My testimony

My testimony

By Harlan Brown
May 17, 2020

On Sunday, April 5, my pastor, Damon Williamson, said in a sermon, "My challenge for you is to write your testimony... This is who I was before Christ. This is how I met Jesus. This is what my life looks like now. Record your testimony; share it on Facebook."

My testimony is as follows:

Executive summary

I grew up in a Christian family and was exposed to information about God and Jesus from an early age. I heard about Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose from the dead. I tried to be a good Christian boy, or at least to appear to be so, but inside I was filled with selfishness and sin. At age 14 as a result of a televised Billy Graham crusade I came to see that I needed to respond to what Christ had done. I acknowledged that I was a sinner in need of God's grace, and I accepted Jesus as my personal savior. However, I continued to try to run my life my own way, and I suffered consequences and was not happy.

At age 20 I came to understand a concept that I saw years later expressed on a poster on a co-worker's wall: "If God is your co-pilot, it's time to switch seats." I decided to make Jesus Christ Lord of my life, and my life began to improve. At age 21 I underwent water baptism by immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since that time I have sought to let the one true God, who created the heavens and the earth, rule my life. With God's help I seek perfection, though I don't expect to achieve that goal totally in this life. Nevertheless the quality of my life has improved immensely since I made Jesus the Lord of my life. Though not totally unselfish, I am less selfish than I was before my conversion, and I am happier. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

To God be the glory!

More of the story

When I was a senior in high school three of my friends decided to become agnostics. I asked them why they made that decision. They replied that they were influenced by their Sunday school teacher, an agnostic. I asked why an agnostic was attending a Christian church and teaching Sunday school. They said he said that Jesus had good moral teachings and the world would be a better place if people obeyed them. This response led me to question my faith. Does God really exist? Is the Bible true? How do I know? Interested in biology, chemistry, physics, and other natural sciences, I had read about Darwinian evolution as an alternative explanation to divine creation.

I began a quest for truth. My high school biology textbook, science magazines, and science books provided ample information in favor of Darwinian evolution. I had heard that some scientists believe in creation. I went to my high school library to look for scientific evidence for creation. I found nothing.

I continued my search in other libraries. I checked my hometown library. I checked the library in another small town nearby. I checked the library in a larger town where our family occasionally shopped for items that we could not find in our hometown. The information that I sought was nowhere to be found.

Then one evening, at age 18, I was trying to tune my radio to AM 1520, a distant 50,000-watt station, to listen to music. Instead I got AM 1530, another distant 50,000-watt station. I heard a voice say, "God exists, and you can prove it. The Bible is true, and you can prove it. Evolution is false, and you can prove it. Write for our free literature."

I requested Does God Exist?, Seven Proofs God Exists, The Proof of the Bible, and one or two booklets about evolution. When they arrived, I read them eagerly. Does God Exist? used the watchmaker analogy. The Proof of the Bible emphasized Bible prophecy. Seven Proofs God Exists cited the following proofs:

  1. The existence of law demands the existence of a lawgiver.
  2. The existence of life demands a life-giver.
  3. The creation requires a great Creator.
  4. The sustaining of laws requires a sustainer.
  5. Design in the universe proves the existence of a designer.
  6. Fulfilled prophecy is evidence of a God who is able to foretell the future and bring it to pass.
  7. Answered prayer is perhaps the greatest proof of all to Christians.

I read the literature and pondered the words and concepts. I continued getting and reading other booklets and a free monthly magazine. I read booklets such as A Whale of a Tale, or — The Dilemma of Dolphins and Duckbills, The Amazing Archer Fish Disproves Evolution!, and The Fable of the First Fatal Flight. I concluded that it is rational and reasonable to believe in a God who is Lawgiver, Life-giver, Creator, Sustainer, and Designer.

After I concluded that the Holy Bible is the word of God, I set out to study it and learn more about what it says. I had questions. My parents church was temporarily without a full-time pastor. Various ministers came on Sunday and preached. I asked questions, and they did their best to answer them.

A pivotal discussion

Before I went away to college, my parents church acquired a full-time pastor. I met with him and had a more in-depth discussion than I had with the weekly preachers. I asked questions, and he gave answers.

I sensed that the pastor did not believe certain portions of the Bible. So I said, "Do you believe that the Bible is the word of God?"

"Yes, I do."

As the discussion continued, I struggled to reconcile the pastor's answers with his professed belief in the Bible as the word of God. Although there was much I did not know about the Bible, I was convinced of certain truths:

  1. God exists.
  2. The Bible is true.
  3. The Bible says that Christ will come again.
    1. Jesus said, "I will come again" (John 14:3).
    2. When Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)
    3. Regarding the second coming, the Bible (Revelation 1:7) says, "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him."

I asked the pastor, "Do you believe in the second coming of Christ?"

"No, I don't," he replied.

"Why not?"

"It's been too long. If He were going to return, He would have returned by now."

I didn't argue, but I thought about the scripture (2 Peter 3:3-4) that says, "knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”"

I asked something like, "Do you believe that the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts is inspired to be the infallible, authoritative, totally reliable word of God?"

"Oh, no," he said. "I believe God may have inspired the Bible perhaps the way He might inspire Simon and Garfunkel to write a song."

At that point I lost confidence in the pastor's answers to my Bible questions. His and my foundational views on biblical inspiration and authority were too different.

At college the plot thickens

When I went away from home to college, I attended a local church affiliated with the denomination that I grew up in. The pastor seemed to have a view of biblical inspiration similar to that of my hometown pastor. However, on Sunday mornings the college-town pastor was more willing to speak openly against those portions of scripture with which he disagreed. Week by week I felt more and more out of place.

The climax came at a church-sponsored meeting of college students. The students discussed whether it is all right for an unmarried couple to have sexual relations.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," a young man said.

"It has to be a serious relationship," a young woman said. "It can't be something casual."

"Yes," another young adult said. "They have to love each other."

Other participants in the discussion chimed in on the love theme.

Although there was much I did not know about the Bible, I knew that the Bible taught that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is a sin:

  1. "Sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4)
  2. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:10)
  3. In the 10 commandments, God says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)
  4. Elsewhere the law goes into more detail about sexual immorality, including condemning sexual relations before marriage (for example, Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
  5. The New Testament commands, "Flee fornication." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

(I did not know until years later that the Greek word translated as fornication in the King James Version of the Bible refers to all forms of sexual immorality—fornication, adultery, sodomy, and so forth—and is translated as sexual immorality in most modern translations.)

When the pastor began to speak, I thought to myself, "Now he can tell what the Bible says; he can present God's perspective."

He basically agreed with the students: Sex before marriage is OK if you love each other. He did not tell what the Bible says. He did not present God's perspective. He did not even mention God or the Bible.

I never went back to that church.

(Years later I met a pastor who had been in the denomination that I grew up in. During his seminary education he was taught by a professor who said that the resurrection of Jesus Christ probably never occurred, and if it did, it was probably not all that important. The pastor-to-be dropped out of the seminary program, and he and his hometown congregation that he was preparing to pastor left the denomination and affiliated with another denomination. "The resurrection of Christ is the heart and core of the Christian faith," he told me. I agree.)

Humbled and inspired

During my freshman year of college I majored in physics. During my senior year of high school I was planning to attend a state university that emphasized science and technology. I knew that I wanted to major in a science, but I was not sure which one. I counseled with my high school guidance counselor. When he said that the toughest major at the university was physics, I knew I had an answer. I thought that I was pretty smart, getting A's in high school in every subject except B's in physical education. Physics was for me.

However, college did not turn out as I expected. Three of my best friends in freshman physics got an A in physics each quarter. One of them got straight A's on every test and every quiz. I got a C the first two quarters. During the third quarter I put forth a diligent effort to improve, but I got a D. The department head, Dr. Daniel Zaffarano, graciously arranged for me to have a summer job as a physics laboratory assistant to help me decide whether I wanted to continue majoring in physics. By the end of the summer I knew for sure that I did not want to be a research physicist. "Well," I thought. "If I'm not smart enough to be a scientist, maybe I can write about science. I switched my major from physics to science journalism.

While I was taking freshman physics I had an experience that was encouraging and inspiring to me. One day my physics professor was unable to teach the class. Dr. Zaffarano filled in. A student asked him, "Can a physicist be a good scientist and believe in God?"

"Absolutely!", Dr. Z replied. He said that many of the founders of modern science, such as Newton, Kepler, and Boyle believed that in studying science they were studying God's creation. I was delighted to hear that.

My belief in God was further strengthened by a statement that did not even mention God. My Biology 101 professor said in a lecture, "A single living cell is more complicated than the entire industrial complex of the United States." He went on to present six ways of explaining how the first living cell might have come about by natural processes. I went on to conclude that that was about as likely as producing a house by dumping truckloads of building materials off cliffs. Given a vast amount of time and building materials, what is the probability of creating a house by such means? Zero! Random combinations of building materials cannot create a house. Design requires a designer.

Experiencing miraculous healing

I continued my study of the Bible, and at age 20 I delved into the doctrine of divine healing. Since early childhood I had suffered tremendously from autumn hay fever each year. I read a booklet about divine healing, and I looked up the scriptures that the author cited. Then I bought a copy of Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and looked up every scripture that contained any form of the word heal: heal, healed, healer, healing, heals, and so forth.

My prayerful study of healing in the Bible led me to the conclusion that God does heal today. James 5:15 says, "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

The Bible study culminated in a total fast. I do not recall exactly how long the fast lasted, but I remember that it was in the range of one to three days. (I had studied the subject of fasting and had read an admonition that people inexperienced with fasting should not fast more than three days unless they are under the care of a physician who understands and believes in fasting.)

At the end of the fast, in the midst of hay fever season I prayed a fervent prayer asking God to heal my hay fever. Immediately the hay fever began to diminish. By the following day it was gone. Praise the Lord!

A lesson learned

Before the next autumn hay fever season I began attending a church that taught and practiced prayer for healing. Through listening to preaching from the pulpit I came to understand a verse that I did not previously understand: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14).

When hay fever season returned, so did my hay fever. I had grown in knowledge and understanding and knew what I was commanded to do: "call for the elders of the church." However, I had grown up in a church that had deacons and trustees but no one who was called an elder. And the whole idea of "anointing" seemed weird to me. I felt more comfortable with fasting and praying as I had done the year before. But it didn't work! I did not experience the slightest improvement.

Then I realized that I had grown in knowledge and understanding and needed to act on what I had learned. I requested prayer and anointing by the elders, and I received it. God healed me a second time, and I learned an important lesson: God may overlook disobedience committed in ignorance, but if we know what God expects of us, He holds us accountable. Acts 17:30 says, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent."

I am grateful for God's grace and mercy.


Since that time I have had other prayers answered. Sometimes the answer was yes. Sometimes the answer was no. Sometimes the answer was wait. When the answer was not what I wanted, sometimes God has allowed me to see why the answer was not yes. (A particular example comes to mind where if I had gotten what I requested, I might not be alive today to write this testimony.) Sometimes God does not show me why he says no. I love Him anyway. He does not owe me an explanation. He is love (1 John 4:8), He is almighty (2 Cor. 6:18), He knows all things (1 John 3:20), and He makes no mistakes. His word (Rom. 8:28) promises "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

God is faithful (Deut. 7:9; 1 Cor. 1:9 and 10:13).

See also

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