“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV2)
I was young and completely satisfied with my church. Characterized by self-righteousness on the coast of the North Sea, it gave me a lot of comfort that everything was defined by laws. As long as I kept these, I could be respected among this community of believers. I thought it was way too cool to obtain respect through my own efforts. Nothing would cause me to leave such surroundings, even though honestly, I didn’t even know Jesus on a personal level at that time, and as not all laws were upheld the same way, sin ran rampant in my life.
One day I was invited by a Charismatic friend to attend a tent meeting. I thought, “Why not? It would be my opportunity to prove to them that they’re wrong!” Yes, my attitude stank a bit in those days. I was a skunk in the making!
During the service however, I was touched by the preacher’s illustration. I was only sixteen at the time, and I still remember the illustration about what conversion really meant: A 180 degree turn around, where instead of focusing on ourselves, we begin to focus on God.
Nonetheless, my faith in my church was unshakeable. After all, didn’t we have the law on our side? Being completely satisfied with my legalized spiritual life, I simply shrugged my shoulders and continued on with my life as usual, as ignorant as ever.
Despite my less than perfect attitude, a seed was still sown in my heart.
I encountered many other believers of the way: Baptists, Anglicans, Non-denominationals, etc., and each one left me with something to think about. Still I was unmovable.
It wasn’t until many years later, when I was living in Canada, that a charismatic pastor from Nigeria emailed me that he was praying for me. He told me that God had great plans for me. He kept in touch, and I was so surprised that someone living way out on the other side of the planet would care about me, without me even having to prove myself!
His prayers sure made a difference, for my wife and I started to experience God like never before. We started to see Him as our Abba. God’s Spirit revealed Himself to us, and it was made quite clear that our journey of self-righteousness had come to an end. The truth, after all, was not a set of doctrines or laws. The truth was a living person that wanted us to experience Him fully. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6, NIV2)
Shortly after discovering Jesus, we received an invitation to attend a Messianic assembly.
Why not? That would be quite an interesting experience.
But it would be an experience like none other. When I entered the doors of that synagogue, I felt a presence like I never felt before. God’s Spirit was here!
That same day the rabbi’s wife prayed ardently for a person in the congregation, who she described as standing in front of an open door, yet hesitating to enter. She encouraged that person to take that step. With tears in my eyes I knew she was speaking to me. I stepped through that door. I left behind my empty life filled with illusions. I finally accepted Jesus as my Saviour!
It had been a twenty-six year journey to come to the realization that all that time, I had been lost. I want to thank all these faithful believers who stood by me and didn’t give up on me. I especially want to thank my friend from Nigeria, Reverend Debo, who prayed all those years for me to know the One who really cared for me. I now feel impressed that I should return to my birth town and attend the church that first shared with me the Good News, so that I can thank them from the bottom of my heart.
If you have a loved one who does not know our loving Heavenly Father, may they be atheists or lost in religious self-righteousness, never give up. There is hope! Pray daily for that person and trust God, for He cares about that very same person as well! After all, He is that person’s Father too! He, too, will never give up! Show your love towards that person, always confirming that they are not alone and that you will always be there for them in prayer.
After all, God’s Kingdom is a Kingdom of power (See 1 Corinthians 4:20)!