“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His lovingkindness endures forever.”
I was brought up in the Methodist church but never remember hearing the gospel until I was twelve years old. First Methodist was having a revival and the speaker talked about Jesus’ sufferings on the cross for me. I heard my Saviour calling me for the first time that night, and I walked the aisle. I was the only one to do so and was trembling because I was painfully shy by nature and also because walking the aisle simply wasn’t done in our church. I had never seen anyone walk an aisle before in my life. Afterwards I began to read my Bible and attend MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), but I didn’t have anyone to help me grow spiritually. I considered myself a Christian, but I’m not sure whether I was really saved at that time or not. Because of events that transpired later, I tend to believe that I was called and responded, but that I did not have a saving faith at that time.
I went to boarding school when I was 13 because my parent’s wanted to provide the best possible education. Boarding school was difficult for me. I was very, very shy and after living for a year in an unfriendly atmosphere with some rather unsanctified roommates my faith failed. During my sophomore year, I became an atheist after hearing a debate between a creationist and an evolutionist. (Unfortunately, the creationist did not present the excellent scientific arguments that are available to support special creation.) I went into the room believing in Adam and Eve and came out believing in Evolution.
During the next couple of years I grew to despise authority, but God was gracious to preserve me from many evils that most of my friends experienced such as drugs and sexual immorality. However, I did use profane language and occasionally alcohol. My attitude was rebellious in the extreme, and I despised the white-washed sort of religion that passed for Christianity at the school. I began to believe to be a Christian one had to either be a hypocrite or commit intellectual suicide. I was convinced that science had disproved the Bible.
During my senior year of high school, I attended a New Testament class which was required by the school, and the teacher happened to be a real believer. He claimed to “know the truth”, and I frequently left the class furious at this man. I thought he was the most arrogant person I had ever met. After all, I didn’t “know” the truth and was sure that nobody else could either. While attending this class, one week I began to experience a black depression. After several sleepless nights, I began to have thoughts of suicide. One night, when I was in despair, I went somewhere where I could be alone to cry. I felt more depressed than I can ever remember up to that time. I remember saying, “God if you’re there, please help me.” Being an atheist, I wasn’t expecting an answer, so I was quite surprised when I was suddenly filled to overflowing with sweet peace and joy that surpassed understanding. The black depression was instantly gone. I realized that I must have been mistaken, that there must be a God because the answer was instantaneous and unmistakably dramatic. From that night on, I began to read my Bible and pay serious attention to the New Testament class. I concluded from my experience that there probably was a God, but I didn’t know who He was. How was I to know if the right one was Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed?
I began to read the New Testament. I started at the beginning and thought I would read it straight through. When I got to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) I thought to myself, “I don’t believe I got all that the first time. I think I’ll read it again.” After reading the Sermon on the Mount about 20 times, I became convinced that Jesus was who He claimed to be, God incarnate. I thought, “No one ever spoke like this before.” I knew that I had three logical choices. Jesus claimed to be God. Either he knew he was not God and was lying or he truly believed he was God. If he truly believed he was God but was in fact not God, then he was insane or a lunatic. The only other option is that he was telling the truth and was in fact God. I believed the words of Jesus. They rang true. It was obvious that this man could not be a liar or a lunatic because no one ever spoke like this before.
I still had many intellectual questions and I’m grateful that God placed the right people in my life at that time, especially my New Testament teacher. He introduced me to Francis Schaeffer and Mother Teresa. Schaeffer’s book, How Shall We Then Live? had a great impact on my life and helped me to think through many philosophical issues. My view of history was transformed through studying Schaeffer. Mother Teresa opened my mind to the possibility that God still performs miracles today. At this time, I also read Dostoyevsky’s work, The Brother’s Karamozov, which contained a chapter about a character called “The Grand Inquisitor” which dealt with intellectual pride. This was crucial to my future development because I realized that intellectual pride opens the way for philosophies such as materialism and humanism to deceive people. I realized awfulness of intellectual pride because I saw that it was the root cause of my atheism. Modern science teaches that man, depending solely on his intellect can discover everything important that there is to know, and I was taken in hook, line, and sinker. I am also indebted to C.S. Lewis who is still one of my favorite authors.
My senior year in high school was also a time of temptation. While God was tugging on my heart, I was tempted by alcohol and the wrong friends. The Lord delivered me from what could have been some awful situations, and I began to experience victory over sin. I’m not sure of the exact moment that I gave my life to Christ, but at some point during my senior year, I did give Him my life and have earnestly followed Him ever since.
Well, I’ve been a believer now for over 20 years, and God has done many unusual and exciting things in my life. I’ve experienced miracle after miracle–everything from physical healing to seeing Him bring salvation to family members that were hopeless cases. It would take a book to write all that the Lord has done since then. I have a journal where I have recorded miracle after miracle that God has done. I am not exaggerating when I say that I could personally testify to a hundred miracles. But it is not the miracles and the mountain top experiences that I value most. It is in the valley of suffering that I have come to know Jesus best. It is there that He has proven the depths of His faithfulness and riches of His love to me. He has become my closest friend and I am convinced that He desires intimacy with each of His children. I have never had any cause to doubt the truth of Christianity. In fact it would be absurd to do so considering the overwhelming evidence of 20 years walking with Christ. I can say that Jesus’ words are true: “If you continue in my word, then you will be my disciples. You shall KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.” Praise the Lord.