Fear. Worry. Doubt. Guilt. Sin. These were some of the things I’ve brought with me when I headed to Mt. Makiling Recreational Center. I was off for a NxtGen Retreat, the Rites of Passage for Students (ROPES) Retreat. I was so scared! I couldn’t believe it, I’d be away from home for 3 days straight, without my mom or dad. I was starting to regret that I joined the retreat. I was afraid to mingle with people I barely know, heck, even trying to open up to them about how I’m feeling. I can still remember myself tearing up silently in the bus. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it, if there was one word to describe all the emotions inside, I would say I was afraid. I was afraid of a lot of things – from being judged, ignored, and rebuked. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t be afraid of things like that? Boy, but Day 1 has passed, and I enjoyed. I learned a lot from that retreat – from abiding in Christ, keeping a holy life, to worshiping Him and making it your lifestyle, I was touched. I felt it – the Holy Spirit. I could say I was filled. The nights of the retreat, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. Indeed, it was time to repent from all of my past sins and live a life worthy of Him. Perhaps I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior since I was 12, but this was the time – the only time I’ve felt so sure of my salvation. This was the time I felt clarity, where I felt peace, and where I felt His unconditional love for me, a sinner! You know what was the most memorable part of it all? It was the time I decided to publicly declare my love for the Lord – through Baptism. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Indeed, I am a new creation, born of Christ! I am not defined of my past sins anymore, I am defined in Christ alone. That all happened on the span of three days, from May 20 to May 22, 2016.
It has almost been a year since I’ve decided to publicly declare my “Yes, I will follow Him.” I believe that my life is my spiritual journey and my preparation for my home, for that one destination – heaven. A lot can happen in a year of following Him. I started stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ve joined a discipleship group (May 2016) which isn’t perfect, but they seek the good in everything, because they know that all things work together for the good. I’ve attended retreats and seminars about discipleship (June 2016: MOVE Discipleship Conference and November 2016: Team High), because soon enough, I know that God will tell me to make disciples. September of 2016 came, and I knew I was right, because by this time, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, and I felt the need to share the Good News. I volunteered to be a gospel sharer in CCF Elevate’s Welcome Center. This was my first step to making disciples. The Great Commission, stated on Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You see, it is, in fact, Jesus’ command to make disciples. If I truly love Him, wouldn’t I follow His commands? Obedience always comes hand in hand with love. I’ve had struggles, believe me. I was shy and scared of what people may think of me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the MOVE Discipleship Conference, it’s this: This isn’t about you, it’s about Him. We benefit out of discipleship too. There is joy in discipleship – we get to bond with people and pray for them. We know people in a much deeper level and teach them the right ways.
One thing was for sure: following Him was never easy. I had to take away some things out of my life, and I had to change my old habits. It’s hard to forget the life I used to have. I’ve gotten used to the world around me; I am under its spell, its influence. How can I say no to the worldly things and focus on what is eternal? How can you easily say ‘no’ to sin and temptation when it’s all around you? I couldn’t follow Christ and the world at the same time. It’s all or nothing – I make him my Lord of all, or not at all. This is why I should really count the cost. One thing is to count the cost of not following Him, but it’s another thing to count the cost of following Him. Counting the cost means to agree in some terms. You need to see the bigger picture first. I’m considering Jesus’ metaphor on Luke 14. Imagine, I am planning to construct a tower. Wouldn’t I stop and think what materials I’ll need? Wouldn’t I consider the money I am ready to invest on the project? It’s the same when it comes to Christianity, and that’s what counting the cost means. It’s not a trouble-free life without challenges, I know we have to lose some along the way. Following Him means that we could even probably lose relationships, material things, family, or even our own lives. I’m not only talking about people and things, this also means I have to give up the bad things I’ve done in the past, it means I have to give up the temptation of the world. He promised me an abundant life, not a life without problems and struggles. I’ve been through ups and downs. I’ve surely doubted Him and His presence, sometimes even have questioned Him for the things He has allowed to happen to me. I’ve felt down, depressed, and alone. I’ve felt dirty, messy, and unpleasant. I was guilty of the sins I’ve made repetitively, and I’ve felt so distant from God. Sometimes, I had to be reminded of His love and His forgiveness. Those are the ups and downs that I have been through the year of 2016 – the tribulations.
If there was a verse that could have summed up my sufferings, it was in the book of John. John 16:33 states, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In a year of really devoting myself to God, I’ve realized that He cannot promise me a perfect life without any problems (Heck, I think a life without problems is impossible!), but He did promise to be faithful through out all of the challenges and trials we’ve been facing. God allows all of this to happen – the good and the bad, because it’s part of His big picture. I think of sufferings as a way of God testing me and God strengthening my faith. I am not particular yet with what this big picture is, but I know that in all things He works together for the good of those who love Him. We all suffer, but we recover. Sometimes storms may come, but the best response is to trust in His goodness. He’s a good God after all. Come to Him, cry out to Him, run to Him.
Assurance. Joy. Freedom. Abundance. Love. These are the things that I am sure I have in my life when I sincerely gave my heart to Jesus. I am assured of my salvation, and one day I’ll be chilling with God in heaven. I am joyful and sustained. I am free from the guilt of sin that is trying to weigh me down. I have an abundant share of blessings from God. Finally, I can feel His undying and unconditional love for me. I am finally home, and this is why I know that following Jesus was the best decision of my life.
“Seek first the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33