My wife and I served eleven years in church development, administration, and theological education in West Africa. The outstanding stories of God’s grace at work still brings joy to our hearts. And we found that grace brings shalom (peace) in conflict.
The Need for Shalom in Conflict
In early 2005, we sat across the table in Freetown, Sierra Leone, from a young man who shared a part of his story. He was the son of a banker in this city. Soon in his story it was apparent that the enemy had pushed his life to the edge and that the sabotage of sin had taken an incredible toll! As a young man, after an Anglican upbringing, his deep soul hunger was unsatisfied.
He confessed his sins and trusted Christ as his personal Savior. He found something alive in contrast to his experience of a formal, ritualistic upbringing. He felt a call to ministry. After some months in ministry he felt he should give up his banking job and go into ministry full time. But developments in his life seemed to overwhelm him. Though he came to Christ, the enemy of his life took advantage of difficult circumstances, and sin again entered his story with devastating effects.
He was a pastor. He continued going to his pulpit, but he no longer enjoyed life; he no longer enjoyed ministry. He became aware that if he did not find an answer for the deep spiritual need within him, everything precious in his life, including his family and his ministry, would be lost. All was on the rocks.
As my wife and I sat across the table, we listened and prayed with him. Our hearts bled; we wept with him. Soon this young man began attending classes at the institute where I taught. In one of the classes one day I was teaching about grace. I was setting forth an overview of grace as it relates to salvation.
What Does Shalom Mean?
God’s grace lovingly pursues each life, tracks, dogs an individual’s trail—prevenient grace. That grace calls to an awakening and into convicting grace (John 16:8-11). When the person repents, confesses their sins as shown them by the Spirit’s ministry through God’s Word, the Spirit woos this penitent one into regenerating, justifying, adopting grace.
As time moves forward, as the new believer dwells in God’s Word and responds to the Spirit’s voice, the Master’s empowering grows this believer— “growth in grace.” We may think of this as His nourishing, sustaining, spiritually forming grace. When the Spirit calls the believer to a new level, this Christ follower surrenders all to the Master and finds the reality of sanctifying grace as God gets this disciple’s all. God in His faithfulness continues to lead the totally surrendered one through life.
When Shalom Enters In
Finally there is the stepping across from this life into God’s next realm and the experiencing of His glorifying grace. When the class was over that day, this gentleman stepped up to me with an excitement in his countenance. He said, “Pastor Paul, while you were teaching about grace, I said within me, ‘That’s it!’” He said, “When I saw grace, I said, ‘That’s it! That’s the answer! That’s what I was missing!” He said, “I got so excited, I wanted to jump right out in front of the table where I was sitting and shout to the rest of the students in that class, ‘That’s it! That’s the answer!’”
It wasn’t long until he took his Bible and went to a retreat center for three days to spend time with God. While there he had a profound experience. He responded to the Spirit’s call to surrender his all to God! And God got all of this man! Since that time his life has taken an incredible turn. Today, a leader in Christian ministry, he expresses his testimony humbly from his heart. Look—it’s grace. I found Him! I found grace in His eyes!
Paul W Martin is a speaker and author. He pioneered his denominations ministry into Sierra Leone, West Africa.
Excerpted from Unfragmented: Shalom in a Shattering World
By Paul W Martin
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