Belfast, Northern Ireland
Saved: June 2000
This is the story of the weekend beginning Friday the 9th June 2000. It was the most important and wonderful weekend of my life. This testimony was written on Monday 12th June and Tuesday 13th June of the year 2000.
I was brought up in a Christian home, near Newry, a town in county Down, Northern Ireland, by parents who prayed for me even before I was born. It is the most unspeakable privilege to have such parents. I could see the importance of Gods salvation in their lives and due to the fact they never put the same pressure on me about doing well in school or in my career as other parents. Their hearts desire was that some day I would accept the Lord as my own, personal Saviour. I have an older brother, Jonathan (23), a younger sister, Laura (17) and a younger brother, Mark (12). I am very close with my older brother Jonny and we both have a mutual friend called Mark who I have known all my life and is like a brother to me too. The three of us are and always will be, completely inseparable. Although we all were very privileged and knew of our need to be saved from a very early age we strayed from the gospel and went our own way for years. When I went to university (living away from home) I got deeply involved in the pleasures of this world and influenced Jonny and Mark to join me. I wasted so many years and so much money and time in trying to enjoy myself only to realize there is no true satisfaction in it. I had been unhappy with my life for months up to the point where I was reached by God's grace and mercy, and now I am the happiest, most fulfilled I have ever been. I know now that the satisfaction and lasting peace and joy that can only be obtained through our Lord Jesus Christ is the most wonderful, and free, gift that a person can receive. I know what the world has to offer as I experienced it all for years - I'm sure everyone who isn't saved knows within themselves that there has to be more to life than they have found. Eventually I got so unhappy with my life, I began acting like a Christian and making friends with other Christians. Living a Lie. I grew to love and respect a lot of the new friends I made and found that they were the most fun, life-loving people in the world who had a certain assured happiness and satisfaction. However my guilt and shame stopped me from enjoying life the way they did, and I knew they had something I didn't have - a love for the Lord and a willingness to serve Him, which brought an amazing sense of peace with God and assurance of a place in heaven.
In May a gospel campaign came to my local church, Newry Gospel Hall, with two preachers bringing the good news of the gospel every night. Albert Aiken and my uncle, John Rogers. I attended as much as possible but it was difficult for me to get home as I live in Belfast and have no car. Normally I would have used this as an excuse to avoid going, but the combination of the difference I could see in my Christian friends and my own fruitless searches for true happiness led me to take this more seriously for a change. God was working in my life no doubt.
My younger sister has been saved already for a couple of years now. A couple of weeks into the campaign my younger brother put his faith in Christ for his eternal wellbeing, which left only me and my older brother left in our house unsaved. I was being moved and spoken to by the still, small voice of God, and had several talks with people about their faith. I fell asleep many nights reading my bible trying to see the truth, but couldn't understand what it meant to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have always, from I was very young anyway, believed that Jesus died on the cross. But I never truly put my trust in Him that He died for me and this was enough to take me to Heaven. I was always trying to understand what it meant, work it out for myself and never truly accepted it as the finished work. The story continues on the Friday night, 9th June 2000:
Jonny, Mark and myself were out on Friday night meeting up with some friends for coffee. Mark was very quiet and strange. Then on the way home in the car he told us he had got saved on the Thursday night sitting in the meeting through Romans 10 verse 9 ("If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him [the Lord Jesus] from the dead, thou shalt be saved"). This news was a huge shock to me, one I cant fully describe. It was like stabbing me in the heart with a knife. I couldn't even speak, I didn't know what to do. My life had been turned upside down. I was concerned about my soul before this and had been doing a lot of thinking, however, after I heard this I could think of nothing else. Something that had held me back from God more than anything was my friendship with Jonny and Mark. I thought as long as we were all in the same boat we were ok and I could handle it. I had always wanted to be saved but didn't ever face up to the reality of it. All I could feel then was shame. I was ashamed of continually rejecting Christ for so long but acting like a Christian. A lot of my friends assumed I had been saved for years because of the people I knew and places I went. I was living a lie and knew I couldn't do it for much longer, but as long as Jonny and Mark were the boat I could cope. Now I was in a worse state than ever before. I stayed in my bed all day Saturday reading the bible and praying but was getting nowhere. On Saturday night we had organized to go to some show with a few people but it was the last thing I wanted to do so I told them I didn't feel well. I went to bed with my bible and a few tracks. The soccer tournament Euro 2000 had started that day and the first match was on that night. Normally this would then get all my attention but that night I turned the TV off and read my bible thinking then God would have to save me as I had chosen Him over football. I tried doing all sorts of deals in my head. Tried promising myself that I wasn't going to sleep that night until I was right with God. I was trying so hard to understand what I had to do, trying to work myself up into an anxious, desperate state. I would have done anything to be saved, would have swam oceans or climbed mountains, prayed for weeks or gave all the money I had. I was trying everything I could think of. It was madness. It just seemed hopeless and I ended up drifting off to sleep with my light still on and my bible beside my head on the pillow.
I went to church the next morning with my parents and Mark was there. Mark wouldn't normally go my parents even mentioned that this was unusual. I knew why. He had told his parents the night before that he had got saved so everyone in our church had heard and everyone was shaking him by the hand at the end and telling him how glad they were to hear it. I was feeling worse and worse and more and more ashamed every second. At the end I went out and stood with Mark and my cousin Jeff, I couldn't even speak to either of them. Mark asked me how I was and I couldn't answer him. I didn't know what to say. Jeff tried to make light chitchat about something but it was no good, I felt worse than I ever had in my life. Eventually one of the preachers came over and shook Mark by the hand then asked me if there was any news, I could just about answer "No". Everyone left after that and I stood there alone and ashamed. Julie, Mark's sister, came over and asked how I was. I tried chatting for a while but it was no use and I was on the verge of tears. She could see this and just patted me on the arm and said, "It'll come Stephen. It'll come". I didn't talk on the way home in the car and felt terrible most of the way through lunch. Sunday lunch was normally such a relaxed, enjoyable time at our house but this time I just wanted to get away from the table and alone before God. I ran upstairs, grabbed my bible and went and locked myself in a room. I knew this was the end and things couldn't go on any longer the way they were. I knew if I got back down to Belfast I would start getting involved in my work again, going to the gym, socializing, and forget about it all. I couldn't let this happen so knew that if I didn't get salvation that afternoon I was going to make some drastic changes. I was going to cut away from my life as it was, stay down in the city and not return home until I was saved. I had put my parents through enough and couldn't bare it any longer. I prayed to God that he would forgive my sins and have mercy on me, even though I knew I must have nearly drained Gods mercy dry ("why cumberith it the ground"). I read John chapter 3 over a few times and tried to see what it was saying to me. Read verses 15, 16 and 36 over and over but was still very much in the dark, and felt burdened about my sins. I prayed and pleaded and asked God "What must I do to be saved?" He guided me to find that passage in the bible in Acts chapter 16 which has the very same question, asked by a jailor almost 2000 years ago. I don't know how I managed to find it as I had been looking for it before and couldn't. There was the answer staring at me from the page "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" I knew this was spoken by God and he cannot lie so I just accepted it, accepted that there was nothing for me to do, nothing I could do, and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. This is all I have and all I need for eternity. I didn't have any strange feelings or sensations, but knew in my heart that I had changed. Immediately I got on my knees and thanked the Lord for saving me. However doubts came flooding in so I turned to God's word for reassurance. I have no idea how I found this passage (afterwards I actually thought it was on the same page as the other verse in Acts), but I was actually looking at Romans 5 verse 1 - "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". After reading this I knew that the burden of my sins I had felt so intensely was gone. I felt the peace spoken of in this verse so knew within my heart I was saved.
I got a lift home with Mark and he asked me if I had thought any more about salvation (already a preacher after only three days!). So I told him I had got saved. And told him how I had got saved. My heart was racing, I could feel its every beat. We both started to cry. Tears of joy this time though. When we got home my brother Jonny went upstairs to read his Bible, so we left him alone and went for a walk up the road and had a chat that I will never forget. I have never felt as happy or as close to anyone as the bond between Mark and me that day. It felt like a new beginning, after many years of searching we had both discovered what life is actually about. It felt like we had only begun to live. We didn't end up making it back to the house for over an hour, had some supper and I headed back down to Belfast.
I just hope now that I can live the way God wants me to live and please him to some extent. Considering what God did for me in sending His only Son to die a painful and humiliating death on Calvary I owe Him everything and hopefully can please Him whatever way I can from now till the day I die. I know I will let him down regularly but hope he stays close to me and guides me all the days of my life.
...I wrote all that on Monday 12th June (spent all morning) but couldn't send or tell it to anyone, as my parents didn't even know I was saved (only Mark knew). However I went home to the meeting on Monday night after work and the story continues...
Mark came up to lift me after work and we went for something to eat as we had a lot to discuss. I was bursting to tell everyone but nervous as well, especially as I knew what it would do to Jonny. We were worried it would crack him up completely and he would leave home or something. You may think this sounds drastic but I was planning on doing the same at a stage. So me and Mark carefully devised a plan (I had a feeling it wouldn't work and it didn't!). We were going to go home first to my house and tell Jonny before he went to meeting. I had to tell my parents that night as I had put them through enough and couldn't leave it any longer. Especially since I heard about a prayer meeting they had in our church the previous Sunday, which was supposed to be the most solemn, intense prayer meeting ever. Everyone cried at it (especially when my dad got up to pray for his two remaining unsaved boys he never thought would get saved). When we arrived home it was around 7.30pm and I thought my parents would have been away already (normally they went earlier than Jonny). However, there were still two cars at the house so I thought they were still there. We waited at the end of the road until one car left so I thought Jonny would be left in the house on his own. I went to the door. Opened it and seen that the alarm was set so knew there was no one in. Strange, but I knew it was Gods will. It turned out my parents had got a lift to the meeting with the preacher who was at our house for dinner. So we raced on down the road to the meeting. My leg was shaking up and down the whole time and I was just longing to tell someone my good news.
At the end everyone was walking out and I didn't know what to do or who to tell. As I walked up the hall, I kept looking over and my dad was moving up the hall alongside me. He was closing the windows along one side of the hall and he just moved along as I moved along. I knew I had to tell him first. So I went over and told him I had got saved. He was overcome with emotion and couldnt even begin to express it. I started to say sorry for what I had put him through all these years and lost the power of speech. I then went over to tell Albert Aiken the preacher, and my Uncle John. It just started to flow out of me I could have got a loudspeaker and told the whole town. I looked up to see Jonny walking back towards the hall and I knew what he was going to say. He told them he had got saved on the Sunday night after the meeting. Just a few hours after me. It was the most amazing thing in the world. He wasn't going to tell anyone, as he was worried about me, and what it would do to me. He wanted to tell me first, but his plan went pear-shaped as well so we both ended up telling everyone at once. Everyone was crying, especially my Mum, she near flattened me for not telling her for a whole day, I have never seen the place like it. We gathered all my Family up, my Granny, some of my uncles and cousins, Mark and his family and all went in to sing praises and pray. I will never forget it.
My whole family and Marks family then went round to Marks house for supper. I have never seen two families so happy and so united in all my life. Both were complete in the Lord and the laughing and crying and rejoicing was just unreal. I had to go to Belfast again that night (Jonny and Mark came as well) so on the way down the road we were phoning up all these people and getting them out of bed to tell them. I was wrecked when I eventually went to bed but could hardly sleep, and as for trying to get up this morning. The last three days have felt like three months and I am extremely excited about what lies ahead. I feel like I am just starting out and have no time to lose as I have wasted so much of my life already.
That concludes my testimony. There is lots more I could say about the people who God used to speak to me and the happiness I have felt since. I have never had a happier few days than the last few. The conversations I have had with people and the way I have been talking since I got saved has amazed me. I am a new person, more confident and happy, with a new lust for life and reason for living. I feel safe and looked after by the Lord now - one of his children. I know that he will be there to guide me and comfort me the rest of my days. If you aren't saved or are living a lie like I was. Go in for it today. You have no time to lose. It is the most important, real aspect of life. The reason we are put on this earth. Jesus will never turn you away if you come to Him, for He promised - Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
"Therefore being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1)