Random Encounters Part 1 - Philippians 4:13
I treasure moments walking alongside God’s global servants, serving them and all the while looking for opportunities to share the gospel. While in East Asia, a land where only a small percent of the people are Christians, I noticed the strangest thing as I passed by a couple in a shopping area. At least I thought I saw a Bible reference printed her dress! I stopped and exclaimed to my son, “Wait! Did you see that! Did her dress have Phil 4:13 (Philippians 4:13) printed on it?!?!”
Wondering if she were a believer, we quickly turned around and hurried to catch up with her to check it out. The Asian girl and her boyfriend both turned around, quite surprised to see two Americans stopping them. Indeed it was true, she had a Bible reference sewn onto her dress!
Fluent in her language, my son began the conversation by asking her what the reference on her shirt meant. She had no idea; she told us that she just liked the dress. My son told her that the Phil. 4:13 is a reference from the Bible. Using that reference, he was able to give a brief presentation of the gospel to this couple.
Of course, not everyone with whom God wants us to share the Gospel, conveniently has a scripture reference printed on their clothes! Nor does God send little floating arrow, pointing out random people among the masses, “Go witness to this one! Now this one!” Oh how easy our task would be if it were that way it worked!
No, there is nothing easy about the Great Commission, but no matter how impossible it may seem to provide access to the Light where the enemy has darkened and confused, it is God who leads. We follow; we trust; we “go into all the world,” Mathew 28:19-20.
Consider the significance of a scripture “randomly” placed on the dress of a lost girl in an unreached area of the world. It is a message for the world to see, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” Phil 4:13. It is a messaged to the one who wore the dress for if she were to receive the gift of eternal life, she would need the strength to stand for her new faith. It could even cost her life. But the message, as if inscribed by the finger of God on her dress, “even while she was yet a sinner”, God proclaimed a strength over her “to do all things.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that somewhere, some random Christian had that particular reference printed on a dress, and later that dress ended up over in East Asia, and this particular girl bought it (not even knowing what it meant) and we just happened to pass by at that very moment. I just happened to glance over as I passed by her in my brief visit to her country. My son, who preceded this encounter by becoming fluent in her language was able explain to her in her heart language what the verse meant. Truly, “The Lord is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9. Such a Random Encounter PROVES the very verse she had printed on her dress!“If God be for us, who or what can be against us!” Romans 8:31.
Even a great mathematician might have a hard time calculating the odds agains such a Random Encounter as this one. To see her dress is to see the hand of God at work among the unreached nations of the world.
Pray that such marvelous “coincidences" take place with great frequency. Pray that those who work in the harvest fields of our Lord have eyes that are opened to see the clues God gives as to who the gospel is to be shared. Pray for safety, health, strength and endurance for our workers as we partner together to do the task commissioned to us by Jesus Christ.
Leaving the busy city, we traveled far out into the country. As I touched this elderly woman’s arm, I realized yet another Random Encounter. The journey continues. We must engage the Unengaged People of the world.
”Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness
in the sight of the nations,” Psalm 98: 1-2
Random Encounters Part 2 - Shanghai LadyShang
There is a little addendum to my blogpost called,“Random Encounters Part 1”. Remember the lady with the Bible verse, Philippines 4:13, written on her dress? Well, I purposely left off an important detail to that story. With only a passing glimpse, I accidentally reversed the numbers on the verse! I mistakenly quoted Phil 3:14, instead of what it really said, Phil 4:13! (Oops!)
As we hurried to catch up with the lady, my son quickly came up with an entire gospel presentation in Chinese based on Phil 3:14, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Within minutes he had linked a gospel presentation to the verse I thought I saw, "forgetting what lies behind we are straining towards what lies ahead…” God was at work, even through the weak thing such as I. There in a crowded walk way, my son shared with this girl about his life before Christ, the grief of his sins and the desperate need of Savior, how Jesus Christ had died, was buried and rose again, offering forgiveness to anyone who believed. Now he “forgets what lies behind him,” living as a new creation in Christ.
We'll never know what message he would have come up based on the actual verse on her dress, Phil
4:13, but here is the point. Phil 4:13 put together with Romans 8:28 reads, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me because ALL things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”.
It was only a “Random Encounter”. Encounters of this kind filled the scriptures and fill the journals of missionaries following the Great Commission.
God had graciously opened a “random” little window to share with this girl, just a few precious moments….and then, with eternal damnation looming over her soul, she disappeared into the crowd.
My heart hurt. Do these “random” encounters ever end in salvation?
To answer that question, I must tell you about another “Random Encounter”. While traveling in a different region of this same country I met another young lady. In broken English and a heavy accent, she shared with me her story:
She said, “I once met a man who shared the Gospel with me. I argued with him and dismissed his words as ridiculous. Later I moved to Shanghai where, through a sad string of events, my life completely fell apart. I became afraid, lonely, and desperate. I remembered the words the man shared about Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation. I fell on my knees and begged Jesus to help me and to save me. Praise God He did! I am the only believer in me family.”
She told me that after she met Christ, she searched for years desperately trying to find the man who shared the gospel with her but to no avail. “This kind man will never know what he did for me. “ The man disappeared into the crowd.
I thanked her for her story. To encourage her, I showed her my Bible in which I have collected little messages written by different people I have met in my own “Random Encounters” as I travel around the world. I now have inscriptions in over 50 different languages! Each message written by someone who had told me their story.
I asked her to now write a message in my Bible in her native language so I would remember to pray for her. I hugged her and placed in her hand a pearl. (see blogpost, “My journey with Pearls”).
Before I left the country, she came to visit me to say good-bye. In my hand she placed a most precious gift, a boxed perfume set that had she bought in Shanghai at the time of her salvation.
Since I can’t disclose her name, I will call her by the words written on her gift, “The Shanghai Lady.” May the “Shanghai Lady” inspire us to pray fervently for such the “Random Encounters,” which are actually divine encounters provided by God to impact millions of lost souls in the unreached regions of the world.
Oh, by God’s amazing grace, may these all encounters lead to salvation as this one did for this precious “Shanghai Lady”!