1. LACK OF ASSURANCE
My name is Gunjoa, I am African, 43 years old, married, and father of three children. I live in a country where more than 90% of the population is Muslim. Islam is the religion into which I was born. My father is a fervent student of the Qur’an, much of which he memorized at a young age. I myself was sent to the Qur’anic school when I was three years old. Later I alternated studies between the French academic school and Qur’anic school. The days I didn’t go to French school, I went to study the Qur’an. As I grew up, my boyhood friends and I did many foolish things. But when I reached the age of 19 or 20, I began to take matters of religion more seriously. I would spend a lot of time thinking about paradise and hell, because I had been taught at a young age that these two places exist, and that after death, each person will end up in one place or the other—depending on whether they did good or bad during their earthly existence. This is what I had been taught.
Consequently, I would ask myself the question: "Where will I go after I die?" This question followed me wherever I went. It troubled me continually. As a result, I became more faithful in my religious obligations: I prayed five times a day, attended the mosque on Friday, fasted during Ramadan, gave alms, etc… Each time I finished my ritual prayers, I would ask God to put me on the right path, because I continued to be troubled by the thought of facing hell after death. I questioned people who knew Islam better than I. But I never received a satisfying answer. All they could tell me each time I asked was that I simply needed to fulfill my religious duties, do more good than bad, and then leave the rest in the hands of God who determines my eternal destiny. They all told me the same thing, "No one can know in this life where they will go after they die. Only God knows!" But such a response did not in any way satisfy my heart. Inside of me there was nothing but turmoil. I had no peace as the same question continued to pop up in my mind: "Where will I go after I die?"
For three years while I lived in the Capital city to pursue further studies, I lived among a particular sect of Muslims who believed that their marabout (religious leader) was Isa (Jesus) who had come back at the end of the world. They attributed to their marabout a certain number of miracles. I was impressed with their stories and I thought to myself: If their Jesus could do such miracles, the original Jesus must have been truly great! I desperately wanted to know what kind of miracles the first Jesus did. I thought, "Surely there can’t be any harm in this!" This is what motivated me to know more about "the true Jesus". I should tell you that up to this point in my life I had never met any true disciples of Jesus Christ, nor had I ever read their book: the Bible.
After I successfully completed my studies and received my diploma, I returned to my native town with a clear objective: I would do some serious research and find a book that records the life, words and works of Jesus Christ. Thus, one morning I got up and went to pay a visit to some Catholics—since in my country, back in those days, when one spoke of Jesus, the Bible or Christians, we automatically thought "Catholic." (Today this tendency is changing.) So, as I was saying, I went to visit them, but it wasn’t there that I found what I was looking for. But as I was walking back home, God opened my eyes to notice a little library where I was privileged to meet some evangelical Christians for the first time in my life. I was 25 years old when I began to read the Scriptures of the Bible for myself.
2. FROM THE PROPHETS TO JESUS
Now my research began to take on a whole new dimension. As a Muslim, I continued to pray to God to place me on the right path. This was because I still had not discovered a solution to the dilemma which would not leave my mind: "Where will I go after I die?" I had not yet found a solid, satisfying answer. People around me continued to say, "Only God knows. No one can know their eternal destiny." But I wanted to know in this life where I would go after I died! After nearly two years of research, of studying the Bible, of reading the testimonies of Christians who came out of Islam, and of discussions with Christians, God’s answer to my question became clear to me. I surrendered to the evidence. Yes, I had discovered some wonderful things!
First of all, in the Old Testament Scriptures of the Bible, I discovered that all the prophets had announced the coming of a Messiah. They were preparing mankind to receive this Savior of the world who would come at the time appointed by God. The prophets prophesied about the Messiah’s miraculous birth, the place of His birth, the circumstances preceding and following His birth. They also foretold how He would be mistreated by the religious leaders of His own nation who would misunderstand Him and hate Him. The prophets also announced the Messiah’s sufferings and how His enemies would plot to have Him put to death. They even described in detail the manner by which He would die. Most importantly, they told why the Messiah would allow Himself to be killed, refusing to save Himself even though He had the power to do so. Certain prophets also wrote of the Messiah’s resurrection which would take place three days later.
In my research, I discovered that, from the very beginning, it was God’s plan that the Messiah should pay the sin-penalty for the whole world—so that all those who believe in Him would not have to pay that penalty themselves. I learned that the penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from our perfect and righteous Creator who must punish all sin. But the Good News was that the sinless Messiah would come to fulfill the meaning of thousands of years of symbolical animal sacrifices. Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and Isaiah all offered up spotless lambs and rams to God—as blood sacrifices to cover their sins. This was God’s idea. It was also God’s idea to send the Messiah who would offer up Himself as the Final Sacrifice "as a Lamb led to the slaughter." (Isaiah 53) However, there was a distinction. The Messiah’s sacrifice would not merely cover sin before God, it would remove sin’s penalty—for all who believe God and His way of salvation. In reading the New Testament (Injil) record about Jesus of Nazareth, I discovered that He is the One who perfectly fulfilled all these prophecies, and not someone else.
Next, in my research, I discovered in the Bible that this "original Jesus" had provided a clear and uncompromising answer to my question: "Where will I go after I die?" Jesus’ death and resurrection was God’s answer to my question! Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. …[I] came to seek and to save what was lost. …I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. …I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 14:6; Luke 19:10; John 10:11; John 5:24) Such words and many others like them in the Bible are declarations which no other person has ever dared to make. These and other verses in the Bible helped me to understand and accept Jesus for who He is: the One and only Savior promised by God, who died and rose again to provide a perfect salvation for all who believe. Thus, I placed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the fact that He died for me, for my sins, in my place.
3. CHANGES MADE BY CHRIST
Interestingly, after I placed my confidence in the Lord Jesus and in what He did for me on the cross—I felt a peace that I had never before experienced. What a change! I no longer have any worries about my eternal destiny, because I know that Jesus has paid the full penalty for all my sins which condemned me. I am saved! I am now completely confident about where I will go after I die. I know that I will go to Heaven—not because I am good, but because of God’s grace, which has been provided through Jesus Christ. My faith in Jesus has changed my perspective on life. Now I seek to please God in all things—not because I have to, but because I want to. God has changed my heart. I am no longer afraid of anything or of anyone. Of course, I am conscious of the power of the devil and demons, and of opposition from people, but I am absolutely convinced that the Lord Jesus is infinitely more powerful. He has proven Himself to me personally so many times. He controls and cares for me, my family and every aspect of my life.
Right after I believed God’s message, it all seemed so clear and logical that I didn’t anticipate the major trials and troubles that awaited me because of my newfound faith. But I quickly learned the reality of what Jesus told the people of Nazareth (the area where He grew up as a boy): "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Matt. 13:57) Not only did my father, my uncle, my brothers and my friends do their best to make light of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, but they also harassed me in a number of ways, finally excluding me from the family, putting me out of the house. It was painfully difficult for me to be rejected by my own family like this. It was not what I wanted. They are the ones who put me out—simply because of my faith in Christ. When folks speak of Islam as a religion of truth, peace and love, I ask myself how that can be—if it cannot even tolerate those who sincerely believe in the One about whom all the prophets wrote?
By the grace of my Lord, I have overcome all these hostilities about which Jesus warned us. He said, "All men will hate you because of me. …In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (Luke 21:17; John 16:33) In all these circumstances, God has taken care of me and has taught me many important lessons which have been a necessary part of my own spiritual growth. I have now been walking with the Lord for 17 years. What a privilege! Also, God has graciously been using me as He desires in His service for His glory alone.
5. SERVANT OF CHRIST
It was in 1991 that the Lord first called me to serve Him in some new, specific ways (Job 22:24-28). I accepted His call and by His grace I began to participate in various projects: translation of Gospel literature in local languages; production and broadcast of radio programs, and involvement in special outreaches to large groups of people.
Recently, the Lord has expanded my direction and vision. My wife and I are convinced that the Lord has called us to carry out an itinerate ministry in our country. The Spirit of God continually directs us in this way. Our vision is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who "traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God." (Luke 8:1)
Prepared in French by "Gunjoa"
To contact the author: TWOR@iname.com.