This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak on Matthew 6:13, where Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. What an important prayer to have on our lips! Because through every trial comes a temptation. But not only through trial, good times as well. I am so glad to know the promise that God sets those restrictions on the intensity of the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so you can endure.”
I am reminded of this in a story told by Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist. He tells the story how in Vietnam in 1971 he met a young Christian man named Hien Pham. Hien served as a volunteer translator for the American military as well as for missionaries. During that time Hien and Ravi became close friends. They parted ways four years later after their experiences in Vietnam. Ravi hadn’t heard from Hien again until an unexpected phone call in 1988.
In that phone call, Ravi heard the shocking things that had happened to Hien since the fall of Vietnam. I quote Ravi below:
“Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hien was arrested. Accused of aiding and abetting the Americans he was in and out of prison for several years. During on long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailers was to indoctrinate him against the West-and especially against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything in English and restriced to communist propaganda in French and Vietnamese. This daily overdose of the writings of Marx and Engels began to take its toll on him. One of the books he was given to read pictured the communist man as a bird in the ironclad cage of capitalism, throwing itself against the bars of “capitalist oppression” and bloodying itself in the process. Yet still it continued to struggle in its quest for freedom.
Hien began to buckle under the onslaught. Maybe, he thought, I have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe my whole life has been governed by lies. Maybe the West has deceived me. The more he thought, the more he moved toward a decision. Finally, he made up his mind. He determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or even think of his Christian faith again.
The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison. It was the most dreaded chore, shunned by everyone, and so with much distress he began his awful task. As he cleaned out a tin can filled to overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly washed it off and slipped it into his hip pocket, planning to read it at night. Not having seen anything in English for such a long time, he anxiously waited for a free moment. Under his mosquito net that night after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and shining it on the damp piece of paper he read at the top corner, “Romans, Chapter 8.” Literally trembling with shock he began to read:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have
been called according to his purpose…
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He
who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up fro us all-how will he not also, along with him,
graciously give us all things?…
…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither
height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love
of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 31, 32, 35, 37-39)
Hien wept. He knew his Bible, and he had not seen one for so long. Not only that, he knew there was not a more relevant passage of conviction and strength for on on the verge os surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to God, asking for forgiveness, for this was to have been the first day in years that he had determined not to pray. Evidently the Lord had other plans.
The next day, Hien asked the camp commander if he could clean the latrine again. He continued with this chore on a regular basis, because he had discovered that some official in the camp was using a Bible as toilet paper. Each day Hien picked up a portion of Scripture, cleaned it off, and added it to his nightly devotional reading. In this way he retrieved a significant portion of the Bible.”
Hien was later released from prison and he escaped from the country through a miraculous story as well. What an awesome reminder of God’s faithfulness! In the midst of suffering He is there! Stay faithful in midst of everything – trial, temptation, suffering, blessing! Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!