Kind of weird to talk about yourself in a blog post, but recently I heard someone say, “You should always be be ready with your three minute testimony.” Three minute testimony?!? What is that? The idea is you should be able to provide a very basic recounting of your life before God, how you met God, and your life after God. Short and sweet. Short is good because I don’t want to bore someone to tears, and because I’ve always been a little (irrationally) frightened about anything that looks like proselytizing. Apart from the fact that Christians are commanded to share the good news, my love for my fellow man should be sufficient incentive to overcome any “shyness” about sharing how my life, and eternity, has been changed by knowing the Creator of the Universe.
So, some folks have amazing testimonies that involves being saved from a life of desperation and hopelessness. Not me. I have attended church as long as my memory can see, heard about God and Jesus and all that. Didn’t really disagree with any of it, but I wouldn’t say that I knew God yet. My story starts out in a little A-Frame House out in the country. Pretty sweet situation, really. Had some small farm animals, some nice acreage to explore, a little brother to boss around, not much more a boy could ask for. Well… Almost. My parents split up when I was quite little, and at this point in my life, I was particularly preoccupied with the fact my dad didn’t live with me. I got to see him on Tuesdays for a while, and later when I was older would spend summers with him. Even with all the trees to climb, snakes to hunt, and animals to tend too around that A-Frame… I was sad. I missed my dad. I felt alone. Sometimes a little angry, but mostly alone.
I remember many a night, lying in bed crying. I’ve heard many people try to describe how they have heard the Lord. There is some variation, but there is some consistency as well. For me, it wasn’t the audible booming voice that filled the room, or even a quiet but audible whisper. For me, God’s voice has always come in an overwhelming of my heart, accompanied by a truth that I cannot contest. It was lying in my room, as a young boy (must have been about 4-5 years of age), when I heard God tell me that I am HIS son. That He is with me, and He called me friend. God called me friend. This initial meeting was brought to a fuller understanding at Awanas, where an older boy walked me through a prayer of salvation.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
This changed everything. I still missed my Dad, but I knew I wasn’t alone. I got a little comfortable with this notion over time, and as I went to school, made friends, assimilated into a new family, I think I had forgotten that my Friend was there. I made choices that I’m not proud of, and lived in a way that didn’t really reflect that the Creator of the Universe is my personal friend, my father, or really anything to me. I struggled with depression, at first for no good reason, but later fueled by the guilt over my choices and the selfishness that had possessed me. I tried to read the bible periodically, still attended church, tried to live rightly, but always managed to come up short.
One day, while reading the bible, seeking to hear from my old friend, something was revealed to me. Another truth that I could not contest. I had been working to be a good Christian. To always turn the other cheek, to forgive others, to be selfless, like Christ showed us. I stumbled across the verse:
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
My Friend spoke to me again, and made it very clear that I had NO RIGHT to hold so tightly onto my guilt. I had tried so hard to be a good Christian and always forgive others, but refused to forgive myself. Was the God of the Universe, the one that sent his only son to suffer on the cross, to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that I, Joshua, could be forgiven of my sins and re-united with my Father in heaven, good enough to forgive everyone’s sins, but not mine? I had been worshipping my guilt! My guilt had become my god, and replaced that Friend that walked with me so faithfully for so long. He still wanted to walk with me, but expected me to let him.
My life has been radically changed since God spoke to me on that day. This book… Had reduced me to something undeserving, unrighteous and just plain not good enough, but that is ok, because He has made me deserving, righteous, and way better than I could ever hope to be. I still struggle to “do the right thing” as a grown Christian man, but the thing that I learned is that I want to do the right thing, to honor, love and be faithful to the Friend that has been so faithful to me. Not because I could ever “do the right thing” enough to really make a difference on my own, because I can’t.
Do you know my faithful Friend? If you don’t, but would like to, please tell someone today. You can tell me, a friend you know is a Christian, find your way to a local church, but please speak to someone immediately. This world is too dark and lonely to go through it alone.
Do you already know my faithful Friend? Then obey the laws… Not because you can be “good enough”, but do it out of love and because of the promises we find in the bible. That verse I told you at the beginning, Joshua 1:9? Ya, as with so many things in the bible, context is everything. Take a look at the previous verse, verse 8:
8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
For it will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Friend, that has been 100% my experience. I want to know this book inside and out, and obey every bit of wisdom it offers, not out of some moral piety, but out of love and because I have enjoyed the prospering success each nugget of wisdom has provided to me. Because it has protected me from harm and ruin, and been a playbook for success.
My Father loves me. He loves you too.