When people say goodbye, they often also say: ”Remember me when you pray to the Heavenly Father.” Or simply: ”Remember me.” I have thought that this request is not merely a beautiful phrase. It is the petition of a poor Christian that I would pray on his or her behalf. For a person who makes this request the most important thing is to remain believing and to get into heaven.
I remember a good acquaintance with whom we sometimes discussed the most important matters of life. He had the painful memory of having given up his personal faith. He never told me exactly why he had denied his faith. He only said: ”You know how it goes, sin takes away faith from the heart.” I told him: ”But you can believe your sins forgiven. I would be happy to preach you the gospel in Jesus name and blood.” “Yes, I know, but not now. Yet I am sure I will repent some day.” Our discussions of faith usually ended at this statement. But it was sad that the “some day” for repentance never came. I recalled these words of his when I heard about his death.
I also remember another person, who said to me: ”You know, I have promised to God that I will not give up this faith”. My response to this very confident statement was: ”Let us not make any firm promises. We are only weak Christians. But if God so wills, we have a desire to believe and get into heaven.”
Faith is a positive thing that bestows beautiful experiences to our lives. The apostle lists the fruits of faith as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Would not we all hope to have these qualities in our temporal lives? But we cannot gain them on our own. They are gifts of God. And these fruits of faith, which we do not find ourselves possessing, are not the only thing God gives us. He also gives us eternal life.
The world sets high standards for faith. The believer should be perfect. He should not fall or do anything immoral. The fall of a believing person is mega news, often used to support the claim that faith does not really help us. Falls and sins are sad matters, and even believers may fall. If I were a perfect person, I would not need grace, forgiveness of sins or faith. The weak one finds security in God, as the psalm writer says: ”In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you” (Ps. 25:1–2).
When we rely on our own strength, we feel in control of both our temporal lives and eternal life. We decide when we need to repent and what our future will be like. But ultimately, we are not able to control our lives. Even our best efforts turn out catastrophic. The wages of sin is death. Apostle Paul writes: ” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Rom. 9:16).
When I talked to my father about repentance and faith, he used to say: ”I will believe if God shows me even a single miracle.” I listed to him many of God’s miracles, but they were not enough to convince him. My words seemed to irritate him rather than establish good rapport. I therefore avoided speaking to him about faith any more.
But although I did not speak, God worked in him. Through illness He prepared him to experience the greatest of all miracles, personal acceptance of God’s grace. My mother called me to come and see my bed-ridden father. When I talked to him about temporal matters, he said: ”I am not interested in all that any more”. I was astonished and asked: ”Are you interested faith then?” ”Yes”, he answered. It was a joyous moment when I was able to preach him all sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and blood. Tears turned into joy. We both felt miraculous peace in our hearts. I hugged my father, who seemed dearer to me than ever before. That situation strongly reminded me of Paul’s words: ”Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy ” (Rom. 9:18).
On both sides of Jesus’ cross were criminals condemned to death because of their crimes. One of them joined the people who ridiculed Jesus, asking for a ”miracle”: ”Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) But the heart of the other criminal had opened when he had heard Jesus speak to His Father and pray to Him on behalf of His tormentors. He turned to Jesus and asked: ”Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus heard his request and helped him: ”Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).
Every believer is a child of God and an inhabitant of God’s kingdom. Like the psalm writer, we pray to our Heavenly Father: “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.” (Ps. 25.6) We feel strong fellowship with our believing escorts and pray with the words of a song of zion: ”We travel homeward, praying for all our friends in faith, that once we’ll be together before our Savior’s face.” (SZ 218:2).
Text: Olavi Vallivaara
Published in the online version of Päivämies, 9.6.2019
Raamatun mukaan jokainen Jumalan valtakunnan jäsen on avoin lähetyskirje omassa toimintaympäristössään (2. Kor. 3:2–3). Tämä asia voi olla kipupiste uskovaiselle ihmiselle, sillä henkilökohtaisesta uskosta puhumiselle on korkea kynnys nyky-yhteiskunnassa.