As I was driving to church this morning I was reflecting on God’s faithfulness to me and realized that there are likely people I know who don’t really know why I’m a Christian. So here’s my story:
I grew up in a Christian household, the youngest of four kids. We went to church every week and I was often the one who would try answering every question the teacher asked (whether I actually knew the answer or not!). I always loved going to church. The people there just seemed to accept me and I loved learning about Jesus and the Bible.
I also grew up attending Camp Fireside in New Hampshire, a Christian camp. I loved the experience away from my family, living in a cabin with other boys my age and always LOVED my counselors. The worship and speakers were always great… and there was archery! I still sing those camp songs in the car when I’m all alone (don’t worry… I roll the windows up so no one can hear how off key I am!).
I remember one week at Camp after the speaker gave the Gospel message I was the only one from my cabin who didn’t go forward to accept Christ. When we got back to our cabin our counselor led us in a discussion about what happened and why we did what we did. I felt like everyone was wondering why I didn’t go up front, and I found myself saying, “I didn’t need to go up… I’m already a Christian! Jesus has already forgiven me of my sins because of my faith in him.” I understood that God came as a human through Jesus Christ in order to forgive me of my sins by dying on the cross and rising from the grave.
So from childhood, God’s existence, love, grace, and presence was always very real to me. In Junior High and High School my faith really began to grow more and more. When I was in 7th grade my parents separated and later divorced, which totally turned my world upside-down. My dad stayed in the area and we still have a good relationship today, but things really changed without him in the house. All of a sudden, it seemed like nothing was really certain anymore. Yet, I ran to Christ even more. The people at my church were so supportive of my mom and my family.
My church had recently hired a new youth pastor, Craig, and he became like an adopted dad to me. I began to read my Bible more often, even outside of church. I asked hard questions to God and about the Bible, and people didn’t tell me I’m terrible for asking such questions… they encouraged me to ask hard questions! The more questions I asked and the more I read, the more solid my belief in God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. became.
Although I had always thought that I wanted to become a Veterinarian since I was a kid, in my Sophomore year I secretly started wondering what it would be like to be a youth pastor. When I was a Junior in high school I was given more opportunities to teach in Bible Studies at church and helped start one at my school with a friend… and when I was teaching the Bible I just knew that’s what I was made for. I don’t know if everyone experiences it (I hope you do!), but when you do what you were made to do you just know it.
I went to Gordon College to study Youth Ministry & Biblical Studies and was challenged to think intelligently about my beliefs and my faith. I had to deal with some messy personal stuff I’d shoved into a closet in my heart, and that was NOT fun… but it was healthy and good. I had my doubts, every does, but God continued to show me that He is with me and that His strength and wisdom is totally sufficient.
Now that I am a pastor, God’s faithfulness is so evident and clearly seen throughout my 29 years. Life is not easy or simple, but God never promised that it would be! There are struggles, hurts, and doubts – but God is bigger than all of them. When I was a child I had the faith of a child, when I was a teenager I had the faith of a teenager, and now that I’m a man I keep reaching for that childlike faith again (and I hope I never stop reaching for it).
Here are a few of my favorite Bible verses:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1)