These four stories I'm about to share are of:
-Augustine of Hippo
-Mosab Hassan Yousef
Each of their stories moved me as I read about the power of Scripture that moved them.
Augustine of Hippo was born in Africa over 1600 years ago and yet his story is so relatable to today.
A man self absorbed and mixed up in a cult of self indulgence and philosophy, he lived a life very similar to many today. He loved the theater, he loved music and he loved sex. They were his idols. Immorality was art to him. He self-indulged himself into these things and lived a life that looked cool and hip on the outside but sinful and destructive on the inside.
...But Augustine had a praying mother. She prayed for over 30 years for her son to lay down his life and receive the love of Christ.
I loved reading Augustine's Confessions A book written like a love letter to God . It's was so beautiful.
When God first begins to stir a heart there is always a struggle with the flesh. Augustine was no different. As God stirred his heart he fought with all he had to put Him off.
Augustine had been closely studying the Scriptures at this time, trying to get what he could out of it, but unwilling to give up his lifestyle, unwilling to give himself fully to God. One day he and a friend visited with another who was a Christian. This man shared his story and Augustine's heart was stirred.
He says here:
"While Pontician was telling this story, you, Lord, used his words to wrench me around to front myself, dragging me out from behind my back, where I had cowered to avoid seeing myself, and 'planting me in front of my own face,' where I could see the foul me, how distorted and dirty, how spotted, how ulcerous. The sight revolted me, but there was no escaping it - each time I tried to turn my gaze away from me, he went on with his story; and you kept holding me there, thrusting me into my own face, so I might 'look on my sinfulness and learn to hate it.' I had known of it before, but I kept obscuring, giving in, not remembering."
His inner turmoil carried him into the garden. and he later writes:
...I, in my hesitation over whether to serve the Lord at last, as I had long been disposed to do, was the same man willing as was nilling, both were me. For my willing was as halfhearted as my nilling. I was at war within, was exiled from myself. My exile was unwelcome to me, caused not by a second nature in me but by the cost of sin. For it was 'no longer I that acted but the sin within me,' my lot as Adam's son, and the price of his freely sinning."
He began to cry and says here:
"I was carrying on so, crying acrid tears of 'heart's contrition,' when I heard from a nearby house the voice of a boy - or perhaps a girl, I could not tell - chanting in repeated singsong: 'Lift! Look!' My features relaxed immediately while I studied hard as I could whether children use such a chant in any of their games. But I could not remember ever having heard it. No longer crying, I leap up, not doubting that it was by divine prompting that I should open the book and read what first I hit on."
Here is what he turned to and read:
"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." Romans 13:13-14
He then writes:
"The very instant I finished that sentence, light was flooding my heart with assurance, and all my shadowy reluctance evanesced."
He went to share with his friend who pointed out the next verse in Romans 14:1
"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters."
Many people struggle with their faith. God says accept them, encourage them, love them. And that is what happened to Augustine.
He then went straight to his mother and she rejoice with him.
Josiah Henson (1789-1881)
Josiah Henson was the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' He was born a slave and lived as a slave until he escaped to Canada in his 40's. His story is extraordinary, he shares it in his autobiography simply called, Autobiography of Josiah Henson; An Inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom
Growing up his mother often spoke of God, but it wasn't until she encouraged him to go listen to Mr. McKenny preach, that God spoke to his heart. He was 18.
He says here:
"Well I went to the meeting, I heard the preacher, but I could not see him.
They would not let Negros go into the meeting. I went all round the house; I could hear him, and at last I got in front of the door. I saw him with his hands raised, looking up to heaven, and he said, with emphasis: 'Jesus Christ, the Son of God, tasted death for every man; for the high, for the low, for the rich, for the poor, the bond, the free, the negro in his chains, the man in gold and diamonds.'
His heart was filled with the love of Christ, and by the power of the Spirit of God he preached a universal salvation through Jesus Christ. I stood and heard it. It touched my heart, and I cried out: 'I wonder if Jesus Christ died for me.' And then I wondered what could have induced Him to die for me.
I was then eighteen years old, I had never heard a sermon, nor any conversation whatever, upon religious topics, except what I had heard from my mother, on the responsibility of all to a Supreme Being. This was Hebrews 2:9, the first text of the Bible to which I had ever listened, knowing it to be such, I have never forgotten it, and scarcely a day has passed since, in which I have not recalled it, and the sermon that was preached from it."
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone" Hebrews 2:9
He goes on to say after hearing this and realizing that salvation was a gift to all:
"Oh, the blessedness and sweetness of feeling that I was loved! I would have died that moment with joy, and I kept repeating it to myself, 'The compassionate Savior about whom I have heard 'loves me,' He looks down in compassion from heaven on me,' 'He died to save my soul,' and 'He'll welcome me to the skies...'"
"...In sharp contrast with the experience I had felt of the contempt and brutality of my earthly master, I basked as it were, in the benign smiles of this Heavenly Being. I thought, 'He'll be my dear refuge - He'll wipe away all tears from my eyes.' 'Now I can bear all things; nothing will seem hard after this.' I felt sure that if 'Massa Riley' only knew Him, he would not live such a coarse, wicked, cruel life. Swallowed up in the beauty of the divine love, I 'loved my enemies, and prayed for them that did despitefully use and entreat me."
On his way home that day Josiah was so excited he went off the road into the woods and he says:
"...prayed to God for light and for aid with an earnestness, which, however unenlightened, was at least sincere and heartfelt; and which the subsequent course of my life had led me to imagine was acceptable to Him who heareth my prayer."
Hebrew 2:9 was preached that day and it changed Josiah Henson's life.
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
There are all kinds of people in this world. Some are outspoken, some quiet, some carry burdens, some are light-hearted. I believe God can use them all. Here is a man who was quoted as saying...'I've lived a lonely life' and yet he shone the light of Christ into millions of peoples lives.
Aiden was not raised in a Christian home and when he gave his life to the Lord at the age of 17, he struggled in his faith because of this. But God had a plan and in His time he grew Aiden into who He created him to be.
God used a street preacher to first speak to Tozer.
I know street preachers are looked down upon these days, a popular pastor even made a video a few years ago mocking them. But where would so many be without them? Without men like John the Baptist, Paul of Taurus, George Whitefield, the Westley brothers and Billy Graham? They all preached the gospel in fields, along the road side and on the streets. Wherever they could find people who would listen.
In Lyle Dorsett's biography of Tozer, A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer he says:
"He (Tozer) was walking alone and heard a street preacher proclaiming the Word of God. This encounter nudged him to wander into a nearby church. There, as Tozer remembered it, 'I heard a man quoting from a text:
'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' Matthew 11:28-29
'Actually,' he continued, 'I was little better than a pagan but with only that kind of skimpy biblical background, I became greatly disturbed, for I began to feel and sense and acknowledge God's gracious Presence. I heard His Voice - ever so faintly. I discerned that there was a Light - ever so dimly."
This stirred his heart, but it wasn't until a few days later when Tozer explains:
"Once again, walking on the street, I stopped to hear a man preaching at the corner, and he said to those listening: 'If you do not know how to pray, go home and get down and ask, 'God, have mercy on me a sinner.' That's exactly what I did."
Tozer went on to become a preacher himself and write many classic Christian books, one of my absolute favorites is 'The Pursuit of God' which I would recommend to everyone seeking a deeper relationship with God.
Mosab Hassan Yousef (1978-present )
Mosab is the son of a Hamas leader.
When I read his book, Son of Hamas I was taken aback by the love he and his father share for each other. I was expecting something totally different.
I instead read a story of a son who loves his father and whose father loves him. A father who Mosab says:
"...had always taught us to be open-minded and loving towards everyone, even those who didn't believe as we did."
Being taught this was what allowed Mosab to be open-minded about Christianity.
Moah started his Christian journey with an invitation to a Bible study. He was given a gift of a New Testament and he says...'Because gifts are honored and respected in Arab culture, I decided the least I could do was to read it."
Many things had happened to Moab up until this point, which you need to read his book to understand, but at this point in his life God began to reveal Himself to him through Scripture.
He says here of reading the New Testament:
"I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful. I couldn't put the book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope. Then I read this:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.' Matthew 5:43-45
That's it! I was thunderstruck by these words. Never before had I heard anything like this, but I knew that this was the message I had been searching for all my life.
For years I had struggled to know who my enemy was, and I had looked for enemies outside of Islam and Palestine. But I suddenly realized that the Israelis were not my enemies. Neither was Hamas nor my uncle Ibrahim nor the kid who beat me with the butt of his M16 nor the apelike guard in the detention center. I saw that enemies were not defined by nationality, religion, or color. I understood that we all share the same common enemies: greed, pride, and all the bad ideas and the darkness of the devil that lives inside us.
That meant I could love anyone. The only real enemy was the enemy inside me."
He continues here:
"Five years earlier, I would have read the words of Jesus and thought, What an idiot! and thrown away the Bible. But my experiences with my crazy butcher neighbor, the family members and religious leaders who beat me when my father was in prison, and my own time at Megiddo had all combined to prepare me for the power and beauty of this truth. All I could think in response was, Wow! What wisdom this man had!
Jesus said, 'Do not judge, or you will be judged' Matthew 7:1
What a difference between him and Allah! Islam's god was very judgmental, and Arab society followed Allah's lead...
...Everything Jesus said on the pages of this book made perfect sense to me. Overwhelmed, I started to cry.
God used the Shin Bet to show me that Israel was not my enemy, and now he put the answers to the rest of my questions right in my hands in the little New Testament..."