Confident Faith in God Stories

STORY #6--Providential "Coincidence" for Affirmation

    Posted by Klaus Issler on April 6, 2010

JESUS:     "'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”    (Mark 11:22-24)

STORY #6— Providential “Coincidence” for Affirmation

      A few summers ago I (J. P.) suffered from a series of anxiety attacks that lead to a debilitating seven-month depression.  Almost immediately after sinking into an emotional and spiritual abyss, I began to be plagued with doubts and self-criticism about my academic, scholarly work.  My self-talk, which I believe was energized by demonic attacks, was filled with repeated accusations that I had wasted my life studying, writing, and lecturing and that my intellectual endeavors for the cause of Christ had achieved very little.  This repeated thought plagued me for several weeks, plunging me deeper into depression. I felt my work had been meaningless and, as a result, my life was basically meaningless.  In the midst of this plunge, I went to Columbia International University, in Columbia, South Carolina to deliver a five-day lecture series.  I live in Southern California and South Carolina seems half way across the world to me.  I knew no one in Columbia and had never been there before.
      Just before dinner on July 15, 2003, I came down with an extreme migraine headache.  I can go five years without even a small headache, so this was a first for me.  I took Tylenol, canceled my evening lecture and went to bed in my dorm room at Columbia International.  But things got worse.  My head was wracked with pain.  Around 6 pm I received a phone call from a conferee who lived in the area.  He said he was taking me to the emergency room.  I slumped into his front seat, and he drove me to a walk-in clinic about 15-20 miles away in Irmo, South Carolina.  I staggered in, left my driver’s license at the front desk and was whisked away to the emergency room.  Immediately, two nurses hooked monitors to my chest and brain, and began testing me to find out what was wrong.  My blood pressure was off the charts.  They gave me an injection to alleviate the headache, and it began to work quickly.
      After about five minutes of this, the doctor on-call that evening walked in the door.  Holding my driver’s license he said, “Are you J. P. Moreland?  The one who teaches at Talbot Seminary?”  Taken a bit off guard, I nodded.  “I don’t believe this!  There are nurses here who would give their eyeteeth if a movie star walked through those doors.  In my case, if I could pick one person in the entire country to come in here, it would be you.  Dr. Moreland, I can’t thank you enough for what you have done in the intellectual world for the cause of Christ!  I have read almost all your books, and, hey, you know that book Body and Soul you wrote with Scott Rae?  I teach ethics at a local community college, and I use that as a text.  I can’t believe I am getting to meet you!”
      It turned out that I had most likely eaten some bad shrimp at dinner the day before this happened, and it takes about 24 hours for the food poisoning to hit someone.  But as soon as this doctor shared with me the impact I had had on him, the Lord spoke to me:  “I am well-pleased with your academic work for my name’s sake.  You have done well.  Keep trusting me.”  At the very moment of my need to be reassured of the meaning of my intellectual work, I met a doctor who “happened” to be on duty that evening in a city in which I had never been who valued the very work for which I needed consolation during my depression.  What a “coincidence”!  It has been my repeated meditation on things like this in my own life that has reassured me that God knows about my needs and that I can trust him to act when he knows the timing is right.
      There are a couple of ways to recognize whether such events are really from God.  The more two factors are present, the more grounds you have for being confident that a circumstance is, indeed, from the hand of God and not merely a coincidence:  (1) the more improbable the event, the more likely it is from God; (2) the greater the specificity and religious significance of the event, the more likely it is from God.  The first principle is pretty obvious.  If I pray that the sun will come up tomorrow and it does, it is quite unlikely that my prayer had anything to do with the result.  The sun would have come up even if I had not prayed.  If I pray to get a place to live in the next twelve months and it happens, then even though God may very well have answered this prayer, because the outcome is fairly probable, the result does not provide much by way of evidence for answered prayer.  However, if I pray for a white house with a white picket fence two miles from campus with a rent of no more that $115/month and it happens, this result is highly improbable.

© J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler, 2008.
In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity), pp. 145-148.

 “True faith is never found alone; it is always accompanied by expectations.
The man who believes the promise of God expects to see them fulfilled. Where there is no expectation there is no faith.” 

A. W. Tozer

God Tells the Man Who Cares
(Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1970), 37.

Dr. Klaus Issler