Every testimony of God’s saving grace in the life of a person is the same, and every one is different. That is what we tell young people who are preparing to make their public profession of faith in the church and become communicant members.
This week, I plan to give my students the testimony of my grandfather, Paul Faris, written below as an example. It’s good for them to see that a man who was born over 100 years ago and who is now with the Lord also has a story that is just like theirs. None of them have served as farm hands. They have not had horses and chickens as witnesses to their prayers. But, they will recognize the story as their own. He was convicted of his sin and turned to Jesus through the ministry of God’s word and specific people. He dealt with the same guilt and other internal struggles which with they wrestle. He found life in Jesus just as they have.
They live in a different generation, but they have the same covenant Lord. His promise stands across all generations: “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).
If it is possible to be a born Covenanter [Reformed Presbyterian], I should have been one. My name is Paul Faris [1916-2010]; my grandfather was a Covenanter minister; my own father was an elder in the church as far back as I can remember. Family worship was observed in the home morning and evening. By the time I was twelve, through the assignments in the S.S. [Sabbath School], I had memorized the Shorter Catechism three times—the third time having recited it perfectly. I had attended a communicants class and was received into the communicant membership of the church. I thought I understood all the doctrines and principles of the church.
But as the years of high school came and opportunity to live all that I knew was before me, I began to see a real gap widen between profession and practice. I could see real danger ahead.
Being a timid soul with a severe case of bashfulness, I was not one to expose my needs or seek help. However, during an interim in the change of pastors in the home congregation, God spoke to me through the candidates or supply preachers. I recall one young candidate who simply followed me out the door of the church for a few extra words with me. I do not recall now what he said, but they started me on a course of real conviction. It was during that week that while doing work as a farm hand that I, with only a team of horses and dozens of chickens as witnesses, prayed that God would guide my course, that Christ might enter into my life in a real way and take over the mess that I had made. His forgiveness gave me new life.
From then on the Bible took on new meaning, church attendance became a joy, and I honestly started seeking God’s will for my life.
It has been a real thrill to see how God has guided in the years since—mountains were removed through forgiveness, his path opened up as a lighted highway for me to go to college, testimony could be given how he overruled through the college years, in my seminary experience and in guiding me during my years as a pastor.
The experiences which He has given us in our home and the goodness that He has shown to us in the lives of our children have been a constant theme for thanksgiving and rejoicing in Christ Jesus.
Two verses from the 106th Psalm express something of my prayer as I turned to the Lord and have since been led to desire to serve Him:
Regard me with favor Lord,
Which Thou dost bear to Thine;
O visit Thou my soul in love;
Make Thy salvation mine;
That I may see Thy people’s good
And in their joy rejoice,
And may with Thine inheritance
Exult with cheerful voice.