“Hope?” he interrupted abruptly. “Hope in what?”
I will never forget the look of desperation in his eyes or the sound of that penetrating question.
“I am an atheist,” he said, before I could reply. “I believe that we are no different from the animals.”
I realized that this man truly had no hope. Eagerly, I began to share my testimony with him, how I was saved at age 10 during a church revival but how over the years I had gotten caught up in the things of this life. Then I started having major trials, and God seemed distant. Eventually, the trials forced me to seek Him out.
The old man listened intently.
“One evening, I was strolling by the lake near my home. I was full of questions concerning God and began to voice them openly. ‘If You are really there, God, I want to know You. If Your love is deep and wide and high and long like the Bible says, I want to know it.’ At that moment, something incredible happened–I heard God speak so clearly to my heart. He said only four words–four words that have changed my life: ‘I love you, Amy.’
“The Creator of the universe said my name! Suddenly, I felt a love wash over me from my head to my toes. Nothing like that had ever happened to me. I still tremble when I speak of it. From that point on I have known, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is here with me, and that He is personally interested in me.”
The old man began to speak, as tears welled up in his eyes. He said that earlier in his life he had been going to school to become a priest, but something happened and he became embittered with God, and that’s when he became an atheist. As he began to face his sin, he was overcome with guilt.
“You, Sir, are a very special man, and you are greatly loved by God.” I said. I told him how the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin and free us from guilt. He began to weep over his sins, much like I did after hearing God speak to my heart that day by the lake. I remember lying on my living room floor a few nights later and being overcome with remorse for my sin and for neglecting the One who died for me.
God’s love penetrated the old man’s heart in the hospice room that day. He was in a lot of pain, but he tightened his grip on my hand and repeated a prayer of repentance after me–and He became a believer in Jesus Christ! The despair that had been etched into the lines of his wrinkled brow gave way to a peaceful countenance. Two days later, he died.
What power there is in the personal testimony. The Holy Spirit can use it to draw people to Christ; and no one, not even an atheist, can argue with our own experience. I recall being deeply moved while listening to Joni Eareckson Tada share her testimony some years ago at a Billy Graham Crusade. The thought occurred to me that if someone who was paralyzed could have such joy in Jesus, there must be more to Christianity than I realized. Because of her willingness to share, I was drawn into a greater awareness of God’s faithfulness.
The woman at the well in John 4:7-26 had an encounter with Jesus and was deeply moved. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39, NIV). I am thankful that the Lord gave me a testimony to share and that He gave me the boldness to speak up for Him. Don’t be shy in sharing your personal story. Your words could be just as powerful in drawing others to Christ.