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The time when God took control

My testimony to God's Mercy, Grace and Faithfulness.
 
For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb: Ps 71:5-6
 
                                          Nought have I gotten but what I received;
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase;
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!
 
I cannot remember a time when I was not aware of my need of Jesus Christ. Even at an early age, I had a heartfelt dislike for lying, cursing, taking God's name in vain, smoking, alcohol and any underhand thing.
 
Looking back, I can only put it down to the grace of God in my life. My father and mother were not Christians, but they sent me to the Sunday school of High Kirk Presbyterian church in the town of Ballymena when I was about three years old.
 
 
During those young years there were many times when in bed, I would lie and think 'if I died to-night where would I go?'  and when I learned of the second coming of Christ, that added to my concern and I wondered, “if He came that night would He take me to be with Him?”  So I would have got out of bed and knelt at the bedside and prayed that He would.  
 
 
I remember one evening especially, when my mother and father had gone next door to my grandmothers, in 48 James Street (we Lived in 46) I must have been around the age of eight at the time.  
I had received a hymn book as a prize for good attendance at Sunday School, so being new-fangled with something new, started to look through it and came across hymns about the Judgement Day. The words hit me hard; even now many years later, the solemnity of them still moves me.  (These are found in the old Presbyterian hymn book.)
                                 WHEN rising from the bed of death,
                                   O'erwhelm'd with guilt and fear,
                                      I see my Maker face to face,
                                          O how shall I appear?
                               
                                     If yet while pardon may be found.
                                            And mercy may be sought,
                                     My heart with inward horror shrinks,
                                           And trembles at the thought;
                                 
                                When thou, O Lord! shalt stand, disclos'd                   
                                                 In majesty severe,
                                     And sit in judgment on my soul,
                                              O how shall I appear!

 As I read these words and others like them I wept for fear, knowing that I was not ready to appear before God.  I got down on my knees at the fireside weeping and asked God to forgive my sin and that if He should come, take me to be with him.
 
I suppose many of you reading this would say that I was saved that night.  No, I was not!  Why?  Because conviction and fear of God's wrath and me falling down before the Lord took place. That isn't salvation. There was no faith, I didn't know how to receive by faith Jesus' death in my place, Him who took God's punishment for my sin.  
 
As yet God had not revealed this to me. One can go no further than the scriptures allow. ("By grace are ye saved through faith.") To do so is wrong and many have suffered from it, especially young children.  Surely the words of the Hymn penned by A. Toplady says it well.
                                                               Not the labours of my hands,
                                             Can fulfil Thy law's demands;
                                            Could my zeal no respite know,
                                               Could my tears forever flow,
                                                  All for sin could not atone;
                                              Thou must save, and Thou alone.

 At that tender age, I didn't know this and I had no assurance that I was right with God and certainly couldn't say that I was saved till a few years later.
 
Gradually I became involved in the church's activities, attending the meetings twice on the Sunday and the BB bible class in the Sunday afternoon, the Young Peoples Christian Endeavour meeting and the Boys Brigade during the week.  I didn't smoke, drink or dance, so I suppose many thought that I was a Christian.
 
The leaders of the young people's Christian meetings, which I attended, called the "Saturday Night Rally", arranged a special week of meetings for November of 1953 to be held in the Wellington Street Presbyterian Church meeting place and the speakers were three Americans.
 
Now the surprise was, although concerned about my soul's salvation, I did not attend the meetings till the Saturday night and when I arrived at the meeting, the question to me from two or three of my friends was "where have you been all week?"  I just shrugged my shoulders and I was reached a collection basket to lift the offering upstairs in the gallery.
 
 
That evening the preacher Mr James Johnston preached very clearly and he posed the question "If you were to die this evening, would you be sure without a doubt of going to heaven?" This hit me hard, for this was the question that had haunted me from an early age. I realised more than ever that I was a sinner and I was not prepared to meet God.
 
 
In ending the meeting the preacher made an appeal to all those who wanted to get right with God to come forward. Now the place was full maybe around three hundred people, maybe more.  I went from the gallery where I had been sitting, down the stairs up the aisle to the front. I didn't care who saw me, there was only one thing in my mind that was to get right with God.
 
 
So that night the 14th Nov. 1953 aged 15, confessing I was a sinner and by faith, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour.  Now I had that assurance that I was right with God.
 
 
Now don't get this wrong, it was not the coming 'out' at the appeal that saved me, but God that night gave me the grace to trust Christ and receive the gift of Salvation. That and that alone is what my salvation depends on. "Saved by grace alone this is all my plea, JESUS died for all mankind and Jesus died for me".
 
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

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