I would like to share with you a personal experience I had with the Lord right after my spiritual new birth, which has taught me 4 basic principles that have served to strengthen and sustain my faith. In his goodness and grace, the Lord demonstrated his care and loving-kindness to me by giving me what I call a shot of colostrum in my first steps as a baby Christian, along with the spiritual milk of his word. He was preparing me for the weaning that happens as a natural stage in the baby´s growth and the long walk through the desert that was awaiting me.
These principles are:
- We might be doing a good, spiritual, church-related activity or service, but actually Jesus Christ our head may have something different and better that he wants us to do, that is his will for us at the present time, no matter what the circumstances look like to our human eyes.
- Listen to the inner guiding voice of the Holy Spirit in you. With time you will recognize it just like you are able to recognize the particular tone of voice of your loved ones.
- Do not be ashamed of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- The Bible is the true revealed word of God. You can trust it as God will speak to you and guide your walk through its pages with the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Just a few weeks after I was born again – twenty-two years old at the time – I had been going to a Baptist church and joined the choir as people encouraged me to participate in activities. I was giving my testimony on a Christian radio show, enjoyed reading and learning from the Bible, going to church and being fed by My Father´s providential hand.
I had the same exhilarated feeling as when I first put my foot on the US soil just to celebrate my first Christmas with my American sponsor´s family, that of an immigrant who is starting a new life in the land of freedom where nobody knows or cares about your past and where you can look forward to a new exciting life full of opportunities.
One Thursday afternoon as I was walking to the church for choir rehearsal, I felt an inner prompting to turn around and go to the bar in a seedy part of town where I had been drinking a few weeks ago with a friend of mine before I became a believer. This thought left me confused as I stopped in my tracks, not understanding what was happening.
I had barely started reading the New Testament, was not aware of the Holy Spirit as a teacher, a guide and all of his ministry in the believer´s life. I was afraid of being late for practice and went on a few more steps, when the impression got stronger. I thought it strange and a temptation to prevent and sidetrack me from doing my service to my newly found God and Savior. So I walked on until the third prompting was so intensely felt that I just had to turn around and walk back to the bar.
There as I sat on a bar stool and ordered a drink, the man next to me with the imposing physique of a huge football player asked me in a “basso profundo” booming voice, “Who, are, you?”
Who wouldn´t be intimidated? I certainly was. So with my best French accent, I recited my resume, name, birth place and other data that we usually give total strangers when we are introduced. This went on for a while as the man kept repeating the same question and didn´t seem to be satisfied with my adding each time true, factual answers about myself. But inside, my chest was heaving as I sensed God asking me the same question: Who are you Jean-Louis? Are you going to properly identify yourself or are you ashamed of me?
Bear in mind that I had not yet read the verse on Christ being ashamed of us if we are ashamed of Him.
The Lord Jesus in Mark 8:38 declares, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
So finally, unable to resist the pressure of the Spirit, I told the man, OK, let´s go sit down in a quiet corner so we can talk undistracted and I can tell you who I really am.
The man replied, “Well, that´s better,” as if he knew something that escaped me and was setting me up for a strange encounter.
Up to that day, I had been shielded being around Christians and had never had to be in a confrontational situation as this. I proceeded to tell the man that I was a new born-again believer, and shared with him my testimony of how God had brought me miraculously to the US and had changed my heart and my life.
He in turn shared how he had turned his back on God and felt his life was a wreck without any hope of finding his way back to his relationship with Jesus. He had become a hopeless drunk. He even passed me a bad check in exchange for a few dollars so he could buy liquor.
After a long heart-to-heart conversation, I told him about the grace and mercy of God and that if he had done it for me, a wretched sinner, he would do it for him also. All he had to do was to repent of his sins and ask forgiveness, and God would accept him back into the relationship and help him to lead a victorious life.
He was truly touched by my words, and his countenance brightened up. He told me to wait for him and that he was going to bring me back a present to thank me.
A few minutes later, he walks to the table with a big black Bible and hands it to me as a gift for having taken the time to listen to his story and given him a ray of hope.
The following Sunday after church, my sponsor friend who had become my spiritual mother, leading me to the Lord, and I were eating in a restaurant. We were finishing our dessert, and I thought it a propitious moment to show her my newly acquired Bible and shared with her the surrounding events that led to my receiving this precious gift.
While leafing through the first pages containing the personal family information of the owner, she exclaimed, “The name of the owner is the same as the man´s sitting at a table not far from ours; I know that man!” Piqued with curiosity and a little overwhelmed by the strange sequence of fortuitous, incredible events happening in such a short time, I got up and introduced myself. Asking him if he recognized the Bible, his face beamed with surprise mixed with emotional intensity as if he had recognized a long lost friend. He replied, “This Bible belongs to me and my family. We lost it 25 years ago.”
I sat down to explain the amazing story of how it came into my possession. He listened carefully, even more awestruck than I was, as I related to him an outline of my spiritual journey, and the details of my past week´s adventure and God´s providential instruction in leading the way and teaching me in a real and unmistakable manner.
As I told him that I was happy to have found his Bible and handed it to him, he graciously offered me to keep it as a token of God´s loving-kindness and care to all involved. He was obviously touched by this testimony of God´s acting on the behalf of his children.
I leave it up to you to see the hand of God in all this and the resulting blessings in the lives of the ones involved. I am sure every one of us was changed in some way. I am also certain that these encounters were the results of personal questions and doubts about the reality of faith and providence of God and answers to prayers.
What happened to that big black Bible? I don´t know where it is right now or how God used it. I gave it to a friend in college as a witness and encouragement after telling him the wonderful story behind it.
Personally, this experience served to solidify in a very real and concrete way the foundations on which my faith is based and provided a pillar of remembrance for times of discouragement, weakness and doubts. Later on as I became more familiar with the scriptures, I found passages and verses confirming my life experiences of the reality and truth of the revelation of a loving Father to his children. I can trust his word as the eternal, unchanging truth, a sure light guiding me on the way. I can trust the Spirit´s promptings as the voice of my Shepherd because, and when, it aligns and concurs with his written word and is confirmed by several witnesses.
One of those verses is Isaiah 55:10-13: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper; and instead of briers, the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
I thank and praise God my Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for his mercy, his grace and his enduring loving-kindness to us his children and the abundant blessings that he bestows on us every day without any merit on our part. Bless his Holy Name forever.