When one of the others on this trip asked if I would be willing to share my testimony, I replied, "sure, Why not?" I really wasn’t sure why anyone would want to hear my story, much less enjoy it. I’ve never really had anything that big happen to me. Then, when I began to look back on everything that has happened in my life, I reconsidered. Either way, I was asked to do it, so here goes nothing.
I was raised in a large Christian family. I have two brothers and two sisters, and a very loving mother and Father. I accepted Christ at a very early age, and that’s that. It’s not much of a testimony, but hey, that’s what happens in a sheltered home, just a nice and normal life up until now right?! Ummmmmn no….. not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, Christianity is the right decision for everyone, but don’t let anyone ever sell you into the lie that it’s easy. I’m not saying that my life has been awful or anything, it’s been great, but there have been hard times too. James 1:2-4 kinda says it for me,
“Count it all joy , my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I can say confidently that each time in my life where things have gotten hard, I have grown closer to Christ. And, after each one, I have come out stronger. It’s definitely a choice, you can fall away from God, but that goes to show how much faith you had really put into this whole Jesus thing in the first place.
I think the first trial I ever experienced, was one that was with me for 12 years, and it’s almost laughable to call it a trial now. 15 years ago my little brother was born. We named him Crockett. He had a number of diseases that made him a highly handicapped person. So profoundly handicapped that he couldn’t walk, talk, or sit up by himself. We had to bottle feed him every 4 hours, and change his diaper also. He would have an average of one to two seizures a day. They would normally be full body seizures, and they were often so intense he would flex up into the fetal position, and stay there as the seizing lasted for sometimes several minutes. Afterward, he would be so exhausted that he might cry himself to sleep, or throw up, I’m not sure which was worse. I don’t want it to sound like he was always a downer, and made everything sad or depressing. He brought us a lot of joy and laughter too.
God really does work all things together for good, even things that seem like nothing good could come of it. For example, God taught me through Crockett to learn to laugh at things that might not be funny to most, but we had to laugh at these things or we’d cry. For instance, going to Church was always pretty hard on our family. In a family of seven it normally is, but put Crockett in that scenario, and it made things really interesting. Crockett had this thing where literally every Sunday he would do great. Bathe him, change him, feed him, get him all prettied up for Church, and he would be set, and ready to go. But the moment you placed him in his car seat, he would feel the urge to throw up. We would have one of us carry him to the car and have someone else right behind him with a towel. Right when we would sit him down, we would immediately put the towel like a bib and try to catch all the throw up, and protect him and the car. It almost became like a game, and we could laugh at this strange phenomena. Some would call that sadistic, we called it living.
On a more practical point, I also learned how to change a diaper quicker than any human should, I can feed someone a bottle pretty well, and changing someone clothes is easy for me. I loved making Crockett laugh. Sometimes I could find a noise that would crack him up, and he would just laugh this totally innocent laugh that would make me feel so good. However, sometimes his laughing would turn into a seizure, which would lead to tears, which would lead to throw up. I’m painting this true, but gruesome picture for you, to make a point. Throughout the entire ordeal of, throw up, seizures, the diapers, and feedings, me and my family loved him. My brother who taught me more than anyone I know without ever saying a word, from the world’s eyes, couldn’t do anything, literally, anything right, and He was loved. He was completely helpless without someone to meet his every need, and to the best of our ability we tried to provide for them all. This should be reminding us of someone, someone very familiar to us. Hopefully you and I are looking into an imaginary mirror right now. To God we are totally and completely filthy, swimming in our own wretchedness. We are so sinful, that outside of God we can do absolutely nothing right. Without God we are completely helpless.
I have this issue, where I really care about what people think about me, especially in the church. Sometimes, I tend to do things that are not necessarily for the right reasons, but in some people eyes are great things. Anyway, a while back I read a passage out of Ecclesiastes that really kind of opened my eyes to my false ways.
Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then when I had considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind and there was nothing to be gained in the sun.”
Years ago, in another trial of our lives, my family and I were in a flood. Everything we owned was destroyed. Our house, our cars, our furniture, our clothes, my toys…. Everything GONE! And when we were there on the sight, where our home used to be, we could look at our property and see how everything had been destroyed. We saw how meaningless everything is. Most people, in the back of their minds, would be wondering what is the point? This is like striving after the wind. My Parents however, knew what to do; they followed what the ending of Ecclesiastes tells us to do. Chapter 12 verse 13 says
“Now here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”
We have to understand the only real thing we can put our hopes, faith, trust, and love in, and know that it won’t amount to complete meaninglessness, is God. Fear God. Know God. Trust God. That’s all that matters.
When I played football last year, the coach asked me to give the guys a speech before the last game. It was a game that if we won, we could play one more game, and if we lost some of us would never play football again. So the coach wanted me to give the guys something that would get them ready for that night. I thought about it for a little bit, and decided on a story from the Bible out of one of the gospels. It's the one where the disciples are watching as the offering is being taken, and they see people come up and put great amounts in the offering bag, or whatever it was they put the money in back then. I can imagine the disciples watching Jesus and his reactions as these people put these large amounts of money in. And I don’t know, but maybe he shook his head or maybe he put on a straight face, but my guess is the disciples who had gotten to know Jesus pretty well by then, could tell he was not pleased. When a poor widow came up they had to be wondering what Jesus was gonna do. When this poorly dressed woman came up to the place to give, and dropped in just two small copper coins, they had to be watching Jesus, waiting for his wrath! But, when he (most likely) smiled, and nodded at the woman, and drew the disciples together, and then said these words, they had to be astonished:
“I tell you the truth, this poor woman has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty gave everything.-all she had to live on.”
See, God judges the heart, He doesn't want anyone to go halfway for Him. Revelation 3:16 says,
“so, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
I remember telling the guys when I read these verses to them, that I didn’t care about the outcome of the game as long as they gave their all. We ended up losing 66 to 0. I saw one of my friends after the game crying, and as tears filled my eyes, I gave him a hug, and I told him "Thank you". He kind of looked at me with question in his eyes, “for what?” he asked and I replied “just for giving your all”. That friend of mine couldn’t have made a huge difference in the game, but I did know that what he did give, it was his all. God cares about where your heart is at, and if you’re willing to give him your all. That’s all that matters. In everything you do you're supposed to do it for God, and do it to the best of your ability. So please don’t have regrets because you never really went out on a limb and trusted God. Think about how great it will be when we get to heaven and God points at us and says” this child of mine gave his all, and I am well pleased.”
When I was four years old I accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal savior. I can remember it vividly. Sitting in the rear seat of my Dad’s car, I was looking at the back of my Father’s head trying to figure out how to ask him a question. My older brother was in the front. I think we were coming home from his baseball practice. I usually tagged along, so nothing was really unusual, except that I had something big on my mind. That previous Sunday our Church had communion, and as usual, my Mom passed the grape juice over me, not allowing me to get some. This of course, in my little four year old brain seemed very unfair, and I began to tell my Mom just that. I was answered with a loud “SHHHH”, and a promise to talk to me about it later. Well, it was later, and I was ready to talk about it, so I simply said, “Dad I want some of the juice at Church!” My Dad was pretty confused, but after some explaining, he got the drift of what I was saying. Dad told me how the juice was only for those who were always going to follow Jesus. Also, how Christ died for me, bore all my sins on the cross, and how if I accepted him to save me from the fiery scary place known as Hell, I could go to where God reigns, Heaven. It was a long time ago, but I think I remember being quiet for a minute, thinking over what my Daddy had just said. The juice was no longer the issue, now Jesus was on my mind, and I wanted him in my life. I told my Dad that. He nodded and said “Lets Pray.” Since then, I have tried to follow Jesus. I pray all the time that he will help me follow him, and that I won’t take the pilot seat from him, but let him lead me down the straight and narrow path. I pray that I might not be swayed by what the world offers in all of its riches and glory, and is only good for a time, and that I might see my years on earth as a dress rehearsal for what’s after this life, and to honor Jesus in all that I do. I know that now instead of looking like Crockett did in this world I am perfect in Gods Eyes, just like Crockett is in heaven today. I can’t wait to see him and hopefully one day I will see all of you there too!