The Bible says that to believers Jesus Christ is ‘precious’. They love to speak of him and what he means to them in their lives.
Jesus Christ means more to me than anyone else. As the apostle Paul says: ‘To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21). He is more important than my parents, my children, my delightful grandchildren; yes, even than my wife, and she is very dear to me and has been for the last 37 years. She couldn’t have been a better and more loving wife, but then, I got her from the Lord!
I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t know about Jesus. My parents loved him and I was brought up in a home where he was central. From my earliest days I was taught to pray to him and encouraged to trust and follow him.
It’s not that I was a little angel. I didn’t have to be taught to be jealous, angry, deceitful and proud. Sin comes naturally to us and can be seen even in babies. Every day I prayed the prayer, ‘God be merciful to me a poor sinner for Jesus’ sake, Amen’.
Actually, I didn’t really think about it, but I did it because my mother taught me. I kept a Bible under my pillow and would read a chapter morning and evening.
Convinced of sin
But then one day it all became very real to me. I was just seven years old, but became horribly convinced of my own sinfulness and lostness. I was conscious that I had done many things which God had forbidden. I was aware that at the end of my life I would have to stand before the Judge. I knew that there was a hell as well as a heaven. I felt that if I died as I was I would end up in hell; children can die as well as adults.
I wept and prayed for mercy in real earnestness. One of my sisters read to me promises from the Bible to comfort me, but my distress continued. But then God’s Word came to me bringing peace and assurance and salvation. I told my parents when they returned that evening.
From then on, I tried to live a Christian life. I remember the shock when I first knew persecution around the age of 12. Two boys from a neighbouring housing scheme mocked me and called me names for being a Christian. A bigger problem was that someone asked me what Word of the Lord had brought me comfort and I had forgotten. I was told I was backslidden and began to fear that maybe I wasn’t a Christian after all.
Christ continued to be important to me. I attended the church services, including prayer meetings. When I sinned, I felt ashamed and prayed for forgiveness. There were no other boys of my own age who were Christians. I found it hard to stand for Christ and feel I often let him down.
In times of crisis I would pray for things and got very specific answers. I remember, for example, on one occasion losing a fishing reel on a heathery moor in my native Lewis. It had been attached to my rod, but my father said I should always take it off and put it in my bag. I left it on that day and it had dropped off. What would my father say?
Where could that reel be in a mile of moss and bog? I walked all the way back to the loch and then returned about half-way. Sensing the impossibility of the situation I got down on my knees and prayed. When I stood up it was there in front of me!
Assurance of salvation
The years rolled by with no assurance. Sometimes I felt I was a Christian, but then, other times, I felt I wasn’t. Eventually I left school and, shortly after, I would be going to university in Aberdeen. I feared that I would spend my life in a kind of ‘no-man’s-land’, neither at home with the world nor in the church.
I remember one day throwing myself on the floor of my bedroom pleading with the Lord to save me. Later that evening I went to a church meeting where we were asked to sing Psalm 116:1: ‘I love the Lord because my voice and prayers he did hear’. I turned to God and said, ‘I’m not singing that because it is not true. You haven’t heard my prayer’.
No sooner had I said that than an overwhelming joy and love filled my heart. I knew God had heard my prayer and that I was saved. That very night I professed my faith with great emotion.
I left home to study science. They were subjects which I liked and was relatively good at. My concern was to serve Jesus and I was conscious that he was with me. I greatly enjoyed my student days, associating with Christian students and finding it so much easier to witness for Christ.
A purpose in life
I asked God what he wanted me to do with my life and felt him leading me to apply to be a minister. This involved another four years of study.
Then my concern was that the Lord should guide me to the congregation where he wished me to serve. He brought me to Partick in Glasgow, very different to where I had grown up. Seventeen years there were followed by 13 years in Portree, and now 12 years in Knightswood, also in Glasgow.
There have been difficult times, but Jesus has always been there for me. I have wept before him, but he has wiped away my tears. He gave me a wife, children and grandchildren. He gave me a home, money and more than I could wish for.
He has given me a purpose in life, joy and love, and the assurance of heaven when I die. What does Jesus mean to me? He is my Saviour, my Master, my Guide, my Lover, my all. Do you know him too? He is freely offered to you in the gospel.
Rev. William Macleod is a minister in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (www.freechurchcontinuing.org). This article first appeared in the church’s monthly magazine, Free Church Witness (June 2018), and is used here by kind permission.