Thomas Cosmades

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WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER

CHAPTER 33

 

THE EXTENT OF THE REVIVAL

Vahram obtained permission to visit the inmates in the central prison, an unparalleled opportunity!  Thanking the Lord he took his interpreter with him to visit the place.  He saw the prisoners in shackles.  Some were even forced to spend the night in their chains.  There were Muslims, Druzes and Christians. He explained the suffering and death of Christ the Savior, his forgiveness and redeeming love for them all.  He made it clear to them that Jesus Christ had come to break the eternal chains and to set men and women free.  The prisoners were manifestly touched.  Some repented and asked God's pardon, calling on the name of the Lord.  He taught them the nature of the new life in some detail and impressed upon them the joy of living a delivered life.  And eventually, when they would be freed from their prison chains, the call before them was to live the life of the delivered sinner. While his heart was gladdened on one hand for this opportunity, on the other hand the visit had upset him.  For years he had been calling everyone to repentance, stressing that hell was a stark reality and not a figment of the imagination.  The pitiful scene he had just witnessed reminded him that if individuals must be cast into a place of punishment to satisfy earthly justice, how much more severe will divine retribution be!  He never forgot this prison experience.  From then on, he felt he must emphasize more specifically the terror of the sinner's punishment.

The revival in Amman picked up momentum.  Hundreds of people came under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, repented and passed from death into life.  Many backsliders were restored to faith in Christ.  Once again, there were those who became angry.  They downgraded the believers, even intimidated them.  The devil's fury against the spiritual awakening and his resorting to a variety of schemes was nothing new to Vahram.  He wrote the following: "Satan is incensed to the extreme, but victory belongs to the Lord.  Hallelujah!"

Every morning Vahram got up early and with fasting and prayer sought the sustaining power and protection of the Holy Spirit against all obstacles and attacks.  When dealing with those who despised Christís followers he always displayed love and forgiveness.  Since he was in a strange country, some may have thought that he would be gripped by fear. Conversely, his cautious conduct was emanating from a prudent heart.  The befitting words of Isaiah brought him fresh reassurance: "Who has heard such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Shall a land be born in one day?  Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?  For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children" (Isaiah 66:8).  And truly, what was happening was not to be concluded in one day.

In teaching and encouraging both old and new believers, he would stress the importance of humility.  He would wisely counsel them never to attribute the moving of the Holy Spirit to human achievement.  Rather, each person was challenged to seek the ongoing guidance of the Spirit.  He would repeatedly emphasize the praise-worthiness of Christ, and against this, his own unworthiness.  At times, he would relate with tears the absolute supremacy of his Lord.  With this deep conviction, he sought divine counsel in the ministries before him, such as: What should the subject of his message be?  Which hymns should be sung?  Who should be visited?  God's instruction to Jeremiah became his motto:

"But if they had stood in my council,

then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,

and they would have turned them from their evil way,

 and from the evil of their doings" (Jeremiah 23:22).

"We do not know the needs of those present in the meetings," he would say, immediately adding, "But God knows.  A consultation is what we need.  In a sense, revival is a consultation with God.  If we are alert to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, He is ready to direct us in every situation.[1] Let us be careful not to go out to face the people with whatever comes to mind on the spur of the moment.  'A friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him' (Luke 11:6).  If we bear in mind to approach our heavenly Father with such a plea, the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ in this parable will come true: 'Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you' (Luke 11:9)."

It will be understood from these words that Vahramís preaching power did not come from his brilliant intellect, oratorical skill or theological niceties.  There are many who possess all these qualities and yet cannot introduce sinners to the Savior.  Vahram could speak only two languages, yet he addressed multitudes of people from a wide spectrum of nationalities and stirred them to repentance.  Human know-how and proficiency were not the factors.  What was written in the Scriptures about the Apostle Peter was confirmed in Vahramís ministry, as it has been with so many others: "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'Ē (Acts 2:37).

Whether in the New Testament period, in Vahram Tatikian's time, or in our present day, God's power and mighty works are invariably displayed through man's weakness.  Vahram had his faults, just like the rest of us.  But through the Holy Spirit he knew the secret of how to wrestle with his deficiencies and overcome them.  In whatever situation he was, his Instructor was the Holy Spirit.

Vahram did not censure or condemn sin in an individual sinner.  He would talk with the sinner in love and allow the power of God to bring conviction.  His service for his Lord was a miracle of grace.  His life from beginning to end reflected his faith.  His humility was the putting on of Jesus.  The truth that God exalts the lowly in heart and humbles the proud was proven in the life of Vahram.  He lived very modestly.  He could lie down on the bare ground to sleep if necessary, or go to bed hungry, but he would never fail to dress neatly.  He regularly pressed his clothes and polished his shoes.  He shaved every morning, a practice not generally followed in his land.  He lived in harmony with Christ's well-known command: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

Following these few observations about God's tool in the ongoing revival in Amman, we return to its progress.  At one of the meetings a husky man came forward to give his testimony.  Everyone gasped when out from under his robe he produced a dagger.  "Do you see this?" shouted the man.  "I served a long prison sentence in this city.  At my release I went to Baghdad.  There again I was put in prison for killing someone.  That sentence, too, finished at long last and I came back to Amman.  I bought this dagger on my return here.  My intention was to kill the person who had informed on me.  One evening somebody who hardly knew me said, 'Would you like me to take you to a meeting?  You'll hear a speaker who has come all the way from Turkey.  And he doesn't speak Arabic either.  He speaks through an interpreter'.  I didn't have the slightest desire to come to such a place.  It was as if my feet dragged me against my will.  When I heard the preaching this evening, I realised that it was exactly for me.  The incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ utterly broke my hard heart.  So when I pondered the fact that Jesus had died for a wretch like me, I started to weep. Since Christ, the son of God, because of His great heart of love, gave Himself over to death so that I might be saved, I surrender this weapon of death before you all.  That unfathomable love has cleansed and conquered my wicked heart.  It has saved my enemy from death and delivered me from another stretch in jail."

So saying, he left the cruel weapon on the table in front of the pulpit and pleaded with Jesus Christ and the society he had grieved to forgive him.  Then he offered up a very moving prayer that proved the genuineness of his repentance.  He earnestly cried to God to keep him from every sin from then on.  There wasn't a dry eye in the place as hymns of praise and thanksgiving ascended to heaven, welling up from the depths of every heart.  Everyone felt it was an experience of unimaginable sweetness.  And the man crying like a child, said, "Brothers and sisters, please pray for me that my Lord who has saved me may keep me ever faithful."  The elders of the church took the dagger and kept it as a reminder of that blessed evening.  The angels in heaven rejoiced over the entry of a great sinner into the Kingdom of God.  One soul had been kept from committing murder and another from being murdered.  And God's servant in this glorious transaction was Vahram.  What rejoicing there was among the young people as they gathered around the newly-converted man at the close of the meeting!


 

  [1] Acts 5:32

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