PASTOR OCK SOO PARK

  • 12. Psychological Hardships / Doubting Salvation / To Stronger Assurance a…

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    Psychological Hardships

     

    During my life, the time I spent in missionary school was truly precious and priceless. The grace and blessings I received there were great. Not to say that there weren't hardships. At first, no matter how much I prayed, I went through difficulties of not having bus fare and enduring hunger. Each day as I thought of how I had to walk great distances on an empty stomach witnessing, my heart would sink. On cold winter days, when I returned after a long day’s journey without a single penny, I was famished; almost to the point of passing out. However, the more I trained at missionary school; I was able to overcome such difficulties in the flesh.

     

    As I continued in missionary school, I experienced psychological hardships. Such hardships were even more burdensome to me than difficulties in the flesh. For example, others had their prayers answered and began to change, but no matter how much I prayed, I was troubled because it seemed as if God wasn't answering. Oftentimes before the prayer meetings, the brothers and sisters would give testimonies saying, "God has answered my prayers in such-and-such a way and has provided me with food. He answered my prayers by giving me bus fare." Till then I hadn't yet experienced such works and so I was in doubt and fear thinking, "How can I become a minister of the gospel? Will I end up quitting in the midst of it all?"

     

    Another struggle I had was when others returned from witnessing, all powered up having met people and preached the gospel to them, but not I. When the brothers went out to preach, they just went out without a thought, but when they returned, they were so touched with testimonies of their day, "Today I preached the gospel, and one who had been suffering in sin heard the words I preached and was overjoyed for having received salvation." Back then, although I preached the gospel to many, I couldn't find a single person who received salvation through me. So once when I met a certain person, I wanted to preach the gospel and try to save him, so starting from Genesis to Revelations, I poured out my whole heart and preached all the words I knew. However, that person did not receive salvation through me. Rather, a while later he gave a testimony of having received salvation through a different brother, which made my heart sink.

     

     

    Doubting Salvation

     

    Besides all this, I experienced a greater affliction of having started doubting my salvation. For most people, when they receive salvation, there is usually a person who has already received salvation who shares the word with them, and upon hearing the Word one gains faith realizing, "Oh, I was such a filthy sinner, but Jesus Christ's blood cleansed it so," and that heart of theirs becomes freed from sin. However, I hadn't received salvation through a person preaching the Word to me. Although very rare, before receiving salvation, I had struggled due to sin, but through God's guidance, I was able to have the faith that, "through Christ's blood, all my sins are cleansed," even though I hadn't heard the gospel from others.

     

    Although I preached the gospel to many, I found it very rare for one to have gone through such an experience as I. I was so happy to have realized this precious truth that I shared it with others at my Presbyterian Church, yet no one was able to understand me. Then the opportunity to attend missionary school arose. The other brothers training with me had received salvation by hearing the gospel through the missionaries. Upon hearing their testimonies, I found that there were many aspects different from mine.

     

    Some brothers, rather than smiling and simply saying, "I was happy because Jesus Christ saved me from my sins, " and talking of the truth of salvation, they ranted, "I was so happy after receiving salvation that for a whole month I felt as if I was floating on air." I was so different from the other brothers in this respect that I began to question myself, "am I really saved?" The most accurate way for us to have assurance of salvation is to confirm whether our sins are forgiven or not through the Words of the Bible. But rather than to gain assurance through the Word, most try to attest their salvation by comparing themselves with others, due to their lack of knowledge of the Bible.

     

    That is why people often doubt their salvation, and I, too, was going through such a phase. My heart continued to fall into despair. I began to worry, "What if I'm not saved? What if I'm not born-again? What am I supposed to do?" This anguish troubled my heart for the longest time. Prior to this distress, I felt the Words learned from the missionary during Bible studies seemed so precious and moving, but because I was so tied down in my problems, I was so lost in my thoughts that I was unconscious to the words he preached.

     

    "Should I just leave missionary school?" I couldn't help but think that perhaps I should go to a cave deep in the mountains and just pray while fasting for a hundred, or maybe even two hundred days or so. "No matter if I live or die, at least there will be some type of conclusion to all this." Satan was toying with me during these moments. "There's no use in you staying here," he made me think, "You doubt your salvation, therefore you should leave.

     

    Head for the mountains and live in a cave for a hundred to two hundred days and fast. If you end up dying of starvation, you die; if it's cold, it's cold; no matter what, something is bound to happen." I went through deep afflictions because Satan kept on urging my heart to leave missionary school. In truth, the grace that I received as I was training in missionary was actually very amazing and wonderful. When I compare myself before and after I entered missionary school, I find that I have changed into a whole new person.

     

    The joy and gratitude that I gained in the process of attaining faith was great. Yet, there were also many hardships. Among the difficulties I experienced, I suffered the greatest when I doubted my salvation. The brothers gathered together during Morning Prayer time, as always, to share testimonies with each other and to pray. That is when I addressed my problem to the brothers. "I think I received salvation, but the difference between you and me is that I didn't have that ecstatic happiness that you all talk about. I know for sure that my sin has been forgiven, but there seems to be no change in my heart." I honestly shared with the brothers what was in my heart.

     

    However, they accused me, saying, "God, Judas Iscariot is among us." Then they began to assault me, saying, "How did you come to missionary school without faith?" To avoid any anguish I just sat and listened to what they said. After they were done, I then turned to them and said, "Okay, let’s say that I haven't received salvation; then make me receive salvation." Immediately they all started to talk about the Bible, but those were Words that I already knew and believed. So I exclaimed to the brothers, "All those are things I have realized and believe!" Then they had nothing else they could say or do for me.

     

     

    To Stronger Assurance and Freedom

     

    At that time, one thing I had definitely realized was that salvation is not identified by a particular way one feels, nor a change one undergoes. I realized that true salvation is established when believing that Jesus Christ's blood has undoubtedly forgiven my sin and when I gain the faith to say, "I am righteous." I have obtained freedom by realizing that the faith I had before, where I believed my sin was forgiven was what led me to salvation.

     

    After this, a couple of days passed before I went out to witness, and one brother said to me, "Brother Park, why are you so foolish? Why'd you go confront the others with that and lose faith and undergo embarrassment? There's no need to tell the brothers that." Later I found out that the brother was older and more experienced than I, but he, too, doubted but kept it in. Not long after, that brother left missionary school, and his life changed into one that had nothing to do with the gospel. Seeing this, I was able to realize that each moment of my past did occur not by me but God.

     

    Whenever I had doubted, having realized the gospel on my own by God's grace, He allowed me to escape that uncertainty. To tell you the truth, I'm so glad that these events had occurred while I was at missionary school. If I was still at Apgokdong or Geochang and fell into such uncertainty, then I wouldn't have been able to receive help from other brothers and sisters, and would have probably put aside the work of the gospel and gone out towards the world. Knowing this in advance, God had given me the grace to secede from that life. I cannot help but be grateful to God for His guidance and how he leads me through each moment in my life. 

     

     

     

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