Have you ever noticed that God’s ways and God’s plans are so much better than our own? Have you ever seen God do the miraculous when we would have been content for so much less? Part of growing in our faith — part of becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ — is learning to do God’s work in God’s way, and seeing the Lord accomplish even more than we could have ever hoped for, dreamt of, or imagined, according to Ephesians 3:20.
In our new book, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of All Nations One Person At A Time, Dr. T.E. Koshy (the pastor from India who discipled me in college) and I not only explain the “how-to” story of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ and then discipling them so they grow to maturity in their faith. That is a key aspect of the book, but we also go further. We also share testimonies of how we were discipled, and some of the exciting — even miraculous — lessons we learned along the way of how God wants to accomplish so much more in and through each one of us, if only we would let Him. While I believe the American Church has experienced an epic failure of discipleship in recent decades, I have not lost hope. To the contrary, I believe that the Lord wants to do great and mighty things in and through any man, woman or child who is willing to follow Christ wholeheartedly and do God’s work in God’s way. Indeed, I believe there are millions of Americans (and others around the world) hungering to discover the greatness of our great God in a much deeper, much richer, much more powerful way. There are so many hungering and thirsting to know Christ intimately, and to make Him known to others desperate for God’s forgiveness and joy and eternal peace.
Today, let me share with you one of my favorite excerpts from The Invested Life — a story of how God showing Dr. Koshy that His plans are so much better than our own.
TESTIMONY: GANDHI by Dr. T.E. Koshy (from page 74 of The Invested Life)
I had great plans to become a high-powered lawyer and reach the educated elite of my country for Christ or to become a foreign correspondent and travel the world, covering the great events shaping our times.
My destiny was not—I was convinced—on the dusty, dirty, poverty-stricken streets of India. It was in receiving a world-class education and walking the halls of power in the world’s most important capitals. In following my ambitions, I would go on to pursue and receive five college and university degrees and travel to Washington, DC, as a journalist, eventually covering President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House.
But my discipler, Brother Bakht Singh, frequently challenged me. “The only thing God is building in this world is his church,” he would say. “Why write about history when you can make it? Why spend your life reporting about the lives of the rich and famous when you can invest your life helping the humble and the needy meet the God who loves them and gave himself for them? If you have no successor, are you truly a success?” Such were the questions that seemed to ring in my ears.
It took me many years to understand how I was supposed to apply the lessons I was learning from Bakht Singh to the unique plan and purpose God had for my life. For one thing, when it came to being a practicing lawyer or journalist, God made it clear to me his answer was “No.” He wanted me to go to Bible college in England and prepare for the ministry. I struggled with that, but eventually I went in obedience.
While in England, some people connected with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who knew I’d been discipled by Brother Bakht Singh invited me to embark on a speaking tour through all the major universities of England, including Oxford and Cambridge. I couldn’t believe it.
I arrived at Oxford University to speak to a group of doctoral candidates, most of whom were not Christians. I was assigned a subject to speak on, specifically the uniqueness of Christ and the futility of philosophy. So of course, I brushed up on my reading of all the great philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. I gathered quotations from all these important people and prepared a twelve-page lecture to present the next day. At midnight, I was on my knees praying, asking the Lord to bless my presentation. After all, I had seen Brother Bakht Singh pray about everything—absolutely everything—and I was seeking to follow his example. But something happened I didn’t expect—and didn’t like.
The Lord said to me very clearly, “Throw that lecture in the dustbin.”
“What? Lord, what do you mean by that?” I asked, stunned. “Then what shall I speak about?”
“Tell them about your experience with me,” the Lord said.
“Lord,” I argued, “I came to know you at ten years old. I was not a murderer. I was not a drug addict. I don’t have exciting stories to tell these people. Lord, don’t you know? These are not Sunday school kids. They are brilliant. This is Oxford University.”
But the Lord said to me, “Listen, who knows better, you or me? If you know better than I do, why are you asking me to bless this lecture that you’ve written? If you want me to bless your talk, then tell them your experiences with me.”
“Lord, you are giving me a very hard task,” I said glumly.
I must confess, that night I had a real hard time with the Lord. Here I was on a speaking tour for him, but I didn’t want to do God’s work God’s way. All night, I wrestled with what God was asking of me, my pride battling against my faith.
The next day I arrived at the lecture hall, and the chairman introduced me—very formally, as they do in England—explaining the subject I was assigned to speak on. Imagine, then, his surprise when I stood and said, a bit sheepishly, “Yes, I was going to speak on that subject. In fact, I prepared this lecture . . .” I held it up because I wanted them to know I could do better than what I was about to do. My ego at work. “But I’m not going to deliver it.”
A hush settled over the crowd. My stomach was tied up in knots.
“As I was praying last night, the Lord asked me to tell you about my experiences with Jesus. Perhaps some of you may not like it,” I said, having little doubt about that.
I was already seeing my Waterloo, my downfall and humiliation. Okay, I thought. These fellows will never invite me back to Oxford. This is the end of it. But yes, Lord, I will obey (however begrudgingly). I continued speaking. “So I prayed and asked the Lord, ‘What do you want me to speak on?’ He said, ‘Christ the Savior, Christ the Sovereign, Christ the Sufficiency, Christ the Strength, Christ the Supplier, Christ the Security, and Christ the Soon-Coming King. He gave me the outline last night while I was on my knees.” Then I shared from my heart how the Lord had become real to me in each of these seven ways. After speaking, I just wanted to hide myself.
When it was over, the audience clapped in their traditional, formal way. The chairman of the lecture said, very politely, “Well, thank you, Mr. Koshy, for coming and enlightening us. Now, if any of you would like to talk to him about anything further, he will be available.”
Where’s the door? I thought. I was sure nobody would stay.
But no one left. To my utter astonishment, not a single student left the lecture hall. Instead, each and every one of them formed a line to ask me questions. Many teared up as they shook my hand, barely controlling their emotions, and said, “Come back again; we want to hear more of this kind of lecture.” I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears.
Then I noticed one Indian—the only other Indian in the entire room—standing at the end of this long line of students waiting to talk with me. I knew this young man had to be somebody important, to have the education and wealth and influence to be here at Oxford University. I desperately wanted to meet him and talk with him. I was afraid the long line would discourage him and he might leave. But I couldn’t exactly walk away from everyone else and go directly to this Indian. What could I do?
I began praying in my heart that the Lord would constrain this fellow to stay so I could meet him, and the Lord answered my prayers. Though it took more than half an hour before his turn came, this young Indian man came and grabbed me by the hand and said, “Sir, I want to thank you for coming and speaking on your experiences with Jesus. Ever since I came to Oxford, I have been going to churches to hear about Jesus Christ. All I have been hearing have been philosophical discourses, far removed from the realities of God.”
Inside, as I listened to this enthusiastic, grateful student, I felt ashamed. For that was exactly what I was going to tell this audience. That was exactly what I had prepared. A philosophical discourse.
“But today you came,” he continued. “You spoke to us from your heart about your own personal experiences with Jesus. Perhaps many may not agree with you. But no man can refute what you said.”
“What is your name?” I asked him eagerly.
“My name is Ramchandran,” he said.
“What is your last name?” I pressed.
“Please don’t ask me that,” he replied. “The moment people hear my last name they behave as though I have no first name. I am sick and tired of that. So please don’t ask me.”
I asked him again, but he resisted.
“Please,” I implored him. “Please.”
He hesitated, but then he lowered his voice and said, “If you insist, it is Gandhi.”
I was stunned, not knowing what to say.
“You are Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson?”
“That is what I told you. See, now you are talking about Mahatma Gandhi. Now you are not interested in me.”
I was speechless.
Here was one of the grandsons of the renowned Mahatma Gandhi, the father of India, who had led the nonviolent revolution for freedom from the British and sought, though unsuccessfully, to create a sense of harmony and unity between Hindus and Muslims. And Mahatma Gandhi was this young man’s father’s father. His mother’s father was the last governor-general of India, who took the reins of power for India back from the British via Lord Mountbatten in 1947, when India became an independent country. Here I was speaking with—indeed, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with—a grandson of two of the most influential Indians of all time.
I immediately assured him that I was most definitely interested in him personally, and we continued chatting for some time. Unfortunately, however, it got late. I had to get back to my college. So I thanked Ramchandran Gandhi, and we parted ways. The secretary of the organization who invited me began driving me back to my room. He was a blue-eyed young Englishman. It was raining. I still remember that night, for as he was driving, he broke down crying.
“The moment when you got up and said that you were changing the subject and you were going to speak on your experiences with Jesus, I said to myself that I wished we had not invited you.
“But,” he quickly added, trying to hold back his tears, “that message was for me. I am a Christian. I was backsliding. That message challenged my heart.” He started weeping so hard he had to pull the car to the side of the road. Then he controlled himself, continued driving, and dropped me off at the railway station.
Some time later I received a letter from Oxford.
Will you consider coming and spending three months with us to give more lectures?
That encounter provided a formative lesson for me.
As true disciples of Jesus Christ, we must always be willing to do God’s work in God’s way. We must be willing to go where he sends us and say what he tells us to say. We must always be ready to share our faith—always ready for “divine appointments”—because we never know who is listening.
Here I had wanted to become a great lawyer or journalist to reach the influential elites of India for Jesus. I had argued with the Lord when he said no to my own plans and strategies.
But what happened? The Lord Jesus himself took me thousands of miles away from India, to Bible college in England of all places, on a speaking tour to Oxford, just to meet and share the gospel with the grandson of Gandhi.
Our God is an awesome God.
He works in mysterious ways. The question is, will we let him work that way in our lives? Or will we rebel, thinking we know better?
Some years later, I was passing through Delhi. I picked up the phone and called the home of Dr. Gandhi. His wife answered.
“Is Dr. Gandhi available?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Who is this?”
I explained who I was and said that we once met at Oxford. Suddenly the young man was on the line. “Dr. Gandhi, you may not remember me. My name is Koshy.”
This was thirteen years later. But you know what he said? “Are you the Koshy who came to Oxford and spoke on the subject of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and your personal experience with him?”
“You mean you still remember that?” I asked, amazed.
“How can I ever forget it? Do you have time to have a meal with me?”
The next day he came and picked me up and took me to a restaurant in New Delhi. We had lunch. What he said humbled me. “Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate incarnation. He alone could identify with the sufferings of the masses.” The more we talked, the more amazed I grew, for the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi had become a believer in Jesus Christ.
In time I would obey the Lord’s voice and Brother Bakht Singh’s advice. By God’s grace I was married, became a pastor, became the evangelical chaplain at Syracuse University in upstate New York, planted a church, and launched International Friendship Evangelism, a ministry to international students in the United States and around the world. My passport would be filled with many stamps, but for God’s glory, not my own.
For about eight months every school year at Syracuse University, my wife, Indira, and I, along with our ministry team, build bridges of relationships cross-culturally with students from all over the world. We host “friendship lunches” and other meals for them. We teach them conversational English. We invite them to picnics and other outings to help them make friends. We teach them about the love of Jesus Christ. We invite them to receive Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. And we disciple them one-on-one and in small groups, equipping them to go back to their home countries and reach their families, friends, and countrymen for Christ.
Then, for about three or four months of the year, my colleagues and I travel around the world, responding to requests from former students that we visit them, help them establish new churches, discover and share the joy of biblical worship, and teach them how to disciple others and train up new leaders. It has not been the life I envisioned for myself some four decades ago. No, it has been far more satisfying and, I pray, far more useful.
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- Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?
- (NEW) The Invested Life: Making Disciples Of All Nations One Person At A Time (with Dr. T.E. Koshy)
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- My spiritual journey — how did my parents and I come to faith in Jesus Christ?