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What Are You Going to Do?

July 01, 2015

He couldn't put the decision off any longer.

By Trent Paulsen

I was eighteen years old when God said to me, “You have debated this and run from this decision long enough. You have to decide tonight if you are going to continue serving Me or try things on your own. Will you surrender your life to Me tonight?” I had been running from this decision for a few years but that night God had me cornered, and I knew the question had to be answered before I left that chapel.

My testimony really begins eighteen years before that night. I was privileged to be born into a wonderful Christian home, and was brought to church and taught about God from before I can even remember. I had Christian parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins; the list went on and on. It was much more than just hearing about serving God; I saw what living a daily Christian life looked like. All of this information and these examples did not make me a Christian, but it did allow me to choose to become a Christian at a very young age.

When I was young, our church had “watch night” services to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new year. Those evenings always included fellowship, food, various activities, and a concluding prayer time from a few minutes before midnight until a few minutes after. When I was six years old, one of the activities was a film about the crucifixion of Christ. My dad was responsible for the projection of the movie and I was in the control room with him. After it was over, I asked him why Jesus had to die. He told me Jesus died so we could be saved and go to Heaven. That answered my question but created another. So then I asked my dad if I was saved. He looked at me and said, “Well, have you asked Jesus into your heart?” I realized that no, I had never prayed that prayer. Dad took out a metal folding chair and set it in the middle of the room. While everyone else knelt to pray until the New Year started, I knelt at that chair and asked Jesus if He would come into my heart and save me.

With the simple faith of a child, it only took a moment and I knew that Jesus had come in and made a difference. I was too young to comprehend the theology involved, but I knew something had happened. When we came downstairs from the control room, while standing under the wall mounted tithes box (that’s how small I was!), I told our pastor, Brother Carver, that I had been saved that night.

Not long after, the Lord sanctified me while I was praying with my grandmother, aunt, and father. Then before I started high school, after a summer of seeking the Lord, He blessed me with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Life and my Christian walk were going great.

Then there was high school. I began to see and learn about a lot of things I had not known previously, and I started to wonder if perhaps my life had been overly sheltered. Maybe I had been taught a skewed version of reality and everything I had learned was not accurate. I also began to crave independence—not only independence from my parents’ rules but also from God’s rules. The devil repeatedly told me how much fun everyone else was having, and that serving God was stopping me from living life to the fullest.

Some of what I learned at school made me wonder if Christianity was false. However, no matter what I heard, I simply couldn’t believe that. I knew that I had touched God, and in addition I had seen far too many Christian lives lived out consistently—day in and day out, in church and out of church. It didn’t matter what any teacher said; I could not accept the idea that Christianity was false.

However, the allure of “freedom” was a bigger challenge for me. I did not like feeling that I was somehow missing out. I knew God required a Christian to live a holy life, but I was not certain that I still wanted to submit to the requirements of living that way. I can remember even wishing I had been born somewhere else. I thought perhaps if I had never been taught about holiness, then I could have done more of what I wanted and still make it into Heaven. This became a major battle for me, especially during my senior year of high school. I purposely tried to move to the very edge of the Gospel and do as much of my own thing as I could while still remaining a Christian.

Every year our church has a week of special meetings during March, and the spring of my senior year, we had a pastor staying with our family. One morning he came out to breakfast and told us that the Lord had showed him that someone nearby was in a very serious battle for his spiritual life and was teetering on the brink of being lost. That statement ruined my breakfast because I knew immediately that person was me. I tried to ignore it and push the decision off, praying enough to keep my salvation but not enough to take care of what God was asking for.

After skidding for nearly a quarter of a mile on two wheels through the gravel, we came to rest against a large tree. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured.

Soon after graduation, I bought a newer car. Halfway through the summer I was driving three of my friends in a very reckless manner, and lost control of the car. We slid into oncoming traffic and then off the side of the road. After skidding for nearly a quarter of a mile on two wheels through the gravel, we came to rest against a large tree. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured. The Lord had protected all of us from what could easily have ended in a fatality.

Shortly after that wreck I went to our church’s youth camp. During that week the Lord continued to talk to me. Finally on Thursday night He cornered me up. He told me that He had let me debate and run as far as He would let me go. I had only kept my salvation because in my heart I was too scared to completely let it go. But I was really trying to serve two masters and do a large percentage of what I wanted. God told me that night I had to decide what I would do with my life: Would I truly surrender and leave it in His hands or would I take it and try to run it myself? I knew that I could not waffle anymore. I would leave that chapel building one of two ways: completely sold out to God or no longer a Christian.

I could not deny the truth of the Gospel and I told the Lord that I would serve Him—not because my parents served Him, not because a minister told me to serve Him, and not because He had saved me at six years old. I would serve Him as an adult and continue to give Him my life because that is what I wanted to do. The Lord came down and met me that night in a way that was just as powerful and real as any of the three basic Christian experiences I had received as a child. When I walked out that door, I knew the battle was over. I had decided which side I would stay on and re-surrendered my life to God.

In the years since then, I have become more and more thankful for my Christian heritage, and that by God’s grace I never turned away from following Him. I’ve found that the principles of the Gospel, and even the standards of our church, are not rules to hold us down; they are guidelines to show us where we are supposed to be. If we follow them, our lives come out better, we are happier, and we have less stress. The simple peace and joy of a life surrendered to God are worth any price.

God’s way has always worked out to be the best. I’ve found that through school, on the job, getting married, buying houses, and just day-to-day situations. Sometimes life takes different turns than we may expect, but I know God has a plan and that all things will work together for good because I am surrendered to Him. I am so thankful the Lord helped me to make the correct choice that night.

About the author

Trent Paulsen is a minister of the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon.