Written by Marilyn Stevens.
I was quite young when my parents bought a farm in Ohio and moved my brother and me from West Virginia to a busy farm life. Growing up on a dairy farm taught us kids how to work as well as provided an abundance of good memories and object lessons for life. Years later I was fascinated to read a book by Dr. Walter L Wilson, preacher, doctor and farmer, who saw God’s creative hand of systematic order in every-day farm life.
We also have two sets of twin sisters, and when they were quite young, our parents sold the farm and had a huge farm auction to sell the cattle, machinery and all. Then we moved to California where I finished high school and attended college.
Looking back, our move was a bit hilarious. Dad drove his old Ford pick up loaded to the hilt with even a mattress tied on top and pulled a trailer also loaded. Most of us kids rode with our mother and grandmother in the station wagon which was also pulling a trailer full of our belongings. We had ladders, a lawn mower, rakes and shovels all tied to the sides of the trailers. And we talked them into letting us take a few banty hens in a chicken coop as well as one of our favorite cats who, by the way, had kittens in the back of the station wagon when we crossed the Arizona state line.
In the 1950s there were no fast food stops. Our folks would buy loaves of bread and sandwich fixin’s, apples and a box of ice cream, then would look for a big shade tree for us to picnic. We had to be very quiet so our father could get a few minutes sleep. I remember our brother would climb up on that mattress on top of the truck and also take a nap. We must have been a sight.
Before our move west, when only about ten years old, I agreed to memorize Scripture verses in order to go to a little Bible camp for free. The Rural Bible Crusade ministry reached many farm kids like me in the eastern states. I memorized all 500 assigned verses and attended that camp the summer before the fifth grade. That’s when I first heard the Gospel.
We were required to complete a Bible correspondence course and memorize more assigned Scripture in order to attend camp each year after that. I did so for the next four years. And yes, I asked the Lord to save me the first year, but I prayed to be saved every year after that, simply because I did not understand or know how to take God at His Word. I had much to learn about the Lord.
We did not attend a Bible-preaching church during our years in Ohio. Oh yes, they taught us to be kind to our neighbors, to obey our parents and to follow the ten commandments. But they never taught us we were sinners or how to be saved from our sin and become a new person in Christ. Although I was sincere in wanting to be as good as I could, I always failed at it as soon as I arrived back home from camp. Neither did I want to move West and leave the farm. But looking back I can see that God began a work in my heart at that little camp and kept working after we moved to California.
God is so good in spite of us. Although things don’t always make sense at the time and we can rebel against our circumstances, Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And of course Romans 8:28 still says,
“…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
God’s hand was in that move to the west coast, and I thank Him for His goodness, love, mercy and grace.
We had not been in California long before neighbor children down the road invited us to their church. Our parents allowed us to go with them, and was I ever surprised to find they sang the same songs and preached the same Gospel message that I had heard at my little Bible camp in Ohio! I was thrilled and felt almost like I was back at camp in one of the evening meetings.
I came to love this little Bible church, and eventually our parents began attending too. However, for nearly seven years I wrestled with the question of whether I was truly saved from my sin and on my way to heaven.
Shortly after I’d graduated from high school, our family went on a vacation to Oregon. On that trip, in the back of my mind was the constant nagging of this question. I simply had to know for sure if I was a child of God. I now know many others experience these doubts as well. If that is you, please read on and see that God is loving and faithful and He honors a searching heart.
There are different reasons for doubting one’s salvation. They may include unconfessed sin or harboring bitterness that is keeping you from fully trusting the Lord. Mine was ignorance of the nature and love of our holy, eternal God. I had never been taught simply to take Him at His Word, yet I was so troubled about it on that trip that I took a flashlight under the covers one night and flipped through my Bible sincerely asking God for help. I came upon verse after verse as well as entire chapters that I had memorized in order to go to that little camp. Scriptures I had not even understood took on meaning; they made sense and thrilled my heart. There were many verses in Romans, Ephesians 2, I John 5 and so many others. I John 5:13 especially spoke to me,
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life…”
To know for sure was what I longed for, and the Holy Spirit did the work and opened my eyes.
I settled the question of my salvation that night and dedicated and consecrated my heart and life to my Lord and Savior. What assurance and peace! Talk about thanksgiving and praise. I could hardly wait till morning to share this with my sisters. I wanted to tell the whole world. That terrible burden was lifted! I was saved and have never doubted again. Some years later I came across the book Pilgrim’s Progress and was amazed that something written so many, many years ago could so perfectly describe my heart and the thrill and joy of having the burden of sin removed. Our Heavenly Father is so loving and good.
How many of you have never yet written out your testimony? Please do so; then share it with others. Go back and review what God has done for you.
Psalm 77:11-12 says, “I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.”
This article was published in the Spring 2016 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine. If you would like to contact Marilyn, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Facebook.