Good morning! My name is A., and I’ve been coming to New Baptist for a few weeks now. Some of you may be familiar with me; others may not. But overall, I have received a very warm welcome, and I am extremely grateful for that.
Pastor T. asked me if I would give a testimony. I’m not sure if this was the testimony he intended, but it is the one I intend to give today, so please bear with me. It’s a long one. I apologize in advance for clichés, the movie references, and for the many names, I’m going to drop. These are people you will likely never meet, but they are dear to me, so I would like to call them by their names.
You know how you can ask your boss to take a vacation from your job? Well, I did. It was about a year and a half ago. I was in college at the time. My job was to be a good Christian, and I think you can guess who the boss was. Now, I can stand before you and give reasons and explanations and excuses of why I did, but the fact remains that I asked to take a break from Christianity. Maybe asked isn’t the right way to say it. I took the vacation. I was frustrated with my work, and I was going to take this vacation whether my boss wanted me to or not.
One day, I was there at work. The next day, I was gone. During that time, there may have been an intern that I could have helped train, but if prayer was a cellphone, then mine was turned off. Maybe my boss needed me for a job, and I wasn’t there. Whatever the case, I’ll never know. But at the time, I felt I had enough Christian time in the bank, and I felt that I deserved to take some time off. That vacation started in February of 2012.
The vacation wasn’t a set two-week deal. There was no set return date. It could have easily become a retirement, except for seven reasons.
Those seven reasons were seven people, six Christians and one non-Christian. From these seven, I learned a lot of lessons as you will hear (if I’m not cut off due to time), but my over-arching lesson was that how I was living my life without religion was not the way I should be living my life.
I don’t want to get into too many of the details of how I was living my life during my vacation because there are many ways to live your life wrongly, and I believe we each have different temptations unique to each of us. In this testimony, I’d rather focus on the good that can come from living a Godly life.
But I will say that after a year away from my job, a year away from my boss, when I looked at how these seven were living their lives and compared it to how I was living my own life, I was disappointed.
I was disappointed because of how obvious it was that I wasn’t living up to my own potential, the potential that God had entrusted to me.
The first one of my seven reasons I want to introduce you to is my non-Christian friend, B., because he was the first to make an impact on me, and he opened my heart up to all the others.
From my friend B., I learned that men and women who are not family-related can maintain strong relationships without ever crossing into romantic feelings. When I was going through a rough spot in my life, he approached me alone and told me that if I ever needed anyone that his door was always open and that nothing I told him would ever be repeated. We were not close friends at the time, so it took me some time to open up to him, but I did eventually. There were things on my heart that I needed to get rid of, and as I talked to B., I started to feel relieved of them.
For the first couple weeks after I started talking to B., I was looking over my shoulder wondering if he was repeating the things I had told him. I had dealt with people in the past who offered confidence and then went back on it. However, B. never repeated anything I told him, and in return, he told me things private about himself, things that I have never repeated, and I know never will.
Weeks later, during a late night, I got to a point where I couldn’t walk. B. threw me over his shoulder. He carried me across city blocks and up and down staircases. He brought me to my room, put my mattress down on the floor, and stayed awake until morning so that he could check on me every couple hours to make sure I was fine until I woke up. Of course, he complained for an entire week of how sore his shoulder was and joked that I’d have to do it for him at some point, but I knew that I was lucky that I had him with me that night.
In another incident, B. and I were leaving campus, and I showed up to his door wearing a low-cut top. He looked at me and told me to go change my shirt. Normally I would have argued except that he had looked me dead-in-the-eye and told me that he “didn’t want guys looking at me in that manner.” When he said that, I told him to give me five minutes and I’d be back wearing something different.
I did this because I knew what he asked was out of love, not a romantic love, but of a brother-to-sister kind of love. When I think of B., I think of him as my second brother. Though B. was not a Christian, his actions were Christian-like, for he carried me when I wasn’t able to walk, he took care of me and asked for nothing in return, and he told me the truth, even when I didn’t want to hear it.
My lesson from B. is to think of your male friends as brothers, and in return, they will treat you like sisters.
B. became the catalyst for me to start trusting other people and for opening my heart to others. After becoming friends with B., I realized that what I was missing in the friendships I had up until that point was a set of common values. In the past when I looked for friendship, I looked for similar clothes, similar music, and other similar interests, and often times, I ended up compromising my values because they didn’t match up with the people I was hanging out with.
After being changed by B., I looked to get away from the people who were my friends in name only and find friends that I could respect for their values, friends that I would never have to compromise my values to fit theirs. Those people that I found lived their lives according to values. They were people that I felt that I could respect, and I knew that none of them would ever ask me to change my values to fit theirs. I had other friends, closer than these next six, but I’m writing about these six because they each contributed to a change in me. An important note is that each of the six were Christian.
These six were able to make a change in me because their faith meant more to them than a book on the shelf. Their faith was alive in their words and in their actions.
The first two that I want to introduce are J. and G. because these two – like B. – had the most significant impact on my heart. The difference between the impacts was that B. opened my heart up to other people. These two opened my heart up to God.
First, J. The only way I can describe J. is to being one of the biggest sources of energy and enthusiasm that has ever hit the earth. Also I think your favorite Biblical verse says a lot of who you are and who you aim to be, so I’m going to share one of J.’s favorite verses, which is Hebrews 12: 1 – 3:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The first lesson I learned from J. is that whatever you do, do it with all of your body, all of your soul, and all of your mind. I believe this verse, Hebrews 12: 1 – 3, captures that. What I find important about this verse is what it doesn’t say, and it doesn’t say just to walk in the right direction and it doesn’t say some sin is okay because we all do it. The verse says to run and to throw off sin. If you don’t throw off sin, it will trap you. The verse doesn’t say that this will be easy, but the verse tells us the direction to go.
For those of you that have seen the movie The Pagemaster, you’ll remember the boy is always looking up to the sky at a looming “EXIT” sign. Whenever he is in doubt of where to go, he looks up to the sky at that sign and heads off in that direction. It is in that way, we must view our lives. Whenever we are in doubt of which way to go, we must remember we have a guide, which is the Bible. It’s not as obvious as a sign in the sky, but it is very clear which way to go.
The second lesson I learned from J. is whatever you are, don’t be afraid to shout it to the world. People may not accept you, but they will respect you, as long as you are true to yourself. My first recollection of J. is hearing him described as “that guy who’s always reading his Bible.” I had met J. before this moment, but my first distinct memory of J. was during our first year of college when I was passing by his room in the barracks. We all had our doors fully open, and as I passed by his room, I saw him sitting at his desk, reading his Bible.
At first, I thought this was an act. I thought it was a show put on for others, but he never changed, not an inch. In our fourth and final year of college, we had become close friends. I would come by his room to walk with him to class, and often times I would walk in to find him reading the Bible. I learned that waking up and opening the Bible was the same to J. as waking up and eating cereal is to others.
It took me four years to realize that when J. talked about God, it wasn’t because he wanted to announce to the world that he was Christian – though he was far from shy of the fact – but rather it was because God was a huge part of J.’s life that J. based all of his life and his actions on what God would want him to do. It is difficult not to talk about something that is such a big part of your life.
The third lesson I learned from J. is discipline. J. is the most disciplined person my own age that I have ever met. He sees in black and white. It’s not that he is color-blind, but that he sees actions to be either good or bad, and he makes decisions based on that judgment. His judgment on right vs. wrong comes from the Good Book, which we all have in front of us and in our homes. J. didn’t take the Bible as theory or something that worked 2000 years ago, but surely not today. He took it as something you apply to your life every single day, in every possible way. That was something he didn’t compromise on.
In the four years that I knew J., I never knew him to compromise his values. Maybe he did at some point. All I know that I never caught him. To never compromise your values takes work. It takes discipline.
(I haven’t wrote about G. yet. It’s hard for me to write this part. I will try, but it’ll take time.)
To refresh: B. had helped me open my heart to others. J. and G. had helped me to open my heart to God. But now that my heart was open to God, these last four Christian friends taught me how to lead a Christian life. They were my fine-tuning. I realize this testimony is long, so I will try to be brief with these next four.
From my friend N., I learned how a true Christian girl should act. This includes how to dress appropriately, not use bad language, and not gossip. Now, N. is amazing besides all of this. She’s intelligent (she graduated in the top ten of my class), she’s athletic, she’s talented, she’s hard-working, and she never complains about any of it, but on top of all of that, in all the time I spent with N., I never heard her say anything negative about another person.
We live in a society that puts such small value and such small responsibility on what comes out of our mouths, but N. guarded her words carefully, and I believe her words and her actions paid off. From my graduating class, I believe N. was the most respected female, and I have a deep admiration for her. Her words and her actions were – like G.’s – a reflection of her faith, and it shows that if you lead a good life, people will respect you because of it.
Every opportunity you have to say a bad word and don’t,
Every opportunity you have to call someone out and don’t,
The people who see that act will respect you more for not calling out that other person even though you may have had the opportunity to, and even though you may have been perfectly justified in calling out that person. Remember that it’s easy to point out each other’s faults. It’s difficult to look past their faults, and see the person for who they truly are.
My lesson from N. is to respect others, to respect them even when they’re wrong, and to respect them especially when they are wrong. It’s easy to respect someone when they are right, but it’s difficult to respect someone when they are wrong.
From my friend M., I learned that no matter how high you rise in your life, if you take care of those below you, you will be respected. A little about M.: M. held the highest regimental position in the school. Of the about 200 of us that makes it to the final year of our four year degree, only two people will hold that position. One will hold it for the first half of the year, and the second will hold it for the second half of the year. While holding this position, that person is in charge of the regimental functions of the entire school of roughly 1000 students.
While in charge, if he saw something needed to be done, he would be the first one there. If a floor needed to be scrubbed, you’d find him on his knees scrubbing that floor. Most of the help he got was volunteers. I was one of those volunteers one night because I walked out of my room and I saw M. cleaning the barracks I lived in, and I was embarrassed because here is this guy who lived in a different building, a fellow classmate that had enough on his plate being in charge of about 1000 students, here sweeping up the dead bugs out of the hallway I lived in. You better believe I grabbed a broom and got a couple of the other people who lived in that hallway, and we stayed with him until the job was done.
My lesson from M. is that the greatest trust you will ever earn is when you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty serving those below you... and I believe that we can all agree that serving those below you is a Christian duty.
From my friend D., I learned that a pure, Godly relationship is one of the greatest gifts this world can offer and is the greatest achievement that we humans can strive for. I could explain D.’s courtship of his wife, but I’d rather leave his relationship details private.
But let me say that as a college student, initially I had my doubts about a 22 year old in this day and age committing his whole life to some girl back home, but the moment I saw the two of them together I realized that those two should be married because wouldn’t ever be interested in any other person than the one that they were promising themselves to.
On their wedding day, they had their first kiss. I’m not talking about just their first kiss of the day or just their first kiss together as man and wife. It was the first kiss of each of their entire lives. D. and his wife knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together without having ever kissed, and I believe that kiss was worth the wait because he had married the only woman he would ever wanted them from.
My lesson from D. is to be patient with love and it will pay off. But if you waste love, then you are wasting the greatest gift that God has given to you.
From my friend C., I learned to focus on the good in others and ignore the rest. It’s one thing to pull a friend aside in confidence and tell them that there’s something in their life that they could be doing better, but it’s another thing to focus on the bad in a person and hold it against them. You may not even realize you’re holding their past and their faults against them, but we all do it.
However, when I talked to C., I had to hide this nagging feeling to look over my shoulder to make sure that it was me he was talking to. I felt that he must be talking to the wrong person because the way he looked at me and talked to me was as though I had never done anything wrong in my life. It wasn’t just me. As far as I could tell, he looked and talked to everyone in the same manner, and that is a great gift.
The way C. looks at others is how I believe God looks upon us. It’s not that God is blind or ignorant to the bad parts of us. I don’t believe God is blind or ignorant to anything, but I believe that when God looks upon us, He overlooks our faults, and that He focuses on the goodness in each of us because it’s the part of us that he is concerned with. If God does that – which I for one believe He does – then we should the same with each other.
My lesson from C. was to see only the good in people and eventually, they will see the good in themselves, and when someone sees good in themselves, they are more likely do good.
Those are the seven – I include B. – that brought me closer to my faith and taught me the right way to live.
From my year away from God, I know that with every sin, we dig ourselves a little deeper until we’re stuck in this pit wondering how we ended up that far down. At different times in our lives, each of us will find our self in this pit of our own making. Climbing out by ourselves is possible, but it’s difficult work and takes a great deal of perseverance.
Only a few manage to climb out of their holes on their own. The easiest way to get out of the pit is to have someone above ground throw down a rope. This rope comes in many forms:
Sometimes it’s someone throwing you over their shoulder when you can’t walk.
Sometimes it’s someone telling you a simple truth that you knew, but didn’t have the courage to admit.
Sometimes it’s a smile.
Sometimes it’s a neighbor saying “good morning.”
That rope can be any of a number of good things, but it is important to remember the origin of that goodness and the origin of all goodness is God.
I believe that the goodness that God blessed each of us with is meant to be in motion. What I mean is that, when an act of goodness happens in your life, you’re meant to pass it on. It’s like a game of Hot Potato... with about seven billion other people.
We aren’t meant to take that goodness that is given to us and bury in deep in the ground. Goodness is meant to be continually circulated among all of us, Christians and non-Christians together.
And I believe that as long as that goodness is kept in motion, we are allowing for that tiny bit of goodness from God to be kept alive in each person that it touches, so don’t be caught holding that potato! Pass it on to the next person!
I am at the end of my testimony, but before I go, I would like to leave you with two quotes from a Good Book. The first is a reminder – like my friend J. – to keep a disciplined heart. Hebrews 12:11 states:
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
And the second is a reminder – like my friend G. – to keep faith alive in your actions. James 1: 21 – 22 states:
“Therefore, get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
With that, I’ll leave all of you. Thank you for your time!