I know a man who became a Christian because he was curious about an empty apartment across the hall from his own. The former tenants having left, my friend went into the apartment to scope things out. The apartment was empty—except a Bible on the floor in one of the rooms. My friend had never read the Bible before, but he picked this one up and started reading it. He was soon converted.
I’ve also known people who, during a crisis, called out, “God, if you are real, show yourself to me,” only to soon encounter some kind of “sign” or event such as an unexpected healing or a meeting with a missionary that drove them to believe in Jesus. God did something so evidently supernatural that it could not be explained away as a mere coincidence.
Stories like these and stories of complete 180-degree turns from a life of debauchery to a life of service to Christ drive home the radical power of God in bringing people to faith. Whether He is using extraordinary providences or transforming the heart of someone who we might think would never believe, we marvel at God’s grace and omnipotence in His converting those whom He has chosen.
But what we dare not forget is that God’s power is equally at work when people are converted through ordinary circumstances. Some of us cannot remember the circumstances surrounding our conversion—our earliest memories include our believing in Jesus and we have always endeavored to live as befits His disciples. Others of us remember coming to faith during an ordinary weekly sermon. For still others, it was our Sunday school teacher or parent who first shared the gospel with us and led us to Christ.
Coming to faith in those instances does not seem all that spectacular. There was no unusual providence. All that we can point to is regular attendance to God’s ordinary means of discipleship, particularly the preaching and teaching of His Word. In such cases, nothing out of the ordinary happened.
And yet in those cases, as in the examples cited at the beginning of this article, something quite extraordinary did happen. The Holy Spirit illumined the Word of God and effectively, irresistibly persuaded the one who heard it. Every conversion is a powerful work of the Spirit to give a heart of flesh to someone who had a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). We denigrate the Spirit’s power and have a false understanding of the depths of sin when we think a conversion that occurs in an unusual way is greater or more gracious than one that happens under more ordinary circumstances.
So, whether we were converted through ordinary means or as the result of an extraordinary providence, God still had to overcome our inborn resistance. Every conversion is a spectacular work of God, even if its outward circumstances don’t seem that uncommon.