Stephen’s Story – A testimony

December 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Church, India, newsletter-lead

Tithing to the LordThe below God experience has encouraged us, over the last so many years, to give generously (of our time, energy, talents, influence, resources etc) into the Lord’s vineyard and also promote Gospel songs. And yes – defeat the evil one, get blessed and be a blessing. Praise God.

Malachi 3:10 … Test me in this says the Lord almighty and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing, that you will not have room enough for it

Stephen’s Story

Once upon a time, there lived a young man called Stephen, whom God had blessed well with talents & education. Though otherwise not religious, Stephen was a regular Sunday mass-goer & also helped others whenever he could. He used God’s gifts to work hard & soon rose to become, a prosperous businessman. God also blessed Stephen with a wife & daughter, besides a wonderful extended family, complete with a bungalow, car, etc. And they all lived happily until one-day disaster struck. It did not come as a jolt or like sudden lightening; but rather crept in quietly. It came in silently, at an hour Stephen least expected. Along with the financial loss, came sickness, mental tension & helplessness, for the very weight of the burden was too much to bear. Stress made Stephen a nervous wreck. Some said it was black magic, others said it was the new house that they had brought. And still others said they were paying for their past sins or that of their ancestors.

Stephen could do little & became a recluse – quiet, who wanted to be left alone. He put all the resources he had at his disposal to use. He worked harder; he tried all his contacts & even approached those whom he had at some point helped. But it was of no use. No one could stop the worst from happening. I knew Stephen well. In fact, very well. Yes – because, I am he! Yes – that’s my middle name. Only I know how many times I was tempted to commit suicide. The trauma, anxiety & stress were unbearable. Health began to deteriorate & I was tired of living. I was fed-up of meeting people & dodging creditors. I was just waiting for the end to finally catch up with me. I decided to spend the last few days trying best to organize myself & my affairs, so that my family would bear as little of the brunt after me – Suicide was the only option left.

The Bible – The Last Resort

Late one night, while I was praying as Job, a thought struck me – Why not read the Bible? It would help to take my mind of such desperate thoughts. I had yet another heart to heart conversation, with God that night. I had heard Charismatics & Believers say God still speaks to man. So I begged the Holy Spirit to enlighten me through the Bible & whatever I could understand of the passage, I would be drawn to. I then took up my Bible, hoping to get a simple passage, as with my state of mind, I would not be able to grasp something complex like, a chapter from Revelations, for instance! I was bewildered at the passage that I believed the Lord was showing me – MALACHI, one of the many, I not even heard of before. But because, I had prayed so much just a little while earlier, for an answer & because of the desperate situation, I was in, I decided to read it right in the middle of the night & take a lesson from it. Malachi shook me & hit me hard.

Malachi is the story of how & why God punishes His people, either for not tithing or not doing so properly. I did not know much about the subject, but I certainly knew that I had never been anywhere near the 10% mark. I thought of my meetings with prominent politicians & businessmen. How I had tried to buy their favour, with gifts & expenses, because they would proved useful. And here was God – who had already blessed me and was the only one who could do so in the future too. Not only had I not stopped to give Him my money, but not even my time or talents. I couldn’t stop myself from crying that night, as I begged for forgiveness. His love enveloped me. I could feel His warm comfort, as tears rolled down, unceasingly. I was determined to change. Even, if I did not have much time or money left. I wanted my God to know that I was at least grateful. As a concrete sign, of my giving God the first place in my life, I gave most of whatever little money I had. I promised to tithe regularly, thereafter.

His Songs of Thanks & Praise

Gospel Music played a major role in keeping suicidal tendencies at bay and prevented my mind from going a stray. Around that time I heard many songs for the first time and the music soothed my nerves and gave us hope. Gospel music was blasted, and at that very moment, anxiety and fear disappeared. I used to lock myself in a room and sing the lyrics loudly along. I began telling all and sundry of what a blessing the songs of artistes like Don Moen, Bill and Gloria Gaither or the Homecoming Friends were to us. The songs encouraged and ministered us, in our times of dire distress and need. I would cry bitterly, as I felt succor and hope arise in me, leading me on and showing me great plans that God had for my life.

I used the songs as prayers in the valley. I very much felt like Saul, whilst David played on his lyre/harp; Much like also another Saul, who later became Paul! Evil spirits of fear or anxiety would leave & the Holy Sprit would fill us. I became a very vocal supporter of Gospel music, urging Christians to buy CDs / VCDs and even gifting hundreds, in a bid to introduce the community to a new early Christian-type lifestyle. I notice that whatever money I put into the Lord’s vineyard or Gospel music came back to me a hundredfold. I was giving what I freely received. And much more was given back to me.

Taste & See the Lord is Good

Lo! Behold! After tithing & singing daily, everything changed dramatically. It took months, but the change was such as I had never experienced in the last almost 40 years – not just with regard to finances, but in all those areas, I had given up on. Within months, we performed much better than we had ever done before. And with much lesser staff & overheads! In fact, God gave us enough to continue tithing faithfully & regularly. The most important area of blessing was that of my relationship with God. Then on, I never felt God leaving me for a moment. He held me close to His side & put me back on my feet. He gave me courage & strength. He met all my needs.

Some things though did happen like miracles – overnight. Unexpectedly those who owed us paid up. Doors were opened & showers of blessings poured, with great gusto. Loans began to get regularized, until the end – zero debt – was almost near. Relations with family & friends couldn’t have been better. My relatives who stood by me were happier & joined in giving glory to God too. So did my well-wishers, who played a role, as I believe God prompted them to.

Healing came to the family.   And all this happened, I believe, BECAUSE, I GAVE & CONTINUE TO GIVE, IN A MANNER THAT IS PLEASING TO HIM, not in a way my mood tells me to or as & how I feel the need to. Today, with a cheerful heart, many of us give more than the tithe of 10% for God’s work and He prospers us – not just monetarily, but also in many other ways. Try it out!

And they have conquered him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Revelation 12:11

That’s Stephen’s Story. It can be yours too.

–  joseph (joe) dias

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