The Personal Testimony of Hayden Harding 

            Most testimonies start out by saying I grew up in the traditional Baptist church. Well, I did not. I was born and raised at Grace Baptist Church in Pontotoc, MS where true repentance, faith and salvation was preached.  As a child I can remember particular times in my life when I knew God was there, but I also could tell when He was not.

            God first touched me when I was about 14 years old at a youth retreat at Lighthouse Baptist Church.  Bro. Scott Smith was preaching to us about how God had given us a birth right and that we could either cherish it or we could do nothing with it and it would be given to someone else. He used an illustration by having two glasses of Kool-Aid saying we were the glasses and God was the pitcher. He poured some in each glass saying this is what God has given you and if you don’t thank him he will take it from you and give it to someone else. He then took one glass and poured it into the other, leaving one empty.  No one really did anything, so Bro. Scott finished what he had to say and sat down.

            Our youth director Caleb Owen then stood up and said that God had given us so many things to be thankful for. He took the pitcher and began to pour it in the glass and he did not stop until it was overflowing. He said that God had been so good to us and we were not even being thankful, so he began to list the things God had done for us. Josiah Dicks was the first to break and thank God, and after that everyone began to cry out, thanking God, realizing how good He had been to us. That night I could not keep from shaking and God really showed me how blessed I truly was.

            God continued to touch me over the next few years. When I turned 15 I was allowed to stay in the boy’s dorm at camp, which meant I went to young men’s prayer meeting. Caleb always talked about how he did not want to leave the church after his first prayer meeting, and after that night I knew what he meant. Caleb had each one of us pray, and when it got to me God once again showed me how good He was in my life and He reminded me of how He had tied me up to the fence post while I was kicking. Throughout those years God would touch me and I would get stirred up to go after Him, but it would always die down in the next week or so.

            As high school started, sports became my LIFE. I was in love with football. I spent all my time going to workouts, attending practice, watching film, and constantly thinking about the game. Halfway through a sermon I would catch myself rehearsing a play or planning a game in my mind. Like I said, football was my life. But during the summer before my junior year I was diagnosed with FSHD, which is a form of muscular dystrophy. Basically, all I heard was that I could not play football anymore. The day I found out I cried all the way home from Jackson. I now know now that this was God trying to eliminate my major distraction in life.

             I tried to act like I was not scared and that everything would be fine, but inside I was terrified. I wondered how long I would live, would I ever be loved by anyone, and would I have to be in a wheelchair soon. One night on the way home from prayer meeting I basically told my dad where I was and asked for him to pray for me. We both busted and cried for at least twenty minutes. After I talked to him I felt like somewhat of a burden had been lifted from me.   I did not have to hide what I was feeling any more.

                   About two weeks went by and I seemed to be getting a little more out of the preaching until I fell into my old ways again. Junior year came around and I decided that I was going to play baseball. Brother Terry told me that sports were fine if you could play them and go after God. Well of course me and my prideful self was sure that I could do both. We all know that was a lie. Throughout the course of the season I did not get one thing from the preaching. I was thinking about baseball just like I did football. Towards the end of April I told Bro. Terry I needed talked to him but was not sure about what. I told him I was seeing how a part of me wanted the things of this world, but the other part knew how wrong it was. He told me that I probably did not think that would be me but I was a sinner who would walk according to the course of this world if God did not stop me. He gave me the verse in Hebrews 11: 24-26:

“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to b e called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of god, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the reassures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”

 

He told me you will have to choose and do not look back. He then went on to ask me why I played baseball. I basically got honest and told him I wanted the friendship of the world. He told me that that was the totally wrong reason to play sports and that would trap me in the world. At the end of the conversation he told me that what I really needed was God to be my friend. It was not till about a month later when I asked Bro. Terry if I should quit or not. It was as if I was at a crossroad and if I chose baseball it was death and if I chose to quit I would find life. So I quit.

            Things began to pick up and I began to understand and listen better, but there were still distractions. Before the June camp meeting, Caleb told us that listening was the most important thing to do. Going into camp it almost felt liked I had to get something or it was going to be the end of the line. On Saturday night, we had men’s meeting and Bro. Mike Williams preached Psalms 119,  “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?”  This sermon basically prepared me and told me to hold on to the words preached and to meditate on what was being said.

            On Sunday morning, Bro. Terry preached about how God was a Faithfull God and He would do what He promised, and on Sunday night my uncle Greg Moffitt basically told us that God was going to save someone this week and that, “ Praise waited on God.”  I talked to Bro. Terry that night and he asked me if I believed I could be saved that week. I did believe that God was able to save me, but I did not feel like I had gone through enough for Him to save me. Bro. Terry gave me the illustration of a light switch and said God can show a man he is lost and save him in the same sermon. I guess that it blew my mind that God could show me who I was and change it all in one week, but somehow I believed that it could happen.

             The next night, Bro. Claude preached that God would come through the saints. I thought that meant that all the saved would start praising God and I would just join in with them and BOOM, I would be saved! Well that’s not what happened. Like all the other times, I was still being distracted. That night around midnight I texted Stephen “Bud” Tutor and asked him some questions about how to keep from being distracted by certain things. The text he sent me back made so much sense and gave me so much direction, I bet I read it seven times just trying to make sure I understood it all.

            That next night, Bro. Mike Williams preached on the love of God and how He died for our sins. I tried to think of every sin I had to stir me up and become sorrowful and broken, but nothing was working. At the very end of the sermon he walked up and it felt like he pointed right at me and said, “You can’t even be stirred up by this.  You are just a cold hearted sinner who has never loved God.”  And at that moment I realized that all the times that I had served as a child and worked with my dad and church, it was all works and it would never suffice for who I really was. I felt that a jackhammer could only maybe crack my heart, but never break it, because I had never loved God’s ways. I broke down and began to shake and could not stop. Bro. Terry closed the service and began to talk to some of the other lost in our church. I heard him tell one that we will just have to wait until tomorrow and see what God says. Everything inside of me cried, pleading, “Oh God, please don’t make me wait until tomorrow. By the time Bro. Terry got to me it seemed as if it had been forever. He sat down beside me and asked me, “What’s going on?” I began to tell him how God had showed me who I was and that none of the things that I had done as a child to please him would suffice for my sins. He then asked me if I believed that God could save me, and I said, “Yes.”  So he told me, “Well I guess you should try thanking Him for loving you.”  So I tried, crying, “Thank you for loving me,” and I could tell it was all words. So he told me,  “Well you are just going to have to believe that he loves you.”  Inside I did not have a clue how to believe and I cried out,  “I am sorry I can’t believe,” and all the sudden the words “Thank you,” appeared in my mind. I brushed it aside to try to figure out what had just happened. All of the shaking stopped and it was like I was talking to Bro. Terry as if it was just a normal conversation, when five seconds before I could barely speak. We discussed what had happened and he told me that I would just have to think about it. So I went back to the dorm and Caleb texted me and asked me if I was still awake and I replied,  “Yes, just thinking.”  He told me that I should just go to sleep, that I would need some rest. That night I had the best sleep I had ever had in my life.  It was like I never went to sleep.

            The next morning when I read the morning coffee I came across this paragraph. At the King’s table you will find the King’s family gathered and sitting, enjoying all the blessings of their heavenly Father. There is no eating alone at this table, no more meals by myself in quiet, trying to find a small morsel to feed my hungry soul. I have found the table of God.  Something inside me agreed with what I had just read and I was thinking, “That is what happened to me.”  That morning, as we began to sing the song “Haven’t You Been Good,” there is a line in the song were it says, “Thank you Lord for Saving Me.” When I said that, it was like I could say it with confidence and appreciation, and it was not just words like all the times before. God has been faithful and fulfilled all of his promises.