A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
I was not raised in a church going family, although my mother supervised my prayers early on. I was what J. Edwin Orr refers to as a protheist. That is, one that thought it more likely God exists than not, but lacking assurance.
So things continued until I left for military service the day after my eighteenth birthday during World War II. This allowed me to experiment in ways I was previously not accustomed, such as attend an occasional chapel service. At one point, the chaplain became quite emotional, for some reason that escaped me.
But as I left the chapel that morning, it occurred that if there were a God he might use unusual means to get our attention. It was with this in mind that I determined to return the next Sunday, and should the chaplain behave in so peculiar a manner, I would inquire of him what was implicated. Although I doubted that he would do so.
"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and he determined the times se for them and the exact place where they should live. God did this so that man would seek him and perhaps reach out to and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27). So it seems in retrospect.
Lacking such assurance, I again made my way to the chapel. The service proceeded in an orderly fashion, until the chaplain invited persons to come forward and accept Jesus. I had not anticipated this turn of events, and so waited until those in attendance had filed out to approach the chaplain. "I think I would like to take you up on your proposition," I said—not knowing how better to express myself.
It took a few moments for him to figure out my intention, but then led me to his office. There he labored to explain the gospel, which largely escaped me. However, one thing caught my attention: Jesus had said that "whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37). At which, I concluded: "If you can’t trust Jesus who can you trust?" So while I was quite unaware of what it might involve, I decided to follow Jesus. That was virtually a life time ago, and I continue to follow him.
What might seem missing from this account? For one thing, it was not a highly emotional experience. It was not until I lay down to sleep that night that I felt overcome with the awesome peace of God.
What else was missing? As noted above, I had only a minimal understanding of what had transpired. This subsequently initiated a search for a reasoning faith. It also recalls on of my favorite sayings, "The more we know, the more we realize we do not know." Consequently, Christian apologetics has been of prime interest during the interim.
What wasn’t missing? In terms of the lyric refrain, "I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back." While sustained by God’s amazing grace.
While I suppose that everyone’s experience is in some ways unique, this brings to mind the struggle of a young woman to confirm her faith. Then one evening at a mid-week Bible study, she seemed to have confirmed her faiths. Those present were greatly pleased. However, the next morning I received a telephone call from her suggesting that she had lost the assurance.
Instead of a deliberate response, I blurted out: "Forger it; just follow Jesus." Which is precisely what she did, putting her doubts behind her along with a righteous resolve. I was not quite sure how to account for this, but it eventually occurred to me that instead of focusing on the problem, she had turned to its solution. In a similar fashion, Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested: "If you have difficulty obeying, believe, and if you have difficulty believing, obey.