How I received FAITH…
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have LIFE” – John 20:31
That was the year 1974. I had completed my post-graduation only the previous year. When I attended a revival meeting conducted by Br. Joshua Daniel in the city of Vizag, Christ gripped my soul. As I recollect, The Lord was wooing me to win my soul since I was 4 years old, but I did not yield to His pleadings till I was 22. In these meetings, my soul was ripened enough to be broken by Him. These meetings were His tool to hammer me and break me to fall prostrate at His feet. Church meetings and the testimonies we hear softens and prepares our hearts to be fertile for the sown seed of His Word. He can also reach us when we are alone, but His Holy Spirit manifests Himself in Christian gatherings. Astonishingly on the very first day, the testimonies of the faithful believers had a great effect on me. I heard the testimony of Br. Theophilus which introduced me to the way of seeking God’s face. “I understood that God is Holy God and that I am a sinner and if I die, immediately I will land in Hell.”– I did not know how I got that understanding, but I believe now that the Holy Spirit convinced me of that as He mentioned in the verse, “When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” John 16:8. I was not aware of this verse at that time. The only thing I was aware of was my sinful nature, and that God is a Holy God and I cannot see Him or talk to Him and If I die in this condition, hell is waiting to swallow me. This fear terrified me and left me restless. I met Br. Joshua Daniel (Evangelist) personally in Coromandel Fisheries Guesthouse which was opposite the Governor’s Bungalow on the opposite hillock. When he asked me whether God was speaking to me, I did not understand his question, as I was staring at him in surprise; then he asked me whether God is showing my sins. I nodded. He said he would pray for me so I knelt down, at once the spirit of God fell upon me. I cried aloud and said, “ I am a proud person, I cheated on my parents, my dad is in sin, I wanted to kill one person with the help of an evil spirit.” – I could not hide anything in my life, I myself unfolded every detail of my life wherever I grieved the spirit of God. It was spontaneous. I told him of my pride, my life, my family life, the life of my dad, and cried bitterly. My tears gushed out like water from the breached bank of a river. I could not control the heart-wrenching cries of my guilt-stricken life.
I was a very proud girl till then; I could not show my feelings to anyone. I was boasting of myself to my kith and kin that “I am not a weak woman but a strong woman, I never cry before anyone or for anything, It’s the sign of a weak woman, which I would never be.” I lived like that till then, and suddenly I see myself in a contrary state of my strong WILL POWER. It was broken then and there. I yielded to my Lord, crying out the name of Jesus. Then the Man of God prayed over me as I was crying as if my heart had shattered into pieces and told me that I should set right my misgivings with my parents and repent for my sinful life. He exhorted me saying, “Go and pray, God will speak to you, I will pray for you. Go and meet my mom and my sister Kamala, they are in the next room.” Later, I met his mother and sister also who were in that guest house.
My thoughts changed, my values changed, my attitude changed, my desires changed, for the first time, my soul was calm and quiet. My situation at that moment was just like Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3rd chapter 8th verse: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
I could not be at rest until I confessed to my parents that I grieved them with my rebellious nature and lies. And then went over to ask for forgiveness from my house owners against whom I quarreled earlier and when they enquired me, ‘why I was asking their forgiveness’ I told them that Jesus Christ changed my heart and I need to ask their pardon for my pride. I could not keep the books I borrowed from my friend Salma Siraj. I wrote a letter to her and went over to return them back to her in Kakinada city. New things like reading the Bible and praying to God became very interesting. I started to love nature, the sky, the clouds, little pink flowers in the grass, and the birds just like a little toddler left alone in the garden. I perceived the love of God in Nature. Compassion and humbleness took place into my nature which I never knew before. The whole creation became new for me, I felt that I was seeing nature for the first time in my life. My gait, my behavior at home and in class in Andhra university, completely changed. A sort of reverence for God descended on my classmates and in my home too. Everybody started to behave differently with me recognizing His presence with me. My burden for the souls extended immensely. I shared the good news of His redemption to everyone I met, especially with my beloved Kantha aunty. I became a new creation.
People often used to ask me why I became different; my answer to them was simple. “Jesus became my Lord; He changed my life when I knelt and I invited Him into my heart.”—My goals were changed, my longings were changed. I started to enjoy the presence of Christ hours together in my lonely room; He started to talk to me through dreams, visions, and through my Telugu Bible. I started to love my Telugu Bible very much. In my 22 years of life, I never touched the Bible till then. Now it has become sweeter than the honey in the honeycomb. Psalm 19:20 I was hungry for the word of God as the infant craving for the mother’s milk. 1 Peter 2:2
When I heard from others that, ‘unless and until I have faith in Christ I cannot have Salvation’, it confused me. I was puzzled over the words like Salvation, Faith, Born again experience, repentance. John the Baptist preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.” (Mark 1:4) I questioned myself, ‘unless I knew that God had forgiven my sins, how could I opt for baptism?’
I wondered about the word “Forgiven.” I asked myself, ‘How would I know that I am forgiven?’ Jesus in Mark 1:15 said, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” Of course I have faith in Him, Is this faith not sufficient? I did not understand it. If I have faith, they said, I will have a personal relationship with Him, and that I will experience God talking to me through His Word, and for that, I will need to ask Him to talk to me saying that all my past was forgiven by Him. In many instances while reading the Bible, I noted Jesus was telling people that He had forgiven their sins; these verses started to speculatively haunt me day and night. How do I know that he has forgiven mine too?
Of course, I believe in Him, but the teaching of the people is different from time to time, place to place, person to person, and church to church. I started going to every church whenever I was invited to whatsoever. I was thinking that every Christian is a blessed one for they knew Christ, and I was looking at them adoringly. I was listening to every counsel of every Christian.
- One would say, ‘just believe, and take baptism’ you are saved. Literally he wrote on blackboard with white chalk piece like this, “Belief + Baptism= Salvation” –Theology?
- Others would say, just come to church on every Sunday and worship Him and take communion once in a month, you will be saved. – Traditionalism?
- Some others said, If you talk in tongues you are saved.—They forced me to say the word ‘Praise God’ hundred times repeatedly and told me that the Holy Spirit would descend on me, and I would speak in tongues. – Pentecostalism?
(4)Another one said, “Come to the pulpit, I will pray for you, and you will be saved.” So people thronged to him and he made us kneel down erect and he pushed me back and when I fell, they started to sing, that “There is power, power, power in the blood” and announced that I am then saved. —Satan in a shining dress?
(5) Somebody else said if you are a member of our church you are saved. If you observe Saturday as Sabbath you are saved. – Legalism?
(6)Some others insisted that I need not worry anyway, I could rest in Him because God knew everything and He predestined everything, and if He wanted He would save me. Otherwise, I would be condemned to Hell. I was scared of such God. –Calvinism?
(7)Some other one said, “If you go out and preach others about Christ you are saved.” – Great Commission?
(8)Another said, “If you give alms to the poor and needy you are saved”. -Charity?
(9)Another one said, that “He was a born Christian, and he never did anything wrong, only once he took a toy duck from his friend, and he returned it back, so he is already saved”-Self-Righteousness?
- ‘You should confess to the Pastor/Priest’—Catholicism?
11 ‘Set right things with the man and God’, Repent, Reconcile. Restitution, —Deeds?
12 ‘God speaks to you just as in the days of Prophets in the Bible—Seek assurance of Salvation from the Word of God’— Pharisees? Despising others?
But everybody insisted that one should have Faith. That one needs Faith to be saved. I was confused. What is salvation? How do I know that I am saved? If Faith is needed, to be saved, how do I gain faith which is approved by Him? I needed to do something else, to be assured that I have the Right kind of Faith in Him. I should not be misled that I have only believed in Him like the devils who believe in the existence of Him and shudder at His name but never show their belief in deeds. James 2:19,20
So I have decided on one Sunday afternoon that I must ask Him about this Faith. How privileged we are to take everything to Him in prayer. We can speak to Him freely and could ask Him any question. I prayed, “Lord how can I receive that Faith that you will be pleased with? Tell me how I could gain Faith?” First, I wanted to ask Him how I could gain FAITH; later I wanted to ask Him about REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS.
I was alone in my room that mid-afternoon, not having any rest in my heart. I need that Faith which gives me a personal relationship with my Lord, not that sort of faith which would be there sometimes, and would not be there some other times. I need strong faith-based upon His word, I want Him to speak to me, so I was seeking that faith that I could be saved by. No other go. I knew there is a difference between Faith and Belief, and I need Faith. Oswald Smith’s book “The country I love Best” (The Salvation of God) presented by my friend and classmate Pamela Thomas was there on my table. I read about faith in it, but I felt that there is still something else needed to satisfy my soul.
Suddenly as if somebody pushed me from my room, I grabbed my handbag, and almost as if somebody was chasing me I ran to the nearby Trinity Lutheran church in Jagadamba center. It’s a church I crossed every time while commuting between my home and the university. We were residing in the Police Officers’ Bungalows nearby. I went very fast, found the church gates were wide opened, and I found myself seated in the pew, and bowed my head in His presence and prayed with all my heart:
”Lord tell me what is faith, and How do I get it? I need saving faith, to believe your Word, I need faith that you saved me, I need faith that I could hear your assurance of forgiveness through your word. I want to hear from you that you forgave me. So tell me how I can receive faith in you.”
This prayer was sincere and to the point expecting an answer from Him. Only one question, “How can I have Faith?”
All of a sudden, I felt I should open my little Gideon New Testament in my handbag. I took it and opened it, it opened at the page where it was written, “By hearing you gain Faith”—I checked the verse, it was Romans 10:17 –” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard come through the message bout Christ”
My eyes filled in tears, the answer was straight and clear. I bowed my head and prayed, “Lord hereafter I will listen to your Word more carefully”. I understood that there is no short cut method to gain Faith easily. “I need to obey your word and listen to it carefully. Thank you, Father”. I prayed, and I found great peace in my heart, just then a woman came and sat beside me, I was startled a bit and I asked her ‘ Did you come to pray?’ she answered, “There is English service now, at 5 pm a guest speaker would come to preach” slowly the church hall filled in with people, a guest speaker who was an old gentleman in a white dress, short and lean came to the podium and started his speech like this, “ What is Faith? How do you gain it? “ He asked the audience to open the Bible at Romans 10:17.
I was awestruck, my body was stiff and my eyes glued to the Bible verse and I listened to him very very attentively for the next half an hour, My thirst was quenched, fully satisfied knowing that “I can gain faith only by listening to the Word of God attentively and by reading the Bible carefully.”
In the Telugu Bible which I was reading, I found that there are three words like Repentance. Change of mind, and rebirth. But in English Language Repentance and Change of mind are the one and the same in the New Testament/ The word Rebirth was occasionally used. I could understand “Repentance” but could not understand the Phrase “Change of Mind or Born again. So I asked God, what is “Change of Mind”? How can I Change my Mind? I was asking God and praying about it. Here it is predominantly stressing the point that I need to do something, the word of God tells me that it’s my obligation to repent, Matthew 4:17 Luke 15:7 there are a number of verses that tell us that the man should repent and come to the Lord. God was insisting on the man to repent. change my mind this word is used as Repentance in English bible but in Telugu Bible now and then it was used as Change of mind especially in Revelations and in the preaching of the John the Baptist.— rebirth this word was especially used in Jesus when He was talking to Nicodemus. In John 3:1-16. I understood that unless God speaks to me that my sins are forgiven I cannot be His child.
I came to know that I have to read the Bible carefully, I wanted to read the Bible in search of this new Phrase that I never heard it before, Change of Mind’ I opened my Bible and wanted to read, but suddenly I remembered that once my mother said, that ‘No one can understand the Old Testament, its too difficult to understand” – So I thought I should read the Bible from the last Chapter. There it was a REVELATION. The very THIRD verse encouraged me a lot.
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand.” –Here my knowledge of Telugu Litt. It influenced me to understand it and take it into my heart more deeply. So with more interest and carefulness, I proceeded further …with this question in my mind, “What is a change of mind, how to change my mind?” I heard this word from a brother who gave his testimony saying, “I changed my mind, and sought the Lord, I confessed my sins and reconciled with my enemies, and restituted the money I stole then the Lord forgave me.”—While I was reading Revelation I was stopped at the verse 2:5 -“-Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent=– CHANGE YOUR MIND, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent = CHANGE YOUR MIND”
And again in the 2:16“Change your Mind, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” Again this verse 3:3 clarified my doubt about How to change my mind:“Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and CHANGE YOUR MIND.
Immediately I wrote a letter to a doctor friend in Kakinada, Lalitha Aseervadham who was praying for me ‘You said God will talk to us. I was praying about this word repent= Change of mind. I got this verse from Revelation 3:3.. to clarify my doubt, is this the way that God talks to us?” She immediately replied to me, “Dear Leela, yes it is this way God talks to us.” I never received a letter as such, so full of Christian love and prayer. Then onwards, I started to read the Bible trusting the Lord would speak to me and answer all my questions, in my prayer. And it is 100% true and real. Later I found the same words in Matthew 3:2 “Repent= Change your mind, for the kingdom of heaven, has come near” – John the Baptist. Our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ’s first sermon was, “ The time has come, The kingdom of God has come near, Repent = Change your mind and believe the good news!” Therefore, my Bible reading clubbed with faith, Repentance, changing of my mind, and with a clean conscience of His forgiveness. Oh, Praise ye the Lord!!!
Faith is like a little mustard seed, it should be planted in good soil, not in thorny bushes or rocky places. The heart should be prepared without any stones, and it should be prepared for the seed, and then Faith grows into a tree where the birds of the sky come and nest there. The word of God is the seed, to take it with faith we have to listen to the Word of God about Jesus Christ very carefully.
While I was reading Matthew 5, 6, chapters, and the Sermon on the Mountain, The words of Jesus gave me faith to trust His Scriptures. I got faith to believe each word in the Bible as I am reading it very carefully. This is what Romans 10:17 (“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ”) helped me understand; that I should read my Bible carefully and listen to the word of God about Him carefully. This has been the foundation of receiving faith..
God’s Spirit pursued me to pray and wait upon the Lord for His promise of forgiveness. I knew pretty well that just by doing good works one cannot be saved. But after one is saved one cannot stop doing good works. So my confession and my restitution, my reconciliation did not give me faith to claim assurance of salvation, but because I was already saved by faith; and that is the reason I inadvertently and earnestly wanted to set things right with man and God. But still, I was wondering whether I was saved or not.
Later at home, while I was reading the Bible, The Lord was speaking to me through a number of verses close to my heart, helping me to believe that those verses were His promises of assurance of salvation to me. While I was waiting upon the Lord in prayer on one morning, this special verse from Colossians 2:13 -15 zoomed into my eyes and settled in my heart at once. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
What else do I need!! I’m given faith to know that He spoke to me straight about my salvation through this verse. It’s His loving letter addressed to me.
“Dear Leela, you were dead in your sins. But I forgave you all your trespasses. I nailed it to My cross, blotted out handwritten ordinances which were against you, and took it out of the way.”
- You being dead in your sins = Yes, I was spiritually dead in my sins
- Having forgiven all your trespasses = He said He had forgiven all my transgressions
- Nailing it to His Cross = and He nailed them on His Cross
- Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that were against you = He blotted out all the wrongdoings that were against me
- And took it out of the way= I am redeemed. I became His child.
What more do I need? I shouted aloud, “It’s done, It’s done” I rejoiced in the Lord at once, the tears of joy made me sing this song aloud, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”
THIS VERSE is my certificate. He gave it to me. I received it by FAITH. I may not have the whole Bible with me, but THIS VERSE is there between my sins and my LORD. That has been my anchor. When the devil comes and whispers in my ear that I am no more a Christian, because I have sinned in word, deed, and that I grieved the Lord, and that His spirit departed from me; I look into this wonderful verse of mine, and find myself encouraged once again. It helps me regain my faith and cling unto Him with deeper repentance. What a wonderful promise, that made me stand on the ROCK of AGES. It’s my anchor, my fortress, my hiding place. The devil cannot taunt me saying that I am not a child of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. That promise of God is the beginning of my journey of faith, which is the foundation of claiming promises in every other situation that I encountered later in my life.
Christian life is a battle in every step, whether you are a missionary, or a simple woman in the kitchen, toiling day and night, but the battles you are exposed to, should be won by prayer alone. When you pray you have to expect an answer. That gives the life of victory. Which nobody can deny. His promises are the foundation of our Christian life. Apart from it, life would be tasteless, useless, and worthless.
What can we ask of His forgiveness for, when we don’t even recognize our sin? Once we are made to recognize our sinful nature and the impending judgment that is due upon us, how can we not ask Him to forgive us? To go into His presence we need a clear conscience. Just because we set our wrongdoings right, Is He obligated to forgive us on the basis of our good deeds? No, Faith in Him, in His Cross only gives forgiveness. This is His Plan of Salvation. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” Hebrew 4:16
Faith in Him led me to repent, and that repentance gave me faith again in His word.. And this repentance continues all through life and faith rests on it. What a paradox!
|“Repentance leads to Faith; and Faith continues in Repentance.”|
Repentance is a life long process for a true Christian. And the Promise of God sustains that person in Him
On the other hand, this verse has been my linchpin of doing God’s Will in my life. It was the starting step of learning to pray and claiming a promise from Him. I learned that God Speaks when we ask of Him and He answers us.
How do I claim His promise in my prayer?
I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit when I pray, because I do not know how to pray and what to pray, The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the Will of God. Romans 8:26,27 Then I cling to the Lord asking Him to talk to me through His word. It’s easy and strong. I can stand firm on His word. On His promise which is mine all of it. That is the faith in the Rock. I would rather stand upon His promise especially for me for my questions in life than pawing my faith in a generalized way, feeling faith once and losing faith another time is like waves of the sea in the storm.
“We must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8
The Devil believes in God, and trembles, but it would never obey Him, or seek His forgiveness. Just as Judas Iscariot did, he did know that Jesus is the Saviour, he trembled, he recognized his sin, but never repented, nor asked Him to forgive him, instead he went to Pharisees and the Priest and returned those thirty coins, and still could not ask the Lord to forgive him, and then went to hang himself in remorse. Many people do deeds of charity in recognition of their misbehavior, misgivings, they try to rectify their sins by restitution, reconcile with their foes, and show remorse for the things they did wrongly, BUT not even once will they call upon Jesus and repent. Just like Judas Iscariot. That is the reason why many people commit suicide, suddenly even though they were known for their good deeds. Forgiveness of Sin could be given only by Jesus; the soul is at rest only at His feet.
Some people brag about the work of salvation that a man has no part in seeking salvation. God pleads for the soul of man, He came to search for those who are condemned, all of us are condemned, we are short of His glory, no one yes, no one is righteous, we need His salvation for that we need to go to the Lord. Romans 3:3-19.
It’s a man’s obligation. God is already waiting for him and thereby He stretches His hand to retrieve him from sin to forgive Him. It is a process on the part of man and God. God is waiting for man; man has to search for Him, and God searches for the man, and man must seek him. Faith is a gift, but man has to listen to the word of God carefully. It’s again a two-way process. If a man does not listen to God he is lost. The Bible tells us it’s the duty of the preacher to proclaim the good news. How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Romans 10:14 “ Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21. Man needs to listen to the Word of God, and there should be someone to preach the Word of God, and that someone should be sent; How can anyone preach unless they are sent? Romans 10:15 Man is always deceived by the satan, to make him seek salvation in shortcut methods, it always makes the man never to repent and change his mind, or to come to the point of rebirth. It makes the man lethargic in seeking Him by repentance, it tells them they can have salvation only if God wants them to be saved; making themselves feel content in their sin, by claiming that God did not yet convict or reveal Himself to them. It also tells them if you are chosen you will be saved. You are chosen thereby preach, they are not chosen so they perish. It is true but man has the part in obeying Him and a desire to serve Him. This is called a white lie. Making people confused. One side they give all authority to God and on the other hand they say, God left some to perish. They never recognize the hand of God in the life of man. God seems to them good and evil. Sometimes good and sometimes evil. Light and dark. Jesus said I am the light. They never bother about the words of Jesus, but preach as if Jesus came to condemn. There are a right and wrong in their arguments, but one thing is drastically lacking in their preaching, in their life, in their effort to reach the souls: LOVE – that is marked by their tears for the perishing souls. They never can repent for themselves nor for others.
He is the Master Planner, He designed everything, nothing can be done without His permission, but coming to the question of saving souls, He came all the way to die for us, and whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have the everlasting life. Remember that God entrusted this work of believing in Him to the man, and then He would give Faith to him to love Him. Those who do not know the difference between faith and belief argue in number ways, and it leads to complications of a rift between believers and families. God save us!!
Faith tutors us to claim the promises from God, it needs a relationship with our Saviour. Because God talks to His children as father talks to his child; once we have this relationship with Our Father God, we can find HIS WILL at every step of our life. Thus we listen to His Voice and build our home on The Rock.
“Seek ye out of the book of the LORD and read” Isaiah 34: 16