(Sam gave this testimony Sunday after our sermon on Pentecost. We asked if we could post it on the blog for those not able to be there. Enjoy!)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I grew up in church and have heard the gospel story for as long as I can remember. I can still remember asking Jesus Into my heart around the age of 6 while sitting in my high chair. But it was in my early teens that I felt the conviction of needing a “real" relationship with God. I constantly struggled with the “feeling” of not being saved. My Dad helped me during this time by saying to me “Sam, salvation is not about feelings." I knew this to be true, but it was still a struggle for me. I believed, but my belief seemed dead and dry and God did not seem close. This continued for about 10 years. Throughout those 10 years there were better times and worse times, but through it all my faith still seemed like dry sand and God seemed very distant.
I have a melancholy personality so during the worse times I even struggled with some depression. During those years I had also fallen into the trap of thinking that if something was difficult or scary it meant that God did not want me to be doing that so I would quit. This lead me to making some very poor career choices and having trouble holding down a job (Side note: My wife, Anna, is awesome and was right there with me through all of this. Thanks Babe!!).
It was in the fall of 2019 after being laid off from my job and and having to work a temporary seasonal job that things changed. I was washing dishes and listening to a sermon in which the preacher said that he would always take someone’s spiritual temperature by asking what their prayer life looked like. It suddenly struck me that mine was pretty lame. I decided I was going to pray more. This began the “great awakening” in my life. I started praying a lot more and also to meditate on God and the great things he has done. The amazing thing is that even though I did make some personal changes in my life, it was not what I did but what God did for me. It was not me just saying “I’m going to man up and make myself change.” It was God changing me.
For the first time in my life my career was not my idol and if God wanted me to go be a missionary in China, I was ready to go. That’s saying a lot from the guy who at one point In his life did not really like to leave his home county in NC. I was finally serving God and not myself. I would like to challenge the young people of this church to stop spending so much time trying to “pick a career “ and more time asking God “How can I serve you?”
It was around this time that I started watching the new Jesus TV series “The Chosen.” I know some people don’t like movies that put a face to Jesus but for me it really made Jesus real and God used this humble tv series to change my life for ever. One morning before work I was watching the scene with Jesus and the Samaritan women at the well where Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but who ever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).
The words “Will become” hit me like a clap of thunder!! That was my story!! Jesus did not say HOW LONG it would take for the “Water to become a spring of water welling up to eternal life." He just promised it would.
For me it was 10 years, but Jesus had kept His promise. This realization changed my life for ever, and for the first time in my life I was filled with the Holy Spirit. God gave me a joy and peace that I had never experienced. I still have seasons of drought in my life but who doesn’t? Ironically I just went through one recently. But one thing I know for sure: He is mine I am His and His Spirit is within me.
Brothers and sisters, if a Baptist farm boy who grew up believing the gifts of the Spirit are no longer active and after spending 10 years in a spiritual desert can be filled by the Spirit, what further proof do you need that there is a God in Heaven?