Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
1 Kings 19:11-13
I had met her only shortly before. She said she was studying to become a nurse. When I said I was studying to become a pastor, she made an unexpected comment.
“I don’t have any hope of heaven.”
That surprised me. I knew enough about her to know that she had been brought up in a Christian family, regularly attended worship services, and was apparently leading a Christian life.
Yet, she was living without hope. She explained why.
She had grown up in a church that taught spiritual life required a decision to accept Christ into one’s life. It usually took place following an “altar call.” After a sermon, the pastor would ask people to step forward to dedicate their lives to the Savior. That was the moment they were “saved.”
There was one other teaching: Once people accepted Christ into their hearts, they would never sin again.
This belief crushed her hope. She knew she had sinned since that altar call. She thought this proved her decision for Christ was fake. She was not saved. She was among the lost.
Thinking she was without Christ, she was without hope.
When we hear the phrase “mission work,” we might think of missionaries heading off to heathen lands.
We may call to mind powerful sermons which proclaimed the way of salvation with clarity and energy.
We could conclude that the every-day-Christian is not qualified to do mission work—that is, to share the good news of Jesus with someone who does not already trust in him for forgiveness and salvation.
That is a lie fed to us by Satan.
A degree in theology is not needed to point others to Jesus. It does not require a six-month instruction course before there is a result. Sometimes a child is an effective missionary.
The Holy Spirit is the one who works saving faith. He uses the words he has inspired writers to pen in Holy Writ. Those who relay the message of the gospel are just his tools. The gospel has the power to bring life to those living in the dungeon of spiritual death.
There have been times when the Holy Spirit came to people in a blaze of glory that none could ignore. We think of the first Pentecost with the tongues of fire on people’s heads and the sound of a mighty rushing wind in their ears.
But at other times, maybe most times, he works gently, quietly.
Elijah learned that lesson. A wind strong enough to split rocks, or a shattering earthquake, or a raging fire, would fit well with the idea of an almighty God. But the Holy One was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. He came as a gentle whisper.
He sometimes still comes that way, with simple words in everyday settings—words that whisper hope.
That’s what happened with that future nurse. She was pointed to the Lord’s Prayer and the phrase, “forgive us our trespasses.” If Jesus was teaching his people to pray for forgiveness, it must mean that his people will commit sin at times—and be forgiven. Does it not?
The Holy Spirit convinced her. She went on to live life as a redeemed child of God, confident of heaven. She experienced the whispering hope.
How do I know this?
I married her.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, giver of life who has spoken through the prophets, we praise you for bringing everlasting hope to us through your powerful, living word. Stay with us and in us forevermore. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.