I, Immanuel Arul Paul, was born and raised in a Christian family that had been serving the Lord Jesus Christ for generations. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal saviour when I was sixteen years old. Starting out my new Christian life as a teenager, I found myself under tremendous pressure to adhere to and follow many Christian laws and regulations, which came especially with being a part of an evangelist’s family. When I failed to live up to those standards, instead of being helped in my journey to grow and overcome my weaknesses, I was accused of the same. The following days and months led to some bitter encounters with Christians, particularly servants of God. Hence, I developed guilt and a sense of failure that I was not living up to the expected Christian standards. Hurt and discouraged by the Christian environment, which I had put on a pedestal and looked to as a role-model, I lost heart and began to withdraw from God. I feared that I would become an unloving Christian myself. I started becoming rebellious and went into the world. I found more comfort, fellowship and joy in worldly people and pleasures. On a few occasions my friendship and habits even led me to come face to face with death, but I was miraculously saved. Little did I realise that it was God’s hand that was protecting me.
Despite my prodigal life, I occasionally prayed and made efforts to connect with God. Though I had turned my back on Him, He was continuously speaking to me and constantly showing me His love through the many things He was teaching me. He was answering many questions and addressing many pertinent reservations I had about Christianity and ministry. When I was twenty years old, I received a clear calling from God to do ministry by building the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, I ignored His voice and continued in my rebellious ways. I found myself being caught between a world of law and the love of God. The Lord convicted me that though the religious environment may have rejected and hurt me, He has never hurt me, but has been faithful and never forsaken me. He healed me from an unexplainable and untreatable severe back pain that had crippled me. He also delivered me from all my evil habits that had been tormenting me for a long time. Thus, God constantly kept proving His love for me through many circumstances and taught me how His love triumphs over the law. When I was twenty-three years old, God called me again to pastor and lead churches through an apostolic ministry. Due to the common culture in the church, where a pastor is revered and obeyed at all costs and bitter experiences over the authority that pastors tend to have over the congregation, I refused to become one. I chose to become an evangelist instead. Also, my father, Mr. Ebenezer Paul has been an evangelist since 1984. He was my idol and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. When I finished my master’s degree education, I received an offer to undertake a prestigious job with an envious salary, but I did not pursue this opportunity. Instead, I began to follow Jesus Christ, heeding His call to do His ministry. I started serving God when I was twenty-four years old. The evangelical ministry was blessed by God, and I could see Him being glorified through it all. I was able to minister to thousands of people, and had great recognition from the Christian community in India and overseas. For fifteen years the ministry was regarded as successful and was a blessing to many. I had made a name for myself in the Christian community.
However, things took a turn in 2012 when I faced many challenges in the ministry and in my personal life. During these months of testing, trial, and uncertainty, my trust in family members and friends was also tested. I found myself alone and betrayed by everyone I had put my trust in. My faith was being questioned by many who were a part of my ministry. I also found myself and the ministry becoming a target for many criticisms. My faith in family, fellowship, and friends was completely destroyed. Also, during this time, I had to make certain unconventional decisions in ministry, as God had strongly called me to do so. I could not explain myself to anyone or justify these decisions, but only obey Him and do what He was asking me to do. God’s calling during this time led me to make some tough choices at the cost of my good name and standing in the Christian community. As a result, I was judged as morally wrong and a false prophet by most preachers and churches. Amidst this hurt and despair, and being let down by fellow Christians, I went into depression and rebellion. I became unwanted by many, quit ministry, and withdrew from everyone, as I could not handle the accusations that came my way. Though I was content and happy to do His will, I was unable to accept the persecution that followed. During these months of struggle and rejection, God redefined my attitude towards the ministry and my life. He gave His truth, taught me, and re-established my faith through the following words:
2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.
Matthew 11:28 – 30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
God taught me that being called and chosen by Him is unchanging, and He reconfirmed my call. Though I may withdraw and rebel, my calling is forever sure, and He never fails. He taught me that judging others, blaming the devil and his works for every failure, and not being thankful for my suffering is an ungodly attitude. He also taught me that I needed to pick up my cross and follow Him daily in order to crucify my flesh, and through this suffering, my soul will be saved. This is His perfect will for me, and I need to submit to this transformation without murmuring. I have learned that the way to gain Jesus Christ, is to lose everything and not count the cost. Through this sacrifice, I can cast my cares on Him and find rest for my soul. He revealed His love to me and showed how I can taste it by understanding the power of His blood on the cross. Slowly, He strengthened me to overcome the bitterness I had experienced over the past. He taught me forgiveness and enabled me to help the people and ministries that I had shunned previously. He also removed idolatry from my heart in regard to false adoration of men and brought me to the very basics of Christian life that I had long forgotten and ignored. This suffering and the cross that was given to me was, in fact, a blessing that enabled me to understand the Creator and His love for me.
This entire experience redefined my life and ministry. It was very much needed to remind me of the Lord’s original call for me to pastor and lead churches, which earlier, in my own wisdom, I had turned down to become an evangelist. Through this process, He removed me from the evangelical ministry, and started me on a clean slate, by giving a single person to teach the word of God to. He made me understand that true ministry is not an organization or a large-scale event or preaching, but it is in fact, being of service and sacrificing my all for a single soul or a brother or a sister for his/her betterment. His calling was clearer and surer. Slowly, small and intimate fellowships and churches were built. He led me to focus on being an apostle, establishing churches and fellowships, where there is true need, and to counsel and strengthen believers on a regular basis. My experience served as a tool for me to guide others to find salvation for their souls, through the cross, and His love, amidst practical problems in life. Now, I am thankful for the responsibility that He has entrusted me with: to build, edify, support, and strengthen churches, i.e., the Body of Christ, which is the very essence of Christianity. I feel blessed and humbled to be a slave of Christ, in this calling and ministry for Him. His ways and thoughts have always been higher and better than mine, far beyond my imagination. I am thankful to the Lord for always being faithful in directing my steps in His love and enabling me to walk in His ways, despite my inabilities and failures. As His slave, He is my unfailing and ever-loving master; breaking, mending, and molding me to be transformed into His image from glory to glory.
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