Down through the centuries God’s Word, even as little as a single verse, has arrested and transformed the lives of men and women who went on to be great gospel soldiers. Here are a handful of those stories; a few of my personal favorites.
St. Augustine (theologian), 354-430AD
In the summer of AD386, Aurelius Augustinus, native of Tagaste in North Africa, and Professor of Rhetoric at Milan, sat weeping in the garden of his friend Alypius. He was almost persuaded to begin a new life, but lacked the final resolution to break with the old. As he sat, he heard a child singing in Latin from a neighbouring house, “Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!” (“Take up and read! Take up and read!”) Augustine thought to himself that these were strange words indeed for a child to be singing at play, and so he took them as from the Lord. Picking up a scroll which lay at his friend’s side, he let his eyes rest on the words:
“… not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill it’s lusts.” (Rom 13:13-14).
“No further would I read”, he wrote later, “nor had I any need; instantly at the end of this sentence, a clear light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”
Martin Luther (reformer), 1483-1546
As a Catholic monk, Luther could find no assurance that his sins were forgiven despite all his efforts at self-denial and trying to live a righteous life. He was tormented by a grave sense of his sinfulness. But his search came to an end one day while he was studying in the heated room (his study) of the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg. Reading the epistle of Paul to the Romans, he came to the words,
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’” (Romans 1:17)
“Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven.”
Jonathan Edwards (preacher of the Great Awakening), 1703-1758
Edwards was the son of a minister, and was taught the gospel from infancy. As a boy, however, he had a great dread of the sovereignty of God. Later he spoke of His conversion as the moment that he came to not only be at peace with this doctrine, but to draw immense comfort from it.
“The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words,
“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)
“As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him forever! I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself; and went to pray to God that I might enjoy him, and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (the prince of preachers), 1834-1892
In 1850, at just 16 years of age, Spurgeon was on his way to an appointment when a blizzard forced him to turn into a Primitive Methodist chapel. The regular preacher was unable to make it to the meeting because of the storm, and so in his absence a simple, poor church member stepped into the pulpit to preach as best he could. He read his text:
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)
With only a dozen or so in attendance, the man identified young Spurgeon as a stranger, and so he singled him out with the challenge, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ.”
Years later Spurgeon wrote, “There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the Precious Blood of Christ.”
Fanny Crosby (hymnwriter), 1820-1915
It was not actually a Bible text that finally led Fanny Crosby across the line of faith. Fittingly it was the words of a hymn (she later was to write more than 8,500 of her own!)
It was 1850, and she trusted in Christ at a Methodist revival meeting. God used the hymn of Isaac Watts “Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed?” The last stanza says:
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
‘Tis all that I can do.
Fanny said that as the last line was sung, “I surrendered myself to the Savior, and my very soul was flooded with celestial light.” She was captivated by the love of Christ.
Do you remember the text that brought YOU to trust in Christ? Or do you have a “life verse” — a Scripture that has become a special guiding motto to you? Leave a comment and share it with us.