It was the converging of two worlds. The service that led up to this moment was no different from any other, until the guest speaker took the pulpit. And spoke. In Spanish. The congregation realized that we were in for something rare. Throughout the sermon, we listened intently, as though we could actually understand each precious word he spoke. Then, a translator humbly delivered his message to our eager ears.
Pastor Julio* introduced himself and explained that he had come to U.S. to visit his brother, but would return to Cuba by the end of the month. He briefly summarized the persecution that Christians currently face in his country. As most of us are aware, the leaders of the Communist government of Cuba do their best to squelch any growth of Christianity within the country’s borders. However, they have been unsuccessful in their task. Julio spoke specifically of the trials that members of his church face on a regular basis. In their “top-down” persecution of the Church, the government makes it exceedingly difficult for believers to hold decent jobs and buy necessities. He explained, “In Cuba, we must live by faith.” He quickly added, lest anyone think that Christ expects any more out of these Cuban believers than those who enjoy greater freedom, “Christians must live by faith.” This was the theme of the next half hour.
I won’t even attempt to recreate his sermon here, as I am working only from my memory and a few notes that I was able to take (this was not a predictable, three-point message). I will however, write about the personal application I gained from his rich insights. In light of our potential move, I thought about the recent, surprising fears I’ve experienced. In Spanish, he read Hebrews 11:1-6:
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. 4By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
It was then translated phrase by phrase into English, allowing plenty of time for my eyes to dwell on each word. Each verse cut straight to my heart.
Among other things, Julio spoke about the heart wrenching experience Christian parents have in Cuba when their children reach the age that store-bought milk becomes a necessity. He told of his own family’s need. Then, he spoke of God’s provision for his babies: “God has done wonderful things in our lives and our children [have always] had milk to drink.” This was true for all in his congregation, he stated. God simply provided.
I know this. Not that I have ever been in a situation where I could not afford the basic necessities of life, but I have had my own mountains that needed moving. And God has provided, indeed. It has become easier with experience to truly know deeply that God will come through and meet my need. This is not the big-house, fancy-car, swollen-bank-account faith that television evangelists sell to the desperate. This is the “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” faith of Philippians 4:19 that is God’s gift to the desperate. It is so much sweeter in comparison.
With that encouragement, given by a man who doesn’t even speak my language, I was able to sing the invitation hymn of the day with new words, “Lord, You are more precious than silver [friendships]. Lord, You are more costly than gold [security]. Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds [comfort], and nothing I desire compares with You!” It didn’t have quite the same ring as the original, but it was the honest prayer of my heart. I rejoiced as I let go of my fears and remembered the basic truth that Julio had repeated again and again throughout his message, that “God is good and Jesus is real!” And because of this, He will always provide.