the tenderness and the presence of God, even at the darkest times of life, don’t ever lose sight of that’.
What a precious story of the word of God in all of its splendor. But its particular concern even for the individual confronted by evil. But I want to now say one thing. And if you don’t hear this you’ll miss, I think, the nerve of our answer. You see, ultimately, our problem is not moral. Our problem is spiritual. Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came into this world to make dead people live; Those who are dead to God, to make them alive to God. When we pray, ‘Deliver us from evil’, let us make sure we are not praying to be delivered to good, we are actually praying to be delivered to God. We are not trying to be more moral; we can be a very moral people, and just as lost spiritually. The answer is not in badness, or goodness. The answer is in spiritual life that knows God, and from Him flows that goodness that becomes as a light shining in a very dark place. Come now, let us reason together to be delivered from evil unto God. If you don’t know him this may be the time for you to get your soul right with Him. And, if you do know Him, take that God, and that strength and that Word with you and let Him use you to do His work in the souls of those that you meet up with. May God richly bless you!