Elizabeth Stickfort - Stout, Iowa

Elizabeth StickfortMy parents were the strongest influence in my life with regard to becoming a Christian. God was the center of  my family’s life growing up, with consistent morning and evening family devotions and regular attendance at  assembly meetings, which seemed as natural a part of our lives as breathing. I didn’t balk at going to meetings  since my friends would be there, and I looked forward to seeing them.

For years, in family devotions, our family usually read the Proverbs in the morning, and sometimes I thought  with irritation that my parents read the parts which applied to me with extra emphasis, which they didn’t, of  course. The Proverbs, easy enough for a child to understand, convicted me.

When I was about 11, two men who preach the gospel, Art Ward and Robert Surgenor, came to Omaha and held gospel meetings. It was then  that I started paying serious attention—like someone jolted awake. I couldn’t fall asleep most nights after  meeting—trying with all my might and main to believe and scared that the Lord would come at any moment.  Several nights I sat by my parents’ door listening to their breathing. Sometimes I woke them up and asked them  to show me how to be saved. My dad read Scriptures and prayed with me, but I couldn’t understand anything.  Yet, I felt pressured, even pestered when the preachers talked to me at the door about salvation. Sometimes I  would try to slip by unseen after the meeting out another door. Finally, to get them “off my back”, I told the  preachers I had gotten saved through “it is finished” ( not sure where that came from, but it seemed to satisfy  those who had been asking me if I was thinking about getting saved).

But, I wasn’t saved. One day I thought the Lord had come when my mom forgot to pick me up from my piano lesson. I sat on the curb waiting and waiting, feeling panicky and crying, wondering how I would survive in The Great Tribulation. Finally, I used the piano teacher’s phone to call home and was so relieved to hear my sister Martha answer. The Lord hadn’t come after all.

Around ages 12-13, I started to wonder if there was a God and if what my parents had taught me was true, as  any person in the world could have good, sincere intentions and still believe something that wasn’t true.  Believing something handed down to me from my parents wasn’t satisfactory. I had to know for sure for myself.  A time or two, I asked my dad how he knew there was a God. He showed me Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the  glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork…there is no speech nor language where their voice is  not heard….” He told me to look at Creation and think carefully where it all came from--all this beauty, the  precision of the seasons, the earth suspended in the vastness of space, the stars, humans being fearfully and  wonderfully made, man’s conscience telling him what is right and wrong, etc. Was not Creation, right under our  noses, evidence enough? Did it not tell, no, shout, the existence of God as in Psalm 19?

My dad started mission work in Russia in 1990 and took me to Russia with him several times, and I saw for  myself a country whose primary “religion” for over 70 years had been atheism. I saw rampant alcoholism,  despair, hopelessness, which were not purely out of economic hardship, but also spiritual emptiness. If there is  no God, then life is meaningless, you live (for what?) and die like a dog, end of story. I saw firsthand that  atheism is both bleak and dangerous—a step towards despair and also great wickedness, as there is no fixed  point of reference—no reliable source to say what is right or wrong. I remember hearing my father quote “The  fool hath said in his heart, ‘there is no God’” several times. It was interesting to realize that a person can be an  intellectual or even a genius—and still be a fool. Yet, the simplest man can be counted as wise—trusting in the  Lord like a child. What finally convinced me of the existence of God was the wisdom of Scriptures I heard and  read in family devotions and in meetings. The Scriptures struck me how they were always so precisely on the  mark, and I became convinced of theabsolute reliability of Scripture, which meant that I must conclude that  God does indeed exist, which also meant I was accountable to Him and could not do whatever sin I pleased and  get away with it. Truth be told, knowing this felt confining. I did not realize that the truth sets you free.
 
 My great difficulty was the transition from knowing the gospel message all my life--to believing it. I heard the  gospel countless times, many stirring messages that would inspire me to determine to get right down to  business about salvation, but there was always some distraction. Then, in 1994, one month before my 14th  birthday, Roy Weber of Stout, Iowa was preaching the gospel in Omaha and quoted Romans 5:6 “For when we  were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly”. Tired of struggling, trying to think, trying to  believe, when he quoted that verse, it was then I realized simply that Christ suffered for me personally. Every  last drop of God’s righteous wrath for my sins was poured out on Christ. God wanted me to be reconciled to  Him, and He has completely taken care of ALL of it. If He loves me that much, how could I, or why would I resist  His love?

Knowing that one day I will see and be with the Lord--who I now see by faith--energizes me, gives my life  purpose, and definitely makes it worth living. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
Elizabeth Stickfort
Stout, IA