When I was a little boy, from the age of about seven to fourteen years we used to go to a forest near our village to collect firewood. Throughout our early years, that was our life: every other evening after school, and each Saturday, boys of our age would leave the village with our dogs for the forest to collect firewood. The forest was very big, and we experienced many adventures there, for we also hunted deer and rabbits as well as fighting with boys from neighboring villages.
Danger also lurked in this forest; many unsolved murders occurred there, and more than once we ourselves had to run for our very lives. One day our group, desiring greater adventure, decided to go really deep into the forest, further than our parents would have allowed us to venture. At the very heart of the forest, we suddenly burst into a small, tight clearing; and there we found a fire with a pot cooking on it – and no one in sight!
It just took us an instant to figure out that we had just entered very dangerous territory and, without a word uttered, we scattered like flies. Many hours later we met at the village, exhausted, with no firewood – and extremely terrified.
But over and above all these adventures there was one very remarkable experience that happened to me personally during this period which was to have a far-reaching effect on my later life. It happened this way. At school, during morning parade, we used to sing songs from the ‘Golden Bells’ and ‘Redemption Songs’ songbooks. These were Christian hymnbooks, for in those days there was a strong foundation of the fear of God in men’s hearts.
Now, it came about that whenever we would go to the forest to collect wood, a particular song would always pop up in my heart. The song was “It Is Well With My Soul”, the song composed by Philip Bliss.
Each time I entered those woods, that song would come, like a silent visitor, and it would quietly engulf my heart, the lyrics and tune as clear as when we sang the song at school. I would sing it quietly under my breath, and a brilliant light would shine in my heart. My soul was transported to a strange, distant world, a world which my little imagination would not work out clearly. Yet it was more real than my immediate surroundings.
In those early years I did not know much about God nor could I have understood that He was involved in what was going on in my life. As a small boy, I could not think beyond my immediate experiences. Nevertheless, this song grasped my heart in a vague but powerful way, and it shook me. Sometimes, as my little soul answered to that far-away call, the tears would come to my eyes; but I would hide it from my friends. It was a very personal affair.
This experience impacted my young life more than anything that I can remember.
As I grew older and moved on into adult life, the whirlwind of worldly life whipped the memory of that experience into obscurity. I no longer went to collect firewood in the forest, and the song stopped singing in my heart.
Many years later, though, the Lord miraculously saved me. And gradually He brought back to me the memory of that childhood experience. It was then that it dawned on me that long before I was born, God had known me, and that since my birth He had always tried to get my attention. Not only that, but His hand had been upon me all those years, protecting me through the rough and sinful life that I had lived until, when I was 25 years of age, He finally managed to rein me in.
This childhood experience proved to be tangible evidence to me that the Lord began dealing with my life long before I even got saved. When I think of it today, this realization overwhelms me. It shows, more than anything, how much I mean to God. I am not on some backburner somewhere; but I am as central to Him as anything is. In fact, if I can believe it, I am the single most important object of His love and purpose.
I am reminded of the songwriter who once wrote: “Alas, and did my Savior bleed… for sinners such as I?” I wonder, too: could it be true that God would condescend to look upon such one as I, whom am less than nothing? And not only that, but that He has also found it in Him to involve me in His grand plan for the salvation of mankind. That prospect leaves me utterly astounded.
You, reader, have no idea, for you do not know me well enough. Me?! But I must believe, for it is true.
Then again, I am only now beginning to appreciate the depth and implications of the responsibility God attaches to His call in my life. His purpose for my life is gradually becoming clear. I am beginning to understand why He has been hovering over me all these years. He wants me to manifest the life of Jesus to the world.
What a responsibility! I ask, ‘How can I do it, Lord?’ He answers, ‘By losing your life!’ But can I possibly do that? Am I willing to lose my life for anything?
The answer is a bleak no. I am too weak for that. I am too frivolous. I am too selfish, too human!
But He does not need any of my efforts. I thank God because He has made a way for me to manifest the life of Christ in my life. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
He says in chapter 1 verses 11-12 that he did not receive this revelation from man, but it was a revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ. The answer, therefore, lies in the revelation of what Jesus came to accomplish on the Cross!
The power of that revelation will cause me to give my life, to lose it, in order that the resurrection life of Jesus may be found in me. This is the calling of God in my life, a calling that was there before the foundations of the world were laid. The mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages is Christ Jesus, the revelation of the crucified Christ, who is the power of God.
“When I survey the wondrous Cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.” – Isaac Watts