“God works in mysterious ways”. Is that just a saying?
Many of you know that I sort of grew up in the Church. I was probably 12 when we started attending. I have seen all sorts of attitudes come and go over time. Some people were fun loving, caring and full of zeal. Sometimes those same people could be blunt, even short-tempered towards those outside of the Church. We had all the answers – or so we thought. You could say that our knowledge gave us a sort of arrogance, or at least a sense of pride.
You have heard it said that God works in mysterious ways. Is that just some quaint saying? Perhaps you have heard that a coincidence is just God’s way of being anonymous. Do you think that might be so? What types of “coincidences” does God use to reach people? Is there anything interesting that God is doing half a world away? More importantly, what should our attitudes be towards other misguided people who firmly believe in what they are doing but don’t quite have the entire packet of truth that we in the COG have?
The Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is geographically the largest country in SE Asia, although its population density is one of the lowest. 1 Officially, Myanmar is Theravada Buddhist. There are some Christians and Muslims, but both groups are persecuted. The Karen, many of which are Christian, are actively persecuted and targeted. Perhaps you have read it online, in the news or in my blog about the brutal regime of Myanmar. They found an excuse to charge the leader of the National League for Democracy party and rightfully elected prime minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, with violating her detention. One year after Cyclone Nargis, many orphans are still left to fend for themselves because the government just can’t be bothered with them. You may recall as well how Myanmar refused to allow foreign aid workers into the country and how much the people suffered as a result.
Myanmar is surrounded by various countries:
China – officially atheist. Those who are not tend to be Buddhist, Taoists and various folk religions.2
Laos – 67% Buddhist, 1.5% Christian.3
Thailand – 94.7% Buddhist, 4.6% Muslim, 0.75% Christian.4
Bangladesh – 89.7% Islam, 9.2% Hindu, 0.3% Christian.5
India – 80.5% Hindu, 13.4% Islam, 2.3% Christian.6
In contrast, Myanmar has 4% Christians, not including the Chin State (not official citizens). Indigenous Karen were originally animistic. In 1919, before the military coup, 17% were Christian. Because of the military junta, there are no current numbers. The last official tally was over 18% of Karen were Christians in some regions as of 1977, but as low as 1.7% in the lowest.7
Why would animistic Karen tribes turn to Christianity? Why would roughly 10% stick with it in the face of official persecution?
Mr Armstrong used to say that it is 11 times harder to unlearn something than to learn it the first time. I agree with that assessment, but I don’t necessarily agree with his subsequent conclusions. All of the world’s religions are wrong by definition. Who will have an easier time in the 2nd resurrection to learn God’s ways? The Baptist? The Buddhist? The animist? I think you can realize that even though a Baptist was converted to a false religion, the Baptist will have to unlearn significantly less than the animist who believes in worshiping spirits in rocks, trees and the like.
We often say that mankind picks good fruit and bad fruit, but in general mankind is picking from the wrong tree. Can God use the fruit of that tree for His purpose? Can God use outright evil to accomplish good?
Let’s turn to 1Ki 22:19-23 to answer the question, “Can God use evil to bring about good?” I think we know the answer to this.
And he [Micaiah the prophet] said, Hear thou [Ahab king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah] therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.
And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
~ 1Ki 22:19-23
There were 2 miracles that occurred to plant seeds in Burma. I heard this story on the radio while driving. Naturally, it grabbed my attention because of my interest in SE Asia. However, this story is intriguing by any standards.
Look for Part 2 of this amazing story!
See final part for footnotes and sources.