The Sovereign Grace of God in Christ: A Testimony

by Oluwasanya Awe

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You” (Isa 26:3). This text from Isaiah’s song of praise captures my confidence in the God I know and serve. As a preacher once put it, “the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which the child of God rests his head at night, giving perfect peace.” Like a son seeking solace in his father, I have learnt to thrust my weary self upon God with the firm assurance that He is sovereign over every detail of my life. When I’m faced with injustice, I’m reminded that the Lord knows the way of the righteous (Ps 1:6). In the midst of hardship, God has taught me through His word that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from His knowledge (Matt 10:29). When I’m blessed with answered prayer, I know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). Putting together this testimony has reminded me of the immeasurable blessing that comes from knowing God through Christ and even better, from being known by God (John 1:18; Gal 4:9).

Raised in a Biblical Church
I was born and raised in Lagos, a dense and cosmopolitan state in Nigeria. Despite Lagos’ diversity, most people, regardless of upbringing, believed in the existence of a supreme being. In the sixteen years I lived there, I do not recall ever meeting a professing atheist. The ease of practicing religion in Lagos meant that “Christianity” could become more about outward expressions like mere profession of faith and churchgoing than about a living relationship with the God of the Bible.

By God’s grace, the church I grew up in was theologically biblical, for the most part. My Sunday School teachers were committed to teaching all of Scripture and there were regular calls to repent and believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. From a young age, I was aware of hell, the justice of God and my need for repentance and faith in Christ. Yet, I had never soberly examined myself against Scripture to know if I was in a right relationship with God. Despite my frequent exposure to God’s word, my eyes were veiled from seeing God’s glory in the gospel (2 Cor 4:4). To worsen my condition, the culture around Christianity allowed me to profess faith in Jesus without possessing evidence of my salvation (cf. James 2:18-26).

Attended a Roman Catholic Secondary School
My spiritual blindness was most revealed when I was transferred to a Roman Catholic secondary boarding school. My school was strict by any standard and I tried my best to live blameless under its regulations. Each day, we communally participated in mandatory morning prayers (lauds), mass and evening prayers (vespers). We regularly prayed the rosary, pleaded for the intercession of “saints” and celebrated the notable events in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Self-deceived, I tried to work up enough righteousness to separate myself as “the obedient boy.” I never skipped mass, I faithfully participated in lauds and vespers, attentively prayed through the Rosary, attended confessions before the priest and remained consistent in my private devotions.

Although I was known among my peers for my apparent piety, I could not twist God’s arm into accepting my deeds. Being ignorant of my sinfulness, I tried to honor God with my lips while my heart was far from Him (Isa 29:13). The inevitable consequence of this form of religion was that I tried to deal with God on man-made terms. Like Nadab and Abihu, I was offering strange fire to God (Lev 10). I was seeking a right relationship with Him outside of the only way He provided—repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone. Even when I thought I had put my trust in Christ and understood what the Christian faith required, I could not have any assurance that I was truly saved as I still submitted to the Catholic teachings at school.

Found Better Clarity on the Gospel
In God’s providence, I was accepted to study at the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa upon graduating from secondary school. A friend in ALA introduced me to a well-known American prosperity preacher. This preacher perverted the grace of God and distorted His word to present a palatable gospel of health and wealth. Being unable to discern “right” from “almost right,” I fell for his deception and actively consumed this preacher’s content. My pastor at ALA eventually learnt about this and graciously advised me against listening to this prosperity preacher. It was through my pastor and other preachers he recommended that I began to learn what it meant to be justified through faith alone. While I’m not sure when I got saved, it was around this time I developed  better clarity on the Gospel.

At the end of my time at ALA, I got the opportunity to study here in the US. During my freshman year, I struggled to understand God’s word on homosexuality in particular. On campus, there was a good deal of equivocation on what God’s word said and it was through searching for Biblical teaching on this matter that I came across a coalition of preachers who believed in the sovereignty of God.

Discovered the Sovereignty of God
That year, I spent my summer interning in Mauritius and it was there that I was brought low upon seeing the Sovereign God. One evening after work, as I was going through Paul’s theodicy in Romans 9, I was taken aback by his presentation of the sovereignty of God over His creatures and God’s right to show or withhold mercy as He desired (Rom 9:15, 22-23). It was at this point I felt most alive. I remember sitting at the dining table in my apartment thinking, “Why me?” God, being sovereign over all, had the freedom to do whatever He pleased. He would have been just if He condemned me to suffer His wrath, yet He chose to save me. The thought that God was under no obligation whatsoever to act in mercy towards a sinner like me was pride-shattering. It felt like I had begun to taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Ps 34:8) and I wanted to know Him more and show others this great God of grace. From that evening, I began to see God’s Word in a new light and developed a passion for seeking Him and sharing the good news of His grace.

Struggled with Zeal
In my zeal, I began to act contrary to Paul’s mandate to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:24. I became contentious and was often too harsh in my criticism when I confronted the leadership of the Christian fellowship I attended at that time. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty became a bat to smack people in the head with. As a consequence, I fell out of a close relationship with a good friend, unfairly questioned the salvation of others and became known as a troublemaker. I also struggled with my assurance. I questioned my salvation and the genuineness of my repentance as I saw more of my sin and became too critical of myself as well. I, essentially, had no wisdom on living in light of the knowledge I received.

Learned Balance in a New Church
Towards the end of my sophomore year, I chose to leave my Christian fellowship in the best interest of both parties. In my search for a new fellowship, I sought out a group with a high view of God and His word. I was encouraged by a friend to visit Grace Campus Ministries and I started regularly attending the GCM events and GBF services. I thank God for GBF’s commitment to the holistic development of believers. God has faithfully worked through the preaching of His word and exhortation from the believers around me to expose my sin, and He has taught me to patiently wait on Him in the process.

Learning from more mature believers, I have come to understand that the biblical view of God’s sovereignty is not merely a proposition to be defended but a sublime truth to find rest in when I am going through trials, sharing the Gospel or interceding for a lost friend. Through God’s word, I have come to learn that I was dead in sin, living hostile to God and unable to please Him. But through the Cross, God cancelled the record of debt laid up against me and adopted me into His family (Gal 4:4-7; Eph 2:1-10; Col 2:13-15). Without His free electing grace, I would still be without hope and without God, storing up wrath in my sin (Rom 2:5; Eph 2:12-13). Therefore, the only accurate response to this great salvation I have received is awe and worship, giving my whole being as a living sacrifice to God who saved me (Rom 12:1).

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