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Grace and Mercy

   by  John Nelson*

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    Being raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I was taught all of the ins and outs of salvation and thought that I had a real relationship with God.  However, when my idea of what my life should be didn't work out, I decided to do things my way. But through every one of my poor decisions the Holy Spirit was there, all the time whispering and reminding me that God really does love me. I found that my darkest most vulnerable times were in the midnight hour, when all of my friends were gone, when there were no more drugs or alcohol, when I was stone-cold sober. That's when the enemy would perch on the side of my bed, remind me of my childhood teachings, and taunt me with the fact that I had gone too far to turn around. He would impress upon me that I was totally unlovable, especially by a God who only loves the pure and perfect.

    Satan was challenging God's integrity, and I was in such total despair that I found myself believing his lies.

    I praise God for the Holy Spirit, because being a singer, even in the depths of my sins I continued to sing gospel music. The words and the melodies permeated the darkness in my soul and made room for the Holy Spirit to infuse my heart with the light and the courage that go along with loving God. As a sinner, even in my weakest hour, I continued to desire God. And that reminds me to never give up on a person, because I cannot see what goes on in a person's heart.

    Through all of my trials and tribulations my mother was praying, and my aunts, uncles and cousins -- Seventh-day Adventists from around the country -- were constantly sending up prayers on my behalf.  I didn't much care at that point in my life, but now I know it meant the difference between life and death for me. My aunt, Sister Eleanor Wright, who was always one of my most faithful mentors, wrote a song entitled, "You Don't Know." It says in short, "You don't know my blessed Savior or the price that He has paid, or you would not wonder why He calls me back when I have strayed, or wonder why He's so forgiving every time I disobey. You don't know how much I love the Lord, and you don't know how much the Lord loves me." This song has always been one of my favorites, and the truth of those words have become evident to me in the last five years. After deciding to give up drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and all manner of illicit sex, I prayed and asked God to clean me up, and He did. 

    Two weeks after my last cigarette, I had a heart attack. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had been to church and to dinner and thought that I had a severe case of indigestion. Our choir had a program that afternoon, and I went to the hospital after that. The doctor informed me that if I had not been singing, (which causes you to inhale deeply) I would most likely not have survived. Praise God for His long-suffering.

    I thank God for my mother and her faithfulness. It was because of her devotion to Sabbath School and church that I rejoined the church.  Because of eye surgery, she depended on me to take her to church on Sabbath, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  The Sabbath that I gave my life back to the Lord, was homecoming at Riverside Chapel SDA Church in Nashville, TN, and that morning Elder Lee from New York preached until the power of the Lord came down, and I found myself begging the Lord to save me.

    Although I re-established my relationship with God, I found that my health was broken because of the way I had abused my body. On July 8, 1997, I went into the hospital with a raging fever and went downhill into pulmonary edema. I was on a respirator for almost two months.  The doctors called my family in and told them that I had a one-percent chance of survival -- not ten percent or five per cent, but a one-percent chance of survival. That's not much of a chance in man's finite eyes, but to the Man who raised Lazarus from the grave and who Himself conquered death at Golgotha, it was merely another opportunity to glorify the Father. Hallelujah!

    My mother rebuked that decision in Jesus' name, and she and my brothers and my numerous church families and friends began to pray and sing and trust God for my survival. So I am here today to share this testimony with you. I have since read that God performs miracles for His own glorification, and I praise Him every day that He chose me to personify His grace and mercy.

    My recovery has been long and hard. There were pressure wounds on my feet, and the doctors wanted to amputate the left foot. But God said no to that also. I was totally bedridden for six months and went from bed to a wheelchair, to a walker, and to a cane. I am now singing again and serving in my home church which is the Dale Wright Memorial SDA Church, and I am praising God every day for my testimony.

    When I am asked, "Why did God let that happen to you?" my answer is that the only thing that God has done is to create me, love me and save me. All the rest was the result of my choices. I praise God that, despite the poor decisions that I have made in my life, He has seen fit to continue to love me.

    I thank God for Micah 7:18 and 19 which says, "Who is a God like unto thee that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He retains not His anger for ever, because He delights in mercy. He will turn again. He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities," and "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."

    Forgiveness nullifies guilt through prayer. Instead of placing blame for my circumstances, I pray for forgiveness. God's forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflowing of redeeming love that transforms the heart. David had the true conception of forgiveness when he prayed, "Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10  

    I don't get overwhelmed by the slip-ups that I sometimes make, since I adopted this verse. Psalm 119:165 says, "Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them." Since I am in love with God, and I love His law, I have found that peace that passes understanding. When I am feeling weak or know that I have messed up, I revel in knowing that that same God who loved me enough to pull me out of the muck and the mire is willing to forgive me again and continue to supply me with the strength to fight on.

*John Nelson is my real name.

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02 Jun 2010 10:34 AM