WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
REVIVAL TIME — HARVEST TIME
Vahram came across a book on the subject of revival, and as he read it his heart burned within him. It was as if an inextinguishable blaze enveloped him. As he read, God spoke to him from His Word: "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession" (Psalm 2:8). Some time after the Lord had healed him the Holy Spirit burdened him to intensify his prayers for the lost. As directed by the Lord he was moved to pray, "Oh Lord, help me to win souls as you promise in this Psalm." Eleven months passed. One day a very unpleasant voice spoke to him, "That's enough. Stop praying!" After a short time he heard another voice, "Don't despair; keep on praying!" Recognising the stark contrast between the two voices, he praised Christ.
One day as he was sitting in his room, there came a knock at the door. It was a woman to whom he had been witnessing for a long time without results. As soon as he opened the door the woman blurted out, "What must I do to be saved?" Then she said, "I'm ready now. Please tell me the way of salvation." The Holy Spirit had so prepared her heart that immediately she called upon God and believed in Christ as her Savior. The silent revival that had affected many people in the city was reaching new heights. It kept rolling in like the waves of the ocean.
Another morning Vahram opened the door to a man seemingly in a great hurry. "My wife has been distraught all night. She can't stop crying. She says she's a great sinner and needs to repent. She told me, 'Run and get Vahram.' I said to her, 'How can we trouble the man at this early hour?' and told her we should wait until evening when I would bring you with me on my way home from work. But she wouldn't hear of it. She said she couldn't wait till evening and that you must come now!" Vahram dressed immediately and accompanied the man to his home. Weeping and moaning, the woman cried, "I want to repent here and now." Vahram responded, "Christ is the Savior. If you want to put your trust in Him, come let us pray." Right there they knelt down and prayed. The woman prayed in such faith that it seemed as if the angels in heaven stooped down to listen. That morning this precious soul became one of the firstfruits of the revival in Istanbul.
Overcome with this joy, Vahram didn't feel like going back home. So he went to see an elderly sister to pray with her. The woman's son entered the room. He was on his way out to meet his girlfriend. Vahram said, "Wait a minute, let's read a little from the Scriptures." The Holy Spirit touched the young man's heart. He was so convicted of sin that he knelt right down and prayed for his salvation. He never did go to meet his girlfriend that day. Wherever Vahram went that day the young man followed him like a shadow.
The next day his girlfriend appeared at his shop to ask him why he hadn't kept his word. Upon seeing her, the young man called out, "Please don't come into my shop!" "What's the matter with you?” she cried. "Why have you become like this?" He responded, "I've left my life of sin. If you come to Christ too, then we can marry. Otherwise we'll have to forget about our relationship."
Conversions became an everyday occurrence. In homes, in shops, during the singing of hymns, reading a passage of Scripture, or someone sharing his testimony, people were suddenly affected and born again. Their sinful hearts softened and melted as they trusted in Christ. Not a day would pass without at least one sinner repenting. On some days large numbers came to Christ. Everyone was in a spirit of expectation (Luke 3:15). Every evening, meetings were held in various places. There would be spiritual fellowship, hymn singing, testimonies of the newly converted and prayer for the salvation of sinners and the awakening of backsliders. Preaching at the meetings was with divine authority and had a profound effect on hearts. In every message Vahram referred to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
James K. Lyman was a Congregational missionary who had spent much of his life in Turkey and had been praying for revival for many years. Finally when this revival came to Istanbul Mr. Lyman was among the God-prepared leaders. Along with Vahram and other young men he went everywhere taking part in house meetings. With his good grasp of Turkish he would support believers in their efforts and encourage new converts. The house meetings attracted more and more people. Many who for years had taken for granted that they were Christians but had no clue about having Christ as Savior were transformed.
A special ‘air’ prevailed in these meetings. There was no carefully prepared program. People would gather, some sitting on couches, others on a bed in the corner, some on chairs, a few on the floor. One would start singing a hymn and the rest would join in.
Young and old, poor and better off, all felt equal in the presence of God, sharers of the same grace. Without fear or hesitancy they would sing praises to the Lamb who had been slain. Hymns would give way to prayer. Prayer after prayer was lifted by men and women. These heart-felt prayers seemed too simple to some. They were inspired by the most ordinary needs, but all emanated from firm faith. There were heart-cries for personal problems, family crises, church concerns and for the further spreading of revival. People prayed that the newly born again ones would be established in the faith, that unsaved persons whom they mentioned by name would be converted, the sick healed, the destitute provided for, the unemployed find work; and so it went on, prayer after prayer. Prayers were always offered up with adoration and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Those who prayed were delighting their hearts in the Lord. Sometimes when prayers were prolonged a hymn would be suggested. Afterwards, someone else would pray.
There was always a testimony time, which was a thrilling experience for everybody. A person would stand up and tell of his previous sinful and lost condition, hardness of heart and opposition to God and how God's grace through Christ had touched him. In each of these meetings sinners came to faith in Christ through someone's talk, the reading of Scripture or perhaps through a prayer or hymn. Faith was activated and repentance followed. Testimonies centered on the former sinfulness of the person and of Christ's redemption. God would be praised and thanked for having given such a mighty salvation. Afterward, spontaneous songs of joy broke out.
Following the testimony time someone would give a message from the Bible. The sermon, lasting about forty-five minutes, set forth the love of God, the saving power of Christ and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in plain language and with a good variety of illustrations. Sinners were called to repentance and faith in Christ. The atmosphere in the meetings was always invigorating. This Scriptural truth was confirmed, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him is no creature hidden" (Hebrews 4:12,13a).
Right then and there, sinners would call on the name of Christ, repent of their sins and plead for His saving touch. Two or three hours later the meeting would end with songs of praise. Renewed and encouraged, believers would go out to courageously face the trials of daily life and to bear testimony for the Savior.
In his childhood in Sungurlu, one of Vahram's uncles had taught him to play the violin. What a tremendous asset this turned out to be for his ministry! He used the violin in all his meetings, adding a special uplift to the singing. He was dubbed by some, ‘the violin-playing preacher.’ Also, Brother Artaki contributed to the hymn-singing by playing his harmonica.
What an assortment of people attended those meetings! There was the businessman David Giray, a Jewish believer from Russia. Earlier he had walked across Eastern Europe as he felt that something terrible was about to happen in his homeland. He came in contact with Christians in Switzerland and was converted to Christ. Finally he reached Istanbul and joined the believers there. Now in his lively testimony and fascinating accent he told of his long anticipation of this revival. He encouraged believers to strive after holiness of life. Another person was Omer Songar, of very liberal Muslim background, who had studied in Germany as a young man and was converted there. He was rather eccentric, but there was no doubting his godly sincerity. Abruptly interrupting the meeting, he sometimes stood up and said, "Brothers and sisters, a spirit of prayer has come upon me," and he would pray without regard to the ongoing meeting. In a meeting not regulated by any particular form or tradition strange happenings sometimes occurred.
Meetings with preaching and teaching, along with visits in homes continued unabated. One day there was a meeting in Pastor Garabet Derhovannesian's house. A poor woman obviously in great distress entered the room. Vahram was preaching but at a suitable juncture he paused, took up his violin and announced a hymn. While everyone was singing, he went over to deal with the woman's need. He exhorted her to receive the Savior by quoting II Corinthians 6:2, "At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." In that first meeting she had ever attended, Silvart repented and put her faith in Christ. She was a stalwart Christian to the end. But her husband, a dentist, was a total unbeliever. When he heard of his wife's step of faith, he derogatorily remarked, "So, you've joined the 'spirituals' too, have you?" Silvart came and poured out her sorrow to Vahram. How should she encounter her husband’s behavior? Vahram pointed her to the Scripture, "For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:3, 4).
Vahram would always handle the needs of the believers by referring them to the appropriate Scriptures. He believed that the Holy Spirit taught him to apply God's truth to any given problem.
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