Keith Paginton - Testimony - Pukekohe II, New Zealand Convention - 1981

When thinking about this meeting, several portions of scripture came to my mind, but I did not feel moved to speak on them, so I will give you my testimony. Our testimony is the work of God in our own life. “Just as I am,” a struggling soul for life and liberty.  Salvation is not something that we inherit or that is handed down by our parents.

 

I have to go back quite a long way--back to my grandparents. The gospel came to us when I was a boy, and I decided when I was nearly 15 years old. In my early years, I used to be plagued with the thought that I did not have a testimony at all, as I used to hear older ones speaking of being brought out of a false religion, the world, etc.  Theirs seemed a dramatic experience, and I could not talk like that. I was brought up in the Truth and  the devil used to sit on my shoulder and tell me I had no real testimony because I was not the same as the older ones. That is not true.  Everyone has a different testimony.  We build up our testimony through the years. Young people might not have a dramatic start, but as they have some real experiences later, their testimony becomes very real and living.

 

I was born in England into a very religious family. My family were all great people in the Methodist Church. Father was a businessman, and he also had  very big mission band of 80. We had all kinds of religious people come into our home. At that time there were two branches of the Methodist Church, the Wesleyan, and the Primitive. My father was a great advocate of unity, but if you tied two cats together by the tail, you would have union, but not unity. My father told someone once, "I am a Wesleyan, and I married a Primitive Methodist, so that makes our two children little United Methodists." Shortly after they were married, my parents were having a little argument, and Father said, "I'm the head of this house and this family."  “Yes dear,” Mother said,  "You can be the head, so long as I can be the neck and turn you around whichever way I like."

 

55 years ago, two stranger ladies came into the district where my grandparents were living. Annie Hughes, sister of Willie Hughes, was one of them. They attended their meetings and later said, "If these two ladies are right, then we must be wrong." They both made their choice. Some time went by and my father saw the difference in the lives of his parents.  A changed life is the 1oudest sermon anyone can preach.  On a visit to my grandparents' home, my father met Jack Forbes there. He asked my father if he could have meetings in his home. Father knew what my mother's attitude was at that time, so he told Jack it wasn't convenient now, but he would talk it over with my mother and let him know.  When he returned home, he asked my mother, and she replied, "No, they will never come here."  After a short while, she said to my father, "It is not fair to judge those preachers before hearing them.”  So she consented to let Jack Forbes and companion have gospel meetings for two weeks only. Well, I can tell you it was a very long two weeks--it is not over yet. It was the first time we had preachers in our home. We recognised that Jack Forbes was such a different humble man to all the other great religious people we had known. My father invited his neighbours and his own mission band and the workers had a meeting every night in the dining room. In the first meeting, Jack spoke from John 4 about the woman at the well of Samaria, and that was the beginning of living waters in our home. That well springing up in that home still satisfies abundantly to this day. My father used to talk with the preachers till all hours of the night.

 

Father decided before two weeks were up and came right out of the Church, but not mother. She decided later on, as she saw the change in father's life. He was now home more with the family. When mother professed, it was very humbling for her. It was hard for her to give up her place in the social circle and even going to the hairdresser. When they passed that place, mother said to father, "I have finished going there now," and she let her hair grow. There was much change in my parents, inwardly and outwardly. There was no more going to Sunday school or Church any more, but going miles to a little country village to a humble cottage for the meetings.

 

It was even strange for us children, too. I remember the coconut matting on the floor, and we had to kneel on it at prayer time, and there could be dents on our knees when we got up. I got the idea of putting my hymn book under one knee and my bible under the other. Later on, the lady of the home put down a mat for us to kneel on. She had a great love for us.  Some of the friends would put their heads down into the cushion to pray, and as my father was deaf, he asked my sister and myself to sit on each side of him, and when we kneeled, each of us took turns to hold his hand. When someone stopped praying, we let his hand go, and in this way my father knew when they had finished praying. One Sunday when we got home, I heard my mother being asked by dad, "Who prayed extra long this morning?" I felt real guilty as I remembered I had forgotten to let go his hand.  Lots of things are problems to little children, and it is good to remember them, and don't pray and speak too long in the meetings.

 

My sister professed first. I remember the time I knelt down by my bed and said "It is Christ for me from now on.”  I don't pretend to say I have done well, but I made a full heart surrender. I wrote a letter to those brother workers, and I was so worked up about it, I forgot to put a stamp on the envelope. But I'm sure they didn't mind paying the cost of that stamp, because a sinner needed salvation.  It was a full surrender, an unreserved surrender. I was often a coward and would like to slide out of some things at school. We have to balance things for the children. When the other children went to a film or listened to the radio, my parents would take us to the zoo or for a picnic. I got through school and professional studies fairly easily, and then went to work in Dad's office, and I got along there fairly easily too. You don't say too much to the boss's son.

 

Then war broke out, and I did 4-1/2 years non-combatant service in the Army. There were several other professing boys in the same barracks as I was, and we managed to have a meeting together when we could. The time came when I felt the need to separate from them and face things alone. So I had two years without the others, amongst soldiers, moving from barrack to barrack. I found I had to make a new stand each time. Among regular soldiers, swearing and using God’s name in vain is common place. I remember when it came to bedtime the first night, I stood for a long time getting courage to kneel by my bed and pray, but I'm glad to say I got the victory. They soon respected me and would keep quiet while I prayed. Then at meal time when I bowed my head to give thanks, they would tap me on the shoulder and say, "Aren't you well?" When I told them I was giving thanks for my food, they exclaimed "What, giving thanks for an Army meal?" Then they would snatch away my plate, and I had to hold on to it when bowing my head. It was a matter of "watching and praying.” But after a while, they gave me every respect.

 

I can thank God every day for different experiences.  It does you good, you know. It puts something into you. You girls that are nursing or in an office, you have no need to feel ashamed.  Be true to your convictions, and it will be a source of strength to you. Never be ashamed to confess Christ.  Jesus was the best man in the world to stand for God.  He was the bravest man whoever lived. The bravest boy or girl today is the one who stands up for Christ; even in the way you dress, you can confess Christ. I know of one girl at school who was the only one not wearing jeans. That takes courage, and it puts character into you.  It also gets the approval of God. I am sorry to this day for the times I failed to confess Christ before others.

 

Then I found God laying something else on my heart. It is one thing to have some vague kind of thought in the back of our minds about the ministry, but it is very different to have a Godly conviction to go into the harvest field. I think most young people do think about it. I don't think parents should push their children into the work, but pray for them. Pray them into it. It is the only hope of mankind. If no one ever went forth, we would not be here. We know the need is great, and the labourers are few. It was very real when God laid claim to my life. One night I crept out of the barracks after the lights were out. I knew I shouldn't have been out. I knelt in a field under a tree with bombers and search lights around me.  There I vowed that if God wanted my life, it was His. It is the highest and most satisfying calling to make choices in the interest of God’s Kingdom.

 

Some years ago I went alone to Madagascar. There were no friends there. I was the first worker to go there, then I sent for a companion. Six years later, there were 80 friends at a Convention, and this year there were 150 gathered.  In many other countries, the Lord’s work is going on. Last year, a young Madagascan man went forth in this work, and last week a sister went forth.  The call is still the same.  “Just as I am, not what I'm thought to be.” I hope some young lives here will be touched; there is such a great need in the world, there are countries crying out for labourers. Let us live for Christ. and. set a right standard and be a right example to others. The Kingdom of God is the only Kingdom that is going to last, and it is well worthwhile putting our very best into that Kingdom now.  Never mind the other fellow in the office who goes around like a shaggy animal.

 

In England, two botanists found a rare plant down a steep cliff overlooking the sea. They spoke to a young lad about it, and offered him a reward if he would help them get it. He agreed. First they put a harness on him and with a man holding the rope, they went to the edge of the cliff, but when the lad looked down, he said to the men, "I won't go down unless my father is holding the rope."  Beware who is holding the rope; be careful. When you are tempted to go in for anything, it is good to ask,  "Is my heavenly Father holding the rope?" If He is not, you could quite easily go over the cliff.  If God is holding the rope, we can safely trust Him and put our lives in His hands.

 

One of the best memories I have of my mother is when I was leaving for Madagascar, she said, "If you hear I am sick or anything has happened to me, don't come back, stay in your field."  It just worked out some years later, when I was back in England from Madagascar, I was home while mother was very sick.  Sitting beside her bed, I asked her, "Will I go to convention or stay with you?”  She said, "You go to convention." I went to the convention, and when it was over, I returned home again and was with her when she passed away.

 

One day we are all going to go, like the old man Simeon, who said, "Lord now lettest Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast, prepared before the face of all people.” We also know that God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. We can depart in peace if we have received salvation. All the difficulties shall fade away, there shall be no more fears and no more tears. Even the youngest here need not fear to put their lives in His hands. All that will matter one day, is whether we received Christ’s salvation or not.

 

Hymn 83, "Nearer still nearer."