Greetings in the precious Name of Jesus Christ, my Savior, Lord, and soon coming King of Kings.
Many times through the years, friends and fellow prisoners have commented on my faith in God, and how it continually sustains me during my incarceration. When I first accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1974, I didn?t have much understanding of the Bible, let alone how to study it or how to live as a Christian. I just had this incredible hunger in my heart to know God and to understand His Word and His ways. I set myself upon a course of determined study of the Bible. I couldn?t attend church back then, let alone a Bible college, so it was just me with my Bible and a sincere heart. Not knowing ?how? to study, I simply began to read it every day, prayerfully asking God to help me understand His Word. ?Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God.? Romans 10:17.
Like most young Christians (no matter how old one is when they first accept Christ, they are considered ?babes in Christ?) my faith didn?t always seem to be working for me. My prayers were not always answered, and my walk with Jesus seemed to be full of stumblings, pitfalls, and often times a loss of the ?sense? of Peace of God, as well as guilt for my failure to always act the way I thought a Christian should act. Thank God for his Amazing Grace! As I continued to strive to grow as a Christian, I found that if I didn?t base my faith upon a right premise, then my faith wouldn?t work for me. It wasn?t as I sometimes used to think, that God was telling me ?no? in answer to my sincere prayers, but rather He couldn?t answer because my understanding of His Word and His ways, His principles and promises, was incorrect. My prayers didn?t get beyond the proverbial ceiling to His ear.
It took me a few years of sincerely seeking the Will of God, through the study of the Word of God, before I began to see the evidence in my life of the faith God entrusted me with. ?Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.? II Timothy 2:17 [amplified version].
I learned rather quickly that the admonition was coupled with a promise for Divine assistance to insure that I would be able to understand what I was reading. ?But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you receive from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do].? I John 2:27 [amplified version].
Although there are a multitude of excellent Bible teachers and Bible studies available today, it has been my experience that I just can not afford to blindly accept being spoon fed the Word of God, or to simply accept anyone else?s interpretation of the Word.
I?ve learned to check for myself whenever someone tries to tell me what any particular scripture from the Bible means. In this way I?ve learned to base my faith upon the correct premise: the Word. It takes discipline to get into the Bible for yourself.
There is an amazing thing that happens when we study the Bible. I might not have a perfect understanding of some portions of scripture, but as I?m faithful to apply the understanding I have in my life, my understanding has not only solidified, it?s also deepened as time goes by.
I used to think that as a Christian it was my sole purpose to serve God by helping others, and that somehow the more I helped others the more God would love and accept me. I?d failed to comprehend the truth of the Word of God that teaches us that we are loved and accepted by God, not because of what we do for others. ?We love Him, because He first loved us.? I John 4:19.
God?s loving acceptance of me, and you, is based solely upon what Jesus Christ did at the Cross of Calvary. As His child, I?m loved and accepted. Now whenever I serve those around me I don?t do it because I?m seeking more love and approval from God, because I know I already have it. Service to others is now done because I love God. The evidence of God?s love for me and my love for Him is manifested through service to others. ?If anyone says, I love God, and hates (detests, abominates) his brother [in Christ], he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen. And this command (charge, order, injunction) we have from Him; that he who loves God shall love his brother [believer] also.? I John 4:20-21 [amplified version]. I don?t serve to ?get? something. I serve because I?ve already been given something... loving acceptance from God.
Having a correct premise, or understanding, of God, His Will, and His Word, enables my faith to work in my life. My faith isn?t in my understanding, nor is it in itself, i.e. my faith in faith, but rather, my faith is in God and His love and desire to have a living relationship with me and for me to have healthy, loving interactions not only with other Christians, but with those in this world who don?t yet know that God loves them and cares about them too.
I?d like to encourage you today to begin, if you haven?t already, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness (Jesus is the Righteousness of God... as you are too when you abide in Him), and build up your most holy faith upon the solid foundation of His Word. In this manner, I?ve experienced the love and sustained power of God right here in prison, day after day, year after year. It isn?t my Faith that has kept me, but the correct application of my Faith upon the only One who is WORTHY, the Author and Finisher of Faith, Jesus Christ.
Sincerely, I remain, your faith-filled sister in Jesus Christ.
Ms. Susan Atkins-Whitehouse
Susan retained all rights to these materials, but she encouraged anyone who wanted to copy and distribute them as they please.