It might not look like it, but the most worn-out book in my personal library is the most precious thing I own.
That book is the Student’s Life Application Bible, and it’s the first thing I purchased after I became a Christian fourteen years ago around this time in August 2006.
The ESV Study Bible has become my favourite Bible to read since then. However, last night, as I was rearranging my library, I opened my Student’s Life Application Bible for the first time in years—and what I discovered made me weep with gratitude.
Days after I became a Christian, I made notes at the back of the Bible to help me pray, and the first words said:
“Praise him, thank him for his death, and I can call him father.”
I didn’t have good theology at the time. I didn’t understand the Trinity nor the roles of each divine person of the Trinity. But I knew that although I was born without a father, Jesus Christ had died for me, and because of that, I was made born-again by God and he adopted me as his child.
At the back of the Bible, I also wrote: “God’s command may require courage and come with opposition.”
Those words probably prepared me for some of the opposition I received. But I was nineteen and naive, I couldn’t have imagined what God had prepared for me.
Within days after I wrote those words, I learned that my closest friends wanted nothing to do with me anymore. After I shared the gospel with them—after I told them I had become a Christian and could no longer participate in sin with them, they said to me that unless I returned to my old self, they couldn’t continue in friendship with me.
I didn’t return to my old self, so they didn’t return to me.
Then within two years after I wrote those words, I received opposition from my family and local church when I rejected the prosperity gospel. The pastors at my local church said to many of the church members that I had left the faith when I left the church. And at the same time, my mom gave me an ultimatum: If I wanted to stay in her home, I had to stay in her church.
So since I couldn’t afford rent elsewhere, I was prepared to become homeless, until God changed my mom’s mind.
Those oppositions were within the first two years after I became a Christian and they were well before the severe opposition I’ve received for attempting to obey God’s commands concerning abortion, racism, and justice.
After I read the notes at the back of the Bible last night, I opened the Gospel of John, and with tears, I read one of the first Bible verses I highlighted when I became a Christian.
That Bible verse is: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10: 27-28)
That instantaneously became my favourite words in the Bible. And yet, it was also the most difficult words in the Bible to believe. I was an Arminian at the time—I believed I had greater control over my salvation than Jesus did.
I knew I was too sinful to maintain my faith in Jesus Christ. I knew I would inevitably return to many of my favourite sins. And I was right. I know myself well. I’ve always known I was a deeply sinful person. I’ve known that since I was five years old.
However, although I knew Jesus, I didn’t know him well at the time. I am prone to sin, but Jesus is prone to save.
That’s why fourteen years later, after so many oppositions, after so many sins—after all this time, I’m still hearing his voice every time I read the ESV Study Bible or the Student’s Life Application Bible.
Therefore, by the grace of God, my soul has survived adversity, just like my Bible.