Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nothing Is Impossible: The Gospel and My Grandfather

"When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying 'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:25-26, NKJV

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." - Romans 1:16, NKJV

My mother and "new" grandfather!
   It was 6AM on the 20th of April. Tired, sleepy and worn out with more than a day's journey and almost 24 hours of flying time to India, I stepped forward and pressed the doorbell. My sister was beside me, my aunt and uncle behind us after having driven us home from the airport. Tired as I was, I also felt and expectant thrill. A few minutes later, the door opened and I was looking at the face of a very old, but very happy man. 

   "Hello, son!", said my 90-year old maternal grandfather with a smile, reaching forward to hug me. His voice had aged, grown softer, yet still deep and clear. The thrill I felt was not just seeing him again after more than six years. It was not just the sense of nostalgia or the familiarity of childhood memories. In a very real way, I was looking at what I had thought impossible. I was meeting my grandfather for the first time as a new Christian after he had given his life to Christ two years ago at the age of 88, while I was in Canada.

    From what I understood of my mother's memories of her parents, the spiritual difference between my maternal grandfather and grandmother could not have been more different when they got married. M. J. John was a Christian only by label, who had very little knowledge or interest in his faith, though he had sung in the choir in his childhood church while growing up. His wife Mercy was the complete opposite. My mother described her as someone who "loved going to church and participating in the liturgy, not just as a ritual or out of duty but because she loved God and loved being part of the church." My mother credits her mother for any spiritual input and notion of God that she was given while growing up.

   With his God-given talent, communication ability and hard work, my grandfather ascended in business as the manager for all of India for a Swedish company. Health, wealth, power, prestige, influence, the 'good life' of the elite - he had everything that is coveted and considered the marks of those who have "arrived." But his spiritual life was almost nonexistent. Having made it all, he set out on a business venture to start and run his own company, was cheated by his business partners and lost everything.

   It was shortly after this that my mother was married and I was born. Relying on his own ability and stubborn will, my grandfather started a number of businesses over the years, both in India and Dubai. He made and spent what I heard were massive amounts of money. Through it all, he remained a loving and doting grandfather, who lavished love, affection and presents on me and my sister when she joined us 10 years later. But his heart towards God had not changed; he still relied on other sources for guidance, and relied on his will and human effort.

   When my parents came to saving faith and gave their lives to Christ shortly before my sister was born, my mother (who is a strong woman of prayer) began to fervently pray for her father's salvation. Nothing happened. She prayed, shared the gospel with him, lived out her faith, shared her testimony with him. Nothing happened. She humbled herself, prayed and wept, fasted, pleaded with my grandfather in tears, loved and cared for him. Nothing happened. When I accepted Jesus as my personal Saviour, I shared my testimony with him, prayed, loved, pleaded, argued. We began praying for him as a family, along with many others who knew and cared for him. Nothing seemed to happen.

This went on for more than 20 years.

   Time went by. My grandmother passed away. My grandfather went through his sixties, seventies and eighties. It looked like nothing would change.

   And then, two years ago, I got a phone call from my mother telling me what I had given up hope of hearing - that my Grandfather had given his life to Christ. During a visit by a relative who was a pastor, he had broken down and cried over his life and all that had happened to him. The pastor faithfully led him through a prayer of repentance and salvation that committed his life to Christ. When my mother visited him on vacation, she bought him a Bible with large print that he could easily read. He started going to a church close by - the same Mar Thoma parish that my late paternal grandparents used to go to. He still goes there.

   When I visited my grandfather after six long years, I bought him Billy Graham's latest book, written in his nineties, as a present - "Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well." I hoped that it would minister to my grandfather, having been written by someone of his own age group. I had the privilege of giving it to him as an advance present for his 90th birthday.

   In turn, I was stunned when my grandfather told me that he had read the entire Bible twice, cover to cover and was starting on it a third time. During the time that I was there, I realized that I had never in my life heard him use the words 'God' and 'grace' as many times as he did during my nine-day vacation. My eyes filled with tears as I once saw him eagerly turning through the pages of the book that I had brought him. It now sits on the coffee table next to his favourite chair in the living room.

Appachen's present beside his favourite chair
   The story of my grandfather's salvation is a story of the impossible, and the power of faith to triumph over circumstances through persevering, fervent and humble prayer by our family. It is a demonstration of the truth of God's unstoppable will and power and the mighty work of His Holy Spirit to bring people to salvation through the gospel. And in a very real and personally relevant way, it shows me the power of faith, hope and love as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to persevere through difficult circumstances, move mountains, overcome impossible odds and demolish obstacles. My mother persevered in prayer for her father for 20 long years, and though it seemed God was deaf and silent, He was working in the background to bring things to pass.

   Dear reader, what is it that you need in your life? No situation or circumstance is impossible for my almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God. His power defies description. Everything is possible, if only you believe in Him. I pray that my grandfather's story will strengthen and encourage you, and leave you with these two promises from the mouth of Jesus Himself:

"And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." 
- Matthew 21:22, NKJV

"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." - John 14:14, NKJV

God bless. May the Lord be with you!
- The Wisdom Seeker