Testimony of Mr TW

Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me Psalm 116:7

This year I am completing a course called Equipped 4 Life at East Northants Bible School in Clopton. I will explain my reasons for this shortly, but as part of the course we were asked to give a short testimony at our local church. When I was told this a feeling of dread came over me. As a teacher, giving assemblies and standing in front of hundreds of children never bothers me. I can’t sing in tune at all but I never fear leading singing assemblies (which are an important thing in primary schools) although I always send the adults out of the hall before I begin. In many ways, I find talking to adults much more daunting. However, I remembered a recent service given by some of the younger members of the church and thought that if they are brave enough to stand up and speak then I should not worry about doing the same thing. To be honest that brilliant service was one of the most challenging things I have ever sat through, as it reminded me of some of the passion I used to have as a Christian at that age. I remember doing the exact same thing in my parents’ church with my Christian friends. It made me wonder where all that passion and desire to follow God went. It would be easy to say that life is more challenging as an adult and that as adults we have to live in the “real world”. However, I think there is much more pressure on teenagers to conform and act in a certain way at school or college than anything we will ever face as adults in this country at least. It is easy to forget the overwhelming force peer pressure can be as a teenager to conform to a world view of thinking and acting. We do face this as adults too, and I think a lot of media in this country and as we have seen in the US, tries to make us all think and conform in the same way-to have the same “liberal views” But to a large extent, it is easier as an adult to be more of an individual than a teenager.

So here is my testimony. At the Bible school, we were given a template to follow. It said to say firstly, What I was like before I came to faith in Christ, How I came to Faith in Christ and What my Life is like since I received Christ. Unfortunately, I am unable to follow this template as becoming a Christian at the age of ten was the easy part. Since then my Christian life has been stop-start-periods of growth and dedication, followed by times of not following and going backwards. In many ways I find the testimonies some may give of complete change at conversion hard to believe. People can be instantly transformed by God, who am I to say they can’t, but I think it a mistake to believe that at the moment of conversion we are all completely healed and changed. We don’t become a Christian then ride off into the sunset our work complete. Being transformed into the character of Jesus can be a process that takes time with many forks and bumps on the road.

Both of my parents were Christians and I attended church from birth onwards. I went to church in Somerton, Somerset and I gave my life to Jesus at the age of ten at a Christian camp for young people in Dorset. It was the first time I believe, I really understood what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.

From then onwards there were moments of inspiration and desire to grow in my faith. However, I would say I never stuck at it for particularly long periods of time. Looking back now at the age of 36, I can see the wasted years of not following-failed relationships, poor career choices and other bad decisions based on choices made in my own strength-as it says in the Bible the years the locusts have eaten and in Ephesians “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching..” In particular I deeply regret and am ashamed of life in my twenties, in many ways as a wasted decade. I hardly ever went to church or stuck to any principles that I learnt when younger. Being lazy as a Christian has its consequences. Proverbs 20:4 A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing. Despite this though, I can honestly say I never did lose my faith in God, it is just that I never made much of an effort.

When I met my wife again in my late twenties, we had known each other at university and got back in touch, I began going to church again and tried to seek God more. Going to church regularly has definitely helped, as I have formed some strong friendships.

This summer, with my wife and children, whilst attending Faith Camp in Peterborough for a week I felt the presence of God in a way I hadn’t experienced for many years. I was only intending to go for a day just to drop my wife and daughters off.  However I ended up staying all week due to some experiences on the first day. On one of the days at the camp I bumped into a work colleague who said “What are you doing here? Wow Tom I never knew you were a Christian. You are a dark horse.” This really bothered me. I realised that it wasn’t that I hadn’t told anybody I was a Christian-although I should have-it was that there was nothing in my life at work that demonstrated it. It is like the old poster that says if you were tried for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? I loved the school where I was working last year, but for one reason or another I didn’t have the opportunity to stay this year. Maybe there is a reason for this-I would join in with some colleagues gossiping and criticising others, join in with other negative conversations, make crude jokes and go out and get drunk on occasions after work. Throughout the year, I attended church on a Sunday but I realise now that this was a shallow, superficial thing to do if I forgot about it by Monday. Hence my decision to complete the course this year. I will probably stay being a teacher, and you don’t need to go on a course to be a better Christian, but I just felt at this time it was a wonderful calling and for myself necessary. So do please pray that this year I will grow in my faith and have the desire in future to “stick with it”. However, I don’t really want to end on a positive note:

To finish, I want to say that despite the fact my parents were Christian, this has sometimes been a barrier. Thinking about times in my youth can bring about negative thoughts, anxieties and sadness. People can be instantly changed by God as I said earlier, but often we have to look back at things in the past-to get at the bitter roots-as it were before we can move forward. Our conversion to Christianity does not end the process of being transformed into the character of Jesus. Habits have a nasty habit of springing back, so we need to begin a process where our hearts can be transformed-much easier said than done.

I am always encouraged by this verse.

…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

                                                                                    Philippians 1:6

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