The Bible is unlike any other book, it is God’s inspired word and is dynamic. A verse that we may have read many times before can suddenly hit us and cut us to the heart, cause our lives to change or suddenly give us the supernatural peace that only comes from God. At other times a verse can be used in a more slow-burning way. Some of my earliest memories are of the Gospel Hall in Cwmbran where I grew up. Above the platform, arching across nearly the whole wall, was Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8, ‘By grace are ye saved through faith’. Many times, when I should have been listening, I was distracted. I would count the letters, then the vowels, work out which letter was the centre one, and sometimes I would just appear to be listening, while I was actually far away, lost in my imagination. But the verse was always there, in giant writing on the wall, so very hard to ignore. God didn’t let me ignore it; I grew to understand it, and along with this knowledge the realisation that I was a sinner who needed the Saviour, whom I didn’t deserve, but God by His grace had given His Son Jesus Christ.
As I read the verse, I became distinctly aware of a question that could be formed by extracting three words from the verse, ‘are ye saved’. I realized that I wasn’t and that I really needed to be.
At the age of just seven, I put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of my sin and trusting what the Lord Jesus Christ did at Calvary. It was a life-changing moment and, in fact, eternity changing too.
As I went through my teenage years, many verses challenged and encouraged me about baptism, living for God and being consistent in my Christian life. I was a painfully shy teenager and struggled to tell others the great news that had changed me. How could I fulfil the great commission and be effective in taking the gospel far and wide? The more I contemplated this, the more challenged I became because the verse I was contemplating, Mark 16. 15, started with ‘Go’. Yet with a few inspiring exceptions, I could see that the pattern generally that was being followed was ‘stay in your halls and preach the gospel to all the families that already know it’. The lack of effectiveness was being perpetuated by the style of outreach that reached out to few and didn’t really challenge me to overcome my shyness and to become bold in telling out the gospel. I did try to tell my closest friends, but often I would not be as bold as I should have been and found myself making excuses for why we didn’t do certain things. Having asked God for help and opportunities to preach the gospel to the people that I knew, I let my ‘fear of men’ get the better of me and my desire to fit in seemed much more important than my desire to tell out the gospel. Yet afterwards I would feel so ashamed, just like Peter whose eyes met the Lord’s after he had denied ever knowing Him. I don’t think he ever forgot that moment and it influenced the rest of his life. Peter went from that moment of cowardice to being the lead preacher in Acts 2 before massive crowds and was used wonderfully by God to bring thousands to salvation.
What about me? What was going to turn me from cowardice? I read Acts chapter 5 verse 41 where the apostles rejoiced that, ‘they were counted worthy to suffer for [Christ’s] name’. Suddenly it struck me, the Lord Jesus was not immune from the pain and the hurt of the rejection of those around Him. Yet He went through all that because He wanted to see people saved from their sin and be able to be with Him eternally. The pain that He went through on the cross to enable our salvation was infinitely greater than any rejection I would know. I needed to change my attitude and be more like the apostles and although I would know rejection, I should look at it positively. Instead of being far away from Jesus Christ, I was now suffering like Him, albeit in a small way, because I belonged to Him. He is my Saviour and Lord. The more I thought that I was associated with the name of the Lord Jesus and all the blessings that were being heaped upon me, the more I wanted to tell others. I still failed, I still let cowardice overwhelm me at times, yet over the years I have, through His strength, become bolder and now spend my life telling out His wonderful message of salvation.
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