In 1991, I underwent 9 hours of intensive surgery to correct a neurological problem in my neck. For one week, I endured taunting from the enemy that God would never be able to use me again. Finally I began to pray. (I should have started there!) God's answer to the jabs from Satan was not at all what I expected to hear. I expected sympathy; I thought God would comfort me while I complained. Instead, God very plainly said to me, “So, the enemy is doing exactly what he is supposed to do. It's time for you to take control of the situation.”
When I asked God what He wanted me to do, I was left speechless by His reply. He instructed me to go to Saudi Arabia to the staging area for the Persian Gulf War and preach the Word to the troops assembling there. Was this a suicide mission?
I think my response was fairly typical. I said, “Excuse me, God. First, don't You know I had surgery a week ago? Second, don't You know that I'm Jewish, and the Saudis don't like Jews? Third, don't you know that I'm a preacher of the Gospel, and they don't like those either? And last but not least, I read the newspapers and no visas are being issued because of the coming war. How do you expect me to go to Saudi Arabia?”
The only thing I heard was a still, small voice that whispered, “Apply for a visa.”
So I limped down to the passport office and skeptically filled out my paperwork. Not for one moment did I think it would come through, but one week later I was holding a visa in my hand. Do you think I was delighted at this miraculous intervention? Not exactly! I set about informing God of all the other problems I still faced. I had no invitation to go, there were no churches in Saudi Arabia where I could preach, no one in the country knew me, and there was a war about to start.
God remained silent; I knew I was to go. Flight arrangements were made, and I climbed on a plane for a 24 hour flight. When we finally landed I was physically exhausted. I was just 2 weeks out from major surgery. After I cleared customs, I went in search of a hotel. After I checked in, I sat down on the edge of the bed and prayed, “Father, I'm here. Now what?”
In the phone book by the bed, I saw an advertisement for another hotel. Though I can't read Arabic, when I saw the name Dhahran Hotel in English, I heard God say, “Go.” I took a cab to that hotel. (If you want your prayer life tested, just take a ride in a Saudi cab!) Over the hotel I saw a banner that read “Joint Operation Command.”
I went inside, carrying my Bible and went up to the first official looking person I saw. I stuck out my hand and said, “How are you?” He looked at me with horror etched on his face. “Who are you? And what on earth are you doing here with that Bible?” I replied that I was a preacher from the United States.
“That's impossible!” he exclaimed. “I didn't know that chaplains assigned to our servicemen and women serving in Muslim countries weren’t allowed to wear a cross, and were even going by the name of ‘Recreation and Motivation Coordinators.” The official continued, “You're going to end up in jail.”
“Why?” I asked. “Because you're a Christian. How did you get here?”
“British Airlines,” I smiled. “They have flights three times a week!” He told me to go back to my hotel, pack up and get out of the country in 40 hours, or I would end up in jail. I began to think he was right and I would end preaching in prison like Paul. I got back in a cab and we started driving. Suddenly I told the driver to stop. We were at the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division.
I walked up to the guard at the gate and asked to speak to the chaplain. “Who are you?” he asked. “I'm Mike Evans, a preacher from Dallas, Texas.” “How did you get here?” “British Airlines.” (This was starting to sound familiar!) “You, sir, are going to end up in jail.” That really sounded familiar. But I persisted until I was able to speak to the chaplain, and after some persuading I had the honor of preaching to our troops every day until I left the country. It was both humbling and encouraging to know that God was using me to minister to our men and women far from home in such difficult circumstances. But it only happened because of Radical Obedience.
I define Radical Obedience as “the act or practice of obeying, in dutiful and submissive compliance.” It is all about going the extra mile—doing what God says even when it seems to contradict everything we think of in our own plans and wisdom. It is a willingness to do what God says, regardless of the costs or consequences. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Having once discerned the voice of God, obey without question. If you have to stand alone and nobody will befriend you, stand alone and God will befriend you.”