Celebrating 39 years in Jesus | 15 Jan 12, Joe Sucher

Here's my personal testimony, which I wrote down a number of years ago...

As a child in the Catholic Church I had contact with God when I prayed. I was very sincere and God-fearing. I remember precious moments of communion with Him after Confession and also during Holy Communion. I attended a parochial school through the 8th grade but by the time I was in the 7th grade I started having doubts about the Church. I came across a book on Philosophy at the public library that quoted the Golden Rule by Jesus, Confucius, and other “philosophers”. I reasoned that I only believed in Jesus because I had been brainwashed by my upbringing. I knew nothing of other Christian denominations nor did I bother to investigate. The fact that they believed only in Jesus was enough to show me they were “simple-minded”. I thought that religion was just a relative thing; if a person really believed in something, it was right for them.  Since all religions were “right”, I could not let myself believe in just one. 

            By the time I left the 8th grade I was an atheist. I did not believe in a God. I did believe in an ultimate energy force but it was not a personal force. It was simply an objective reality that people could tap into by the power of their minds. Some did it through Christian faith, some through other religions or philosophies. I believed in ESP, reincarnation, ghosts, UFO’s and other strange things. My thinking was influenced by books and magazines on these topics. I was in search of Truth but I never could seem to make my new philosophy work.

            The following year I started attending a public high school.  I soon learned how really “weird” I was.  Everyone else seemed to be interested in football games, letter sweaters, cars and partying; the typical high school ideals.  After a while I got tired of being alienated and decided to try to fit into the “real” world.  I wanted to be “normal" and find satisfaction in personal pleasure. I had friends who got me interested in spelunking and in dirt bike riding and camping and other “earthly” things, as well as drinking and smoking pot. I got high every so often but I couldn't  help but see the futility in these things. I couldn’t be a part of anything because I saw what was wrong with everything.

            During my senior year, I got a job working at a department store.  Working there influenced me greatly.  It ushered me further into the “real world”.  Many of the people I worked with were in college.  After work, we would often go out to eat. I was invited to parties, and to just hang out. I never socialized much before and I thought that I was finally getting close to being really “normal”. Yet there was something missing.  If this was normalcy and fun, then I did not want to be normal.  I needed something more to fill the “hole” deep inside of me.  I hoped that I would find it when I started college.

            By the time college started, I was pretty well set in my ways.  My opinion of religion was the same as it was in eighth  grade, only now I did not bother to even think about it much.  I was apprehensive about going  to college, but I was determined to stick it out for the first year or so. After a lot of frustration, I completed my first semester.  I was looking forward to the start of second semester.  In the meantime, though, I was going to enjoy my month of Christmas vacation.  Something happened during my semester break, however, that changed all my plans and ideas.  It changed my whole life.

            It all began when I watched a movie on TV about the birth of Jesus and noticed frequent references to Old Testament prophecies. This interested me and I decided to investigate.  I went to the library at the university and got several books about the Bible.  After a few weeks of research, I realized that the Bible had to be more than just another book.  I found myself wanting to believe in a personal God again, but it was hard.  I wanted to believe, but I had rationalized Him away for almost five years.  I discussed my dilemma with Lance, one of my co-workers who was a student at a Pentecostal bible college.  He encouraged me to seek God; yet I still could not get myself to bend to just one religion.  I could not get myself to believe in hell.  My friend said something, however, that really made me think.  He said; “Whatever you do, don’t build a “box” that God has to fit into, because He never will”.

             Lance also invited me to his wedding, which just happened to take place at Gateway College's Christmas Banquet. During the course of the evening, I was exposed to Pentecostal prayer and worship (and I walked out three times). I was also temporarily shocked by a message in tongues and interpretation. I quickly explained it away by saying that the lady who gave the message was probably from a foreign country in one of her “past lives" and in a trance induced by mass self hypnosis she had proceeded to speak. What great lengths one will go to on order to explain away God! But there was one thing I couldn’t explain away and that was the love and peace and purity I felt around these people.              

            Sometime later, I accepted Lance's invitation to a church service. So, on  January 14, 1973, I came to the church service determined to settle the question about the reality of God once and for all. I was totally turned off by the service.  There were too many “Glory-Halleluia-Amens” and “Praise the Lords”.  It was a missionary service and the roly-poly missionary was too corny and his smile seemed superficial.  At the end of the service there was an altar call and everyone went forward.  I wanted to go too but I just could not get myself to go up and pray in front of all the people.  I was feeling discouraged at having missed my chance to see if God was real.  Then Lance returned from the altar, looked me in the eye and said with compassion, “you don’t have to go through any ritual to pray.”  Somehow I knew that he understood the battle I was fighting within and I started crying and seeking God.  I closed my eyes and shut out distractions and said repeatedly, “God, I want to believe in you but my MIND won’t let me!”  I didn’t want to believe in God unless He was Truth.  I didn’t want to believe in Him just so I could be a part of these people who seemed to have so much love and joy and peace.  I had to be honest to myself. 

            When people gathered around and started praying for me and telling me to do this and to do that, I asked God to block out the sound of their voices.  I didn’t want to have an experience that was just a product of their suggestions.  Now it seems strange that I could talk to a God I was not sure existed, but that’s exactly how it happened.  Soon after I thought this “prayer”, I no longer noticed the people and things around me.  My mind’s eye became aware of the presence of the Lord.  It was like seeing someone with your periphery vision or sensing the presence of another person in the room. The Lord gave me faith to believe that He was real, that He was there and He cared for me.  Then someone laid their hand on my back and I felt a tingling sensation go through my body that seemed to boost my faith.  Finally, I heard the words someone was saying to me:  “Do you want to get baptized?”  I knew what they meant because I had seen slides that night of converts being baptized on the mission field.  I felt I had come as far as I could by crying and seeking God.  I had felt His presence and I knew He was real.  He was too close now for me to let Him slip away.  I said, “Sure, I have tried everything else I know.”

            As I was preparing to get water baptized, the pastor asked me if I had any bad habits like smoking or drinking that I would like to confess.  I said, “The only bad habit I have is THINKING God  out of my mind.”  What I meant was that my own analytical mind kept rationalizing God away.  When the curtain opened and I saw all these people watching me I was turned off.  I thought “How can I have a personal encounter with God with all these people making a spectator sport of it?  “But then I immediately countered with “That’s alright, I have come too close to let Him go now.”  I went under the water in Jesus’ name and came out with stammering lips trying to worship God.  Then the pastor told me to just relax and worship God and let Him control my tongue.  I started to try to sing along with the song the congregation was now singing, but soon I started worshiping beyond the limits of human language.  The people who were there that night say I stood in the water for over twenty minutes speaking tongues and worshipping God. I emptied my heart out to Him that night, and He filled me with His Holy Spirit.  I have never been the same since.

           

 

           

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