Hi, my name is Ronald and before I begin I want to make clear from the start that this story isn’t about me, it’s about God – God, who created and holds the entire universe in His palm, God who sent his son Jesus to die for my sins on the cross, God, who I stand before you to declare today, is the King of my life. So if there’s anything you take away from the next few minutes, please let it be about God, not about me.
As God would have it, I was born into and grew up in a family where my parents brought my brother and I to church. Thank you Mum and Dad for always modelling the Christian walk to Kelvin and I. Sunday school was a staple to our Sunday mornings, the names and stories of Noah, Moses, David and Goliath were as familiar as our friends’ names, my best friends were at church and the now seemingly embarrassing moments of ‘Sunday School performances’ in front of the entire church were many. I loved church.
This continued throughout high school – I lived in a fairly sheltered and protected world, unrocked by any real life events. Looking back now, I have to say I think I was a pretty good kid – I listened and obeyed my parents, never really fought with my brother, I studied hard, did all the extra curricular activities one is meant to do, tried my hardest to make my family proud, I was a good son and God loves good kids, right?
I laughed and smiled my way through high school, forming many friendships with those around me. I was that ‘nice happy guy’ – in Year 12, my best friend jokingly made it his aim to make me ‘lose it and snap’ cause no one had ever really seen me angry. That was the kind of ‘good’ person I was. And God loves good people, right?
I kept going to church, answering questions in bible study, even brought friends to RICE, prayed when everyone else was awkwardly silent … I was a good Christian and God definitely loves good Christians, right?
It wasn’t until the first few years of university that God decided to shake things up. There I was studying medicine, making tonnes of new friends, enjoying uni life and freedom, being the slightly crazy ball of sunshine in everyone’s life – and that’s when God decided to turn it upside down. Why then? I can only guess that it was then that I finally thought I was good enough. People had told me, I told myself, I looked at what I had achieved and said ‘yes I am good enough.’ It’s what I had always worked for, whether knowingly or unknowingly, it is what I had ultimately wanted – to simply be good enough, good enough to deserve the sacrifices your parents made, good enough for your friends to continue enjoy being your friend, good enough to earn the favour of God in heaven, good enough for Jesus to be willing to die for me on the cross.
But through God’s will, things fell apart and crumbled before me. For the past six years, I’ve struggled with knowing what on earth I’m doing in medicine, and run away overseas in an attempt to find out. I’ve hurt and crushed the friends closest to me, yet at the same time, lied and done everything I could just to maintain the perfect façade. I’ve fought and contemplated dark thoughts as I’ve hated myself, hated myself for not being what I wanted to be– things I thought were intrinsically me – the joyful one the happy one, the one who is always smiling, the good one – I realized simply weren’t me.
And that is what chewed me up on the inside. The undeniable truth that despite my best efforts, I wasn’t good enough – I just wasn’t good enough – why would Jesus die for me? Why would he care enough for me to leave his throne in heaven? Why would he willingly and lovingly take his place on a cross and die for me? Me, someone who would rather die themselves …
In Matthew 11:28-29 it says ‘ Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
And in 1 Peter 3:18 ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.’
I can’t explain to you what it means to me to read these verses. To experience the God of everything reaching down and saying ‘Let go of these burdens, give them to me, I will carry you through this life. What it means to me to realise Jesus loves me in all my brokenness and sinfulness that I’ve brought upon myself, to understand there is nothing more I can or need to do for Jesus to willingly die for me, to accept that as he was nailed to the cross, he said to me ‘I’m not dying because you are good enough, I’m dying because you aren’t. Stop trying and take what I’m offering to you – the chance to have all those sins washed away.’ What it means to me to comprehend that as Jesus rose from the dead, he secured for me hope, hope in a life with God.
And now, what it means to me to experience joy based not on myself, who I am, what I do, but based on the reality that now I have all I’ve ever needed in my relationship with God.
I guess I can’t explain to you, but I hope in my life, I will be able to show you what it means.
So why now? Why am I getting baptised? I guess through the laziness, reluctance and really ‘not seeing the point of it’, my two reasons now are simple – surrender and obedience. These two words aren’t used very often nowadays, you might think I’m weak, I’m stupid, I’m not doing my own thing, not following my dreams, not being the boss of my own life and yes you are right. But here’s my challenge and question to you: if you knew from your own past experience that, in the end, you’ve always screwed up, made a mess of what you’ve done, wouldn’t you take up God’s offer? Wouldn’t you jump at the chance to have God, God who is in control of all and loves you, leading you in this life? I know I would, and I have, and baptism is just one more way of me saying that my life belongs to God, I have surrendered it to Him in obedience.
To finish up, I just want to say a few things to a few people.
To my friends here today thank you for coming even though for some of you a church isn’t where your ideal Sunday morning is spent. I’m sorry that I never had the courage to share all of this with you … there are a million excuses, but in the end, it boils down to me not loving you enough to care about how you will spend eternity. So after today, even if it is just to tell me ‘You’re crazier than I thought’, tell me that and we can talk.
To the BLAZE kids – at the start of my third year of uni when I felt like what I needed most was to shut out the world and focus on myself, God graciously brought me to you. There are few things I can honestly say have changed my life but being part of BLAZE has. Each one of you – from the munchkins in junior high to those of you in uni now, and my fellow leaders who mentored and watched me grow, mean the world to me. You’ve shown me that my life is most fulfilled when I am serving God. To see each one of you grow and struggle, to walk and pray with you, to teach and to learn from you, to encourage and to be blessed by you, to love and be loved by you, has been my joy and great privilege
And lastly, before this descends into an acceptance speech, just one last thank you. Dear God, thank you. There’s nothing I can do, say or give you to repay you for what you have done and will do for me. The best I can do is simply give you my life and all that is in it to be used for your glory.