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I Choose to Serve My Master, Jesus Christ (Bernabe Barbacena)

I Choose to Serve My Master, Jesus Christ

by Bernabe Barbacena, September, 1997

I give thanks to the Lord for His great mercy and love to each and everyone of us. I have experienced Him in many ways in my life and I would like to testify to His love and goodness to me.

I was born into a family of two boys and and four girls and I am the younger of the two boys. I grew up in the region of Bicol in the Province of Albay, about five hundred miles south of Manila, in the Philippines. My town is situated about one hundred kilometres north east of the Mount Mayon volcano. As a young boy I enjoyed swimming in the nearby river and also working in the ricefields.

My grandmother was a devoted Catholic and spent her time in serving the church. She also encouraged and taught us to ask for God’s help and to live with this thankful attitude towards Him. My mother and father also encouraged me in this direction. I therefore grew up believing in God but never really understood that I could know Jesus Christ in a personal way.

Before I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ, I was working in the Philippine Navy which I joined in 1977. I was a member of the “Sea and Land Team” and our mission was mainly in rescue work. Oftentimes we were sent to various places to conduct rescue missions. Since 1980, my missions have included the rescue of refugees, victims of of floods and various calamities such as typhoons. Besides rescuing people, we have also been given important missions such as fighting the rebel Muslims in Mindanao and also the communists in various parts of the country. It was through one of these missions that I became involved in a revolutionary movement against the administration of the military and was imprisoned in 1988 for this activity.

As a rebel soldier, it was very hard for me to be subject to authorities and it was only when I learned from the Bible that it pleased God for me to be subject to the governing authorities that I found I could submit myself. I remember when I was in prison, the Lord touched my heart when the Bible study topic for that particular week was on the subject of submitting ourselves to the governing authorities in the book of Romans chapter 13. That was the time where I saw that I was wrong and I could see my responsibilities as a soldier. I could also see that true reform in this world would not come by rebelling against authorities that I didn’t agree with and felt were misguided, but rather through the transforming power of God’s love working in man’s heart. I give thanks to the Lord for showing me this truth and for His mighty power working in my own life and all glory belongs to Him. I can see that His good is able to overpower the evil in this world and I need to co-operate with Him and work together towards this goal.

During the course of my imprisonment, my chief aim was to escape but every effort seemed to meet with insurmountable obstacles. This led me to begin praying to God for help and it was then I began to see and understand that true freedom was not of a physical nature but had to do with being free in my spirit, my heart. As I called out to Him for help, God began to teach me to call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to entrust all my worries and anxieties to Him while trusting in His word and direction for my life. I also realized I had to commit my life to Jesus to be my Lord and Master where He was in charge of all aspects of my life. When I took this step of commitment, I experienced His transforming power through His word, giving me peace and contentment in my heart. This was in marked contrast to my life before which was characterized by a heart full of grief, hatred and being in trouble with others, and every sort of vice including drinking, womanizing and decadent living. Through God’s power and grace, I was set free from all these things and I enjoyed this true freedom in my heart where I could day to day, seek to live a righteous life and be useful to others.

I am a widower presently living with my three children in a household of three families, all of whom are attending a church in Metro Manila. Although we are three separate families, we are truly one spiritual family as we share this common desire to live lives pleasing to the Lord. Together we also serve Him through the spreading of His words through Bible studies in various parts of Metro Manila including one in Muntinlupa prison, a maximum security prison south of Manila. We are amazed to see the transforming power of God’s word in our lives and also those we come in contact with.

In the environment of church and household living, I continue to experience the Lord’s loving kindness and generosity, helping me in all things that I do. His grace and sustaining power enables me to stand in the midst of life’s difficulties. I have also found the Lord to be a faithful friend, to be honest and yet gentle with me, to deal with me in all my weaknesses and to help me to overcome them by His strength. He also helps me to accomplish the various tasks He has entrusted to me.

As I pursue this new course in life, Jesus is changing my values and continuing to teach me. He does this through various means. The first is through this personal relationship with Him which I am careful to cultivate through prayer and reading what He has to say in the Bible. The second is through His people and His servants who He uses to teach me and give me an example to imitate, just as we read in the book of Hebrews 13:7 which says “Remember those who led you and spoke the Word of God to you and considering the outcome of their way of life”. The third is through Jesus’ love as revealed through His church of brothers and sisters who minister to my spiritual and physical needs, unworthy though I am.

As part of this new direction in life, I choose to serve my master, Jesus Christ, and set His priorities as my own. This means my life is re-oriented with spiritual priorities governing my physical life and my hope is in Him. Through His transforming power, He has changed the direction of my life and is continuing to change me day by day.

This has also given me a profound appreciation of the fact that He alone has done all this by giving Himself to me and setting me free from the bondage of sin and self centred living. From henceforth, I do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to do His will by His grace and enabling, all for His glory.

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