On Turning Forty

Tim Hoke on March 12, 2012 Comments (36)

It's my 40th birthday!  Forty years ago I became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I've been waiting two score to be able to say that!  In 1972, I was just beginning my first semester of graduate school when a fellow student confronted me with this startling question: "Tim, if you died tonight, do you know for certain that you'd go to heaven?"

 "John," I answered, "No one knows that." 

"I do!" he shot back with a warm smile.  That day was the turning point in my life. 

No, I didn't trust in Jesus on the spot, but John gave me a New Testament and some other literature.  I spent the next week reading everything he'd given me.  Classes hadn't started yet, and I figured I had nothing better to do, not realizing how true that really was.  And I simply could not shake off that young college student's firm conviction about where he would spend eternity.  Little did I know it, but the Holy Spirit was working mightily in my heart, turning it from stone to flesh.

I can't say for sure when I passed from death to life, but within two weeks after that young man told me about Jesus, the Holy Spirit had caused me to be born again and I bowed my knees to Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Although I'd grown up in the church, I had walked away from the Lord in my teen years.  Coming to Christ was like coming home.  I've never looked back!

But shortly after trusting in Jesus, horror seized my heart!  "What if I am like one of those in the Book of Hebrews who falls away?"  I shuddered at the thought.  After all, my track record wasn't all that stable.  I had entered university as a Joe College (khakis, button-down blue shirt), but became a cowboy the next year (boots, hat and Red Man chewing tobacco).  By my senior year I had become a 1960s hippie (long hair, bell bottoms, and you know the rest!).  The truth is that I didn't know who I was or what I was about; and now I was a Jesus freak!  Intuitively, I knew this was the end of the line for me.  If Jesus didn't "work," I was ready to give up on life.

What I have learned in forty years as a Christian is that Jesus never changes, his gospel never changes, and he never leaves nor forsakes his little brothers and sisters who have trusted him for salvation.  I also have learned that he sends the Holy Spirit to live in believers, and the Spirit works through the Word of God to lead us out of a life of sin and into a life of righteousness.  I shall never forget how, shortly after becoming a Christian, the Spirit convicted me of sin and caused me to repent.  "I'm really a Christian," I thought.  And, by God's grace, I still am.  Like my friend, I know where I am going when I die.

After I became a Christian, the Lord put me in a strong Bible-teaching church.  My worldview, which had been man-centered, was now God-centered.  Suddenly life made sense.  My faithful pastor taught the Bible every time the church doors opened.  I began to grow and flower in the faith. His rock-ribbed teaching of God's Word was changing my life, and by the summer of 1972, I knew the Lord was calling me to spend my years on earth doing for others what my pastor was doing for me.

I find it amazing that forty years later I am teaching on a college campus in Uganda the very things I learned as a young Christian college student.  I am thankful that the Lord has graciously sent Cheri and me to African Bible University to help show our beloved students just how reliable and true is the Word of God.  I don't know how many more years the Lord will give me to serve him, but I hope to write a similar letter when I am sixty years old in the faith!

Thank you so much for your faithfulness in prayers and financial support.  I pray that the Lord would use our efforts to help other young people grow in Christ so that they, in turn, can help others do the same here in East Africa.

Because God is redeeming a people for Himself,

Tim


 

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