• 61°

ON FAITH: Pastor recounts surviving his recent stroke

By SCOTT DONALDSON

Guest columnist

Pearl Harbor Day started like any other Sunday. Up around 7 a.m., coffee with Tammy, my wonderful wife of 23 years and off to church at around 9:15 to help Brother Steve Whitehurst fold bulletins. Sunday school at 10, choir at 11 and ready to preach at about 11:30.

Little did I, or anyone else know, other than God Himself, that things were about to drastically change.

Not more than two or three minutes into a sermon, God’s plan allowed the devil to have a bit of fun with yours truly. I suffered a mild bleeding stroke while standing before a gathering of God’s people in our sanctuary.

Most of the details of all that happened are not part of my clear memory. I do remember Tammy asking me if I was OK, my oldest son’s voice, my daughter-in-law checking my blood pressure and Mr. Malcolm Wilson, a senior deacon praying for God’s intervention into the situation. That prayer was most defiantly answered.

I remember walking out of the church and the short drive to Crenshaw Community Hospital, where I received prompt and professional medical attention.

I also remember a very quick ride to Montgomery via Luverne Rescue.

We stayed overnight at Baptist South and then I was transported on to UAB, via ambulance sometime Monday morning, where we stayed for the next four days.

After a number of tests, I underwent an angio procedure to repair a cluster of mal-formed blood vessels located on the right side of my head, just under the scalp.

According to all the docs, the procedure was a complete success and I should be fine, given the proper recovery time and care over the next six to seven weeks.

We were back home by Thursday night and able to be in church on Sunday for morning worship.

Because of concern and cautions from the lead Neuro-surgeon, I opted not to preach but requested to briefly address the body of believers gathered on this particular Sunday.

The desire to speak was God-led and holy-inspired. My statement was of three simple parts: praise, thanks and consideration.

First, and most importantly, praise the Lord for His plan and for using my family and me to be a part of His awesome work.

Apparently, even a mild stroke can be pretty serious, therefore, thankfulness to God for carrying my family and I safely through this time of trial and stress.

Next, thanks to all those who prayed without ceasing throughout our time of need. It was very obvious that God’s hand of help was upon us because of the ease and success of the entire ordeal.

Finally, I cannot imagine going through something like this without God’s comforting presence. The third part of my statement was a question. I asked the congregation to consider where their help would come from if they suddenly found themselves in a similar situation?

As I asked the congregation at Friendship Baptist Church on Dec. 14, ask yourself now. “How is my relationship with the one and only, true and all-powerful living God of creation?”

If you can’t or don’t trust God on the easy road of daily life, how will you be able to truly trust in Him when life itself is uncertain?

God allows trails in the lives of all people. If a person has accepted Christ as his or her personal savior, there is an opportunity for a special relationship with the Lord that gives a measure of security that is beyond human understanding.

We never know when the trials of life will come or how severe they will be. As believers in Christ, we can be prepared by simply trusting, following and seeking the Lord on a daily basis.

If you find yourself in a distant relationship with God, take steps today to close the gap of separation between you and your heavenly Father. The speed of change is faster than we can manage without God’s help.

If you have yet to accept Jesus as your personal savior, you are by yourself and at the mercy of the world. And, just so you know, all mercy and grace comes from God. The world, without God, has no mercy at all.

The Bible tells us about God’s mercy in the book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 4-6 (NLT): “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been (or can be) saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

You see, by God’s mercy, we have the opportunity to receive His grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, His Son.

The scripture verse tells us that God raised Jesus from the dead. It also tells us that God raised us when He raised Christ. However, our resurrection is solely dependent on our trust and faith in Jesus as God’s son and as our personal savior.

Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) states, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

Only through the acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior will we receive forgiveness of sin (salvation.) And only through salvation do we have an opportunity for a close, personal relationship with Jesus.

It is only within our relationship with Christ that we can hope to enjoy the security and peace that surpasses all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

It is my hope and prayer that each person who reads this account of what God has done in my life, and in the life of each member of my family, will examine yourself in order to know exactly where you stand with the Lord.

No matter where you are in your relationship with God, only you have the power to change your spiritual situation. Our relationship with God changes when we desire to move closer to Him or when we make decisions or take actions that move us farther away from Him.

When we desire a closer relationship with God, it must begin with a repentant prayer from the heart that seeks forgiveness and offers a true willingness to surrender to God’s will.

As we become closer with God, He will build our faith through a variety of ways that will enable us to stand the fiery darts of the devil’s attacks, Ephesians 6:16.

If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life and are not living in the joy of a full personal relationship with Christ then you are cheating yourself. A full and joyful life of peace in Christ begins the day we receive salvation and should continue to grow through prayer, study and a genuine desire to follow the Lord on a DAILY BASIS.

If you have yet to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, today is the day of salvation, tomorrow maybe too late. Things change quickly, eternity is forever.

We will all spend eternity somewhere. The question is, where will it be?

If we reject God’s gift of salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, then we are choosing an eternity in hell, separated from God.

But, if we choose Jesus, we will spend eternity in the presence of God. What an awesome prospect!

But how do we choose Jesus? Admit, believe and repent (repent means to turn away from…our old way of life in the case of salvation) and confess.

Admit we are sinners: Romans 3:23 says,  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Believe that Jesus died and was resurrected to pay for our sin: Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And confess our sins to Jesus and ask Him to be our personal savior: Romans 10:9-10 says that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Today is a great day to be saved. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “For He says, ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

God loves us and Jesus died for us. Won’t you accept Christ today?

If you have questions about salvation, or would just like someone pray with you, or for you; contact us via E-MAIL OR BY PHONE @ 334-464-6936. If you don’t have a church home I would like to invite you and your family to come worship with the body of believers at Friendship Baptist Church located at 5720 Old Three Notch Road in the Bullock Community just South of Brantley. May God bless you and yours!

Scott Donaldson is pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in the Bullock community, just south of Brantley.