Today begins my 19th year as a Christian. Eighteen years ago today God said “Let there be Light” in the brooding darkness of my soul (2 Cor 4.6). Though I had grown up a church rat and sat through a thousand gospel appeals, it took the sovereign grace of God to make me believe in Jesus. My problem wasn’t ignorance. It was rebellion. On April 1, 1995, I didn’t necessarily learn anything I had not heard before. I was subdued by the Relentless God. Arrested by love. Conquered by grace. Gifted with repentance. In sum, resurrected from the dead.
I did all the sinning and self-righteous game-playing. God did all the saving. I did all the hating and lying. God did all the loving and forgiving. I did all the dying. Jesus did all the living.
Jesus didn’t die for me when I believed. I believed because Jesus died for me. I often wonder if it’s the church kids, the “good” kids, who need the gospel most.
I am thankful for parents who raised me in the graces of the church. Church was simply part of our life. While some despise the notion of being at church “every time the doors are open,” I praise God we were. Mom and Dad loved the church and made sure I developed a gospel vocabulary and church-as-life orientation. And I will spend eternity benefiting from that.
I am thankful for a mom who, though eaten alive by cancer, spent many of her dying breaths praying for her sons. We moved mom downstairs next to my room to better facilitate her care. I will never forget her groans of pain as chemotherapy and cancer waged war inside her. But, I am confident those cries were nothing compared to the outcries of her heart to see her Jesus. And to know those prayers were laced with pleas that her Jesus would save her 16-year-old, cocky, rebellious, church kid prick humbles me for eternity. God shouldn’t save people like me. That’s why he ordained from eternity past to create a universe where he is known and enjoyed for his grace (Eph 1.3-14).
I am thankful for a dad who is in his 61st year of membership at the same church. Sixty-one years! Most folks have changed churches 59 times in that span! He’s a “lifetime deacon” now and has slowed quite a bit in his service. He’s been a widower for 23 years. And he’s been a permanent part of our home now for one year.
I was an “accident” in our family. I doubt Mom expected to give birth at 43-years-old nor Dad at 48. Byron Timothy died in 1954 after surviving a day with a whole in his heart. Maybe I was their “Seth.” And while Dad was a bit too old to play one-on-one or wrestle for the heavyweight belt, he taught me far more important things. He loves Truth and still wears his wedding band. He still defends his boy and I am still compelled to love his approval. He’s a Christian dad.
I am thankful for two (much older!) brothers who tolerated a pesky, whiny little brother who was spoiled as the day is long. Okay, they still do and I still am. Sometimes it felt like I had three sets of parents. They had high expectations and wouldn’t let me win or make excuses for losing. I wouldn’t change a thing. My brothers are my heroes. They love Jesus, serve the church, raise terrific kids who now confess Christ and I can only hope to live up to their legacies. I can only imagine the hours spent in prayer for their baby brother who spend 21 years lying about faith and skirting the gospel. God bless them.
I am thankful for faithful preachers, children’s teachers, youth and college pastors who did far more sowing than reaping in my life. That is the life of the preacher, isn’t it? Plowing and plodding hard and stony ground, delaying any assurance of a harvest until eternity. I am thankful to have heard the gospel three times a week, twice on Sunday. I didn’t know it at the time (or care, frankly) but God’s Word was doing it’s work even when I refused to believe it (Is 55.10-11). It’s just like God to do his saving work despite those who insist on their “free will.”
A lot goes into saving a man. He reads about most of it in the Gospels. The rest he will see in glory. In the meantime, he lives by faith knowing he wiggles around in the strong right hand of the Almighty God.
I am thankful for a wife who endures many days with a man who belies the very Jesus he professes to believe. She came into my life about the same time God saved me. So, she’s been on this journey since the beginning. It’s been uphill for her most of the way, weighted down by the baggage of a fickle husband. But, she’s a Christian and Christians endure, by the grace of God. Eighteen years is a long time to be doubled-over (Lk 13.11), but Amy has been a tireless lover of Jesus. I am a man “sanctified through his wife” (1 Cor 7.14).
I am thankful for friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who labored for me in prayer and witness. I’ll not know most of them or how they interceded on my behalf. They are the kind of folks who would rather receive their praise from God in glory. But, I pray they are credited with an eternity’s worth of any gospel fruit in my life.
In the last 18 years as a Christian there have been many days I wondered if I was a Christian at all. I am confident there were many more days when others wondered the same thing. But when I lay my head on my pillow tonight God has made sure I believe he saves sinners. Jesus did not die for the godly, but the ungodly (Rom 5.6). And I fit that bill.
God be praised that Jesus died and was raised for church kids. I pray Jesus made room for three more in his Kingdom.