Easter Sunday is tomorrow! Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus fills me with joy. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. The apostle Paul wrote: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Romans 10:9 Jesus is my Lord, and I believe that God raised him from the dead. I rejoice in this every day of the year.
There was a time when I did not believe in the resurrection or in God for that matter. I spent many Easters simply celebrating a holiday. I remember those years and many events leading up to my salvation. Since I wrote about a small part of my testimony on Thanksgiving Day, I thought Easter might be a good time to share a story about one of those events. Remembering it always makes me marvel.
The Art Studio
This story takes place in the mid-1980s. It involves a conversation and an incident that I experienced at work. Back then I worked at an art studio part time and attended college full time. The art studio sold art supplies and paintings and offered custom framing. We waited on customers in the front and assembled framing orders in the work area in the back. Usually there were at least two employees on duty. One of us would manage the front while the other worked in the back. If things got busy up front, a button could be pushed to notify the other employee that their assistance was needed up front. Pushing the button set off an obnoxious buzzer in the back. It definitely got your attention. There were times when both employees worked on framing orders in the back. For those moments, the front door was rigged with a screeching doorbell alarm, so we could know if a customer came in. It was loud and easily heard in the back. On the day in question, I was working in the back; and my friend David was working the front.
As I worked framing a picture, I chatted with my friend Christine who had stopped by for a visit. It was nice to have company because the work area was in a warehouse, and it got lonely back there. At some point the conversation turned to God. Christine knew I wasn’t a Christian and was kindly questioning me about it. She and her mother often talked to me about God. Her mother also worked at the art studio and that was how I met Christine. They took my need for salvation seriously. Her mother often shared the gospel with me and would tell me her whole church was praying for me. Back then it puzzled me why they cared so much, but now I get it.
Christine’s questions centered on why I didn’t believe in God. She had heard me tell of many “coincidences” in my life that in her mind indicated that God was demonstrating his existence to me. She noticed that they didn’t bring me to faith. My skepticism that I mentioned in a previous post was not easily slayed. As we talked, I recounted some of the coincidences. When I was done Christine looked at me and asked “WHAT is it going to take for you to believe in God? Does Jesus need to walk through the front door?” Right after she said that, the doorbell alarm that indicates that a customer was entering the studio went off. Again, it was a loud alarm. We both jumped a little and then froze with amused, surprised looks on our faces. After a few seconds we began to breathe again and laughed at the perfectly timed door opening. Shortly after, the buzzer went off indicating that David needed my help with the newly arrived customer. We were still laughing about the “coincidence” when I excused myself and headed to the front.
In the front I was met by a man who appeared to be in his sixties. He was holding a large, plain, thin board. He said he needed a frame for his picture. He turned the board around. It was not plain on the other side. It was a three-quarter length picture of Jesus. Yup. Jesus! I stood face to face with a representation of the Son of God. He had just “walked” in the front door! Though it wasn’t actually Jesus in the flesh, I was stunned. What were the chances that this picture would come in the front door right after Christine asked her question? The odds were not lost on me.
Though I was shaken, I managed to locate one of our metal yardsticks and knelt down to measure the picture. As I did, my mind was racing. Who was this man and why did he bring this picture here now? I stood up and told him that the picture was just under the standard, ready-made frame size of 24×36 inches. I mean just under. It was not going to fit because it was an eighth of an inch too short in both directions. It would require a custom frame. He quickly decided what he would do. He said he didn’t want to spend the money and left the studio. That was it. He was gone. I headed back to Christine and told her that she was not going to believe what just happened. You can image her delight as I shared the details. When I was done she asked, “Do you believe in God NOW?” I thought about it and said, no.
Why not you ask? From a personal perspective, I didn’t know. Sure it was pretty amazing, but I remained in disbelief. It wasn’t because I was completely opposed to the idea. There was a part of me that was seeking God even though I didn’t believe he existed. From a biblical perspective, I would say that God had something else in mind for me. The moment of my salvation was not to be that afternoon. That would come later.
When I look back on that day I do so with great affection. I know my sovereign Lord was at work. I don’t believe in coincidences in the sense that things happen by chance. All things are in his hands. I’m not sure why he did it, but I love to tell the story. I like to say that the fact that the picture was just a little bit too small is metaphor for how close I was to salvation: so close to the way of salvation, but missing it. I also think about how I knelt down before the picture of Jesus to measure it. There I was, the atheistic skeptic, kneeling down before a picture of my future Lord and Savior. (No idolatry meant here.) A position that is used to show humility and worship meant nothing of the sort at the time, but it certainly would some day. There’s some irony there that makes me think fondly of my Lord and ever thankful for the change He wrought in me.
The Gift of True Regeneration
As much as I enjoy remembering what happened at work that day and during some of the other coincidences that I experienced, I’m glad that I didn’t simply adopt a belief because of them. My faith does not rest on something that could be written off as a coincidence. Instead, in his timing, God opened my heart to believe. I have no doubt that he did something. Because of that I have something a lot more solid. I called out to him and he answered. He gave me eyes to see something that I could not see with my physical eyes because it could not stand right in front of me. He showed me my need for a Savior and made it abundantly clear that Jesus died for me. He removed all doubt in my heart that he existed and turned this skeptic into a very grateful believer. True regeneration is of the Lord not coincidences.
Since the night God opened my heart, I have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior. The first Easter after I was saved meant more to me than any had before. I believed that God raised Jesus from the dead, and I knew my salvation was in his hands. I rejoiced greatly then and I am still rejoicing. I praise God for all he has done and look forward with the hope of eternal life.
I pray you know the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and have a holy and blessed Resurrection Day!
All Things New