Path to a Miracle

Silvio* sat on the living room couch, struggling to express in English what would have been difficult even in his native Portuguese.

“I-I just can’t believe in God,” he confessed. “Maybe, if, if he show me just … what the word?”

“A miracle?” I ventured.

“Yes! That it. If he show me just a miracle, maybe I believe.”
His girlfriend, Adriana, sat next to him not saying anything but looking at me with the same longing, searching quality that permeated Silvio’s voice.

Great, I thought. Now what am I supposed to do?
Leaps of Faith

My husband and I had both grown up in homes where believing in God came as naturally as breathing air. We met while studying at the same Christian university, and after getting married were heavily involved in our local church. Eventually, my husband accepted a position as an interim pastor in New Zealand.

We were the poster children for evangelical Christianity, but suddenly, over 8,000 miles away from home, we were drastically and dramatically in over our heads. Because there we sat, in our temporary living room, my husband and I on one side and Silvio and Adriana on the other, ordering a miracle. And despite my years of Bible studies, classrooms, and prayer meetings, I wasn’t really sure if God would deliver.

Silvio and Adriana had taken leaps of faith before. Like when as a young couple in their early 20s, they had emigrated from Brazil to New Zealand in search of a better life. Or when they traveled around the North Island working in vineyards and orchards, getting only seasonal work but determined to make something of themselves. Or the time, after finally settling down in the small town of Hastings, they walked unsuspectingly into the little local church where our paths crossed.

Somehow, though, the leap of faith to trust in a God they couldn’t see was beyond them. And so there Silvio sat, asking for a miracle.
What Happened Next

Over the next several months, we found ourselves spending more and more time with Silvio and Adriana. After all, we were all strangers in this strange, beautiful new land. My background in teaching English came in handy now and again; and thankfully, with our 18-month-old daughter, language was never a barrier, giggles and tickles being the common vernacular. We attended local festivals, celebrated holidays and birthdays, and shared the joys and stresses of living in a new country together.

Slowly over those months, our friendship deepened. The initial nervousness melted away into familiarity. We became accustomed to their lilting, accented English, and they got used to our clumsy Americanisms. My husband and I quickly lost any delusion that we possessed an ounce of rhythm. Compared to Silvio and Adriana, we were bulls in a china shop. All the grace and passion of Brazil flowed naturally through their bodies.

Slowly over those months, Silvio and Adriana’s faith deepened too. But it didn’t come in the dramatic way any of us had expected. Instead of the impressive miracle that Silvio thought he needed, it came bit by bit, step by step. A question here, an occasional visit to church there. A hug, an unexpected drop in for coffee, and long conversations over slow dinners. Sprinkled among it all was a whole lot of fun, good times, and honest to goodness friendship.

Steps on a Journey

None of us are exactly sure when it happened. Even Silvio and Adriana can’t say for certain when they took that final step from disbelief to faith. But then one day, somewhat to everyone’s surprise, Silvio and Adriana were standing in front of our small community of believers, and in beautifully broken English expressed an unreserved, certain faith in Jesus the Savior. At that moment, I realized that for them, coming to faith hadn’t been so much one single, gigantic leap as it had been individual steps on a journey.

And maybe, just maybe, Silvio and Adriana weren’t the only ones on that journey. Sharing life and the gospel with them had stretched me in ways I had never expected and probably required more faith on my part than on theirs. Faith that God wouldn’t leave me hanging in the middle of an awkward conversation, faith that he still answers prayers, and faith that he uses ordinary, normal, everyday means to bring his children home.

Today Silvio and Adriana still live in New Zealand, where they’ve achieved the better life they were searching for. Soon after professing faith, they were married. Silvio began and completed a degree in draftsmanship, and they started actively reaching out to the international community around them. A year ago, God blessed them with twin baby girls.

My husband and I have since returned home to the States, but we brought back with us some significant lessons. One of the most important being this: Sometimes a leap of faith just isn’t. It’s one small step after one small step. It’s extending yourself just beyond where you are comfortable. It’s reaching out to someone so different from you that friendship seems impossible. And it’s believing that, through it all, God has a way of working miracles.

What Is True Evangelism?

Over the years, I have heard people say things like, “Serving is not evangelism. It is a great thing to do, but serving alone does not present the message of the gospel.” Or, “Inviting a person to church or to a Christian concert is not evangelism. It is pre-evangelism.” I have even heard people say, “Sharing your story is not enough. We must tell Jesus’ story.” To these comments and many others like them, I say, “I agree 100 percent!”

In the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Paul makes it clear that it is not enough just to love and care for people; we are called to communicate the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Over the years, I have heard many variations on the statement, “Proclaim the gospel wherever you go. Use words when necessary.” I understand the spirit of this quote, which has been attributed to many different historical figures, but I feel it is misleading. A more biblical version would be, “Proclaim the gospel wherever you go. Words will always be necessary.” The apostle Peter puts it this way: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

There are many approaches to evangelism, but all of them include the wonderful moment when we tell the story of God’s gift of salvation. When we serve someone and they ask us, “Why do you care so much?” we let them know how much God has cared for us. We articulate that God cared for us so much that he sent Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. We tell them our service flows out of this understanding. When we invite someone to a church service or a faith-based event and they ask us, “Do you really believe all this stuff about Jesus?” we have an open door to share how we came to faith, what we believe, and how God has transformed our lives. We are given an opportunity to articulate the message of the gospel. No matter what our personal style, we all should be trained and ready to express the core message of the gospel, and we should know how to lead people to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.

The Power and Place of Prayer
Along with using our unique and God-given styles of evangelism and being ready to articulate the message of the gospel, we need to be people of prayer. No matter what we say or do, if God’s Holy Spirit is not at work, lives will never be changed. All through the Bible and in history, we see that prayer precedes revival and great works of God. In the Book of Acts, we read, “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:12-14).

The amazing evangelistic revival and work of the Holy Spirit that comes in Acts 2 is clearly connected to the prayers of God’s people. What a joy to see a biblical portrait of God’s people, men and women, together in passionate prayer, and then to discover that the Spirit descended in power, the gospel was proclaimed, and over three thousand people gave their hearts and lives to Jesus!

One of the most powerful things you can do to grow in your personal commitment to outreach is to pray for those who are not yet followers of Christ. Make a list of friends, family members, and acquaintances who are not Christians. Put this list where you will see it and pray for one or more of these people each day. Then be sure to ask God to help you be responsive to the opportunities he gives you to use your unique evangelism style to connect with them, love them, and speak to them about Jesus.

Prayer must bathe everything we do, especially when it comes to the ministry of outreach. Every follower of Jesus should be praying for their friends, family members, and acquaintances who don’t know Jesus. We also need to undergird all of our outreach efforts with prayer.

Along with praying for our churches’ outreach efforts, it is critical that followers of Jesus discover the power of praying for and with those spiritual seekers God has placed in our lives. Through the years, I have asked many nonbelievers, “Can I pray for you?” So far no one has said no. It is amazing how people who don’t have faith in God can still hunger for prayer.

How can Scripture help our marriage?

By Lisa Cowman

God’s Word is a powerful weapon against sin and against the enemy of our souls and marriages. But I need to know how to really make it work for me and my marriage. Following are some basic principles that help open the door to letting God’s Word effectively change me.

1. God’s Word can’t work if I don’t use it. Pray for God to help me listen and stay calm. And if I find myself moving into defensive action, ask for a break.

2. I must remember that the heart is deceitful above all things. When issues arise, I’m my number-one fan. But my reality isn’t reality at all. I’ll always side with myself: the way I think, the way I interpret things or people, and the way I act. My skewed thinking is not truth. God’s Word is truth! Being easily hurt or carelessly hurting others can easily be passed off as “the other person’s issue.” Hearts cannot be trusted!

3. I need to set myself up for success. How? I need to know my weaknesses. I need to have Scriptures available (by memory or in a handy place) so I can retrieve them when necessary. I had done that, yet when I failed to obey the verse, I allowed Satan to spray-paint a big letter L, for loser, all over my mind. Another weakness of mine is not immediately receiving God’s forgiveness when I’ve blown it. Yet Scripture says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). That was just what I needed that night, not self-condemnation from the enemy.

4. I need to do regular head checks. What exactly am I allowing myself to think about? Whatever I bring into my mind and ponder becomes a part of me. I need to go back to God’s Word and fill up with “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). What a life-changing moment when God showed me that verse was my “husband” verse. If the thought about my husband that flitted across my mind didn’t fall into one of those categories, I needed to take it captive and yank it out of there before it could sprout roots and ultimately ruin the foundation of my marriage. That was a huge aha for me.

5. In the heat of the battle, I have to remember the fundamentals. Sometimes God doesn’t take away a weakness or issue in our lives or marriages right away because he wants to continue to shape and mold our character. We have more to learn. But we can be assured that God will use the truth we are feeding our minds and souls to give us strength until we are ready to submit fully to the Holy Spirit’s leading. When we continue to pursue those initial baby thoughts of truth, God eventually can take us where we need to be.

6. I need to remember that God is for me. Every circumstance, every misunderstanding, every disappointment is useful for God to develop me into the child he wants me to be. Why? He is for me. He will let nothing get in the way of his ultimate goal: to conform me to the image of his beloved firstborn. I will never be happier or more satisfied in my life or marriage than when I am most like Jesus. How does this process happen? It happens through the very precious breath of God: his whisper, his voice, his Word. “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).

7. I need to remind myself that “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” I often repeat this phrase to myself and my three teenage daughters: “What God says matters more than how I feel.” We chant it together and repeat it when one of us needs that tidbit of truth. That is choosing to live by faith, not feelings. That choice can be difficult, yet it is possible.

Activating God’s Word is not easy, but it is doable because God has “given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). Do you believe you have everything you need to choose his way? It’s his Word. Will you use it? Will you activate it? Will you continue to struggle or choose his Word and his way? What have you got to lose … Dear Lord, help me choose you! Help me choose your truth. I believe you. Help me with my unbelief. Clean me from the inside out and make me your vessel of obedience.

Lisa Cowman has spoken at numerous ladies’ retreats and conferences and has co-authored a Bible study on Esther. Visit her site at