Jim Cymbala

B. Childress
May 19 2013

I wasn’t expecting the Holy Spirit to join me for lunch, yet that’s exactly what happened.

My wife, Carol, was out of town, so I went to a little café that I like on Long Island.  I found a quiet table against the wall,
ordered my usual salad, and while I was enjoying my healthy food, I caught up on some reading.  I subscribe to the
York Times
on my Kindle, and I’d already read through several stories when a headline caught my attention: “Hate
Engulfs Christians in Pakistan.”  I was well into my salad by then, but I set my fork down as I read the article:

    The blistered black walls of the Hameed family’s bedroom tell of an unspeakable crime.  Seven family members
    died here on Saturday, six of them burned to death by a mob that had broken into their house and shot the
    grandfather dead, just because they were Christian.

    The family had huddled in the bedroom, talking in whispers with their backs pressed against the door, as the mob
    taunted them.

    “They said, ‘If you come out, we’ll kill you,’” said Ikhlaq Hameed 22, who escaped.  Among the dead were two
    children, Musa, 6, and Umaya, 13.

The article described a rampage by a crowd of twenty thousand Muslims that lasted eight hours in Gojra, Pakistan,
where Christians represent less than 5 percent of the population.  In addition to the murdered members of the Hameed
family, twenty Christians were wounded, and the mob burned and looted a hundred Christian homes, in some cases also
wiping out the family’s livelihood.


The day before, Christians at a wedding party in a nearby village were accused of burning a Qur’an.  Officials who
looked into the accusation said the charges were false, but local religious leaders used the news to rally Muslims against
the local Christian minority.

The Hameeds, a Christian family, weren’t involved in any of that.  They were just eating breakfast in their home as the
mob gathered nearby.  When the grandfather opened the door to see what all the noise was for, the crowd of Muslims
rushed inside.  The Hameeds tried to take refuge in a back room as the mob entered their house and looted it before
setting it on fire.

The Spirit Moves in Me

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Often the mistreatment of Christians goes unreported in the national media, but
this story was in the
New York Times.  I searched other newspapers for additional information and learned that
apparently Pakistani police had stood by while the carnage went on.  A comment by one of the survivors moved me the
most.  He said he wouldn’t retaliate because the Bible taught him to pray that his enemies would see the light.

I began to pray for the Christians in Pakistan, but as I prayed, I found myself weeping, and I had to turn my face toward
the wall.  I was concerned others in the café would see my tears and wonder what was wrong.  What a tragedy!  I couldn’
t imagine the suffering those people were going through because of their faith in Jesus.  I felt such a bond with them –
those brothers and sisters whom I didn’t know personally but would one day spend eternity with.

Like Mr. Hameed, I am a Christian and a grandfather, but that’s where the similarities end.  I have never opened my door
to an angry mob and tried to protect my family from looters.  I’ve never watched my family die while trying to escape the
flames of our burning house.  I’ve never suffered physical violence because of my devotion to Christ.  I could only try to
imagine how those circumstances would test their faith.  Or my faith.

Here in America, we believers may feel like our faith is being tested by something as silly as a traffic jam or a car that
won’t start.  The truth is we’re all spoiled, including me.  I had so much and they had so little; our lives and experiences
were worlds apart.  And yet I now felt such a burden to help them.  But how?  I didn’t know anyone in Pakistan.  I was just
a simple man eating lunch alone in a Long Island café.  

The Holy Spirit had stirred my heart in an unusual way, and I couldn’t cease praying for them.  Lord, be with your
 Help them to find food, work, a roof over their heads, and a bed where they can rest.  Comfort them in their
grief.  Protect them.  Guard their minds – don’t let them lose faith because of the violence committed against them
.  I
prayed until I didn’t know what else to pray.  When I finished, I felt as if I’d done what I could, yet their tragedy remained
in my heart like a weight.

For the rest of that Monday and most of the next day, I went about my business, but my mind frequently returned to
those people, and each time it did, I interceded in prayer for them.  One man had sold grain from a cart, but the mob had
burned it along with a chest for his daughter’s dowry.  Where would he find work now that the tools of his trade were
gone?  Families were suddenly homeless and on the street searching for a place to live.  The people in their church
couldn’t even help them, because a hundred other houses had also been burned and looted.  Only God could help them
cope with such pain and loss.

The Spirit Connects Two Worlds

Every Tuesday night the Brooklyn Tabernacle holds a prayer meeting.  That next evening, as I sat in the front row
singing and praying with my church family, I still couldn’t get those Pakistani believers out of my mind.  Something was
unsettled in my spirit.  I felt like I needed to do something more; I just didn’t know what.

At some point in the meeting I stood up.  “Something’s heavy on my heart,” I said to the church.  “I can’t shake this, and I
want to share it with you.  And then we’re going to pray.  I don’t know what else to do.”  I pulled out my Kindle and
prepared to read from it.  “We’re a long way from Pakistan, and most of us will probably never go there – but listen to

As I read the article, I could feel the congregation’s pain at the thought of a mother and her child being burned to death
because of their faith.  Like me, they grieved for those Christians who lost family members, homes, and jobs.

“Let’s pray right now,” I said after finishing the article.  “God said in the day of trouble we should call upon him and he
would answer us.  Let’s stand and get into groups of three or four all across the building.  The Bible also says that the
Lord is ‘the God of all comfort.’  Let’s ask our Father to minister to those precious believers on the other side of the
world.”  Immediately, fervent voices filled the building with the sacred sound of men and women calling on the name of
the Lord.

I believe the Tuesday night prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is the spiritual engine that drives the church.  My
wife and I began there more than thirty-five years ago with a handful of people on Sundays and less than a handful on
Tuesday nights.  But now years later, at least fifteen hundred people were present.  Some had come two hours early to
get a head start at the throne of grace.

I joined hands with a few other men in the front row, and we added our voices to theirs.  But as we finished praying out
loud and I thought about transitioning into the offering, my mind was still searching for something else we could do.  
Lord, we’ve prayed as best we could.  Is there something else I am supposed to do?  It’s time for the offering; it would be
great if we could send them some money.  Maybe we can slice off a portion of tonight’s offering to help these believers?  
But God, who would we send it to?  I don’t know anyone in Pakistan.  I don’t even know anyone who knows a Christian
there.  Should I mention this to the people?  But what if I can’t follow through on moving the funds to where they’re
needed?  Oh God, direct me.  Lead me to what I should do

I finished praying and moved back onto the platform.  “Please be seated,” I said.

As I paused, waiting for them to be seated, Craig, a leader in our church, rushed down the center aisle waving his hands
to get my attention.  I switched off my mike so I could hear what he had to say.

“Pastor, there’s a woman sitting in the back – she’s from Pakistan.”

A woman from Pakistan in our downtown Brooklyn church on a Tuesday night? “Send her up,” I told Craig.

Craig led her forward, and in front of everyone, with my mike still off, I chatted with the woman.

“Have you been here before?” I asked her.

“No, it’s my first time.”

“And you’re from Pakistan?”

“Yes, my husband is a pastor there.  My husband and my father-in-law were among the first outside Christians to go into
Gojra to bring help.”


“Yes, they are there right now.”

Just imagine, at that very moment, her husband was in the town we were praying for!  He was working with other
representatives to bring aid to the families who had lost loved ones and homes.  That was her first time visiting the
Brooklyn Tabernacle – the very same night I had spontaneously asked the church to pray for the Christians in Gojra,

I shared what she said with the people in the church.  There was an audible gasp, and then the room filled with a sense
of holy wonder and awe as people began to spontaneously thank God for this woman, her husband, and their ministry.

I was in shock.

The church was in shock.

The woman was in shock.

We had called out to God for some way to comfort and aid those involved in this catastrophe, and within minutes we
found out the Lord was ahead of us.

We took up a collection for the persecuted Christians in Pakistan, raising thousands of dollars for the Pakistani
believers.  I instructed Steve, our CFO, to check out the details of the woman’s story and contact her husband.  
Everything was legit, and her husband seemed a very godly man.  Later that week, another member of our church heard
the details of what happened at the prayer meeting.  He came forward and wrote a check for ten thousand dollars to add
to what we had already collected.  We sent the money to Gojra as quickly as we could.

Don’t Miss the Blessing

Does that kind of story seem strange to you?

Have you ever been part of such a divine arrangement?

Perhaps you find the whole thing hard to believe.  Maybe you even think it’s the kind of story a pastor tells, embellishing
the details for an effect.  Or worse, perhaps you think I made it up.

But it happened.

And it shouldn’t surprise us.

It was nothing more than the Holy Spirit leading a person, and then a church, to pray for and send help to hurting
believers on the other side of the earth.  No one had to think it up or figure it out – or for that matter, take credit for it.

Sitting in that café reading about the Christians in Pakistan, I felt a God-given burden for them even though I didn’t know
them.  At the time, I had no idea what would take place in the next few days; I was just moved by their suffering and
frustrated because I couldn’t help.  Now I understand why my heart had been so affected by their situation.  If I had
ignored the deep compassion for the Pakistanis that the Spirit had stirred in me, if I had ignored the prompting of the
Spirit to pray, the connection that God had planned for that Tuesday night between our congregation and the Pakistani
believers never would have happened.

What a loss it would have been if the people of Gojra had never received our financial aid.  But what a bigger loss it
would have been to me, and our prayer meeting, had we not experienced the working of the Holy Spirit in such a
profound and dramatic way.  God stepped in and did something “immeasurably more than all we [could] ask or imagine”
(Ephesians 3:20).  He is that kind of dramatic, prayer-answering God, and we could have missed it.  It was amazing to be
a part of something so beautifully orchestrated and timed by the Holy Spirit.  

But those kinds of Holy Spirit disruptions shouldn’t seem shocking to us if we carefully read our New Testament.  
Examples of the Holy Spirit’s work appear often in accounts of the early church.  Unfortunately, today many of us have
gotten used to doing without the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and churches.  

Consider these honest questions:

  • How many Christians suffer from a spiritual life that is dry and mechanical?

  • How many serve a Jesus, whom they know about from the Bible, but who is not a living reality in their experience?

  • And do we ever wonder why Holy Spirit interventions are so rare among our congregations?

  • Could it be that we’re missing out on some wonderful blessings planned for our lives and churches because we’re
    not properly acquainted with the person and work of God the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is God’s agent on earth, yet he is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed
member of the Trinity.  And that is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become a dry, mechanical
struggle.  That's why I am so happy we’re beginning this study of the Holy Spirit.  I can’t think of anything else that will
change your prayer life, your study of God’s Word, and your experience during worship in church more than inviting the
Spirit to join you in a new way.

On the pages that follow, you’ll learn more about who the Holy Spirit is, what happens when he moves, and how you can
surrender yourself to his leading.  Along the way, you’ll meet some radically transformed people whose stories are so
powerful I wanted you to hear them from the people who experienced them – in their own words and in their own
chapters.  There is only one thing more powerful than seeing the Spirit work in someone else’s life, and that is seeing
him work in yours.

If you want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in your life, ask the Spirit to come and do something new
.  Perhaps you’ll be surprised when the Holy Spirit joins you for lunch, like he did me that day in that Long Island
café.  But I promise you that when he does, your spiritual life will cease to be dry and mechanical.  Instead, it will be filled
with awe at the power of the Spirit and the wonder of God’s goodness.


SPIRIT RISING, by Jim Cymbala with Jennifer Schuchmann, Copyright 2012, Zondervan.