The Unexpected Result of Reading Scripture. A Testimony.

Although my parents were atheists they still considered themselves Muslims. I became a Muslim after the Soviet Union collapsed and religion was allowed. Some relatives told me that I was becoming more and more like a fanatic.

But then my sister accepted Jesus as her Savior. When she told us about her decision we all stood against her. It was such a shame for our Muslim family! We put pressure on her and once I even hit her. While I was away in the army, my sister became more mature and bold in her faith. When I came back, I was surprised at how confidently my sister shared about Jesus, but her words meant nothing to me. For me she was a betrayer.

One day my sister invited me to free English courses. I understood immediately that the people offering these courses were probably missionaries, but I didn’t care. I wanted to learn English so that I could find a good job or immigrate for a better life in the West. After the English lessons, we were invited to stay on for Bible studies. After a while, I started staying and we would often argue: I argued that Jesus is only a prophet; they were convinced he is God. One thing that shocked me was their love. Sometimes I would behave very rudely, but I always felt accepted.

A year after visiting this group regularly, I decided to read the gospel. I wanted to prove to those “lost and deceived Christians” that Jesus is not a God, but only a prophet. So I started reading and could not help enjoying it. Every day I would run back home after work to continue reading. Everything was great until I read John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” I was shocked by this statement: “nobody”??? What about Muslims? What should I then do? I wished Jesus would not say that…

I understood that I needed to make a decision. My first prayer to Jesus was, “Jesus, if you are really a God, let me know that and I will follow you.” Some time passed and I felt unusual peace like never before. I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I didn’t tell anyone for about two months. When I shared this news with my sister, she happily said, “I knew it would happen, I was praying for you all these years!” This happened in 2001 and since then I have walked with the Lord.

The author is involved in IFES ministry as a volunteer

Life-Giving Water in Difficult Circumstances

My summer holidays in 2012 turned into a bicycle accident, followed by emergency surgery, a two-month recovery period and a further surgery. I found it very hard to find peace about this situation, especially since I was still suffering from the consequences of a more severe accident which happened three years ago.

I said to the Lord, “I know you are good, you are good to everyone, but not to me. I don’t see your goodness in my life. I am following you and serving you, but my body is broken and my heart is broken. Where is your goodness?”

Sadness, confusion and apathy surrounded me as I walked through this spiritual desert. I could not “fix” myself, nor could other people help me – their words went into my ears, but did not reach my heart.

During these months, it was only through the Bible that I could hear the Lord speaking to me. The Holy Spirit used my decision to read the Bible no matter how I felt or what I thought about myself and God. In my dryness, the Holy Spirit gave me a tiny bit of water to survive each day. I was living only by that water – the Word of God – drinking it little by little.

I read the book of Job. He understood me. He called out to the Lord in his misery and bitterness of soul: “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest but only turmoil” (Job 3:26). My anguish and distress were there in the middle of the Bible!

The Lord spoke to me through Psalm 145: I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (v8). I am good to all (v9). I uphold all who fall and lift up all who are bowed down (v14). I am near to all who call on me, I am near to you. I fulfil the desires of those who fear me; I hear their cry and save them. I watch over all who love me (v18-20).

The Holy Spirit let these words drop deep into my heart: “I am watching over you, I hear your cry and will save you…” Through Scripture I was able to believe again that the Lord is good, he is always good, he is good to everyone, even to me!

Lilit Avayan, IFES General Secretary Armenia
lilitavayan (at) yahoo.co.uk

Listening and Lifestyle

Have you ever been in a conversation and suddenly realized that you completely missed what the other person just said? Have you ever read through a Bible passage without taking in the content? I have. For many of us listening is a challenge. Our thoughts are full with so many things: we are pre-occupied. And then we are unable to take in anything new.

In order to survive our studies, many of us learnt to speed-read. We read quickly in order to be effective, but when we bring this to Scripture, it is not at all effective. Unless we slow down, we will not listen well. How can we learn to stop and listen in the midst of our busy lives? How can we create space to receive the Word of God? The answer to these questions does not only have to do with how we read our Bible, but also with how we live our lives as a whole.

Listening well to God’s Word is related to our lifestyle. Last year, Isra Ortiz, a staff worker with GEU Guatemala realized that he needed to make changes in his life:

Over the past years I developed the habit of staying up very late at night. I knew it wasn’t a healthy habit, but I wasn’t too concerned. Eventually, however, I realized that it was affecting me in negative ways. I had a hard time waking up in the mornings. I often felt tired during the day and was always in a rush. This prevented me from having quality time with God and his word. I felt tired, but also restless, desperate for God’s presence and guidance. 

The Lord made it clear to me that I needed to make a practical change in my lifestyle: go to bed earlier. For the sake of my health, but also for the sake of my soul! Now, I am in the process of changing my old habit.

Some days I really struggle, but by God’s grace, progress has come. This simple change in lifestyle means that I get better rest, wake up earlier, and start the day with God. Since starting to read the Bible in the mornings, I have a new relationship with God’s Word. I am enjoying God from the beginning of the day. And that changes everything. 

Listening well is also related to our lifestyle in another way. It includes obedience – responding to what we hear with our words and deeds. Jesus said: “My mother and brother are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21).

Sabine Kalthoff