Lesley Bell’s Testimony on becoming a Soldier (25 February 2018)

Good morning, everyone! I’m really happy and honoured to be standing here this
morning; it’s something I thought I would never aspire to. Indeed, when I descended
the platform steps in June 2016, having just given my testimony as an adherent
member and gladly and gratefully receiving God’s love and grace into my life, I
really felt quite certain…that I would never, ever be climbing the steps again to give
my testimony as a Soldier. Well, obviously that’s as much as I knew, because here I
am!

For me, with Major Nigel’s words, “We like a good testimony!” ringing in my ears,
standing up here now speaking is somewhat daunting, so the fact that I’m actually
here, making that commitment, testifying and affirming my faith is proof that God’s
call and will can be really difficult to put on hold or ignore. In fact, His nudges were
quietly, but persistently niggling away at the back of my mind for the last year or so.
In words from ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’, words I’ve loved since I was at
school, I tried valiantly to suppress the whispers and encouragement of God’s ‘still,
small voice of calm’ by happily busying myself, worshipping at Sunday meetings and
getting involved in various Corps weekly activities, really enjoying the fellowship,
making good friends and hopefully serving God and contributing something to His
honour and kingdom along the way.

However, towards the end of last year, I finally came to accept that I wasn’t
completely fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for me, so after some thought provoking
and supportive conversations with and guidance from Corps members here, and lots
of prayer, I took the initial steps towards fulfilling my membership of Christ’s Church
on earth as a soldier of the Salvation Army. I immediately felt a huge sense of relief,
contentment, peace, love, inner strength and excitement and also a sense of drawing
closer to God in the happy knowledge that I have made the right decision for me at
this time in my life. I now feel complete, no longer looking for something to make
me whole. This is a life commitment that I willingly and lovingly make to our Lord
God, His Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and the Holy Spirit. As a soldier at Chatham
Citadel, my purpose will be to serve God to the best of my ability, to seek the new
things that He is leading me into and to put my faith, hope and trust in Him.

As I look around the hall, I see so many members who welcomed and made me feel
at home when I first started attending meetings, who have supported and encouraged
me on my spiritual journey and who have become friends – thank you to all of you. I
should also like to thank my Mum and friends from Rainham Ladies Choir and
Hempstead Junior School for supporting me today and always – thank you! I am so
fortunate and appreciative of everyone’s kindness and fellowship, not to mention the
offers of books and reading and television viewing recommendations! Last year, I
was given this copy of General John Gowans’ poems ‘O Lord, Not More Verse!’ by
Jean. I have enjoyed reading it through several times, but the verse I have chosen for
today is entitled ‘Unless You Come…’. I can relate right now to the sentiment in this
prayer poem:-

Unless You Come…

Unless you come with me
I will not go.
My promises are nothing without yours.
I know I’ve vowed away
My life, my strength, my very will,
But I will break it all unless
You come with me.
Unless you come
I’ll lean upon myself
And then I’ll fall,
And men will laugh
At you as well as me, which would be
More than I could bear.
I shall be full of confidence
Empty of power;
I shall seem strong –
But melt in the first heat.
If you will come,
And I am sure you will
For you promised,
Then I will go.
It will be easy for me.
No, not easy –
Possible.

That last word ‘possible’ brings to mind the reassuring and encouraging verse,
Matthew Chapter 19, verse 26, ‘With God all things are possible’, reminding me how
compassionate, loving and generous God is.

When Major Karen visited me in early 2016, we read some ‘leap of faith’ scripture
verses which have been a favourite ever since – Proverbs Chapter 3, verses 5 and 6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
I should like to finish by reading another favourite of mine, verses you will know as a
benediction; it’s the very last numbered item in the Song Book, number 1041. For
me, these words, along with the wonderful words of our final song (In Christ alone) just say it all really; they are truly reassuring, uplifting, enriching and inspirational.

This, this is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable friend,
Whose love is as great as his power,
And knows neither measure nor end.
‘Tis Jesus, the first and the last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe Home;
We’ll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that’s to come.

Thank you.

 Lesley