In less than a week, Christians all over the world will celebrate Easter. This celebration takes me back to an unforgettable lifetime experience when I earnestly prayed for a wish to come true. Getting that wish ultimately led to a test of my faith and left me with a lifelong lesson that has remained with me throughout my adult life.
It happened in the Philippines during the summer after my sophomore year in college. I was a student at the University of the Philippines, Iloilo Campus, and had a strong desire to take advanced summer classes (to pursue extra credits and fulfill course requirements.) But I wanted to take these classes at a different location — the Diliman campus. My motivation wasn’t purely academic. It was also social. I also longed to see my childhood friends in the nearby town of Antipolo where I was born, and raised, before our family moved to Iloilo. I had no funds for this adventure, so I prayed that, somehow, I would find the provision that would enable my wish to come true. I promised the Lord that, if He allowed me to experience this wonderful opportunity, I would find ways to share the gospel to my childhood friends.
I am a person of great faith. I have always believed that the Lord is faithful as He would always provide for our needs. Sure enough, he granted my heart’s desire! Circumstances began lining up in my favor. First, I was able to convince my mom that I could be a responsible young adult and take care of myself, so she gave her blessing. Then, my generous uncle responded favorably by giving me two-thousand pesos to cover my transportation costs. Fortunately, because I maintained my scholarship at the university, I didn’t have to pay for tuition or student fees as we were allowed to take free summer courses. As a teenager, I was thrilled for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity since it would be my first trip from Iloilo to Manila on my own! When I told my friend about my plans for the summer she decided to join me and, luckily, her mom also gave her consent.
My friend’s dad worked for a shipping company. He told us that we could join their scheduled trip to Manila from another city, about an hour-and-a-half ferryboat ride away. The ferryboat trip was a “rollercoaster” on the sea as the craft was tossed up and down, and sideways, by the strong wind and giant waves. My fears were intensified since I hadn’t taken swimming lessons, nor any open water survival skills! Aside from the two of us, there were only a few other passengers. Those giant waves could easily turn our ferryboat upside down. Our situation reminded me of the story about what Jesus and His disciples experience on the boat. I was very scared but Jesus calmed my fears as I thought of Him amidst our frightening boat ride. After about two hours we survived that ordeal and reached our destination. We got off the ferryboat, joined the other passengers, and met my friend’s dad inside the bigger shipping vessel that would take us to Manila.
When we reached our destination, the following day, my friend was so delighted and excited since it was her first time to be in Manila, and to see my hometown of Antipolo. We were blessed with the hospitality and generosity of a church family friend who allowed us to stay at their home while I took summer classes in Diliman. As you have read, by now, I believe that the Lord remained faithful by providing our needs, His daily guidance, and protection during our summer adventure.
But that fateful day came when I was faced with a big test of my faith. It happened one morning when our professor decided to talk about her reasons why she did not believe in Jesus. It was close to Easter and Holy Week, and she stirred up a class discussion. Some of my classmates agreed with her and even cheered in support of my professor’s reasoning and justification behind her atheism. I was very disturbed upon hearing them mock Jesus, as they said terrible things against Him, because I know who Jesus is through my own life’s experiences, miracles I’ve experienced, and the fact that I am a believer. However, due to my fear of being singled out, I hesitated to disagree with the group or say things contrary to my professor. I felt that my relatively “small” voice was no comparison to the loud cheers and commotion inside the classroom. Instead, I chose to be quiet and say nothing. This silence, on my part, was similar to that of Peter’s when he denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed at daybreak.
I felt horrible about myself, as I had been a strong debater in school and, yet, I did not even say a word. I didn’t defend my faith in Jesus at all. I felt so bad about my terrible weakness — that I had chosen to be silent as they mocked my Lord and Savior. Despite all the blessings and provisions that Jesus had made for me, when He granted my prayer requests that summer, I couldn’t believe that I chose to remain quiet in fear and did not say anything to defend Him. When my professor asked the class if there were any believers in Jesus, in the room, only one hand was raised. It was not mine. God used someone that fateful morning to speak on His behalf. One of my classmates raised his hand and shared who Jesus is to him and what He did on the cross. He went on to say that salvation is not by “good works” — it is by the grace of God.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
The classroom became quiet as he spoke and no one, not even the professor, dared to argue with him. Years later, I found out that lone classmate (who stood up for his faith in Jesus) was greatly blessed in his career. He became a popular singer/actor/celebrity, not just in the Philippines, but in other Asian countries where he shares his gift in music. I believe that it was the Lord who blessed him, not because of what he said in class that summer, but because of God’s faithful promises to His children.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
My classmate wrote this verse, a great reminder as to what transpired, on my notebook: Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Indeed, it is very important to acknowledge the Lord at all times and to give back all the glory to Jesus — the author and finisher of our faith!
Looking back, on that summer, I thank the Lord for He allowed me to take advance courses, visit my hometown, see my childhood friends and, by His grace, I was able to share the gospel to some of them. The Lord is ever faithful even when we have sinned against Him, committed terrible mistakes, and fallen short of His glory. I gained a profound understanding of how Peter must have felt when he denied Jesus, yet, Jesus remained faithful and forgave him. Some people may wonder why I am open and vocal about my faith. The Lord remains the same and ever faithful through my ups and downs. I owe everything to Jesus and His favor that surrounds me like a shield! In gratitude, I would like to testify about countless blessings which I have received from Jesus. I never want to repeat the same mistake of not standing up for my faith in God. I don’t want to feel such terrible guilt and shame, similar to Peter, after he denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:75). I continue to pray that, by God’s grace, I won’t be ashamed of the Gospel, won’t be afraid, nor hesitate to share my faith.
As we celebrate Easter, let us repent and ask the Lord’s forgiveness if there were times in our lives when, despite the fact that we consider ourselves to be a believers of Christ, there are moments when we feel ashamed to share the Gospel, too scared to stand up for our faith, and to commit things to Jesus.