|Tomas Bentley ~ Malaysia|
Trusting Christ as a boy of eleven, seven weeks before my twelfth birthday, brought to a realisation the deepest longing of my parents, that for me, early in life, the eternal matter would be settled. This joyous event brought to an end a considerable period of soul trouble that had prevailed for months. Gospel meetings by my late Father and the late Mr. Harold Glasgow were held in the month of June 1936, in a tent on the site now occupied by the Finaghy Hall. These were by no means the first such meetings it was my privilege to attend. My parents wisely exposed me to as much Gospel preaching as was possible, so I knew from an early age the way of God's salvation. At about three years of age I was placed in the anteroom used for the infants of the Sunday School in Ebenezer where my first teachers were Mr. Jim Foster and Mr. David Kirk. Often there were stirrings in my heart to know my sins forgiven and to be ready for the Coming of the Lord, a subject that always disturbed my youthful mind. Soul anxiety deepened as nightly I heard the Gospel at the tent meetings just mentioned. One night stands out clearly. Mr. Glasgow spoke on Exodus 12 with such power and conviction, that I was truly awakened. Sleepless nights ensued yet, I shared my concern with no one. Somehow I was shy when it came to this personal issue. The meetings ended on the last Lord's Day of June without me trusting the Saviour, even though I was convicted and deeply concerned.
Nor was this the first series I had sat through when others trusted Christ, and I to my parents' distress, remained unsaved. I recall the year before, when Mr. David Walker (Scotland) had a tremendous rime of blessing in Ebenezer and many of my age group were gathered in. And again in the earlier part of 1936, Mr Walter Norris (Wales) had fruitful meetings in Ebenezer. Later at the Easter conference he would tell my Father that he had extended the meetings hoping that I would be saved.
The day after the Tent meetings finished I went on holiday. It was my first time to be away from home without the immediate care of my parents. Before I left, bidding my mother goodbye, I asked her what she would like me to bring her from Kilkeel. Naturally I was thinking of a present. Her reply quickly dimmed the very thought of a holiday as again the most important issue of my life rose in all its stark solemnity before me. My Mother's words shattered me. Looking me straight in the eye and with all the affection of a devoted and praying mother, she said, "Nothing Son, other than you tell me you got saved." That arrow went directly to its target. The conviction was ever so real. Thank God, ere the week was out, I was able to send a letter in advance, telling my parents that I had trusted Christ.
It happened on July 1st, a Wednesday evening, around 10.30 p.m. Earlier that evening I had listened to a brother from Romania relate the story of his conversion in which he made repeated reference to Revelation 3:20. With deep concern I read and reread many verses familiar to me, but with no result. Then the verse that came before me with power was the one that had been frequently quoted earlier. In childlike simplicity I saw that all I had to do was to admit the Saviour Who was knocking and asking to come in. I saw clearly there was nothing for me to do, Christ had finished the work on the Cross, all that was asked of me was to believe. That very moment I was conscious of peace, the peace of God within. I realised that I had truly trusted the Saviour to the salvation of my soul. The next morning I was charged with doubt. Somehow the Devil said to me that no one heard what you said last night. Which was true in the human sense. But having known the value of the Word of God in such moments of concern, I quickly turned for my first reading, on my first morning as a believer in Christ, to John 5:24 and assurance shone out of the verse and dispelled the clouds of doubt from then till now.
I obeyed the Lord in baptism on January 19th 1939 and later on the 29th I was received into the fellowship of the assembly gathered to the Lord's name in Ebenezer, Oldpark Road, Belfast.
The call of God came to me when I was 20. It was distinct. It has to be distinct, may I add, else great difficulties, that necessarily follow, can never be overcome. Here again the Word of God wrought the work. I responded most decidedly to the words of Isaiah 44.8. I refer to this text as the passage of the Holy Scriptures God used to convey His Call. This consummated many years of exercise, backed I must say, by activity in every aspect of work that developed our interests and expressed our desires. Early application to the study of the Scriptures was nurtured by sound teaching and encouraged by those who took more than a passing godly concern in our lives.
A year later God gave me direction. My prayerful and indeed practical interests gave me concern for Africa and Argentine in particular. Never did I consider the East in any fashion. But at the Belfast Easter Conference meetings in 1945 the Lord, in a very real manner, directed my interest to China. I remember bowing devotedly to this clear directive. From this very personal experience with God I felt from that time onward I could speak of China as being the ultimate sphere of my service.
I knew it would be wise and not really a sign of doubt, to seek God's Face for confirmation of both Call and Course. That came in Ebenezer one evening when the late Mr David Walker spoke on the Wednesday of the week he had for ministry in May 1945. Before I went to that meeting, I did something, which was my habit, I bowed at my bedside and asked God to bless the ministry to my soul and if He had a word of confirmation, to grant it that night. As he began, Mr. Walker voluntarily indicated he had been strangely led to change his earlier exercise for the meeting. He proceeded to minister on the occurrences of "GO" in Matthew's Gospel. Pausing in the midst of his address Mr. Walker said, "\ feel there is a young man in the audience and before he came to this meeting, he asked God for confirmation on his call." I almost fainted. Certainly my face flushed. He added, "Young man, allow me to be the Lord's Messenger in the Lord's message, I say unto you, GO!" I bowed at that moment in utter gratitude to God.
Comforted by God's kindness to my soul I moved for many days in the joy of having come to know the Lord's will. It was a tremendous power in one's life just to rest confidently and yet humbly in the knowledge that God had spoken. I had not expected, however, that though I had received a distinct call, and had been granted a directed course after which had come so manifestly a definite confir- mation, that there would be decisive chatisement. Gradually I realised I was after all in God's Hands in a way that somehow I had never known before. Then had not I yielded to Him spirit, soul and body? Could He not treat that offering as He will? It would take me years to discover this and to still believe the "gifts and the calling of God are without repentance."
Later, reflecting on this decisive experience, I penned words that appear with this report.
I knew that eventually I must share my exercise with my brethren in Ebenezer. The night I approached a brother in responsibility, I went verily conscious of singular leading, too detailed for this article. But months later I faced refusal and no acknowledgment whatsoever that anything I had said bore traces of being real. A year later the answer was the same. I was wholly cast upon God. Again and again I traced the way He had brought me, making sure I had not missed a step. Then God began to respond to my deeper concern. Where is the evidence of Divine love and am I a true son? It came. What came? You ask. The chastisement came and I was to learn, that while I was interested in doing something for God, God was really more interested in doing something in me.
The years passed. Great changes affected my approach in Divine things and in my convictions for God and His truth. China closed long since, having been taken over by Communistic hordes. But Malaya was open and in the month of February 1956 my brethren in Ebenezer heartily and without reservation commended me to the grace of God for the work to which He had called me.
My late wife and I, with two of a family, left Ulster in November 1956 for Malaya as it was then known and from that time until now I have been busily associated with the work of the Lord in this country which is now known as Malaysia.
One of my chief mentors, the late and great Mr. Fred Cundick, offered me consoling advice in days when I felt there was never going to be any hope of realising the call of God. He said, "Tom, you will not be a year in the work of the Lord when you will realise your probation was too short." I proved the truth of this prophetic statement. I thank God my brethren were used of God to have me wait. I am glad I waited those eleven years. And yet, the probation was too short. God has been faithful and we continue to serve in this land feeling what we have enjoyed for a long time, the value and aptness of Paul's words in Acts 28:31 (RV).
Holy Flame consuming, burning,
All I am in glad devotion,
Bind me Lord, upon that altar,
Let no voice be heard to save me,
Help me rise with priestly fervour,
All consumed and nothing over,
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