This past Sunday we heard two outstanding testimonies from members of Christ Church. They were two very different stories, but both were clear pictures of God’s amazing grace. Here is the one that my friend Chris shared.
One thing I always say is my testimony is fluid. It is always changing because Jesus is always doing something new in my life. Paul’s conversion story happened on the road to Damascus, but God did so many miraculous things in his life that he had many testimonies to his goodness and love. However, at the same time, ultimately all our testimonies are the same. My testimony is I was blind and now I see. I was lost and now I’m found. I was dead, but now I’m alive forevermore. That’s my story. That is all of our stories.
However, God did give me my own specific conversion story for a reason. 2 Corinthians 1 3-7 says,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
God has brought me through my trials and tribulations. Why? So that I can tell others how, with the help of his grace and holy spirit, we are able to overcome.
I did not grow up in a Christian household. The first thing I can remember as a child is sitting on the step crying, just hoping for someone to walk by and see the pain I was in. I had no idea how to articulate what I was feeling, all I knew was that I was in pain and empty. I tried to fill this emptiness with everything throughout my life: with women, clothes, stuff…everything until I found the one thing I thought would make me feel whole, drugs. It worked for a while. I had found a reason for people to like me and it helped with my anxiety. I thought I had found the solution to my problem. Before long however my solution became my problem. Homelessness, jail, countless rehabs and recovery houses were to follow but I kept returning to my vomit despite a lot of people trying to help me. For time’s sake I won’t tell you some of the wretched things I did, but a lot of what kept me going was guilt over the things I have done. I can speak openly about these things now only because of the freedom the gospel gives me. Paul calls himself the chief sinner, but has no shame because his identity is found in what Jesus did not what he has done. That is why we can confidently proclaim there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
So things had gotten very bad for me and I was on the street, I had a dealer whose family always wanted him to go to church even though he hated going so one day he offered me a bag to go with him. Talk about God working all things for the good. I went and at the end of service they had an alter call so, being caught up in the emotions, I went up. That was not the moment of my salvation but a seed was planted. I ended up getting the number of a guy who helps people caught up in addiction and a couple months later I called this number. What was meant to be just an opportunity to speak to someone turned into a life changing moment. He came and got me and took me to 9th and Cantrell. Now I had been in countless programs but something was different here. Gone were the inquires about where I could get money replaced by someone asking how he could serve me. It didn’t happen overnight, but I was offered the opportunity to ask questions and grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord Jesus Christ. That hole I was trying to fill all my life I realized could only be filled by his holy spirit.
I stayed there for almost 3 years, but then troubles came my way once again. I had a kidney stone and when I went to the doctor they told me I had kidney cancer. On top of that I lost my income and the only church I had ever known was closing along with the ministry. I was distraught and angry and felt betrayed by God. After my surgery, as Proverbs tells us, I returned to my vomit and starting using again. I was searching for a church and went to a lot of great churches, but always felt out of place. The day I walked into Christ Church, however, I felt like I had come home. Many introduced themselves to me and it never felt forced. It was no coincidence that Jeff was preaching from 1 John on community. That is what I was missing, a body of believers to share life with and be accountable. Through the help of many of you here (at Christ Church) I was able to put down the drugs once again in my life. Glory be to God.
The thing I love so much about this church is I have never felt like an outsider. Although many of us have different stories and ideas and backgrounds we all have the same common denominator of Christ. You have never looked at me differently, even though there are terrible things that I have done. We see each other in Christ and that is a beautiful thing.
In closing I just want to thank this local body of believers for reminding me that it’s ok to be angry, we see all through the psalms but we can’t stay there. God will never leave us or forsake us, I always go back to the first ever verse I read in the bible and God has always used it, Psalm 30: 5, "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
Only God can write these stories! What a privilege it is to be part of this awesome church on a mission. I love you Christ Church!
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