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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Examining myself whether I was in the faith

I had been raised in a home where both Dad and Mom were believers in the Lord Jesus. They read the Bible and prayed with us almost daily and took us to church and Sunday school every time the church doors were open! My folks did not believe in staying home from church with new born babies, or fussy children and had no use for nurseries or “children’s church”. Rather they believed in training us from the start to listen quietly during family devotions at home and to do the same when we went to church! Thus, I could never remember a time when I had not heard the Gospel being preached! I knew that I was not a Christian because Mom and Dad were saved, but that I needed to experience salvation personally.

When I was 11, I attended a young peoples’ Saturday night rally at which we watched a movie that emphasized the necessity of choosing Christ and avoiding hell. In response to an invitation at the close of that meeting I had raised my hand to indicate that I wanted to be saved. I went home and told my Mom that I’d gotten saved that night. A few weeks later, on Easter Sunday 1964, my grandfather, a retired Baptist pastor, baptized me by immersion on the basis of my profession of faith in Christ.

Because of a deep interest in foreign missions, I went to Moody Bible Institute after graduation from high school to prepare for life as a missionary and eventually was “ordained to the ministry” and commissioned for service as a church planting missionary in the West Indies. But no one but me and the Lord knew that I often wrestled with doubts , “Bruce, are you sure that you’re really saved???”

These doubts continued through my teen years, as a Bible School student, and even as an ordained minister and missionary! But I always reasoned that they were simply an attack of Satan seeking to rob me of my joy. So I’d put them out of my mind time and time again. But the more “progress” I made (Bible school student, missionary candidate, ordained minister, foreign missionary, and “Pastor”) the less possibility there was that I would ever acknowledge to anyone that I sometimes doubted my own salvation!! I could not bear the thought of acknowledging such thoughts to anyone! “What would people think of me, in my position, if they knew!” So never having any peace as I recalled the night when I’d professed to be saved, I’d tell myself, “Woodford, you couldn’t have done all you’ve done or been in all the places you’ve been without being saved!!!”

But this “chapter” of my life brings us to the time when, as a father of 4 children, I would read the Bible and pray with my family, study the scriptures and preach and teach in assembly meetings and had done so for about two years. But now, I had no position over anyone, no reputation to maintain and now the Lord was about to use a brave young woman to cause me to consider where I really stood before God.

One family in the assembly that met at the Collingwood Gospel Hall was the Ferguson family. They had heard the Gospel some years before and the three daughters had responded to the Gospel message shortly after their parents. All had been baptized and eventually each one had been received into the assembly. But one Sunday morning, I was surprised to see the youngest girl, Helen, who was then in her late teens, sitting near the back of the Hall rather than in her usual place to share in taking the Lord’s Supper.

Right after the meeting, I took one of the elders aside and asked, “What’s wrong with Helen Ferguson?” He responded, “She’s concluded that she never got to Christ when she professed to believe in him years ago! So she realizes that it is not her place as an unbeliever to be in the assembly.”

While I was surprised to hear this, a deep respect welled up in my heart for this young woman and for her courage and honesty! A few minutes later, I said to her Mom and Dad, “It’s far better that Helen faces the truth now and get’s saved than it would be for her to live her life with a false profession and end up in hell at the end!!”

Shortly, I turned with my family to get into our car and a thought rang through my mind so clearly that an audible shout would not have made a deeper impression: “Here is a young woman who has had the courage to acknowledge exactly where she stands …NOW, BRUCE, WHAT ABOUT YOU?” To this day there is no memory in my mind that is clearer than the recollection of that question put to me over 29 years ago! But as stubborn and proud as I was, I immediately put it out of my mind and refused to consider it!

But the Lord was not through with me! I often stayed up late at night reading after the house was quiet, and about two weeks later picked a book off my shelf, “The Life of David Brainerd”. Brainerd had been a Gospel preacher to the American Indians in the late 1700’s. That night, I learned that he’d had a very religious upbringing quite similar to my own and in his late teen years had devoted his life to preaching the Gospel among the native peoples of New England. But, at the age of 21, as he prepared to preach from Isaiah 53, the Lord arrested him and brought him to realize for the first time in his life, the reality of his own sinfulness and of his own need for the Saviour! So at the age of 21, David Brainerd was converted to Christ after having spent some years as a Gospel preacher!

In my own case, I had not yet come to the point of being willing to acknowledge to another person the awful doubts that had plagued me on and off for 18 years. But the thought that was burned into my mind that night before I lay my head on my pillow was this, “Bruce Woodford, you cannot afford to go on any longer with uncertainty about your own salvation! You’ve got to get this matter settled, one way or the other!” (To be continued)

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