Almost, But Lost: My Testimony
Missions Conference, 2017
Missionary Matt Gerber gave his testimony during the Sunday evening service. He told how he grew up in a Christian home, served in the church, and surrendered his life to be a missionary. However, there came a point in his life that he realized that he was not saved. This moment happened to be in the middle of going through deputation.
His story amazed me… how was it possible to be called, chosen, and on the way to India to be a missionary, yet not even be saved? It was in that service when I once again began to doubt my own salvation.
If you were to ask me right then what my testimony was, I would probably have told you I was saved about age 6, in my parents’ bedroom, where I prayed with my dad. What I probably wouldn’t tell you is that all through my teen years I had doubts. Every time I heard a sermon on salvation, I would feel conviction that I was lost. I remember praying the prayer for salvation many times, yet for some reason, I struggled grasping true belief in Christ as my Savior. I didn’t want people to know that I had been lost all those years, and I was holding on to that sin of pride.
This struggle carried on for many years, and I slowly grew calloused to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I tried and succeeded in convincing myself that I was born again, and found various ways to prove it to myself. Now anytime the subject of salvation came up, I pushed away any thoughts about my own salvation; I didn’t want to think about it.
Bro. Gerber’s testimony changed everything. As I sat in that Sunday evening service, I started to feel that familiar old bothering of the Holy Spirit. Since I still thought I was saved, during the invitation I went forward and tried to re-submit some areas of my life to God. That made me feel better for a little while, but after I went home I realized something was still not right. I had trouble sleeping. For the first time in a long time I wondered if I would go to heaven when I died.
Even though I prayed for salvation many, many times, I never developed a walk with God in the way other Christians described. I never felt God’s direction; I had a very procedural view of Christianity. This was a big indicator for me that I was lost. I recalled John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” That did not describe my experience.
The next day, Monday, was hard. If I wasn’t saved, what did I have to do? I had prayed for salvation so many times, each time thinking I got something I missed last time. But now I had run out of ideas essentially. What did I have to change? What did I do wrong before? I went back and forth all day deciding if I should talk to somebody about it. The idea crossed my mind that I should make an ultimatum with God (a testing of the fleece, if you will). I don’t know why, but as trivial as it sounds, I thought “If the preacher is wearing an orange tie, I’ll know for sure I need to be saved.” Even as I thought it, I dismissed it as silly, and I really shouldn’t limit God like that anyway.
As the day grew closer to the next service, the thought of pushing this off until later looked more and more appealing. Ironically, the more I thought about procrastinating, the more I knew I had to deal with it now.
I got to church early. There was a dinner before the service, but I was even early for that. There weren’t many people there yet, but of course Bro. Matt Gerber and his family were, and of course he was exactly the one I wanted to talk to. I awkwardly asked if I could talk to him upstairs. As soon as we found a room and sat down, I lost it. My eyes and nose started leaking uncontrollably, and my throat closed up as I tried to croak out an explanation of what was happening. I tried to explain that I’m not typically an emotional person, but that only made it harder to speak.
Bro. Matt understood immediately what was going on. Because his testimony paralleled my own life, he explained that, in his case, praying for salvation but not being willing to tell anyone you did was sin. All the times he prayed to be saved, he was still holding on to pride and stubbornness. The light came on for me, and I was now truly ready to be saved. I prayed right then and there, repenting, trusting, and surrendering my life to God.
Dr. Fred Schindler, the special speaker for the conference, wore an orange shirt that night, with an orange tie. His wife also wore orange. I think it’s funny how that worked out.