Testimony Tuesday // Andrew
Hello St Aldates youth!
It's been quite a while since I've had the chance to hang out with you in the flesh!
As much as I'd rather be joining you for another classic Friday night in the catacombs, it's a privilege to get to write something for your encouragement today. I hope you are doing okay and that you've been able to keep hold of a sense of God's presence and purpose in your life despite these crazy times.
Ellie said to me that I could focus on one particular aspect of my testimony if I wished, so I want to just consider with you the idea of responding to God's calling on our lives. My own experience of hearing God's calling takes me back to around the age of fourteen, when I was living in school in Belfast during the week and returning home to my parents at the weekend. Occasionally, the weekend's activities would involve attending some sort of Christian youth gathering, a bit like Nightlife. I don't really remember much from these days, aside from the fact that my mind was beginning to tune into the talks they gave, like someone adjusting a radio dial so that a station with discernible speech began to break through the static. I think these were my first moments of consciousness that God was at work in the world, despite having grown up in church. As the static cleared and a message reached my ears, I began to realise that this message was one of God calling me to know him and follow him with my life.
Looking back on it, I don't think there were many academic debates or existential questions swirling around in my head, just a gnawing sense that I needed to open up my life to this intriguing Jesus. I suppose it's a bit like the calling of the disciples in the Gospels. They just seem to have seen something irresistible in Jesus and before knowing what they were getting themselves in for, or asking every question they maybe wished they'd asked, they downed their nets and followed him. I didn't spend too much time wondering or questioning Jesus either. Once I had a sense that he was inviting me to come follow him I couldn't shake it and I knew deep down that I wanted my life to get caught in the flow of this river. I still remember taking the plunge! The only thing I was sure about was wanting to know more of Jesus. With that I said "Yes!" and jumped into the river.
Here I am at the age of 32, maybe 18 years later (I can't remember exactly how old I was!!), and I'm still so glad I said yes to following Jesus and becoming one of his disciples and children. He has been so faithful and has taken me on an incredible journey!
I've cried tears of joy at the thought of how much he loves me. I've been blown away by answers to prayer. I've marvelled at the way he takes care of us. I've been trying to live out the life he's given me and seen how it makes better sense than any other message or philosophy in the world. I'm just so grateful that I get to know Jesus and that he's got my life in his hands.
So I guess it all really goes back to the "yes", to the moment of deciding that Jesus was worthy of my life and had died that I might live. Not to be too predictable, but have you had that moment? I only ask because I don't think we can do Christianity by osmosis. We can't absorb it from our parents or youth leaders. We’re called to part of the body of Christ together, yes, but you’re also made in the image of God as an important individual. And it’s as an individual that you need to give your “yes” to God.
Looking back on my own experience of responding to God’s call, I’ve come to really enjoy the story of the calling of Samuel. You probably know it. After all, you Aldates youth know your Bibles! Just in case you don’t, in the story Samuel is sleeping in the house of the Lord, as an apprentice under Eli the priest. He’s trying to get some kip when he thinks he hears Eli calling his name. This happens three times and each time Samuel wakes Eli up, thinking he had called him. Eli is getting pretty cheesed off about being woken up, and on the third time of Samuel coming to him, he realised that God must be calling Samuel. So, he tells him to go back and lie down and if he hears it again he should tell the Lord he’s listening. I know the story is about following God (maybe it’s more about listening to God), but it still involves hearing God’s call. And for Samuel it was a bit messy. He didn’t nail it first time. He got confused and didn’t recognise the call of God in his life straight away. He needed the help of an older, wiser person to discern it and to know how to respond to it. In the end, however, he got there and responded to God when God called him, kick-starting his life as a prophet in which he’d be given the mega-important task of anointing David to become king of Israel. It wouldn’t be long before Samuel got a lot better at hearing what God was saying to him.
It’s the same for us.
Maybe it took God to call you a few times before you gave him your “yes”. Or maybe he is calling you now, to become a disciple of Jesus and to step into life. There’s never a better time to let Jesus become King of your life and to make his home in your heart.
Samuel had Eli to help him figure out what was going on and make sense of God’s calling. That’s what Ellie and your leaders are there for, so if you feel excited or confused by what you think God might be saying to you, definitely speak to them.
When we give our “yes” to God, it’s just the beginning. Like Samuel, we get better at listening and hearing what he’s saying, and we keep responding to his call all the days of our life. That’s true of me too. I’m still learning to listen to God and not drown out his voice with all sorts of distractions. He still wants my “yes” in all sorts of ways. Yes, I’ll trust you with my future. Yes, I’ll follow you even when I feel nervous about being a vicar. Yes, I’ll try to obey you even if it feels like a challenge. But with every “yes” I give him, he’s always giving me an even bigger “YES” back! “YES I love you Andrew and YES your life is in my hands.”
And it’s the exact same for you too.
I miss you guys a lot and can’t wait to see you in Aldates when things open up again. Lots of love.