October 1, 2014

An S.O.S. to God

I was four years old in 1906 when our family came from Finland and settled in the small seaport town of Astoria, Oregon. Three years later, my father came home and said he had heard an Apostolic Faith street meeting, and he believed they were people of God.

I was brought up under the light of this Gospel and under the influence of the teachings of this church, and I appreciate that. I am sure that is the reason I am a Christian today.

When I was nineteen years of age, I gave my heart to the Lord and lived a Christian life for a time. But through discouragement, I lost that victory. Instead of believing the promises of God, I listened to the devil when he came around, and he planted doubts and fears in my mind. Eventually, I was convinced that the only thing to do was to get out—and that is what I did.

For six years I went the ways of the world. We had moved to Portland, and I spent my time trying to find some enjoyment around pool halls, theaters, dance halls, and bootleg joints. I can’t say I was happy. How could I be when I knew that Hell was awaiting me at the end of that kind of life?

One Saturday night I planned to go to a dance. Earlier in the evening I had gone to a bootleg joint for a few drinks. I had also been drinking earlier in the day, so before going to the dance, I stopped at a one-man café for a cup of coffee.

I remember leaving the café and stepping into a taxicab. Then I knew nothing more until I found myself struggling to climb a slippery, moss-covered piling in the Willamette River. The shock of the cold water had revived me momentarily. I realized I could not climb the piling, and it came to me that on the other side of the river I could climb up the rocky bank. Without hesitation, I let go of the piling, intending to swim across the river, but I blacked out again. I don’t know how long I was in the water. The next thing I knew, I heard a voice calling out of the dark, “Grab the rope!” I could not see anyone, but I felt the rope fall into my hands. I must have been floating on my back. A tugboat had been heading up the river, casting its light from side to side, and the crew had seen me! After they pulled me aboard, someone said, “You are one lucky guy!” I knew it was more than luck. God had spared my life, and I thanked Him for it. I knew without Him I would not have had a chance in a million. I was put ashore, and someone paid my taxi fare home. It had been discovered that my money, identification, and even my house key had been taken from me. It seemed that someone had drugged my coffee in order to rob me. When I arrived home and my landlady unlocked the door for me, she was shocked to see my condition.

How close to Hell I had been! That thought really frightened me. Still, I did not give my heart to the Lord. Finally, early one morning, on my way home from a night of revelry, I just looked up into the starry heavens and sent up an S.O.S. to God. It was not much of a prayer—only, “God help me!”—but God heard it. I believe He had been waiting for my cry for help.

One Sunday afternoon I had no plans, but I believe God had my day planned. I went to visit my sisters who were just leaving for an afternoon church service when I arrived. They invited me in and told me to make myself at home. I sat down in a chair, and after they left, began to read an Apostolic Faith paper I found on the coffee table.

I had no thought of giving my heart to God, but as I read that paper, the Spirit of God began talking to my heart again! I felt the call of God as I had never felt it through the years I had been away from Him. With tender cords of love He drew me to make another start for Heaven. I made up my mind that I was through with the old life. After going through my pockets and emptying them of anything a Christian should not have in his possession, I got down on my knees by the chair and prayed. I purposed in my heart to serve the Lord, and He saved me!

I went to church that night and told different ones that God had saved me. The next morning, though, the devil was right there to taunt me with doubts and fears as he had in the past. He said, “You’re not saved. A backslider cannot get saved that easily.” I listened to the devil and decided he was right. I had not yet learned to use the shield of faith. I thought it could not be possible that I had really prayed through to victory in such a short little while. I headed for the pool hall on Grand and Burnside, and on the way, I bought a pack of cigarettes. Inside the hall, I tried to play pool, but just couldn’t get interested in the game. Soon, I hung up the cue and walked out of that place for the last time.

God saw my heart. He knew I didn’t want that old life, and that I wanted to be a Christian. I left the pool hall and began to walk down Grand Avenue. As I walked block after block, the Spirit of God began to reason with me. God showed me that I had come to a crossroads in life, and my choice would lead to either eternal Heaven or eternal Hell.

First, I saw that if I continued on the path I was on, doing the things I was doing, I would end up in Hell as a lost soul without God. Then the Lord held out eternal life to me. I immediately purposed to take God at His Word, and to believe and serve Him. While I was still walking, He gave me the peace and assurance in my heart that I was a Christian. God made it so clear to me that there was no room for doubt. I threw the cigarettes away and headed back up the street giving the pool hall a wide berth. I did not want to go near those places ever again. A short time later, I met a neighbor who said there was a different look about me. The change God had made on the inside showed on the outside.

Never again did I go into the dance halls, the poolrooms, or the theaters. It did not come about by my willpower. God gave me the grace.

That has been fifty-four years ago and I have not been back into that life of sin. I do not have any desire for those things. The world and its pleasures have no allurement or attraction for me. Since that day, I have not wanted another cigarette or drink of liquor. Never again did I go into the dance halls, the poolrooms, or the theaters. It did not come about by my willpower. God gave me the grace. He changed my heart and gave me new desires.

I love this Gospel. I have always loved this way. It has not always been easy; there have been trials along the way, and battles to fight, but the victories have been sweet. God was always there when I needed Him, answering prayer for me countless times. Words can never express the infinite love and mercy the Lord held out to this repentant sinner who had lost his way. My heart is filled with gratitude.

apostolic faith magazine