John Flavel has long been one of my favorite Puritan authors and his masterpiece on God’s providence is one of the first of his books I read. Providence is a very important concept in scripture as it describes how God works all things after the counsel of will and knows how each detail of His creation works together for the blessings of His children. In other words, providence comprehends more than the predestination of God’s people to salvation. It considers His total control of all His creatures to bring about His sovereign purposes. Among its many properties is the confirmation that all things consist by the power of God and that no creature is self-sustaining.
In chapter 3 of Flavel’s book, he deals with God’s providence in salvation. Flavel seems enraptured as he expounds on the way God orders all the occasions that bring His people to belief in Him. There are no accidents in our conversion. Each step is carefully planned by God. Of all the good God does for us, nothing compares to His meticulous care to bring us to salvation.
The point of this chapter is the gratitude and the testimony of a Christian because of what Christ has done. And yet Flavel points out that all testimonies are not equal. All experiences of conversion are not the same. Every Christian does not tell the same story or give as much detail in relating what happened in their lives at the time God saved them.
This interested me because I have experienced exactly what Flavel describes. I was saved when I was very young. My father was a Baptist preacher and I grew up in a Christian home. The first place I was taken as a child was to church. My name appeared on the cradle roll of South Broadway Baptist Church when I was just a few days old. There has never been I time when I have not been in church, and at the age of seven I trusted Christ as Saviour. Believe me, that was a long time ago.
If you ask me to provide the details of my conversion, to tell you the sermon, the songs, to relate what happened afterwards, to tell you how I felt—I cannot. I do remember the conviction, but that is all. Because I can’t remember the details, does it mean I am not saved? Surprisingly, I have heard preachers say if you don’t know the day, the hour, and the minute you trusted Christ, then you aren’t really saved.
Your experience of coming to Christ may be different. I have heard many testimonies of people who were in deep sin when they were saved. Some were in drugs, alcohol, adultery, pornography—and each has a very clear recollection of the day God brought them out of those horrible lives of sin. And there lies the difference. I was young and had very little life experiences. I needed salvation as much as anyone, but I don’t have that riveting, interesting, enthralling story that causes people to shout, Praise God! I don’t believe anyone ever said ooh and ah at my testimony.
Here is the point. An exciting testimony is no more proof a person is saved than a dull, vague, boring memory of a child who came to know Christ. In fact, you should pray to God every day that your children end up with a boring story of conversion rather than a spectacular turnaround. When a child is saved, it is the most exciting salvation of all.
Pastor V. Mark Smith