In Matthew 13, Jesus reached into everyone’s cupboard, so to speak, for an ingredient that illustrated a profound truth about the work of the gospel.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (v. 33)
The yeast folded into the batch of dough would gradually spread its fermenting influence, and the result would be delicious baked bread that would feed many. This parable speaks of the quiet, pervasive, beneath-the-surface, behind-the-scenes influence of the gospel.
Sometimes the impact of a word of witness, a gospel tract, or a passage of Scripture may take years to observe. Though the initial outcome may apparently be unsuccessful, the Spirit is at work in His appointed time and means. This was powerfully shown to me in the life of Ghafur, a Moroccan believer who came to faith out of Islam, but that journey was a long one indeed. At a house church gathering one night, he shared his story with me.
More than fifty years ago, Ghafur was a soldier sent to the Middle East during a time of war. One day, he met a man in the street who was desperately searching for food for his family. Ghafur knew where he could get some supplies, so he got the food and accompanied the man back to his home, where the wife said with joy and relief, “We prayed to God in the name of Jesus, and He has heard our prayers!” Over the years, Ghafur never forgot the kindness of these Christians—nor the fact that when they prayed in Jesus’ name, they got answers.
Fifty years later, Ghafur was working as a security guard at a supermarket and saw a man waiting in the parking lot reading a book. “What are you reading?” Ghafur asked. “It’s the New Testament,” the man replied. “I heard of this book many years ago. Can I have one?” Ghafur asked. The man gave the book to him and asked him to read the gospel of Matthew. The next time they met, Ghafur told him that he had read the entire New Testament and wanted to know more. After coming to an understanding of the gospel, Ghafur, like the Christians he met decades earlier, prayed in Jesus’ name and got answers.
Jesus set His sovereign love on my brother and made him new—and Ghafur told everyone he knew. As a result, his family rejected him and his wife left him. During our prayer time, Ghafur praised God for his new brothers and sisters. When the pastor asked for favorites during the singing, Ghafur’s request went along with his testimony: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” They have a verse of this song in Arabic that we don’t have in English that goes, “If I’m put in chains, or go to prison, no turning back, no turning back.”