by Dr. Mike Stallard
|“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).|
|All men in their innermost being want their lives to matter. I am no different. I have, since my earliest recollections, wanted to be someone whose life counted in a significant way. As I have come to know and understand, a life that really counts is also one that counts for eternity and not just for this life’s journey. Also, I can never remember a time when I did not believe in the existence of God. From the time when I was five years old and prayed my first prayer when I had to go to the hospital for surgery to the time I prayed a few years later for God never to let Mom, Dad, my brother Jimmy, or me ever die, I believed I could talk to a heavenly Father. Where this desire to communicate to the Creator came from I cannot tell. I never attended a church service except for one occasion before I was twenty years old. I can only believe that the Scriptures are true and wise when they speak of the innate knowledge of God and eternity that the Maker has placed in every one of us.|
|It was during my teenage years (late 1960s, early 1970s) that a growing restlessness entered my soul about the Bible and about God. I had read some Watchtower literature at my grandmother’s house at one point that got my attention as well as talking to religious friends of varying kinds including those who were critical of the Bible and its view of God. However, it was the message of Evangelist Billy Graham on television that riveted me and forced me to confront my own inner shortcomings or sins and to consider a remedy. During that time I had been under the delusion that by mustering up enough good efforts I could somehow overcome my faults and earn credit with God. The message I heard was that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I simply had to accept what God had done through Jesus on my behalf. This claim rolled around in my mind during my high school and college years although I did not act upon it right away. It remained an idea I was willing to consider but left undecided without confidence that I had made peace with God.Another issue confronting me at the time was my scientific nature. My Dad worked in the Apollo Space program and on Skylab in an engineering town. I was a good math and science student, eventually becoming a mathematics major and an aerospace engineer working in my first days on the Space Shuttle back before it was even built. However, in my studies I began to have some intellectual doubts about the teaching of evolution and the so-called sure foundations of science. On the one hand, my engineering side demanded facts, but my heart longed to see a way to harmonize what I was being taught about the world through science and what the Bible proclaimed.|
These and other factors came to a head in my life in the summer of 1974 when my twin brother Jimmy and I started a spiritual search together. We visited a few different kinds of churches. While the people were nice and we were open and searching, usually there was nothing concrete in our experience that would nail things down for us. I believe I was actually looking for a church service that reminded me of Billy Graham’s television crusades. I can remember, however, the difference when we walked into the West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. It was early summer. The music grabbed my thoughtful focus. The pastor, Sam Wolfe, preached verse by verse through the Bible and explained things clearly, especially the matter of an individual making peace with God through faith and faith alone in what Jesus Christ had done on the Cross. While I could not explain things with scientific precision, the thought and feeling came over me that I was where I was supposed to be.I did not immediately make a decision to trust Christ as my Savior. My brother and I attended on Sunday mornings for almost two months drinking in what was being sung, prayed, and taught. We would talk on the way home about what we had heard and what we thought about things while rolling the claims of Christ over and over in our minds. We would discuss Bible verses throughout the week and wonder about their truth.
Finally, on August 18, 1974, we both went forward during an evangelistic invitation to trust Christ. On that day I nailed down the fact that I was going to depend upon Christ and Him alone to take away my sin. Jesus was who He claimed to be. I was going to quit trusting my own good deeds and behavior (which I had certainly come to believe to be totally inadequate to stand before God). I was not going to trust any church or preacher or any other teaching with my eternal destiny. I was going to lean upon Christ and His work for me as the only payment for my sin and the only way that I could have peace with God (Eph. 2:8-10, John 5:24). In the lingo I would learn from the words of Jesus, I was “born again” on that day (John 3:1-18). As they presented me before the congregation that day, I kept thinking, “Things are going to be different!” I was not disappointed.
I have not been a perfect person after receiving Christ as my Savior. No one is. But I have experienced a joy in the trials of life that transcends all other experiences I have ever had. There is a sense of peace with God that has allowed me to focus on others instead of myself. My life has taken a path of fulfillment as a pastor and teacher and trainer of pastors. I have experienced great purpose and meaning in life. I look back to the time I trusted Christ for forgiveness and have no regrets. Both my scientific mind and my yearning heart have been satisfied. I now look forward to the time when Christ will return and begin to make all things right.I am not any more special to God than anyone else. What He has done for me, He can and will do for you. If you would like to discuss my testimony and how you can have peace with God, feel free to respond with a comment.