I was raised in a Christian home. Our family went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. My recollection of this time is that it was a time of ‘fellowship’ or ‘hanging out with friends’ as I would have called it then. Church seemed to be a safe, oftentimes fun, environment. I made many friends there as a youth. However, I do not recall ever hearing the Gospel presented. Now, it might be that it was preached, but my heart was not ready to hear it.
My grandparents, on my dad’s side, were extremely devoted Christians. They attempted to separate themselves from the world and, as best they could, live a God-honoring holy life. To me, looking out of a child’s eyes, the life they led seemed incredibly boring and not any fun at all. As I grew into a teenager, their lifestyle seemed even more mundane and pointless. I wanted to experience the world and it seemed like Christianity meant that you had to stop living. (As a believer now myself, I understand why they lived the way they did and I also understand the love for me that kept them praying and witnessing to me all those years. I thank God for them.) They took seriously God’s command in the Old Testament concerning His laws, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:19 ESV).
Conversion experience at an early age
I attended church with my grandparents whenever I stayed with them. I recall one church service during which an altar call was given to allow people to come forward and accept Jesus as their Savior. I do not know if I really understood what was going on or if it was simply the length of the altar call and my hope that, if I went forward, it would hasten the end of the service, but I went forward, said the words, and signed the card. I was a Christian. Or was I?
Instead of immersing myself in biblical study, I read any and every book I could find on UFOs, aliens, magic, etc. I later realized, after I truly began to follow Jesus, that I was searching for something I knew was out there, I just did not know exactly where it was…or who it was.
Teenage and High School years
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV). In my teenage years, I took up with the wrong crowd and began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I found that I had a fondness for beer. It was not the taste that drew me to it, but the effects. I imagined that, if I consumed enough of it, I could reach a level of consciousness that made me a better person. Who knows where that idea came from. Nevertheless, it made a great excuse (at least in my mind) for continued drinking binges.
Early Adulthood…and I stress “hood”
During my early adult life, I played rock music in several bands, and I lived the lifestyle that went along with the job. It is a wonder that I survived that part of my life. I continued to drink, and the drinking made me think I was invincible; it also made me do stupid things; that is a terrible combination. However, God must have had a plan for me; and I survived this stage of my life.
Realizing that the road I was on was going nowhere, and with the urging of some old friends who had become Christians, I committed my life to Christ and began faithfully attending church. I studied the Bible with a passion and busied myself with “church work” and “ministry”. I got so busy that I was overwhelmed. Every need the church had, I tried to fill. At one point, I was the church bus driver (before church and after church), I taught Sunday school, helped the pastor with baptisms, ran the soundboard (and made copies of the sermons for anyone who wanted them), and worked with the youth on Wednesday nights. I was trying to do it all; I had forgotten that the church is not one person, but many, and that, “…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16 ESV).
The college years
In Bible college, I was still trying to lead my own life instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me. I thought that, if I studied hard and learned everything I possibly could about the Bible and theology, I would be closer to God. It still had not dawned on me that I should be striving to know Jesus better instead of just trying to know more about Him. Francis Chan touches on this attitude, in his latest book, when he writes:
“Some believe that if we examine the biblical text closely enough—possibly even learning Hebrew and Greek—if we consult enough commentaries, and if we diagram every passage perfectly, then we can arrive at the true meaning of any biblical text. Each of these elements is important, but this mentality leaves no room for prayer, which means that there is no dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is a mentality of complete self-reliance” (Chan, p. 112).
During this time in college, I actually let my intellectual endeavors become a barrier between God and me. My relationship with God suffered and so did my spiritual walk. More moral failures followed. I had yet to learn this important truth, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6 ESV).
Finally, the light dawns in my hard head
I married a wonderful woman who motivated me to want to be the best man I can be. Although I was not as bad as I could be, I was following God just enough to make me feel like I was safe. We began to attend a church that a friend suggested might be a good one to check out. I still believed the Bible allowed a person to drink, as long as he did not get drunk. However, my idea of what constituted ‘drunkenness’ was probably not the same as God’s idea of ‘drunkenness’.
I wrestled with God for about a year after we started attending church, before I gave up and surrendered fully to His will and guidance. It was only then that I realized how wonderful a true saving relationship could be. The times before that I had intended to commit my life to Him; I had held back part of me. I never had fully given myself to Him and His will; there had been a part of me that still relied on me. It was at this point that I finally began to “… love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 ESV; cf. Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27; Deuteronomy 6:5).
In all I had been through, I had never trusted God fully for everything…until this period in my life. Everything changed. My marriage improved, my outlook on life improved, and even when hard times came, I had a joy and a peace that I had never known before. I had read the passage before, even studied it, but I began to experience the promise, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV). I am so thankful that God did not give up on me, but kept drawing me to Him until I understood the truth and importance of the Gospel message.
Gratitude for God’s saving grace and mercy is what motivates me to teach, to share, to try to introduce people to the saving power of Jesus and to help believers grow stronger in their faith. My testimony is probably not that different from many others out there, but each one is a wonderful, marvelous, witness to the love of God that wants to rescue us from our sins, draw us into a loving relationship, and usher us into eternal life with the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the universe. Who could resist a God who, “…so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV)?
Do you need help writing out your testimony? Take a look at this article for some great tips:
Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Chan, Francis. Multiply. David C. Cook, 2012.