Looking back over my fifty plus years, God’s faithfulness is clear. My Heavenly Father kept me until the Day of my Salvation and at the right moment, plucked me from darkness and transferred me into His Kingdom of Light. It is His doing, this quickening of heart and mind in response to the Glorious message of the Gospel. The Lord used both people and circumstances to bring His offer of redemption into sharp focus in my life, and I am thankful.
I did not grow up in a church-going family, but I did have parents who loved, cared, and provided for me. They were instruments of God’s Grace and love. Every night, either Dad or Mom would tuck me in and say a prayer. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” My parents could not give me a true picture of Christianity, they did not have one themselves. But the sliver of truth that they did possess, they gave. My mom has since become a strong Christian. That bond has been strengthened. I am eternally grateful for the parents the Lord gave me.
I am also thankful for all the neighborhood VBS clubs I attended as a child. In second grade I learned to sing the books of the Bible at one such club. To this day I sing through the books if I’m unsure of the location of a Scripture reference. Over the years, all those crafts and Bible Stories laid a good foundation for the future. I am blessed thinking about the people whose names I may have forgotten, but whose seeds planted in the mind and heart of a little girl for Christ’s sake still yield fruit.
During my middle school years a neighbor lady invited us to attend a summer outreach at a Baptist church in town. There was a group of college students from Texas who came to teach from the Bible, give their testimonies and preach the Gospel for several weeks. I responded to the Lord that summer and was even baptized. However, when school came around I stopped attending church and lost interest in the things of the Lord. Was I truly saved that summer? I don’t know. I plan to ask the Lord about it someday. I would not return to Christianity until much later in life.
My senior year in high school coincided with the “Jesus Movement”. Many of my friends became Christians and invited me to tent meetings that were being held at what would later become Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. I refused their invitations. A girlfriend explained the Gospel to me many times. I always found an excuse and continued to live for myself. But, the truth was still there, and I knew it.
After high school I drifted farther and farther away from anything or anyone that bore any semblance to Christianity. I lived for myself. I indulged my flesh. I did what was right in my own eyes. Over the years, I became cynical bitter, even angry. I hated what my life had become. I felt hopeless, alone and lost.
At one point during this time, a girlfriend who I had not seen for a long time got in touch with me. She invited me to hear a Christian band at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa. I liked the music, but after the band was finished playing a man got up to preach the Gospel. My heart was so hardened by this time that his words only made me angry. Although he spoke of God’s love, he also told the truth about what would happen to those who died without Christ. My attitude was: Who does this guy think he is telling me that I am headed for damnation if I refuse to turn to Christ for forgiveness and salvation?! I became so agitated that I actually got up in the middle of his sermon and exited the church in a huff, allowing the door to slam behind me.
It was two years later that the Lord would finally have His way with me. Hallelujah! By this time, my sister and her husband had become Christians. I watched the Lord heal their marriage. I noticed the love they shared with other Christians. I saw the joy that forgiveness and salvation bring. I realized there was a big difference between their lives and mine. I wanted what they had even though I wasn’t quite ready to admit it yet.
I began to attend a home Bible study held at their home. This little group of believers welcomed me. They loved me. They put up with my cynical attitude. I asked questions, dishonestly, only to see if I could trip them up. They answered my questions, honestly, with patience and transparency. In short, they wore me down with the love of Christ that was in them. I succumbed.
That was the summer of 1981. I don’t know exactly when it happened during that time period, but the Lord took hold of me. He loved me while yet a sinner, yes, even the chief of sinners! He washed me clean and made me a new creature. I was born again, saved. I have not been the same since.
The story of how the Lord has changed my life and blessed me since then would fill many more pages of this blog. I will save that for another time. I do not deserve all that the Lord has done for me. If left to my own devices, I would still be lost and a slave to sin. But God, rich in Grace and Mercy, loved me and gave Himself for me. He not only gave me hope for eternity, but also blessed me this side of heaven with a Godly husband and three beautiful children.
My point in writing all of this is two-fold. I need to remind myself how important it is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, even when immediate fruit is not evident. I write also to encourage you to keep praying for that someone who refuses to respond to God’s offer of His Son. Trust the Lord for those little ones that come and go in your Sunday school classes and VBS clubs. Continue to preach the Gospel in word and deed, even to those whose hearts seem made of stone.
To God alone be the Glory! His Grace is sufficient. His Gospel is true.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:13-15)
By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel