Joyce’s Personal Testimony

Joyce Lee Gatlin-Hollinger

Born May 14, 1951 –  Died March 3, 1990

This is my testimony. I hope everyone who reads this is saved and does not need to hear it. Because of my past experience, I’m sorry, but I don’t trust anyone’s actions. I’m afraid you may have been like me. I was not saved until I was 24 years old. Before that time I was a busy church member. I had people fooled! I helped teach in Bible School, went to camp a couple of times as a Sponsor – even gave a devotional at Bogg Springs one night. Other ladies came over and told me what a good devotional that was. They would have never thought this young 20-year-old was lost.

Now many times people get older and they realize they didn’t follow the Roman Road exactly – they just “joined the church” and was baptized. They finally “see the light” and are saved later. Not me! I had a time and place to look back to when I thought I was saved.

Now let me tell you first that I was not being convicted and drawn by the Holy Spirit when I first asked the Lord to save me. That doesn’t mean he does not convict 11-year-olds. Everyone’s age of accountability is different. I don’t think it’s going to be age 40 or 50.

I was 11 years old and had been in church since I was born. I knew a lot of scripture by heart, learned Bible stories. But then some kids about my age were joining the church. They would cry and go down the aisle and talk to the pastor. Like any normal kid I didn’t want to be left out. I was curious. I wanted to find out more about this. I’m hearing new terms now – JOINING THE CHURCH…….GETTING BAPTIZED.

At school a girl my age said she asked the Lord to save her one night before she went to sleep. That sounded easy enough for me. I was afraid to die and go to HELL. So that night I prayed (not under conviction) and asked God to save me. I went on to bed and felt good about what I did. I dreaded walking down the aisle at church. But all the other kids did and I knew grown-ups expected me to do the same. So I went crying up to the front of the church – told the preacher I wanted to JOIN THE CHURCH. He asked “Are you saved?” I didn’t know what he meant. He said “I’ll pray the Lord’s Prayer and while I pray you asked the Lord to save you.” I didn’t – but I told him I was saved. I didn’t know what I was doing except JOINING THE CHURCH.

Now later on when I was about 13 or 14 I remember my first feelings of conviction. (Of course, when I felt that way, I thought that was the was all saved people felt.) The word SAVED started looking big and questionable to me. Once during the summer, Billy Graham came on TV. My Mama like to watch him. I couldn’t stand it. I had the awfulest feeling watching that program. I left, got on my bicycle and rode down the road. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to hear a preacher preach. Not only Billy Graham but any preacher. I remember riding to church during revivals especially. I nearly got ill when the car turned the corner at Sweet Home Church Road. I dreaded it. I felt like Jonah – I wanted to run away the other direction. But you can’t run from God.

While the invitation was being given I felt awful. The words “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.” ME always meant Joyce. “Just As I Am” – that was me, too. I took everything personally. Because God was calling me. He was convicting me. I still thought every saved person felt this way too.

As I got older and learned more about the scriptures. I learned that the Lord could return at any moment. Now I intended to live to a ripe old age – but the Lord returning worried me. As I sat in church, I imagined that if the Lord snatched away all the saved in Sweet Home Church – I could see myself being the only one left. I felt like the whole world was saved but me. I ACTUALLY HAD MORE FAITH THAT OTHER PEOPLE WERE GOING TO HEAVEN THAT I HAD FAITH THAT I WOULD GO.

I first began to let someone know about my doubting at Bogg Springs. I went as the Girls Sponsor. I told Brother Don one night I felt like I could go back to a time and a place when I asked the Lord to save me. The talk helped for a little while – not for Eternity!

Now Satan wanted me lost and to stay LOST! So, I believe he used scriptures to fool me. Now there are some scriptures that offer much home and assurance concerning Salvation. When preachers preach about doubting this is one scripture they use:

I John 3:4 “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”

I sure loved the people of our church. I felt “lost” around them most of the time. But when I went to my job in Little Rock I felt like a saint compared to some of the people I worked with. I had compassion on them. I knew many of them were lost and I truly wished they would be saved. (THIS JUST HAD TO BE THE THOUGHTS OF A SAVED PERSON!)

Also I John 5:13 “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

I definitely was a believer. Again, momentarily I felt safe.

Another thing: I never gave a testimony! I got worried and nervous if I thought people expected me to give on. ( You see I didn’t have one to give. ) But I loved to hear other people give their testimony. My ears always perked up as I listened to them tell about the time they were saved. I wanted to know the very smallest details – how old they were, what they said, who were they with, where they were, etc. I always compared my own experience with theirs.

Another word about doubting: I think it is normal to doubt maybe 1 second out of a year. To tell you the truth I just don’t doubt my salvation at all!

Now also in I John 5:14, 15 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

I became so unsure of my salvation. I finally decided it was up to the Lord to tell me whether I was lost or saved. Now I prayed “If I am not saved Lord, tell me.” Also I would pray: “Lord, if I’m lost please save me.” (And I meant it with all my heart.) Now God was answering my prayer – convicting me more and more – telling me something was wrong. So I began praying for Him to save me. Night and day – all day long – whenever I thought of it (which was very often) I would pray and ask the Lord to save me. If a person could make it to heaven by asking a million times I would surely get there.

WHY WAS I NOT SAVED? I was old enough. I understood the scriptures. John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8,9, etc.. I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. I was definitely under conviction. I asked the Lord to save me. ( I would even pray the same prayers that I read on tracts that you could pray and be saved: “Forgive me of my sins and I now ask you Lord Jesus to come live in my heart.”)

WHY WAS I NOT SAVED? No faith. Trying to do it all myself.

I wouldn’t shut up and quit asking! Now if I asked you to go to the store and get a loaf of bread for me I would have faith BEFORE I asked you. AFTER I asked you to get the bread for me I would have faith and wait for you to bring it to me. When you got to the door I wouldn’t say again “Please go to the store for me.” Then when you got to your car I wouldn’t again say “Please get me some bread.” You would probably want to say “I wish she would keep quiet and let me get that bread for her.” I’m sure that is what Jesus was thinking all the time about me.

When I was 24 years old I had it made! Married, good home, healthy baby, husband had a good job, no financial worries or health problems. But I was miserable inside. Still praying day and night for peace of mind. The Holy Spirit was bugging me constantly. I felt like I was being watched or followed – something behind me always. I kept smiling to the world. No one knew what I was going through. If I had died I would have had a nice funeral, everyone would have thought I went to heaven. I literally had gotten to the end of my rope. I was sweeping the floor one morning in April. I threw the broom down and said “God I can’t stand this anymore. I’m tired of asking. I have asked and asked and asked. I can’t do it myself. I’m going to ask you now to save me and I promise to never ask you again. I’m leaving it up to you. AMEN.”

I then got up. Did I feel instant relief? No, not really. Some people say they did. Satan still wanted me to doubt. And when I did doubt – did I ask again? No, I promised I wouldn’t ask anymore. I knew one prayer was all that was needed. I put faith into action. I had to work at having faith. When eternity came to my mind I didn’t pray anymore for salvation. I just reminded myself of my simple prayer. I had to tell myself – “You’ve already asked – there’s nothing more to do but leave it up to the Lord.” With every passing day my faith grew. No longer was there something behind me. Instead Jesus was in front of me – leading me. It actually felt like the Lord went away and left me.

Now if we were all told that a bomb was going to destroy the United States and we would all die in 30 minutes, what would you do? Would you pray for your soul’s safety? I wouldn’t. That’s already been taken care of.

HAVE FAITH before you come to Jesus Christ. HAVE FAITH that He hears you when you ask Him for salvation. HAVE FAITH that he has heard you and has written your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

In Jeremiah God said “I am weary with repenting.” I’m not for certain what that scripture means but I’m sure God was weary of me. I know now what the word TRUST means.

If you are a lost person. You only need to ask God once. You don’t have to use specific words. God knows your attitude without you telling Him. All Peter said when he was sinking into the water was “LORD, SAVE ME.” The Bible says Jesus immediately stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” He helps the weak, the doubting, the ones of little faith.

The thief on the cross said “Remember me when thou enterest into thy kingdom.” Two blind men said “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” These had faith in Him or they wouldn’t have asked. And they only asked once. You don’t find anyone in the scriptures begging and pleading for Jesus to save them. Just ask and then do like Moses said “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

My problem was me and the Devil – not with the Lord. Satan is going to hit you every way he can . He will make you think God didn’t hear you; that it is not meant for you to be saved.

I used to wish I had never been born – then I wouldn’t have to worry about Hell. I also wished that human beings were like animals – just go out of existence.

Now when I sit in church and think of the Lord returning I know I’m ready to meet Him and I’m sitting there now worried about other people – even if they are church members.

I’m sure of myself now – not others!

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