My earliest memories of being in church was when I was about seven years old.  I remember hearing preaching and a preacher named Bro. Arterburn.  Then I remember my family staying home on Sundays.  My family no longer attended church, but I remember going to Vacation Bible School when I was about ten years old.  We were in the basement of Southside Baptist Church in Paducah when the teacher told us how Jesus died on the cross for us.  After she told us about the gospel, she asked if any of us realized we were lost.  I raised my hand with some others.  Then she said if any of us were concerned enough about our souls to pray about it to come forward.  I know there were at least two other girls who went forward.  I was a very shy, backward little girl and I always felt inferior to other people, so it took a lot for me to go down front.  I had a great heaviness in my heart when I went forward.  As soon as my knees touched the concrete floor, the heaviness lifted and it seemed a bright light was shining in my soul from through the window in the basement.  I realize it was only the sun shining through, but I felt so clean inside.  I can’t explain what happened, but I thought it was salvation.

  No one said a prayer with me.  No one took me down the Roman Road.  It was just me and God.  After this wonderful feeling of the burden or heaviness leaving me came on me, I said to myself, “Oh, I didn’t even ask you to save me.”  So I said very quickly in my mind, “Lord, please save me.”  I remember going home that day from Vacation Bible School and telling my mom that I got saved.  She was happy for me.  I cannot explain to you what this was.  I feel it was God showing me that He was.

     Since my family was not attending church at that time, I don’t remember going to church much in the next few years, but when I went back to school in the fall,  I remember my fifth grade teacher kept a poster board up and gave stars to everyone who attended church on Sunday.  I wanted my name to have a star beside it so I went to church a few times.  I remember one time they gave me a card to fill out and it asked if I was saved.  I checked “no” because I had not been baptized so I didn’t know whether to put I was saved or not.  You see, I didn’t have any real understanding about what salvation really was.

     When I was seventeen years old, I was invited to a revival meeting by a lady down the street.  We had moved across town and this lady lived in the neighborhood.  All day I was bothered before going to church that night.  After the preaching when the invitational hymn started, I broke down crying and went forward.  The preacher asked me if I was saved and I said yes, but I had not been baptized.  So, I joined the church by baptism and shortly thereafter started teaching a Sunday School class.  I thought I had done what God required of me. I taught Sunday School for the next thirty-plus years.

     The church I attended was a very legalistic church and I learned lots of doctrine and all of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of  Christian living.  I went to church faithfully during those years, Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights.  I did not miss unless I was sick or providentially hindered.  I thank God that somehow he put a desire in me to be in church.  Also, by His grace, I could never do the things other young people my age did.  I always felt guilty when I did something wrong.  I never wanted to displease anybody, especially God, but all this time I would go sometimes the whole week without even reading my Bible and praying. 

     I married in January of 1965 and we moved to Chicago where my husband worked.  We moved our membership to a church up there and in November of that year we moved back home and back to the church in Paducah.  We had two daughters and there were times after I was married and had children that I tried to read my Bible faithfully and pray faithfully, but it never became a part of me.  I tried to start family altar several times, but it would not last long.  I just did a lot of trying and failing, but all the while I was attending church faithfully and teaching a class.

     In 1971, we moved our membership from Paducah to New Hope Baptist Church.  Our youngest daughter died in 1974 at the age of 4 1/2 years.   She had been sick from birth and I can tell you truthfully that God gave me grace day by day to take care of her and to give her up.  I can’t explain that to you, but I know He helped me through those years as well as other serious and traumatic things that happened in my life.

     During all this time I would have times when I felt God was stirring in my heart and I would go to the altar and say, “Lord, what do you want?  I’m here and I’m willing to do what you want, but I don’t know what this stirring is.”  I was always concerned because I didn’t know my exact age when I made my profession and because I did not ask God to save me before the relief of the heaviness came.  Here again, I did not understand what true salvation was.  I would go for long periods of time that I was not bothered.  I enjoyed going to church and being around preachers and hearing the word preached and singing.  I would rededicate my life nearly every revival.  I would try to “start” doing something or try to “stop” doing something.  I wanted God’s approval.  I lived a separated life, but I could never understand the stirring I felt from time to time during revivals or preaching.  It bothered me that I was so young when I made my profession.  I had heard that there is such a change in a person when they are saved, but I had not seen that much of a change in me.  There was always this voice I could hear (not an audible voice) that would say, “What if you’re not saved?”  There was always that question in the back of my mind.  I would say, “Lord, I know you would never want your child to live this way, always in doubt.”

     My path first crossed with that of Bro. Edgar Paschall in 1979.  He held two meetings at our church in 1979 and 1980.  There seemed to be an immediate bond there.  (God was working things out even then!)  Then Bro. Paschall announced he was lost and it really shook me up.  I remember talking to him in Myrtle, MS. at Camp Zion and he said he knew he was called to preach, even though he was lost.  I had always been taught (tradition) that God doesn’t call a lost man to preach, but Bro. Paschall showed me I Sam. 3 where God called Samuel and in verse 7 the Bible says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him.”  (Rom.11:29, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”)  Then, in 1987 Bro. Paschall came to our church as pastor. He started preaching on “true salvation” and the plumb line by which you measure your salvation experience. (That plumb line is the Word of God.) I was bothered and I was constantly examining my experience.  I knew I did not do what I did for fear of hell because I never had that on my mind that day.  I just knew I felt guilty and I wanted God’s approval and forgiveness.  I knew that I did not have the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit that a believer has as Bro. Paschall preached on it, but I could not get lost.  I listened to the Road of Light and went to Bible Study and kept on examining.  I did know a lot about the Bible from years of study and listening to preaching.  I came to wish I did not know so much, but God said he would “teach sinners in the way” in Psalms 25:8.  Then Bro. Paschall preached on the difference in godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.  I didn’t know if what I had was worldly sorrow or godly sorrow.   I know that I knew right from wrong, but I didn’t know good from evil.  Still, I couldn’t get lost.  I w ould be all right for a long time and then the voice would come again, “What if you’re not saved?”  GOD IS SO MERCIFUL!

     Mrs. Lucy’s (Paschall) testimony also made me examine my experience.  There was something so different about her.  I knew she had something real and that it was not just words.  I also saw dramatic changes in others who were saved in the following years.  This just made me do more soul searching.  I wanted something real.

     I began praying for God to show me my heart as He saw it.  Gradually, He began to do that, although I still didn’t fully realize what He was doing.  PRAISE HIS NAME! I also began to pray some of the Bible prayers of David such as Psalms 143:1, 8, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. .....Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”  My greatest prayer was that I wanted to “KNOW HIM” as Paul prayed, “... and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings...” (Phil. 3:10)  Then I would ask Him to be easy with me on the suffering part.

     I never seemed to get victory in a consistent prayer life and Bible reading or study.  It was seemingly sporadic.  I loved to listen to tapes of preaching and singing, but there would be days when the whole day would be gone and I had not even prayed or read my Bible.  At times I would think, “Oh, I have to pray” and I did not mean that it was a longing, I meant it was a task.  GOD IS SO LONGSUFFERING!  I longed to long for Him.  I longed to long for His Word, but I didn’t.

     Bro. Tim Rutherford has been coming to our church for ten years preaching the Word.  I always loved to hear him preach and I always felt close to him because I knew he loved the people here at our church and he prayed for us.  Another preacher who has come through the years is Bro. Luther Price.  What wisdom he has! I would sit in awe as he told of what “Real Salvation” was. “Not our performance, but HIS provision!”  I longed to KNOW what that was like, but still I could not get lost.

     I started going to Mississippi Delta Camp Meeting right after Bro. Paschall came to our church.  How I loved that place!  It didn’t matter if you were saved or lost, they treated you the same.  People there would stand up and declare that they were lost.  I thought that was the greatest thing.  I’m so glad in God’s mercy He never allowed me to run from all this.  You see, most churches are full of people just like me, but they suffer in silence and go through life wondering, doubting and questioning, but never tell anyone the turmoil they’re in.  Bro. Charles Shipman came to our church a couple of times and I always enjoyed his coming.  He had such a message of hope to those who were religiously lost.  I remember at camp one year I said I wanted to know for sure about my salvation, but I couldn’t get lost so I would just accept what God had done for me when I was a child until He showed me differently.  I said it would be all right because He would not show me I was lost unless He was going to save me.

     In April of 1994, Bro. Tim Rutherford was preaching in our Missions Conference again and he preached on April 28th a sermon entitled “The Law of the Harvest.”  He was showing how God used preachers  who preach truth to plow up the ground of the heart so that the seed could fall on good ground as in the parable in Matthew 13.  He kept going back and forth across the front of the church like he was holding a plow and plowing the ground and said he would just keep on plowing.  He said that when the seed falls on good ground it brings understanding.  When he said that word “understanding,” God pricked my heart.  Every time he would say the word understanding, God would nudge my heart.   That next afternoon Bro. Luther Price preached on salvation again and God continued to stir my heart.

     Bro. Tim was in a meeting at Clinton, Kentucky the next week and we went over on Tuesday night to hear him.  That’s the only night I could go that week.  Guess what he preached?  “The Law of the Harvest.”  Again God nudged my heart each time the word understanding was used.

     The next Sunday night in ladies’ prayer band one of the ladies read from Daniel 10:12, “Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.”  Again, God nudged my heart.  Bro. Paschall, for some reason, seemed to use the words understand and understanding a lot in the next few services, and every time God would nudge my heart.

     I finally admitted to God that I was lost and I thanked Him for showing me.  I begged Him to save me.  You see, I had said it would be all right if God showed me I was lost, because He wouldn’t show me unless He was going to save me.  That’s easy to say until you really know you are lost.  At least you know it in your head.  I really thought I could get saved right away because I knew I loved and trusted God all these years and believed in Him--I’m here to say now that it is impossible to get saved when you want to.  God has His own time table and it does not coincide with ours.  It got to the point that it was not all right that I was lost.  I found out that I was totally helpless, but apparently not helpless enough, because I still was not saved.  Religion is so hard to get rid of.  You learn to rely on it so much for so many years that you just can’t let it go.

     I told my husband, my daughter, my niece and a good friend that I was lost.  Then at Camp in Arkansas in August of 1994, I told Bro. Paschall and Mrs. Lucy.  It wasn’t until sometime later that I told the church.  You see I told the church because I thought my pride was keeping me from telling, and I didn’t want my pride to hinder me.  It’s so hard to know what to do.  I came to regret that I had told anybody.  It makes you feel that everyone is watching you to see what you are going to do or not do.  Yet, I’m so thankful that we have a church who doesn’t look down on the lost, but loves them where they are and stays with them through it all.  MY!  HOW BLESSED WE ARE!

     There were many times that I really thought I was close to being saved, but God did not save me then.  Bro. Tim preached one time on “An Opened Heart” concerning Lydia and how God opened her heart.  Bro. Tim said the word “heard” in Acts 16:14 where Lydia heard meant “understand” and God nudged me again.  I was so thankful for the stirring every time God moved on me.  There were times it would be a long time between stirrings and I was just so thankful when God would stir again.

     I began to keep a journal and just write what was on my heart to God.  I didn’t write in it every day, but I wrote in it periodically.  Sometimes it would be a long time between entries.  But God is so faithful to answer and show you something when you call out to Him.  Yes, he will even show something to a lost person.  WHAT A GOD!

     Bro. Paschall preached many times concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in convincing men of  SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS and  JUDGMENT,  and then one day I read an article in a publication that was taken from a sermon of  Bro. L. R. Shelton, SR.  He preached for twenty-five years lost before God saved him.  In John 14, Jesus had promised that he would send a Comforter because he was about to go to the cross to sacrifice himself for us.  Then in Chapter 16 of John he told them it was expedient (necessary) for him to go away so that the Comforter would come.  He said in verses 8-10 of John 16:  “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment because the prince of this world is judged.”  Bro. Shelton went on to say that man cannot convince a man that he is a sinner.  That takes the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is what Bro. Paschall had been telling us.  We must be convinced of Sin, the sin of unbelief.  When we are convinced of  our sin of unbelief, then the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, who is RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Then Bro. Shelton said, “Christ is hidden in the bosom of the Father, and you can never find Him until the Holy Spirit brings you to Him.”  This was such an eye-opener for me.  This is why I could not get to Jesus.  I could not find Him no matter how much I cried out for Him.  Bro. Shelton said, “God only reveals Christ to a broken heart.”   Only God knows when your will has been totally subdued and you are ready to surrender to Him.  I came to realize that I could not break my own will because my will was a captive of Satan.  II Tim. 22:25b-26, “...if God peradventure will give them repen tance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his (God’s) will.”  You see, Satan cannot do anything that God doesn’t allow; but we are ensnared by Satan and held captive by him until God subdues our will.  When we have been convinced of our SIN of unbelief and convinced of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God (who is Jesus), and we are convinced that we are under the JUDGMENT of God and we can do nothing about it, then the work of the Holy Spirit is complete and God will reveal Jesus to that lost person.  This message really helped me to realize that SALVATION IS OF THE LORD!

     There are many other things I could tell you about what messages I heard and how God spoke to me through them, but I just want to say that God is faithful!  He will finish what He starts.  The Holy Spirit will complete His work in you.

     There were so many times that I was under such a burden that I thought surely it must be godly sorrow and conviction, but then it would leave.  I would pray to God not to leave me, but the burden would leave.  I can’t explain that to you, but I can say that it is not God’s fault that anyone is lost.

     Back in the early fall of 1997, I became physically ill and I could not explain what was wrong with me.  I felt I was in a deep, dark depression and I would never come out of it.  I truly believe that Satan had me so oppressed that I was physically ill.  I went to the emergency room with pain that could not be explained.  They treated me for a kidney stone, but there was never any evidence of it.  I was emotionally so depressed that I cried for no reason and couldn’t explain why I was crying.  I really thought I was losing my mind.  God seemed so far away.  I could not read my Bible and get anything out of it, and I could not pray.  There was a battle going on for my soul.  Then one day during this dark time in my life, I was reading a devotional and somehow I ran a reference to Micah 7:9 “I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.”  The Lord spoke to my heart that this verse was a promise to me.  I tried a few days later to find out where I got that reference to Micah 7:9 and I haven’t found out yet where it came from.  It was just God in His goodness giving me some hope when I needed it most.

     I read the testimony of every person I could find to try to get some help.  After reading the testimony of David Brainerd (a missionary to the Indians who died just short of his thirtieth birthday in 1747) I wrote the following in my prayer journal on March 2, 1998:  “I have just read the testimony of David Brainerd.  He struggled as I have with the thoughts that somehow he must be able to do something that would qualify him for salvation.  Surely God would not send me to hell.  After all, I’ve tried all these years, albeit futilely, to get to Him.  All those years I thought I had salvation and tried to serve you.  It was all for me!  Everything I’ve ever done or tried or didn’t do was to try to gain favor for me!  It was never about you!  Oh, precious Lamb of God, help me to want you for you. Even if I can’t be saved, help me to want to know you for who you are and for your glory.  May I get my eyes off myself and get them only on you and desire you more than life itself.  I know in my head this is all your work.  Please put it in my heart.  Whatever it takes to get my eyes off myself and just fix them on you.  You are worthy, Lord.  You are just to send me to hell.  I can say these things and believe them in my head, but only you can make them a reality to me.  I am at your mercy.  Amen.”

     On April 26, 1998, our Missions Conference started again.  Bro. Tim preached on Sunday and Bro. Condred Pirkle came on Monday.  Bro. Price came on Wednesday.  The preaching was so good.  I became very burdened at the beginning of the week.   I went forward a couple of nights, but every time I would go forward, the burden would leave when I reached the front.  This had happened a lot and for a while I would not go forward because I didn’t want the burden to leave.  But this week it didn’t matter, I was going to go forward anyway.  The burden left me again.  Then on Thursday, the burden became heavier. Linda Gipson went up during the afternoon service and came back to her seat still crying.  I was so burdened that I came home at the break in services and went to my bedroom and read my Bible and cried and begged God to save me.  I begged Him to do that for me that I could not do for myself.  I could feel His presence so much in the services and I knew He was there.  It seemed this time I was so sorry that I could not believe.  After everything Jesus had done for me, I couldn’t believe. That grieved me so deeply.  Thursday night, Linda Gipson told the church that she got saved that afternoon.  I went home Thursday night after the services with such a heavy heart.  All night I prayed and read and prayed and talked to God.  I slept some and then I would awake and each time I awoke I would still be praying for God to do for me what I could not do for myself, and please forgive me for my unbelief.  Early in the morning on Friday, May 1st, after wrestling all night, I moved from the couch to my bed.  I was laying there still praying and asking God to help me when I heard in my heart the words “Victory in Jesus.”  At that moment, something inside me welled up with a resounding “YES!” and the burden was lifted.  I immediately turned and look ed at the clock and it was 6:07 a.m.  I thought to myself, “I must have been asleep and dreaming.”  I said, (not out loud, but in my heart) “Lord, did you really save me?  Was that really you?” and I heard the words (in my heart) “’tis done, the great transaction’s done.”

     Well, this wasn’t what I had thought it would be at all.  You see, we all have pre-conceived ideas about what salvation is and how it will feel.  Bro. Price said one time in a message that Satan knocks on the door of your emotions and God knocks on the door of  your will.  This is so true.  I thought salvation should feel a certain way and because I didn’t feel a certain way, I began immediately to question what God had done.  All I wanted to do was read about HIM and sing about HIM, but yet I questioned.  God began to open scripture to me.  Jer. 29:11-14a, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, saith the LORD:..”  I had read this so many times before but now it really spoke to my heart.

     He had shown me a few months before John 6:29 where Jesus had been asked what to do to work the works of God and Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”  God showed me that my believing was His work.  He now reminded me of that verse and other verses in John 10:10-16, especially verse 16 where he said there were “other sheep” that he must bring.  He gave me the promise on 8-21-97 that I was one of those “other sheep,” and now it was fulfilled.  On 9-30-96, God gave me John 14:21 “...he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”  That was His promise to me.  He gave me other verses that just confirmed what he had done.  On Sunday, May 3rd, Bro. Pirkle preached and we had so much liberty that morning.  People began to speak what God had shown them or told them to speak and God kept impressing me to confess him.  He just kept saying to me, “Confess me.” So I turned to Romans 10 and kept reading verse 8 that says, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach...”  He just kept saying to me, “Confess me” and so I stood and read verses 9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

     I didn’t even understand what God was doing in me.  He was confirming His work in me.  The next few days he just kept speaking to me through the scriptures and through songs.  On Wednesday, I decided I would look up Victory in Jesus in the song book and sing it.  I looked it up and on the very same page was the song O Happy Day.  The third verse of that song says, “’tis done the great transaction’s done.”  God is so good to us that he did that for me to confirm His work in me.  These two songs did not just happen to be on the same page in my song book.  That was God!

     God came unexpectedly to me.  I did not have any idea He was going to save me when He did.  You see, God is the only one who knows your heart and knows where you are so far as your will being subdued.  That ‘s why it is dangerous to tell someone what they should do at any time.  SALVATION IS OF THE LORD!  It’s His work and we can’t touch it.  I didn’t know at the time how much longer I would have to go before God saved me, but I did know that nothing else mattered.  When it is all over, you realize that God did it all.  He worked everything together just for me.

     It wasn’t just these things that showed me God had done a work in me.  I know He has changed me inside.  I have a hunger for his Word and to be with Him that I have never had.  I love to sing to Him and praise Him.  HE IS ALTOGETHER LOVELY!

     I have written this testimony to try to help those who may be religiously lost as I was for 47 years.  I cannot explain to you why it took so long for me to understand that I was lost and to seek God.  I hesitate to give too much of a description of what happened to me because I know what it is to compare people’s testimonies and try to do the same thing they did.  God never duplicates anything.  It will not be what you think it will be, so try not to have any pre-conceived ideas of what it will be like and don’t put God in a box and limit Him.  He will finish what He starts and He is faithful to keep His promises.  WHAT A GOD!!  You, too, someday can say, O Happy Day, ’tis done the great transaction’s done!  There is VICTORY IN JESUS!

 

With Love to the Lost,

Wanda Sheppard

665 George Clark RD S

Benton, KY 42025

(270) 898-3527

 

     If I can be of help to anyone, please feel free to write me or call me any time.  I can only tell you what God did for me; but because He did it for me, I know He can do it for anybody.

 

 

VICTORY IN JESUS

Personal Testimony of Wanda Sheppard
New Hope Baptist Church
1661 Griggstown Road
Calvert City, KY 42029
Church -270-527-3864
Pastor - 270-559-7135
email: edgarleepaschall@juno.com
The Persuader