My conversion to being a born-again Christian was a long one. It took me about more or less four exposure to the gospel and about 3 years of “incubation” period before the Lord has finally opened my eyes and heart and reveal the truth which made me accept Jesus’ wonderful gift of salvation and freedom. Before I met Christ, though I’m not really the religious type, I can say that I have always believed in God. Actually, I have known God since childhood. I believe in Him because I’ve experienced Him answering my prayers. I went to UP and got a DOST scholarship because I prayed for it desperately and I know God answered my prayers. But as to having that personal and intimate relationship with Him, I know I have none. I only get to talk to Him or attend church more regularly whenever I need something from Him. But involving Him in my day-to-day activity?! No way. I was so full of pride and confidence in myself back then that I’ve always failed to acknowledge God in my life, more so in my achievements.
When I was in college, I was so excited to graduate and start earning my own money so I can buy or do anything I want and be happy forever. However, contrary to my belief, when I started working, though I have everything I need and been surrounded by people whom I love and loves me back, I still had this feeling of emptiness in my heart that seems nothing can satisfy. It was then that I realized that I need to grow spiritually and get to know God more deeply. I also know that if I want to learn more about God, I have to read the bible. But reading the bible was really a chore for me so after several attempts of reading and failing, I gave up and realized that I need a help for a bible study. So I prayed to God and told Him that “Lord, I want to know You more. Please lead me to a church where I will grow spiritually and will get to know You through the bible.” To cut the long story short, God answered my prayer shortly and He led me to my bible study leader and mentor, through a friend.
Our first meeting was brief and short and if there’s one thing that I will never forget about that first meeting, it was when she told me that it is really God’s promise that if we will truly seek Him, we will find Him; then she quoted the bible verse “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be given to you”. Then we agreed to meet the following Sunday service at their church.
It was on September 5, 2010 and I arrived late because I was having second thoughts on not attending. But I decided to come anyway. Little did I know that my attendance to that worship service will become the greatest turning point of my life.
The pastor has already started on his message on suffering when I came in. For a newcomer like me, I thought that the topic was kind of scary and discouraging. However, as the Pastor continued on to his message, I was really surprised to find the message very engaging. He told us about the different kinds of suffering and why God usually gives us sufferings. I also remember hearing him say that sometimes it’s not always us but our loved ones who will suffer, and it’s God’s way of humbling us and nudge us into coming to Him. Sometimes, we suffer because of the consequences of our sins. Then in the last part of his message, he encouraged us that whatever kind or cause of our suffering is, we need not to worry. Instead, we have to rejoice because sufferings and God’s blessings always come in package. For every suffering, there’s always a blessing or more that comes with it. All we have to do is put our trust and hope in Him. I found myself listening intently to the pastor that I even followed him when he asked us to say ‘Lord, I welcome suffering!’
Since it was the first Sunday of the month, the congregation was scheduled to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. However, before the celebration starts, the Pastor asked for a few moments from the newcomers (including me) to listen to his short message. Then he started preaching the Gospel. Though I have heard it preached to me for several times before, it was only that time when I heard and understood it clearly and realized the magnitude of my own sinfulness before God and no matter what I do, I can’t go to heaven on my own because under God’s law, the wages of sin is death. However, even if I sacrifice my own life for God, my death would still not be acceptable because I am a sinner. So that was the time I understand why I need Jesus in my life as my Savior. So on that particular moment, I prayed sincerely and told God that I really feel sorry about the way I have lived my life, that I want to know Him more and I want to follow Him even if it means I have to suffer more and leave my comfortable life. During that time, I’m not actually sure if that simple declaration I made was already acceptable to the Lord but I knew then that I was so determined to follow Him all the way.
Later that day, while I was reading the notes and the bible passages I’ve written during the sermon, my prayer was confirmed when one of the biggest storm in my life came to me. I learned from our home back in the province that my father just had a stroke. I was shocked for a few seconds, but when the news had finally hit me, I remember the words I said earlier. My first reaction was ‘Wow, Lord, great! That was really a prompt response to my prayer! I just told you earlier that I welcome suffering, and now it’s here.’ Then I told him “I understand that I have to bear this suffering but please, don’t claim my father’s life yet. I don’t know how I was able to handle that news calmly that I was still able to sleep that night right after I prayed. Though at first the situation was really unimaginable for me, I know in my heart that God is with me and He has heard my prayer. True enough, Jesus was with us all throughout that particular storm in our family. I’ve seen how He provided for us, financially and morally, and how He brought healing to my father soon after. And through that circumstance, I’ve learned that once we put our trust in Jesus Christ, He will never disappoint us. I’ve suffered a lot more after that but I praise Him because He always remains true to His words and always enables me to stand up and fight to this very day.