Feature

Extinguish Your Torches

Relying on God in the Darkness

By

I still remember the first time I received an immediate answer to prayer. Seven years old and in second grade, I had forgotten money to buy milk for lunch, so I told God I needed 10 cents. Right after I prayed, a friend noticed I didn’t have milk and gave me a dime to get some. I was very impressed with God and how fast He answered. My faith was boosted.

God continued to answer my prayers as I grew up but, unfortunately, not as quickly as that second-grade bailout. In fact, when my prayers were not answered as quickly as I was expecting, I thought, There must be something wrong with me. Do I not have enough faith? Am I living in unconfessed sin? Did I not pray right?

Then when my big prayers were not answered the way I thought they should be—when I lost two babies to miscarriage and despaired of having children, when my marriage was in trouble and God was silent as we struggled—I started to think, What is wrong with God? Is He able to answer? And if He is, why isn’t He doing what I need Him to do? What does that say about His love for me? Can I trust Him?

Lighters of Fires

Then, a few years ago I read Isaiah 50:10–11:

“‘Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.
But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches;
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.’”

A lighter of fires is someone who has a hard time not being in control. A lighter of fires wants immediate solutions. Lighters of fires end up getting into big trouble, because instead of trusting God, they rely on themselves. You have probably been in a prayer meeting where someone prayed, “Lord, You know that John has been complaining of a sore neck. I am sure that if he would just not sit in the draft of the air conditioner, his neck would get better. Lord, heal him.” Lighters of fires love to diagnose the problem and then give the solution to God or the person they are praying for.

I realized that I am a lighter of fires. I have all the answers and solutions to my own problems and probably yours as well. Even as I am praying to ask God for help and wisdom, I am telling Him what He needs to do, how He needs to do it and when He needs to do it—the faster the better.

Dark Places

But God does not always answer immediately. An angel told Daniel that the Lord had heard Daniel’s prayer 21 days earlier, but because the angel had to fight the Prince of Persia, he was delayed in answering (Dan. 10:12–13). We do not know all of the forces working against our prayers.

Sometimes it is tempting to light fires because the places we are in are very dark, and Satan is very much in control. This is what Thailand is like. Although people are coming to faith and lives are being changed, we have been praying for years for a widespread breakthrough of the Holy Spirit.

I manage the Alliance guesthouse in Bangkok, which also happens to be where I grew up. A man named Som has worked here since I was a child. Numerous people have prayed for him and witnessed to him for nearly six decades. Last year Steve and I shared the gospel with Som again and asked him where he stood. He said he believes that everything we said is the truth, that Jesus is the Son of God and is the Savior. “But,” he said, “I am content being a Buddhist.” Som doesn’t want to have to change; it is too difficult to go against his family and culture.

Have I stopped praying for Som? No. But even if Som never becomes a Christian and my prayers are not answered in the way that I want them to be, God has not changed. His desire is for all to be saved.

Living by Faith

Over the last few years I have been learning to walk in the dark and trust in the Lord. Even when I cannot see the beginning from the end, when I don’t see an answer, when everything is as black as it can be and there is no light, I am learning to rely on my God because I know that He knows the beginning from the end and He is the Light in the darkness. I do not need to find my own solution.

And when I get impatient with how long everything is taking, I am reminded of Hebrews 11, the hall of fame for people of faith. What impresses me is verse 13: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” In verse 39, the writer states: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”

There have been missionaries who retired without seeing the answer to their prayers for Thailand. They could have been discouraged that after almost 200 years of Christian witness, less than 1 percent of Thailand’s population is Christian. The huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit with multitudes coming to Christ was not these missionaries’ experience—nor ours. We could be discouraged as well.

But our faith does not depend on seeing answers to prayer—our faith is in God and His Word. He has told us to pray for the nations and take His Word to them. And so we continue to plead with God for Thailand and believe that someday many Thai—thousands of Thai—will acknowledge Christ as their Savior and Lord. We might not see the results now, but someday when we are kneeling around the throne and worshiping the Lamb, the answers to our prayers will be kneeling right beside us.

When we face difficult situations, it doesn’t help that we live in a culture that wants fast fixes. We have instant messaging, instant oatmeal, instant coffee—and instant gratification. Unfortunately, we want people or ourselves to change instantly as well. And when that doesn’t happen, we sometimes give up.

We often do the same with prayer when we don’t see answers instantly. My encouragement to you is to extinguish your torch and walk in the dark with your God. You will learn the peace of letting Him be God and allowing Him to work in His time and His way.

Prison Break

I knew the day our team answered God’s call to work among the Isaan in Thai prisons—“no matter the cost“—that there would indeed be a cost. God used our ministry among those trapped in the darkest of places to reveal to me that I too was in my own prison, longing for freedom.

At first I thought the attacks were just physical illness, since it seemed our family was always ill. But then I realized that I had been broken down not just physically but spiritually and emotionally as well. The enemy had been subtly leading me into a very dark place, where all I could hear were his lies and deceit. Unfortunately, I chose to listen to those voices instead of to the Truth and soon found myself in a prison cell of depression.

The worst part was that I am a missionary. How does a missionary get to this point? Aren’t we supposed to have it all together, walking so closely with the Lord that the enemy can’t get to us? These questions were part of Satan’s lies and made me sink even deeper into helplessness. To whom could I turn for help? What would everyone say if they knew?

The Lord has blessed me with a husband who has always shown me the love of Christ. In the safety of our relationship I shared my struggle with him, and he prayed for me until dawn. That night, I began to find freedom.

Through our prison ministry, I regularly visited a woman named Chonja and always felt bad that she was trapped and alone. Then one day she said with a smile, “I may be weak, tired and in prison, but I still have joy knowing God has already set me free.”

Those words rang true as I knew that I too had been living in a prison, behind bars erected by our enemy and enforced by my own thoughts. I am thankful that God’s Truth broke through in that dark place and that by His grace my prison walls have been demolished. I too can claim that Jesus set me free!

If you can relate even in the slightest way, don’t wait to talk to someone about the prison you are in—God desires to set you free!

—Kathy Sappia, TEAM Isaan in Thailand

Past Alliance Life Issues

Share

Get Involved...

Pray.

We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »

Serve.

Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »

Give.

Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »