FENTON, MI – I woke up on a sandy beach somewhere on the Gulf Coast. The noise of the early morning commute woke me making it impossible to sleep anymore. It was still dark but the sun was starting to rise on the horizon. The painful scratches on my hand and arm reminded me of the previous night’s activities. I had been drinking heavily and got in a fight with a friend. I took a swing at him. Thankfully, he ducked, or I could have been waking up in detention. The scratches came from the broken glass of the window I put my hand through when I tried to hit him. What started out as the adventure of a lifetime when we decided to hitchhike from Michigan to Disney World ended on the beach that morning.
I woke up hungover, alone, lost, embarrassed, and in pain. The things I thought would make me happy - freedom, parties, and good times - left me empty and afraid on a sandy beach. I was 16 years old and my life was a mess. Most of the people around me at the time would have said that I had a pretty good life. That's what it looked like on the outside. I was always surrounded by people. I never struggled in school. One year I was president of the class and another, captain of the football team. But beneath the facade I was struggling. Almost everything in my life was broken and to top it off, I ended up getting kicked out of the house for some bad choices I made.
A family down the street, Husted and Patty Lynn (Tony Lynn's parents) let me stay with them until things worked out at home. I saw firsthand what their family looked like, and the importance of faith in their lives. They took me to church with them whenever I was willing to go. I wasn't living with them at the time, but one Sunday I went with them to church. I heard a man preach about the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus in the Bible. Nicodemus was a good man, a leader of his people and a devoted follower of his faith. Nicodemus was everything I was not. Jesus looked at this good and decent man and said, "You must be born again."
Those words of Jesus, "You must be born again" grabbed hold of me. I wanted a new birth - a new beginning in life. The preacher went on to share how Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, was buried, and rose from the grave three days later. He invited us to trust in Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord and I did. That moment changed my life.
Please don't get me wrong. I readily admit that I'm far from perfect, but I've come a long way since I woke up on that sandy beach years ago. Most of the people around me today, would say that I have a pretty good life. I have a wonderful family, a beautiful home, and a great job. And they're right. I have a pretty good life. That's what it looks like on the outside. And that's what it feels like on the inside. Thank you Jesus!
What about you? What's your story? One of the most powerful ways to share the Gospel is your personal testimony. Paul shares his story in Acts 22. He builds his testimony by sharing his life before Christ, how he received Christ, and his life since following Jesus. Give it a try, won’t you?!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.