Faith that moves tramcars

Posted 4/11/21

This week's Reflections from the Pulpit is written by Loy Mershimer of Okeechobee Presbyterian Church.

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Faith that moves tramcars


Dr. John A. Sundquist, former executive director of the Board of International Missions, American Baptist Churches, tells of traveling to the U.S.S.R. in 1976. On that trip he met an elderly Christian woman, a babushka, bent over from years, frail in body. She told him a riveting story of faith: “Dr. Sundquist, I did not know how to share faith in Christ. So I asked God to show me.”

Soon, the faithful babushka settled on a plan: She purposed every day to wrap up her Bible and walk to the park, where she would openly read until someone asked, “What are you reading?” Then she would show them the Bible, and read to them about Christ. What a plan! Daring, risky, and rewarding.

The lady continued her story: “Every day I kept this promise – one a day! Many people heard about Jesus. But then, I fell seriously ill. I was taken to the hospital for an emergency operation. I was mostly out of mind in medicine and treatment for 17 days, and could not read Scripture or share faith.”

“Then they released me. And on the way home, I began to weep – for I had not shared the gospel of Christ for 17 days. I read in the tramcar and prayed, ‘Lord, let me make up for my lack!’”

Not long after she prayed, a Russian soldier boarded the train. He saw the lady reading her Bible, strode over to her, and grabbed her by the neck. Pulling her by the neck, he stood her up in front of the passengers. “Look people, this babushka is reading the Bible!

“Read for us!” he mocked her.

What happened next is simply miraculous. The humble lady opened her Bible to John 3:16, and read to the whole car: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The car fell silent. The Word went out. The gospel preached. The soldier released her. She sat down.

After a while, the lady turned around and counted the people: THERE WERE EXACTLY 17 PEOPLE IN THE CAR! Oh, what tears of joy in the woman, and rejoicing in heaven, over one sinner redeemed in the hearing!

Could this kind of thing happen here in the USA, perhaps even here in Okeechobee? Well, we know that God is no respecter of persons – He doesn’t show partiality, low or high, rich or poor. He seeks those whose hearts are truly turned toward Him, to show himself strong on their behalf (2 Chron. 16:9). Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock – with ongoing action. We could translate this, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you” (Mt. 7:7 ISV, HCSB). The child of faith asks in relationship – praying in the will of Abba, giving thanks even without apparent material answer, for the relation strengthens upon every thankful request.

Johann Blumhardt says that most prayers fail in the errors of resignation (“This is just the way it has to be,” etc.) or presumption (thinking that we can bend God to our own desires and false perspectives). If we find ourselves not praying simply (as friend to friend, child to Abba), ardently, and in expectation, chances are we have shipwrecked on one of these two rocks: passive resignation or passionate presumption.

Thankfully, there is another way. We can pray humbly and boldly, in both patience AND faith. In faith we say, “I WILL NOT tie God’s hands by refusing to continually ask.” And in patience we say, “I will ask, fully prepared for a qualified NO, which will be the same as a complete YES, for I am His child.”

Yes, this calls for patience and faith on the part of the saints (Rev. 14:12)! Faith expects everything, patience expects nothing, and in the middle we receive miracles of grace. Alleluia!

Friend, if you’ve read this far, know this: God loves YOU, and He isn’t done with you. He hears your cries, and keeps your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). His plan is for gospel life, and hope in the Holy Spirit. He can meet you in the tramcar of your greatest need, and use it to bless others that would have never otherwise heard. Amen.