2nd April 2023

Bonnie Conwell Testimony

Passage: 1 John 1:9, Lamentations 3:22-23
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Well, good morning, everybody. Thank you for coming to share this day with me. I'm really excited to get to share my story of what God's been doing in my life, and to have you all here to share that with me. So, thank you for being here. In advance, I may cry - I'm about to already. So, my apologies for that. But this isn't a sob story. It's also not just a 'happy life is good' story. This is not a good start. But it's a story of God's faithfulness in my life, despite all of my unfaithfulness to Him. And it's my story of His work in my life. So, thank you for being here to share that with me.

I can't think of a time in my life when I didn't believe in the existence of God, and in His goodness. Thank you, Hannah. She gave me a supply. I can't think of a time in my life when I didn't believe in the existence of God and His goodness, the Gospel, the work that He's done for my salvation and the salvation of the world. My really wonderful, loving Christian parents raised me with a really constant and deep focus on God, the Gospel, and living in a way that honours Him. I was homeschooled, as a lot of you know. And a big reason why we chose to do that was because my parents wanted to have really constant input into my life and my sister's lives. And I'm really grateful for the intentionality that they had in choosing to raise me in a way that they believed would be helpful in my walk with the Lord.

So, even though I believed and understood the Gospel, technically speaking, as head knowledge for most of my life, and I asked Jesus into my heart a lot of times throughout my childhood, I don't believe that I had saving faith until maybe my mid-teens. I watched my sisters become Christians and get baptised, and the rest of my family grow in faith, and I just felt really scared that I would get left behind, because try as I might and pray as I might, I just couldn't find God. And I thought it must be my sin holding me back from feeling saved. Even though I had asked Him to come live my life so many times, I just didn't have the feeling that I thought should go with it. And I think this is because, I don't know why I thought this, but I just thought that when you became a Christian, you'd just stop sinning and become this great, really nice, perfect person, and that didn't happen, which is weird.

So, I was really discouraged by that, and I think that led to a lot of confusion and doubt in wondering why I didn't feel the way I expected to feel. I was constantly trying. I really hated my sin and really desperately hated myself as well, particularly in my pre-teen and early teen years. I really despised myself a lot, particularly the way that I treated my family or my own thoughts and actions. And all those things really contributed to my feeling of, well, clearly God isn't in my life because I wouldn't be behaving this way otherwise.

I was really frustrated and helpless and hopeless, and I was really despairing a lot and crying out to God and just feeling like I wasn't getting the answer that I was looking for. This is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit working in my life and in people's lives because this all led to a lot of doubt in God's existence, and I think there were a lot of times where I went, well, maybe He's not real because He doesn't seem to be working, so maybe it's just all nothing. But the Holy Spirit was working in my life and drawing me because I continued to have a really strong desire, and I think that's why I was so desperate and so sad, was because I really desperately desired to be saved. It just didn't look like quite what I expected it to.

I don't have a lightning bolt moment when I was saved. I can't pin a day or a time. I think I probably had been for a while, considering how deep my desire was and the fact that I did understand the Gospel. There were just some parts that maybe I needed some deeper understanding in before I could have that full assurance of salvation. But I think in my mid-teens I understood as heart knowledge that there was nothing that I could do to be saved, that it was only God's work done on my behalf, that it was Jesus' death and resurrection that were all sufficient for me to be seen as righteous by God, and that my justly deserved punishment for rejecting the King, the creator God of the universe, and putting myself on the throne of my life, that that punishment was taken by God Himself so that He can be a just God and still a merciful God.

Our church had been growing some issues over a year or so. But things got really messy towards the end of 2019 and at the start of 2020 we had a really massive and quite traumatic church split. I experienced hurt that I never have before for myself and for my family and for precious friends. I didn't understand how people who were children of and servants of God could be so cruel to one another. And I really struggled to trust God's faithfulness. And this contributed to more feelings of doubt and wondering if these are the people who are serving God, what is the God that we're serving like? It was more physically kind of traumatic, and I use that word lightly, than I would have expected. I couldn't go to church without shaking, so for about a year, I would sit in church shaking. And I couldn't sing either, because I couldn't sing without crying. And I couldn't get any words out.

So for a year, I stood in church during the songs, I didn't sing. And if you know me at all, you know that's quite a big deal, because I love to sing. And God's given me a love for that and a love for praising Him through song. So that was a really hard year. And another testament to the healing and the beautiful work that God has done in my life, because I can sing again now. And I still sometimes cry when I'm singing. I was crying just before, but they're happy tears, so that's nice.

I got more involved with Evangelical Students throughout my time at uni, and I was really blessed to have godly teaching and training and community that was somewhere other than the painfulness of my church. And I also had some really big 'aha' lightbulb moments during my time there as well, particularly doing walk-up evangelism with Steph, who's here somewhere, who was a really wonderful mentor for me. And I remember she explained sin to someone as not just the bad things we do but a rejection of God himself as well as the ways that he's asked us to walk in. And that was quite – yeah, it was a lightbulb moment going, 'Ah, yeah, I understood that in terms of the Gospel, but that makes a lot of sense, understanding that it's a rejection of God as King.'

Yeah, so all those things God has used, particularly ES, my family, and wonderful Christian friends to encourage me and keep growing me in my faith and understanding of the Gospel and the desire that He has filled me with to seek Him and to draw my broken, confused, stubborn, prideful heart to Himself. I can never fathom the magnitude of His never-ending faithfulness to me, despite my constant and natural human rebellion and rejection of Him. He's actively taking me through hard times that have forced me to acknowledge my own weakness and my lack of ability to do anything to save myself and to cling only to Him because He will hold me fast.

The fact that the creator God of the universe came humbly with a heart that is gentle and lowly, seeking and loving me, not for anything I've done, but because He is love. Sin is a part of this earthly brokenness, but it points to the beauty of when all will be made right. Sanctification is a process. Salvation does not equal perfection, but God can and does see me as righteous through what God has done for me. And I'm learning to have graciousness for God's people in their sanctifying journeys too.

God has very faithfully healed a lot of my pain from my hard church things, although the ramifications are ongoing for me and for my family. But He is good and He is faithful, and those healings will continue to be worked by Him. The Gospel, the good news of Jesus winning a way back to God for us through His death and resurrection, isn't just a nice fairy tale or a comforting crutch for this life, it's truth. And it's a life decision that I've made to follow Him, the full assurance of eternity, secure in the love, justice and mercy of Jesus.

So as I said when I started, this is my story, but more than that, it's a story of how I've seen God's faithfulness in my life, deep and enduring through all times. 1 John 1:9, 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' And Lamentations 3:22-23, 'The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.'

Thank you.

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