Last week, I mentioned my trip to Austria to serve at TCMI, a graduate level training center for students from Eastern European countries. Many of these students who come to study God’s Word in-depth face isolation and even hostility for their faith. Bible training is not easily found. They do not have easy access to Bible resources and Christian literature like we do. Brothers and sisters in Christ who could encourage them in their daily walk are few and far between. These students were hungry for the Word of God, starving for encouragement to stay strong in their faith.
My first evening, I sat beside J. from Poland. Before I rose from the table, I said to him, “Blessings on your studies this week,” He paused, then said with a deep and sincere sound of gratefulness in his voice, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” I could tell he was deeply moved by my simple blessing. His response was indicative of the deep gratitude these students feel for being able to come study at TCMI, gratitude that they have a place to come, study the Bible and be encouraged by other believers.
J.’s commitment, hunger for the Word, and gratitude for what he was receiving made me ache. Unlike these Eastern European countries, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is readily available to us in the United States. Often the students Inside my Classroom lounge in their chairs, passive and indifferent to the truths I teach.
How can I fire my students with a passion for the Word of God, to long for God above all else? Hunger and longing come because the student recognizes something is missing from their lives. As Romans 5 says, character comes from suffering. As a teacher I cannot cause my students to suffer nor do I want to just so they will be hungry for God.
Perhaps I can show them what they are missing. Sometimes we don’t know we are hungry until we smell the scent of freshly baked bread or the pungent aroma of roasting meat. Perhaps my strategy should be to pray for hungry students, pray that God will make them aware of the voids in their lives that only Christ can fill. Then I should pray that God will motivate me to feed my students with the words that will bring them the satisfaction they crave. Perhaps I can be like the missionary couple I heard about who reached out to one Muslim. All they did was to be shower him with friendship. Just being his friends showed him how empty he really was. Soon he began to ask questions to find the food that would satisfy his soul. As I heard years ago, “Evangelism is merely one beggar showing another beggar where the food is.”
Meanwhile, may I look to myself. How can I become more hungry for God? How can I be more grateful for the teaching and encouragement that I receive from others? Would I be as grateful for a “word fitly spoken” that is the seasoning of salt my life needs at that moment? May I learn to be as hungry and as grateful as my friend from Poland..