“What’s running in the background?” is the question I most often get to answer my complaint that my smartphone or tablet is running too slowly or is using up the battery life too rapidly. My tech friends remind me that my electronic device has limited memory, operating capacity, and battery life. They say it is smart to turn off or close out certain apps or programs running in the background (or behind the scenes). Doing so allows the device to function quickly and more efficiently on the main program—the one before me on the screen. This is good tech advice.
Fortunately, God has no such limitations. In life, the events we see “on the screen” are those things we can see, touch, feel, taste and smell with our natural senses. This is life as we know and experience it most of the time. I know that God is working supernaturally behind those same scenes with another set of objectives, and a totally different perspective on the outcome. Something that we experienced that did not feel good at all, that had a negative perception, might be the very valuable hard lesson we needed to avoid a worse outcome down the road. What we thought was bad was actually for our good. God had another outcome running in the background. Often He has more than one good outcome running. He can do that. He has no memory, operating capacity or battery life problems.
I was recently and vividly reminded of this on a trip to India. The stated purpose of the mission trip-what was to unfold on the screen so to speak-was a three day crusade to conduct gospel revival meetings in a region of India with a known history of severe Christian persecution. In this particular town, no outdoor crusade meetings had ever been conducted. Previous attempts had been denied permits. Christians and Christian churches were heavily outnumbered and persecuted. Yet our small team, with the invaluable help of locals, and the fervent prayers of many back home, was able to hold these crusade meetings. The people were precious, and the meetings were joyous. The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached in an area of the world that had never heard it before. Thousands of lives were changed, and many miracles occurred. Many were touched by God, and gave their hearts to Jesus. This was the stated purpose of the trip. The main objective was accomplished. What was running in the background was equally impressive. God’s hand could be seen in those crusade meetings, but what He was doing at the same time behind the scenes was also truly remarkable.
I am sure I do not realize everything He was doing in the background, but here are four things I sensed were going on in the supernatural realm at the same time we were holding crusade meetings:
- God sent us as messengers to encourage the local pastors. He wanted to lift up those who lived everyday with the persecution and rejection that comes with being a part of a group of believers that represent only 2% of the population of the nation. He wanted to lift the feeling of loneliness and isolation. God sent a small team from the U.S. and a team of locals from another region of the country to say in effect “God has not forgotten you. He sees you and wants to encourage you. He wants to break your isolation, oppression and persecution.”
- God wanted to take the ground in this region. The revival was held in the center of town in a cricket stadium adjacent to existing temples of idol worship. The stadium was important ground previously off-limits to Christians for purposes of gathering and meeting. Because it was a high profile meeting place, Christians were encouraged to “come out of the closet” and stand on the field to celebrate their God. Previous attempts to hold meetings here had been denied permits. God used a man of the majority religion, described as a militant, to not only back the crusade meeting, but also to make the arrangements for the sound system, the lights, and decorations for the stage. He did not just do a minimal job with this responsibility. He did an excellent job with all these arrangements. This man was politically powerful, having been active in denying the previous attempts to hold Christian meetings in the town. After the crusade meetings, he was going to get the meetings shown on local television. Militant opposition was turned to vital support. New ground was plowed with the Gospel. I could sense that something very significant had happened spiritually, that change was in the air. This region would never be the same. Only God can do that.
- God wanted us to reach other social outcasts with a message of hope and encouragement. Before and after the crusade meetings, we were able to visit several groups that society had forgotten. We distributed food to and laid hands on and prayed with a group of lepers from the leper colony. I will never forget the moment. Tears welled in my eyes, and a lump formed in my throat. It was so very humbling to pray for the same people for which Jesus had such compassion. They were missing fingers and toes from this horrible disease, yet they were smiling and grateful to receive the food and our love and prayers. Although the disease is treatable and much more is known about how to prevent its spread, the fear and social stigma attached to this disease is still prevalent. No one visits the lepers, except the local Christian ministry we connected with. They visit weekly, and bring a doctor to help with treatment. We were privileged to go with them to bring food and greetings in the name of Jesus. We also visited a shelter for the elderly and the orphans with a similar message. The elderly were mainly women who had worked all their lives in the rice fields, and when they were no longer able to work, they were abandoned to fend for themselves. Were it not for the shelter, many of the orphans would be sold in the human trafficking trade. Except for the shelter, they had no one, no food, and no place to belong. God wanted them all to know they were important to Him and not forgotten.
- For me personally, God wanted me to see first-hand the spiritual dark side of idol worship, and its effect on a nation. He wanted me to deal with the fear of being in such an oppressive and persecuted environment. During the trip, each time I heard another story of past atrocious persecution in the region, my sleep would be interrupted with a dream containing that story, magnified into the worst possible outcome for our team. I was not so afraid that I could not complete the assignment, but my sleep was being interrupted. After two days of this, the team prayed with me, we took authority over my sleep. The spiritual torment stopped, and sweet sleep was restored.
A scripture and a story come to mind. In Luke 10:17, the seventy two sent out by Jesus “returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”’ Demonic opposition to His plans, and demonic interruption of sleep must bow to the name of Jesus and His purposes.
In 2 Kings 6:15, Elisha’s servant was troubled when he saw an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city where he and Elisha were staying. Their capture seemed imminent. The scene before him did not look good. Elisha saw this, but he also saw the scene running in the background. He saw the God- orchestrated supernatural scene behind the natural scene which told a different story. Elisha prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant to see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire (from God) all around Elisha for his protection. In verse 16, Elisha told his servant “Don’t be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” When the enemy attacked, they were struck with blindness. Their plans to capture the man of God were thwarted.
Before the trip, I asked the Lord to keep me continually aware of what He was doing in the spirit realm. I asked Him to teach me more about prevailing over spiritual opposition. He did so in an effective yet gentle way. Remember that what we see or experience is not all that is happening. Ask God what is running in the background.