From Trying To Trusting
‘How God Saved a Preacher’
“Before I was saved, I was a very religious person. I was a faithful church member that preached for several years. In October of 2011, the Lord saved my soul. I hope and pray that God will use my testimony to reach others who are struggling with their salvation.” ~ Doug Swafford
Here is an excerpt of Doug Swafford’s booklet, ” From Trying To Trusting “
FROM TRYING – TO TRUSTING
‘How God Saved a Preacher’
After making a false profession when I was nineteen years old, I believed that some might have complete assurance of salvation, while others would not. I was a very faithful preacher for many years, but thankfully the Holy Spirit began to show me I was wrong. I realize now that when someone is saved, they will know it.
There may be many good-hearted people, including many church members, who approach salvation in the same manner as I did. However, Matthew 7:23 says, ““not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.” Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Notice the words in this verse, “…I never knew you: depart from me…” Those seven words are some of the saddest that we read in the entire Bible. They are uttered by our Lord as a dire warning for everyone to make sure of their salvation while there is still time. This will be a sad declaration to many who are doing many wonderful works in the Lord’s name.
God does not intend for anyone to go through life presuming to be saved. Instead, He has provided us the ability to know that we have passed from death unto life. One day very soon, we will stand before an all-knowing, all-powerful God, and it will be too late then to discover that you were never born again.
II Corinthians 13:5 commands us to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Furthermore, II Peter 1:10 tells us, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” No one is exempt from the command in Scripture to examine ourselves. To do otherwise would be foolish.
I pray that the following pages of my testimony will not only be an encouragement, but also a challenge, as you read how the Lord worked in my life, and saved my soul.
I was blessed to have been raised in a godly home. My father and mother were faithful parents who only rarely missed church. If you missed church in the Swafford household, then you were probably on your death bed! I praise God for a mother and father instilling the importance of the house of God. Our family attended Calvary Baptist Church in Northeast Georgia. Pastor Larry Youngblood is one of the godliest men I have ever known, preaching the Bible with power and clarity. I thank God for my pastor’s faithfulness in preaching the truth week after week.
Although I heard the plan of salvation on many occasions, I do not recall being concerned about my soul throughout my adolescence. I lived a wicked life privately, but publically, I fooled many into thinking I was a good kid.
By 1994 I was married to my wonderful wife, Jennifer. We began to pull away from church gradually; and by 1995, we stopped going altogether. Because of my upbringing, however, I felt immoral for not attending church, so we sporadically attended another church nearby.
In 1996, the Holy Spirit began to deal with me about my salvation. I became very miserable from conviction, and on a Thursday evening in mid-September, I drove to the church where we were visiting and met with the Pastor.
I admitted to him I was never saved and shortly thereafter, I knelt and prayed. What took place next was something that affected my life for the next fifteen years. I made a very critical, but terrible decision. When I raised my head that night from prayer, I was asked a very simple question, “Did you get saved?” I replied, “Yes,” even though I was not sure. I was just as miserable as ever, and still under conviction by the Holy Spirit, but I chose to put it off, and not deal with it.
To ease my guilt, I chose to believe that salvation was something that I might gain assurance of at a later time. I thought some people could be saved, and never know it. This was a warped way of thinking because the very essence of salvation is to know in whom you have believed. (II Timothy 1:12)
Having grown up in church, I knew what was supposed to take place when someone was saved. I began to make changes in my life. My language changed and I quit listening to the wrong kind of music. I stopped doing many things that were wrong, and had victory over many sins for a long time; all without having assurance of salvation.
After living in this condition for about seven years, the Lord providentially brought us back to Calvary. The church where we were visiting began to waiver on Scriptural issues, and I remembered that Calvary was still grounded in the truth. So we began attending once again. This was one of the greatest choices that God allowed me to make. I again heard Pastor Youngblood preach about a salvation that he knew about. He would often say that God will let you know when you get saved. On one occasion, I was with Bro Youngblood as he dealt with a sinner. This person was admittedly not saved, and after praying, he told the Pastor that he still didn’t know. Bro Youngblood told him very lovingly that if he trusted in Christ to save him, he would know it.
When I heard the pastor say that, I thought, “If what he is saying is true, then I am not saved.” I could not go back to a time when I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Although bothered, I continued to tell myself, “Don’t worry about it, there was a change in your life, and there is no way you are lost.”
By 2004, I had been giving devotions in church, teaching Sunday school, and even began preaching. I was very reluctant to profess a call to preach, but I hoped that my unwillingness to begin preaching would explain my lack of assurance and peace. Because of that, I made great effort and spent hours in sermon preparation.
I preached and taught for the next six years and by 2010, there was not much that I did not do in the church. I gave devotions, assisted as church treasurer, sang in the choir, gave church announcements, was a member of the by-law committee, helped with mission finances, taught Sunday school, preached, and sang in the church quartet. I pretended to have peace and full assurance, and never hinted to anyone my doubts about salvation.
My ministry outwardly seemed very strong. I remember people coming to the altars after I preached and getting help from the Lord. I had many people come to me and say that I was a real blessing to them, and that they were able to use my messages and lessons to have victory in their lives.
Even though there were many things I did in the name of the Lord, I was as lost as I could be, and on my way to an eternity in Hell. I had diagnosed others with their spiritual illness, but I had never taken the medicine for myself.
In August of 2010, I felt the Lord’s conviction while hearing a sermon by Billy Mitchell from Jamestown, Tennessee. He was a man I respected because he always preached from his heart. He presented the Word with such conviction as he preached about a “know-so salvation.” Again, I thought that if he is right, then I am lost, but I was able to push it off for a while longer.
Although I outwardly pretended to enjoy my responsibilities in the church, deep inside, I began to be unhappy. Things that once gave me some satisfaction, such as teaching and preaching, now failed to gratify me anymore.
During this time, I was searching for godly preaching on the Internet, and I came across a sermon by Dr. Sammy Allen from Resaca, Georgia. God used his sermon, “Religious Hell” to really get my attention, and I listened to it several times over the next few months. Bro Allen said it didn’t matter if you were a preacher, if the Lord pointed out to you that you were lost, you needed to be saved. He used an illustration of how the famous John Wesley preached for seven years before he was saved. That sermon pricked my heart! It was exactly what I needed to hear, as it continued to wake me from my spiritual slumber.
Early in 2011, I saw the Lord begin to work in our church at Calvary as several souls were saved. By the fall of 2011, I began to feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction once again in my own heart. Pastor Youngblood encouraged our church to attend a tent revival that was being held by Ralph Sexton, Jr from Asheville, North Carolina.
The meeting was scheduled for two weeks and I considered going to just a few services, but I attended every night except one. I sought to know if I was saved, and for the Lord to make me willing to accept the truth. Each night of the revival, Bro Sexton seemed to preach on salvation; and as the tent meeting progressed, the overwhelming conviction of not being saved began to deepen. On one night of the revival, prayer cards were given to the congregation. On these yellow cards you could write down your prayer request and place the card in a large container in the front of the tent. When I received my card, I simply wrote, “I need to be saved.” I folded it up and brought it to one of the ushers to be put in the container. I thought,” If anybody knew I wrote this, they would be shocked!”
During this time, I began to write down some things that I was facing. I want to share with you excerpts from my notes. These will explain my thoughts at the time.
“Well it’s been a few months and the conviction went away for a while, but after attending a tent revival in mid-September, I was under great conviction. Its 09/21/11 and I’m scheduled to sing at the same tent revival where there will be around 2,400 people tomorrow night. I need help!!! Still no peace…”
“Well its 09/25/11 and today was homecoming at our church. They celebrated the salvation of a young lady in our church who was saved a few days ago at the tent revival. I wanted to be so happy for her, but at the same time, I was frustrated that I could not be the one who finally had assurance. We did not have evening service due to homecoming, and I went to the church to pray, read, and listen to a sermon. While I was there I hoped that the Pastor would stop by, he mentioned that he might stop by at 6:00 to make sure there were no visitors, as our church was not in service. He did come by, but I was embarrassed to mention why I was there. I told him that I was there to read, but made no mention of my problem… I know I should have. Still no peace….”
As you can tell by my writing, I began to face unbearable conviction. By the second week of the tent meeting, there was little doubt in my mind that I was lost, and without Christ. It took many years for me to come to a place where I finally admitted I was not saved. It took night after night of the tent revival to soften up my hard heart. Thanks be to God for that tent revival, and for the great men of God He used through the years to reach my lost soul!
I began to repent of sins in my life, and to turn from anything that might hold me back from being saved. I had several sermon outlines in my Bible that I had been working on for future sermons. I felt that keeping the sermon outlines might act as an anchor, holding me back from giving up everything. I took all those sermon notes that I had spent many hours on, ripped them up, and threw them out the window of my car.
I wanted God to know I was tired of living a lie, and I was willing to repent of my sins. I knew I must repent of anything that stood between me and the Lord. If the Lord showed me a barrier, I was willing to bring it down.
On a Saturday evening in October, 2011, Pastor Youngblood called and wanted to know if I might be able to preach the following morning. I knew I was facing a life-changing decision. I could preach the following morning and keep pretending, jeopardizing my soul to die without Christ, or acknowledge that I was lost, and quit toying with eternity.
I told him that it would not be a good idea for me to preach, and that I needed to meet with him that evening at the church. I knew if I told him I was lost, I would cross the point of no return. Telling the Pastor would be another bridge to burn that would prevent me from preaching again, and would compel me to do something about my salvation.
When I met with the Pastor, I told him there was never a time when I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. He presented me with several Scriptures to examine, and encouraged me to read and pray until the Lord gave me the answer.
The following week was absolutely miserable for me. The tent revival was extended for a third week, and by Thursday night, I was willing to admit I was lost, and be saved. The following night I went to the tent revival and spoke to my Pastor about what I was going through, and he told me to keep these words in mind, “TRUSTING instead of TRYING.”
I had burned bridges, and opened the doors to my heart, except for one thing that came to mind each time I tried trusting in the Lord. I needed to become willing to stand in front of my church, and admit I was not saved. I realized that God is willing to save anyone as long as they are willing to repent of everything, and trust Christ.
On the following Sunday morning, several people stood and gave testimonies about what God was doing in their lives. I knew this was my time to make an open acknowledgment of being lost. I knew this was my opportunity to either open the last door to my heart, or risk going into eternity without Christ.
When I stood that morning, I’m sure everyone thought I was about to share a testimony. Instead, I shocked everyone in the service (except the Pastor) when I confessed I was lost and needed to be saved. I told everyone that I was going to the altar to pray, and I welcomed anyone who wanted to pray with me. I knew when I did that, there was nothing between me and the Lord.
I went to the altar that morning, but I could not get assurance of salvation. I did not want to make a false profession as I had done fifteen years earlier. I wanted to know without a doubt that I was saved. While at the altar, my brother, Mike shared a verse that helped me tremendously. “And he said, let me go for the day breaketh, and he (Jacob) said, I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” (Genesis 32:26).It is a very humbling thought to realize that “No man can come to me (Jesus), except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44). I knew that it was critical that I obey the Holy Spirit’s calling while He was near.
After being at the altar for about forty-five minutes, I told the Pastor that I wanted to get alone to read and pray. The church was dismissed, and I stayed at the church that entire afternoon praying, and studying God’s Word. I had determined that afternoon that I was not going to let the Lord go until I was saved. I trembled at the thought of the Lord leaving me to myself. Nothing meant more to me than being saved, and I stayed in the Bible and prayed all afternoon.
During the afternoon, I walked into the main sanctuary where two people were praying at the altar. It was my sister and brother-in-law, Melissa and Robby. They told me they came to the church because they felt the Lord impressed them to come and pray. I realize now the Lord loved me enough to send them.
They asked me a simple question, “What are you looking for?” I told them I was seeking to be saved and know it. They told me their assurance and peace came only from the promises of God. I already had head knowledge of that, but this time the Lord allowed that truth to penetrate into my soul. Although I did not get saved then, those words stayed in my thoughts for the remainder of the day.
I went home that night and began to study Bible verses about believing. As I was reading, God enabled me to see something as never before. The Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip, “…what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36-37).
At that moment, the Holy Spirit revealed to me what it meant to trust the Lord. Instantly, relief and joy came over me. I said, “That’s what I believe. I believe with all my heart and soul that Jesus is the Son of God and was raised from the dead.” I cannot explain exactly what happened at that moment. It was not a prayer, or a feeling; but for the first time in my life, I trusted in the promise that God made me! I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord saved my soul! I realized what the song writer meant when he said, “I once was blind but now I see.” Praise God for that Amazing Grace!
As I sat on my bed, I said within me, “Lord, is this salvation?” I expected to run, and shout for excitement. But salvation was so humbling, and I felt so undeserving, that all I could do was simply thank the Lord for what He had done, as I cried on my pillow.
The assurance of salvation comes from the promise that God has made. It is not of works, but just simple faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Salvation is simply repenting of our sins, and placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A sinner must see himself as lost and without hope. He must believe that God alone can save him through the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Although God gives us the promise of an eternal home in Heaven when we trust in Christ, there is another promise from God that must be heeded. If a sinner does not place his trust in Christ, he will spend an eternity in the lake of fire.
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life (saved) was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15).
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17-19).
Has there been a time when you know that you trusted the Lord for your salvation? We are commanded in II Corinthians 13:5 to “examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith.” It does not matter who you are, whether you are nine or ninety-nine, preacher or otherwise.
I challenge you not to take this matter lightly. Do not listen to advise that does not agree with Scripture no matter who might be giving it. Don’t let pride send you to Hell for eternity.
As I conclude this booklet, I want to emphasize that God’s way of salvation comes through repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The events that lead to salvation will differ greatly, and your conversion experience will not imitate mine. What matters is that you come to Christ as He directs.
I hope this booklet has been a blessing. If you are saved, I pray you will have a fuller assurance, and be encouraged. If you are not saved, I pray you will examine your soul further, and that the Holy Spirit will begin His work in your heart.
It is essential for all of God’s children to faithfully attend church. Hebrews 10:25 tells us, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” I challenge you to find a church that preaches, and practices Bible truths, where your life will grow in the Lord. Begin your search with the person who gave you this booklet.
After many years of struggling with salvation, I now know that I have been saved. I testify to anyone reading these words, that when the Lord saves your soul, He will give you peace. Although doubts may come, sweet assurance stems from remembering the moment when you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he came into your life. And no one, not even the devil himself, can take that assurance away from you.
*Doug is available to present his testimony at your church function or youth meeting. Please Write or E-mail Doug for scheduling.