one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
No Apology Necessary
I answered the call to preach at age 16. Shortly thereafter I was invited to speak at a youth rally sponsored by our district association. When I entered the sanctuary of the church hosting the rally that evening I was overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. Youth and adult sponsors from the various churches comprising the association filled the house to capacity. I was nervous.
I was further intimidated by the fact that at the previous rally three months earlier a dynamic, young preacher had spoken. In the course of his message he shared his personal testimony. He recounted how God had marvelously delivered him from the use of drugs, alcohol, and similar vices. His was an impressive, amazing story of God’s life-changing, redemptive power.
At the appointed time I stepped into the pulpit, read my text, and delivered the message I had prepared. The sermon was simple, straightforward, and brief. As I recall it lasted a total of 12 minutes.
Following the service, a few folks shared polite comments about my little homily. I thanked them for their kind words, but in my heart I felt like a failure. I had hoped the altars would be full of penitents, and no one responded.
As I exited the church, an elderly man approached me. He asked if he could have a few minutes of my time. I consented. He began by referencing the young preacher who had spoken at the previous rally. I became defensive.
I explained I had been raised in a Christian home by godly parents. I accepted the Lord as Savior at age 12. I told him I had never tasted alcohol, used illicit drugs, or done many of the things usually associated with riotous living. I admitted I had lived a “sheltered” life and as a result, felt my personal testimony was lackluster and unimpressive.
The old saint’s countenance fell, and tears welled up in his eyes. He gently placed his hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Young man! Don’t you ever apologize for your testimony. You should thank the good Lord every day for sparing you the heartache of a sinful past.”
He went on to explain how he had lived a rebellious life in his younger days. He confessed that a day never passed that he didn’t regret the years he wasted living in sin.
I walked away from that encounter with a new perspective. From that day to this I have never apologized for my Christian testimony. I admire those who have experienced God’s incredible deliverance from evil, and prior to my conversion, I was just as lost as any of them. At the same time, I rejoice that He mercifully spared me the misery and scars associated with a sinful past. “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.