How Did I Keep Believing #29

In reviewing my life, prayer and faith illuminated my journey. There were many times when my faith was smaller than a mustard seed, and the hurdles insurmountable, but He who promised to be with me, strengthened my little faith, which kept me moving past the unexpected gigantic problems (Philippians 4:13). At least that was what I was led to believe. My accident became a plausible example for faith to go into action and restore me to my former physical condition. All I had to do is believe and Jesus would restore me. But, when things did not happen, I was being dismissed as an unbeliever and as a person with insufficient faith. Jesus had not turned me into a superman with divine powers to accommodate misguided earthlings, like myself. I was too blind to see that I, myself, had become a profound miracle of faith that overcame the impossible for a human being. Jesus, my Lord and your Lord, was answering prayer after prayer, while I continued to endure and even improve my circumstances in this world. I was experiencing what the Apostle Paul experienced, only I was not aware of it.

“But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a message of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;  but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:6-10).

My Faith restrained me from being a “Freak” for the Gospel

It took ten years, for many people, to bring me back physically, mentaly, and spiritually. In addition to healing my body, I coped with English and schooling to qualify for college and seminary. It was in my second year in seminary that I braved to ask a young lady whether she would consider going with me, and she presumed that I meant marriage and promptly announced that we are getting engaged. And so we did and nine months later, we were married; and that is now over sixty years ago. Especially after our marriage, I did not feel right in using my injuries as means to attract people to the Kingdom of God. To enlighten people of their need to prepare for salvation, I completely relied on my understanding of the Gospels. Now that I am no longer able to stand in a pulpit and have you look at me, I dare to challenge you with my experience and insight to follow the Lord yourselves, and not at the apron strings of someone else. I recommend that you ascertain everything you hear and read with Jesus, the only “authority on our Redemption.” 

Far too many of us have taken liberties on “grace alone” as the means of our salvation. In order to qualify for receiving grace, I only have tried to point out some things that we need. While I was waiting for “God’s Grace” to fill me, I remained empty — until I met another traveler on the narrow road, who showed me how to plant a tiny seed of grace in my heart and spirit, and let it grow large enough so I, too, could share grace with others on the narrow road. I had yet to learn that for God to distribute grace, God has to use a human being, filled with grace, to pass it on to other human beings. God is Spirit and so is Jesus, the Christ. Now, and the only way “They” function in the world is through Spirit-filled human beings. While I am traveling on the narrow road, grace did not exempt me from earthly trials and tribulations. However, these trials and tribulations were enough for fellow travelers who urged me on, and most of them were equipped to help me deal with myself and with my problems (Galatians 6:1-5). I met many wonderful people and I did not ask them whether they were of a similar faith because their deeds and sacrifices for me humbled me profoundly (Matthew 25:34-40).

Perhaps the most difficult time in my life was when an ultrasound revealed that one of our grandchildren was internally totally deformed. And I begged the Lord not to let him live as a handicapped, as I had to. Against all the prayers and wishes of my family, the Lord did set our little boy free. It was the hardest thing I have ever asked the Lord to do for the precious little boy, and not for me. And it was prayer that gave me the wings of understanding why God answers those prayers that will not hurt us. Our grandson was not the first to be with the Lord. While living in a refugee camp in Germany, I was ten years old when my baby sister and fifteen other babies were taken to the cemetery on the same day. And I was fifteen years old when I watched my ten year old brother, who was hit by a truck, die in my arms while looking at me with his big eyes and smiled. I buried both of my parents in their nineties, lost another brother fifteen years younger than I when I turned eighty-nine, and another sister thirteen years younger when I was ninety. In addition to living with a major disability, I also had heart problems, painful frozen muscles. I had to carry a soft pillow for some time so I could sit, and I also have cancer hanging over my head since. The cancer was discovered, fully grown, to 129 PSA twenty-three years ago. Looking back at some of these difficult times, it seems impossible that I carried these burdens alone. Like the Apostle Paul, I had a thorn in my flesh (II Corinthians 12:7), but I also had the Lord keeping Satan from crushing me with his temptations (I Corinthians 19:13). The promise of Jesus was very real during such times:

“And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, He shortened the days” (Mark 13:20).

How much Impact did Jesus have on my Faith?

I did have the desire to be like Jesus, but Jesus wanted me to be like me, merely human. The New Testament writers tried to elevate Jusus above the human abilities and powers, but Jesus refused to use them while He was a man. Instead, Jesus empowered people with faith to perform miracles, and people who had some faith, were healed and could walk and carry their stretchers. At least that was what I heard and also believed, but I certainly did not have a faith that could instantly raise me up. At the time of my accident, I was put in complete care of skillful people who did everything, humanly possible, to help me recover; however they left the reconstruction of my body to a skin specialist, and my healing to the Lord and to me. At this time, it also became apparent to me that I could never be put back together as I was before, and that I had to learn to live with my new self. Overnight, I began to worry how I could make a living in my hadicapped condition? A minister resolved my dilemma by urging me to embark on being a servant of Christ in God’s Kingdom. My decision to follow the clergyman’s advice freed my spirit from my misery and endowed me with a reason to live. I was going to work for Jesus, and peace entered my heart that I had never known existed.

Toronto would become a world metropolis and the first center of learning where universities, and seminaries co-operated in advanced education, and where I would earn a Doctorate of Theology eighteen years later. But after my hospital days, there was no study available for me to get into a college. I did join a Church and the pastor knew of a Bible School in Edmonton Alberta that had a licensed department from the Province, where adults could take subjects and qualify for higher education. The Churches I attended in Toronto were quiet conservative-mannered believers. Even the largest evangelical mission-minded congregation was spellbound by their minister, but not with emotions. The people in Edmonton were mostly immigrants like myself, who lost everything they had including loved ones were emotionally charged. They experienced all kinds of miracles, and had revelations they believed came from the Lord. I, of course, did not have that gift. While I attended chapel, I too tried to come up with a revelation and the spirit in me was saying, “Sit down you liar, I did not speak to you.” I had heard that voice when I was drowning and again when I was being consumed by fire, “You are lost!” I knew exactly what these words meant and I stopped loving the world and I began loving the Lord. Only, I had yet to met someone who really could explain to me why I did not feel saved or freed from my guilt-feelings. So far, all I heard and I was taught that I had to do was repent, feel sorry for my sins, and Christ would take care of everything. Only the grace of God could save me from my total human depravity. Nothing in me was good enough worth saving. An evangelist was invited to hold a large outdoor tent meeting, and he was an expert on roasting sinners over the fires of hell. He did ignite my guilt and it began to consume me. I consulted the experts and all they did was, say, “Pray, brother, pray!” I took home that guilt to Winnipeg for the sommer. My mother’s border took me to his friend, who felt the need to explain to us what Jesus meant by repentance. While he spoke, guilt began to leave my tortured soul and I knew what I had to do and it became the path I have followed into my nineties.

What precisely did Jesus Do and Teach?

Salvation is a human act. It is a path of recovery, restoration, reconciliation, reparation, restitution, and many other things that I carelessly incurred on my journey. Even when I began my new life as a Christian, I was saying things and doing things that were unbecoming of being a follower of Jesus. In fact, I too took for granted that my careless liberties were covered by the Redemptive work of Christ” (I Corinthians 8:8-13; 10:23-11:1). Even the powerful chapter on grace in Ephesians two, verse ten has a payback for what Christ has done for me and for you, and it is similar to what Paul the Apostle was to face (Acts 9:15-16). Thus, that stranger who had us over for lunch, on a Sunday after Church service, during the summer of 1954, sent me back to do what Jesus commanded and that brought peace into my heart and conscience. Whatever I could and remembered, I went to people and apologized and begged to be forgiven. I wrote letters of apology and forgiveness, and included money where I had taken some wood from the forest to heat our stove for a meal, without permission. While I was doing my reconstruction on myself, my heart began to rejoice. This process of healing my soul has continued into my ninetieth year. One of my strongest supporters for my reconstruction-redemption was the man who believed that he was saved by grace alone. Salvation, if it is not cared for, like a plant or a fig tree, will wither and die (Ephesians 4:1-5:20; Mark 11:12-14; 11:20-25; Philippians 2:12).

Being a disciple of Jesus is a busy, hard, and dangerous life. There are many believers, but not everyone is or can be a disciple. The disciples became the Apostles Jesus sent out into the world as witnesses of Christ and God’s Kingdom. But before they could do this, they needed a solid base of believers to support the Apostles in the world. That was what Jesus promised his disciples would happen and it did happen on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit delivered thousands of witnesses that made it possible for the Apostles to go into the world and make more disciples (Acts 1:1-8; 2:1-47; Matthew 28:16-2). That is when the believers in Jerusalem sent their Apostles to Samaria, Antioch, and other places. And that was when the first Christians in Antioch authorized Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, and Silas to Spread the Kingdom of Heaven in the Roman Empire and outside (Acts 13:2,13; 15:36-41). In our time, pastors, teachers, and Christian leaders are the disciples in the process of becoming Jesus’ Apostles. And what must they face?

Can my Faith keep up with Jesus’ Demands?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my snake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish,all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27-33).

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speaks, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 

“Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against their parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the household Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household”(Matthew 10:16-25).

Friend, saint or sinner, what kind of a world do we live in now?