[John Stevens recounts his close brush with suicidal death. Instead, he was brought to salvation and new life in Christ! Here is an excerpt from his testimony…]
When morning came, the new sun arose on the most beautiful sight that I had ever seen. Never before had I seen a world like the one that began to lift itself into sight. This was the first day of my New Life! As the sun unrolled itself over the horizon, sparkling beautiful things scattered themselves all about my new world. It was absolutely breathtaking. What excitement! What joy! What a change! Just six short hours before, I was without hope in the darkness of deep despair. Now I found myself vibrantly alive!
This new life had come out of death! Having died to everything that had been the old life of fear and failure, I had new life, and that more abundantly! Like a grain of wheat, I had fallen into the ground and died. Just as Jesus had said-it had happened! Jesus said, “… Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24, KJV).
Then, He goes on to say that if we try to hang on to our earthly way of life, as if it were more valuable than a life with Him, we can expect to lose it; but if we are willing to let go of the power of this life of failure, we can exchange it for a life of eternal glory with Him (John 12:25). He says that my old life is like a thief that comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But He says that He came that we may have and enjoy a new life. Jesus calls it anabundant life–a life that is so full that it will overflow like a spring of fresh water gushing from the cool earth (see John 10:10).
For the first time in my life, I had made a right decision. Like a lost, weary explorer, who through sheer exhaustion was about to turn back, yet determined, took one more fateful step–forward. That one step revealed God! What a marvelous step it was.
Like Joshua, I had crossed my Jordan and had come into the Promised Land of the Caanan of God. Joshua erected a monument at the place where he had entered; he called the place Gilgal [Joshua 4:20]. I often wish that I had marked that place along the road, as Joshua had done. But my discovery was no less real. Joshua often went back to his Gilgal for strength and renewal when the trials of life were heavy upon him. I, too, have gone back with God to the place of my beginnings with Him when the trials of life have weighed heavily upon me. God has never failed to provide a superabundance of vitality through my New Life, the life of Christ within me [Col. 1:27].
Have I ever yearned to go back to the slavery of my old life? Never! I had been delivered from slavery and planted into rest, all in one great act by God. The momentum of this surging tide would always carry me forward toward the Promises of the Land. Many are the times that I have gone back to my Gilgal of life to reaffirm the reality of the discovery of my New Life; but never have I, like Israel, yearned for the leeks and garlic of my old life [Num. 11:5].
I surely died to all that was my old man that night. It wouldn’t be until six years later that I would fully understand that the completed work of the Cross of Calvary has assured, for every child of God, freedom from the power of the old man and that He is the New Life (Rom. 6:6). This proved to be one of those assurances that God, without exception, always provided just when I needed it the most.
I absolutely knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had a New Life and that my old man was dead. Yet, for some reason God chose not, at that time, to place me in a condition whereby these facts of Scripture would become part of the work that He had begun in me (Phil. 1:6). It does act as a constant reminder to me that the Devil’s lie, which would say that we cannot attain to a deeper Life with God without first being a scholar of the Bible, is indeed a hoax. It is apparent from my own experience with God that growth comes the other way around. It is from the thirst that burns within the New Life that we come to search the facts of God. Wouldn’t the realm of God be a scene of perplexity and confusion if what man believed altered the authenticity of the facts of God? God had presented me with a gift … my New Life had to be a gift, for I had certainly never done anything worthy of winning any favors from God.
Quickly, I discovered that God’s gift of a New Life would not be the end of our association. Without hesitation, God moved into my New Life and began a series of exciting and even exhilarating New Life relationships. Getting to know God through His Son Jesus Christ has been filled with all the anticipation and expectation that triggers the impatience of discovery. Many of my discoveries still remain in the realm of the inexplicable, for who can explain God?
Perhaps the best way to describe the ‘inexplicable’ would be to say that to discover God is to ‘experience God’. I am not referring to human feelings, for if human feelings were involved, then my discoveries would not be ‘inexplicable’, would they? No experience of human nature could ever manifest the Glory of God. Yet, God, in His own inexplicable way, working through my New Life, has made very real the things He formerly held to be the most secret.
Obviously, there was much that I needed to discover about God, and discover I did! God saw to that! The discoveries have never ceased. It is as though God has an enormous treasure chest, chock-full to the brim and overflowing down its bulky sides, with special treasures just exactly tailored for my every need. He calls this inexplicable, inexhaustible treasure the Riches of His Glory (Rom. 9:23).
What is God’s glory? One very formal definition might be that it is the performance and display of the divine and specific excellence of the attributes of God. The next question naturally follows: What are the attributes of God? They are the very things that flow from the nature or essence of God, or simply what God is. As the delicately petaled blossom unfolds its hidden magnificence, it displays the glory that is a rose, so God unfolds Himself to His children to display the magnificence of Himself. One of the things that God is, is that He is ‘Omniscient’, which means God knows everything; in fact, there isn’t anything that God doesn’t know!
Right away, God knew that if I were to begin living my New Life then He must provide His means of living it. This was an urgent need, particularly in my case, because I had left my old life behind on the shoulder of that road in North Carolina. He said: “I shall supply all your need from My riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19)
Speaking literally, the Lord Jesus Christ said: “By this shall you know them, that they love one another”(John 13:35).
Love, then, is the very pulse beat that gives vitality to the New Life. Naturally, if God knows all about everything, then He surely must know what it would take for God’s perfect Love to settle down and make its permanent home in wretched, failing, floundering me. This is obviously an ‘inexplicable’ dilemma, from a personal experience standpoint, but not for God.
Like the glory of the rose, God’s glory unfolded before me in one of the most beautiful portrayals in the entire Bible. Let me describe what the Bible says in my own words:
“That I will give you out of the unlimited treasure of My riches in glory, a mighty strength, by the same Holy Spirit that gave you your New Life, as He makes His home in your New Life; also may Christ be permanently situated in the lodgings of your heart, by the same faith that I gave you as a gift whereby you were able to accept your New Life. Why is all this necessary? That you might be rooted and grounded, deep within, in Love. Because this is the very Nature of God manifested and displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself; it cannot be understood, and is, in fact, inexplicable to those who don’t know God. But I want all my children, above everything else, to understand and to experience in their lives that part of My Nature. It is the Love of Christ and, therefore, knows no bounds or limits; there is no measure of how wide it is, of how long it will last, or how deep a love it is, or even how high it can reach. This Love I give to you, from My riches in glory, that you, too, might be filled with all the fullness of God. Because My Son, Jesus Christ, is in you, I have the power to exceed in abundance anything that you might ever ask or think about” (Eph. 3:16-20).
Can I live the Christian life-my New Life? It would be to court certain defeat even to try! It was for this very reason that God gave me a New Life to replace my old life. My New Life is Christ’s Life. To know the Person that lives the New Life is to know my Gilgal.
Excerpt from chapter 6 of Suicide: An Illicit Lover. (Pigeon Forge, TN: Grace Fellowship International), second edition, 2012. John Stevens was a founding board member of GFI.
Unless indicated otherwise, Scripture quotations in this chapter are from J.B. Phillips translation.
Part 1 of 2. See our blog dedicated to this theme: escapesuicide.wordpress.com.
The book, Suicide: An Illicit Lover, can from the GFI online bookstore or by calling toll free in the U.S. 1-888-66-GRACE.