Regeneration is a miracle wrought by God. If it seems so easy to be born again it is because the Lord Jesus drank that unspeakably bitter cup at the cross. He paid for our Redemption by shedding His own Blood. It is because of that that it is not difficult to receive the Lord into one’s heart. Much travailing prayer preceded the New Birth. God alone can give the equipment to bind the strong man and rob him of his prey.
We saw this happen again and again. Space allows only a few instances here. I want to tell you first about a man I shall call ‘Bernt.’
During a certain evangelistic campaign he came to speak to me after the afternoon Bible reading. ‘I have to speak to you. Where shall we be undisturbed?’ he rasped.
Gladly and expectantly I led him to the bedroom. When we were seated I looked at him searchingly. This was our first meeting after twenty years. His face had become wrecked by evil. A haunting place of ghosts. Now he scowled, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ He was not able to look me in the face but continued, ‘Where is your congregation? – What do you think you’re doing in this village where you are only a stranger? What business have you here? Did you church committee send you here?’
What was it in that face that made me feel so uncomfortable, and what was so repellent in that rough voice? I forgot to answer, and as if rooted on the spot watched from the side those evil eyes staring into the corner. I had hoped that a sinner was seeking the way of salvation.
‘Answer me!’ he roared. ‘Did your church committee send you here? Your place is in your own church and nowhere else.’
‘I have brought my congregation with me,’ I smiled, trying to lighten the atmosphere somewhat.
‘Oh? And the others? Who cares for the others? If someone were dying today, who’s going to administer Holy Communion? Who is tending the flock which you have left behind in the wilderness?’
At that I had to laugh. This had the effect of making Bernt even madder. How strange were those jerky movements. I had never noticed them before. I wondered what was the matter with him.
‘Listen, my church committee knows I am here and has sanctioned this campaign.’
Bernt glared a moment, then said, ‘In that case I have nothing more to say.’ With that he rose and made for the door.
Dumbfounded I watched him leave. Then I followed him slowly. Would he come again to hear the Word of God, I wondered.
Sure enough that evening he was in the church again, in the front row. His manner seemed more friendly. He listened attentively and had to blow his nose repeatedly and noisily. When we sang the closing hymn, ‘Take Thou my hand, and lead me…’ he hurried out.
It did not seem the same Bernt when he came up to me at the end of the campaign. He shook me hand fervently and said, ‘Come to our home too and help us!’ Already his movements were less jerky and his face calmer. ‘But you won’t come I know,’ he mumbled bitterly, turning away. ‘No one ever visits me – I’m too bad.’
Laughingly I seized him by the shoulders and shook him a little, ‘Bernt, really you are a wild one! Tell me when it suits you and I’ll come.’
He squinted at me, not being sure whether to believe me or not. Then he said, ‘But bring your wife along with you or you’ll leave again too quickly.’
He walked to his car then wheeled and came back to me.
‘I shall send you the fare,’ he said. ‘And bring the baby too so your wife won’t want to hurry back to it.’
‘All right,’ I answered happily and turned to greet the others who wanted to bid farewell after a truly blest week.
The journey with the little one was not easy. And yet there was joy in speeding through the African veld. The thorn trees seemed to be waving as they passed quickly out of sight. The mountains, with their lonely crags, volcanic cones and deep kloofs unfolded before our eyes one by one. Then, as one looks into the blue, blue sky, one can exult in the struggle. Indeed it is a privilege to do battle for the sake of the One Who has already triumphed and Who will return as Victor.
Africa is vast. But how infinitely more vast will be His kingdom. The victory is, therefore, ours.
A day or two later I was prostrate beneath a giant old tree pleading with God, ‘Lord I will not let you go until Thou hast delivered Bernt’s soul from the clutches of the evil one.
That afternoon Bernt had thrown me out of his house shouting, ‘Leave me alone – let me go to hell. All your efforts are useless. I am lost. I am impenitent and my heart is hardened. I have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit.’
Now I was lying in the virgin forest seeking to overcome the strong man and rob him of his prey. While thus striving in intercession I received the quiet assurance that that very day the dark ban would be broken and Bernt saved. In relief I rose and returned to the house.
The homestead was set in the midst of a profusion of banana trees. As I approached I saw Bernt sitting gloomily in his chair. He did not look up but remained motionless as I passed him. In the bedroom I came upon a scene of serene tranquillity, my wife mothering little Renate. She lifted her head and smiled at me, but her eyes were swollen with weeping.
Suddenly we heard a resounding crash in the house, followed by the noise of things being knocked about. A door slammed. Then silence reigned. Fragments of glass were lying on the cement floor in the sitting room. Bernt had flung a water glass on the floor, stormed out of the room and then shut the door of the car with a loud bang.
His wife followed him quietly, sat down next to him and remained faithfully at her husband’s side during the hours that followed. She had opened her heart to the Lord a few days before and now she spoke soothingly to Bernt.
It was nearly midnight when she came in. looked at me and said, ‘Bernt would like to speak to you.’ We went together to the car. It was parked behind the big ant hill which stood out pale and baleful in the moonlight like some shadowy spectre watching the lonely man. We climbed in and shut the door.
It is a deeply moving experience to se a strong man breaking down and openly confessing his sin. The enemy of souls guards vigilantly to prevent the slightest ray from falling into the benighted soul. Remorselessly the sinister foe hurls accusations against him – blow upon bow – to drive the despairing man away from the Cross upon which atonement was made for all his sin. That night Satan had to give up his prey; he had been vanquished by a stronger than he. Jesus Christ the victorious One.
The evil spell was broken when we took the magic root out of the drawer and burnt it about midnight. A close relative had advised Bernt to get this little root and keep it as protection against Black Magic. Though he did not realise it, this step brought his soul into bondage to hell. Now this devil’s substance – of which there is so much in the world – was burning, and a poor prisoner was being set free. With his rough voice Bernt tried to sing a song of praise. The angels in heaven heard it and rejoiced.
The next day Bernt asked me, ‘Tell me, what can such a one as I do for the Lord Jesus?’
‘Such a one as you? What do you mean? You are a child of the holy and living God and you are no longer allowed to despise and hate yourself. Trust your Lord and Saviour, whose possession you are now, to show you how you are to serve Him and what to bring to Him as a thank offering.’
Eternity alone will reveal the many Bibles and New Testaments which Bernt distributed amongst the natives.
Doctors and nurses stood marvelling at his deathbed. They could not fathom how anyone could die the way Bernt died. In him was perfected the triumph of the stronger One, who overcame ‘the strong man fully armed.’