By David Loomis
Scripture Reading (Ephesians 4:1-6) – 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
What a difference a year can make. A year ago, I was lying in bed waiting for 10:00 to come. Not to go to church, but for my parents to leave so that I couldn’t be dragged out of bed and made to go to church. I wasn’t tired or anything and I have never been a big fan of sleeping in, but I selfishly decided that church wasn’t worth my time. In addition to becoming disinterested in church, I didn’t view others equal to me. I would rarely ask others how they were doing or go out of my way to help anyone. Although I would’ve never considered myself selfish at the time for my age, I was more selfish than I thought because I was basically all about sports and getting through school. I can’t count how many Saturday KU basketball games that we went to and missed church because of that. I always believed in a God, but I never thought that you had to go out of your way and listen to what he had to say. I’ll try to keep it short but bear with me as the that I attend church at Hastings can last for over an hour and a half with a 45-minute sermon.
In my elementary years, I would go to church and would never listen to sermons. I would sit on the right side of the church and either read books or do word searches for most of worship, including during prayer. I would feel forced to go down for time with children even though I didn’t really feel a need for it. I would go downstairs for Sunday School and would learn things from the scripture via crafts or figurines describing parts of the bible. Even though I heard all of this, I never considered that God would want to teach anything to me. Whenever my mom offered to read things out of the bible, I would either decline because I thought that it was boring or give in and practically fall asleep as my mom seemed to drone on with the message.
In middle school, I continued to walk down a similar path. I was confirmed into the church during my sixth-grade year, although I can’t say that I remember a thing from that class, not even that Pastor Steve was leading the class. To my memory, I only remember being at one class and receiving my confirmation. This has troubled me a little bit because in addition to not remembering learning anything from confirmation, I never went to youth group, which to this day, is my biggest regret. I think about how I could’ve grown with Christ then. Would he have spoken to me then? If I had even given youth group a bit consideration, I’m sure that he would have spoken.
Through middle school and into high school, our class was so dominant in sports, specifically basketball, that all we really thought about was the thought of winning a state championship. I played tennis as well, but never fell in love with it the way that I did with basketball. If I were to rate my priorities in life at that point, family, school, and sports would be way up at the top and faith would hardly have any consideration. Like many people seem to be in high school, if athletics weren’t going well, life wasn’t going well. During basketball seasons, I was at church even less because I thought that I needed rest from the practices and grind of the season. I was under the assumption that I was given a free pass from church. I battled through many injuries in high school and I never once asked for God’s grace, though I didn’t deserve it. For some reason though, he blessed me with being healthy through my senior year. Although we didn’t have the dreamy and smooth season that we were hoping for in basketball, we still somewhat achieved our dream by finishing second at state. Keep this in mind as I’ll get back to it later in my testimony.
Backtracking to the start of my senior year, I started visiting colleges. In addition to that, my dad had convinced me to play college tennis as well. I visited six schools from Kansas and I assumed that I was going to pick from one of those. At the end of those visits, my dad asked me to look at Hastings College, a school in Nebraska about four hours away where a couple of college tennis coaches had recommended me to look at. I decided to visit half-heartedly, mostly just so that my dad would stop talking about it. After my tour and talk with admissions, I had to admit, this was the best visit that I had had, so I decided to put them in the top four. On my second visit, I stayed with a sophomore and visited with a senior (now our head coach), who were also on the tennis team. I don’t know where I would be if I had met with anyone else because that night, they took me to an FCA, or Fellowship for Christian Athletes, bible study. While I can’t remember anything that was read, I remember how amazed I was the way that they were analyzing the bible and asking all of these questions about how to live their lives. At that point I was pretty sure that I was going to Hastings, as the academic side was also much better than other colleges in my opinion. This was the first time, although unknown at the time, that God was calling me.
I went back to visit Hastings again in late December to meet with the head tennis coach. On the visit, it was below zero, snowing, and very icy. After talking for about 45 minutes, we played on probably the crappiest indoor courts I had ever played on. Hastings had to drive twenty minutes just to host an indoor match because the courts were not safe. Thankfully, they re-did them before I went there for freshman year. I was struck by how encouraging the coach was and seemed to care about each player just as much. Even though it wasn’t a given that I would come, he was the only coach that offered advice on how to improve my game.
Fast-forward to freshman year, I met my roommate, a tennis player from Minnesota who is obsessed with hockey. It definitely helped that he was also a Christian and had seem to have had the same type of visit that I had. At the sign-up fair for clubs, we both signed up for FCA and Cru, or Campus Crusade for Christ, which I was advised by multiple people to join because of the continuity and similarities. I started going to bible studies and FCA and Cru nights. Without having much more than a thought of just trying to make friends, I was spending anywhere from 3-5 nights a week with the Lord. I listened to many of my friends give their testimonies and I came to realize how everyone has their own unique story and how they came to know Christ. As you heard recently from Don Peters and his story of getting though his illness, imagine being in a room of about 10 people who all are sharing their testimony. Some were Christians from the start, but most had to get through obstacles to get to Christ, including pornography, drunkenness, and selfish ambitions.
That started to rub off on me a little bit as I went to a Weekend of Champions, an FCA event in Grand Island, as it was described to me as a life-changing experience and they were right. As I was in college, me and a college student from Nebraska helped lead a small group of high school kids for a weekend. We heard from multiple speakers, sang songs, and played games. What I most got out of it was the small group conversations. I grew so much in my faith by hearing other people’s stories. The message of a testimony is so powerful, and it is one of the best ways to get closer to the Lord. You get to realize how powerful he is and realize that everything has a reason for happening.
Our head tennis coach, who is possibly the strongest believer that I have come to know, hosted a bible study once a week and talked almost nonstop for two hours from 9-11 at night and took each verse and talked about pretty much every word in the verse. This drove my roommate and I to the point where we would rant for up to half an hour about how long it was. I have two memories that greatly stand out. The first is when our coach told us that our priorities must be as follows: God, then family and friends. I went back to my dorm that night thinking that he was absolutely crazy. However, a couple of months later, he was more correct than I could’ve ever imagined. My second main memory is at one point, we were reading Colossians 1:15-20. In this part of the bible, Paul talks about the Supremacy of Christ and who Christ is. We didn’t get through the first verse. Not even a sentence. We spent two hours looking at 4 powerful words which were ‘He is the image.’ Our coach went back and forth through different books of the bible and explained what it meant to the extreme detail.
During the end of the first semester, I started to hear about Cru Winter conference. There are seven conferences each year and we were set to attend one in Colorado. My friends told me that it was the best five days of each year. Naturally my response was, have you forgotten about March Madness? After a month of persuasion, as it meant sacrificing some of my winter break, I decided to go, and this was when my life truly started to change because I started hearing God talk to me. There were about 800 students and insightful speakers. These speakers caused so many questions, including when they asked us to give something up in our lives to give to Christ. We had many great conversations amongst our groups and got closer to God by talking about our feelings and ways to improve our spiritual lives.
I was called to go to the Weekend of Champions and Cru Winter Conference, but the next calling was very convicting. At Cru Winter Conference they talk a lot about the impact of mission trips, but make for sure that you are called, not just going to these places out of selfish ambition and the enjoyment of the vacationing. After they talked about it, we went into a separate room and talked to people that were in charge of the trips and signed up if we were interested. My thought process at this time was simple. I was not interested in a mission trip and did not want to go on one. My plan was to go in the room for two minutes and get out. I asked a few of my friends if they were going on mission trips and they were all open, if not committed to doing so. They said that even if I wasn’t interested, I should at least talk to a couple of people in to find out what the trips were like. I then talked to a few people in charge of the trips, then left after about 10 minutes.
Over the next couple of months, I was still pretty closed to the idea of a mission trip. However, as I began to give my life to Christ, he would never stop telling me to go on a mission trip. The reason God said to go, was not just to help others, but to learn how to help others. An important tip that helped me a lot was hearing these words over and over, ‘you gain your salvation through faith, not by works.’ In other words, if you are trying to please people for yourself to look better, you’re wasting your time. If you do everything because of God, then you will be rewarded with eternal life. God called on me to gain information from the trip and to come back to the Pratt area and get to know people on a more spiritual basis.
While I heard this, I also heard some impactful messages. The first is from a speaker that came during second semester and shared this message from Luke 9:57-62 titled ‘The cost from following Jesus.’ In this, it describes a man who has just lost his father and has told the Lord that he will do what God tells him to do. God tells him to follow him. The man told him he would after he buried his father. God again said to follow him and proclaim the kingdom of God, and again the man said that we would follow him after he buried his father. God then ends the conversation by telling the man that ‘no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ This convicted me so much thinking about my life, specifically the things that I idolize. From that moment on I started pinpointing things in my life. I heard God telling me things to rid myself of. One of the reasons for sending me on the mission trip was that it was at the same time as the NBA Finals. God wanted to see if I was willing to serve him and miss something that I truly loved.
The other important message that I heard was from Philippians 2:3-4. It says, ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ This was important to me because I thought about how others need help. This was when I truly realized how selfish I was and that I needed to make an immediate change. I started talking more to others and opening up more. I began to do things for others with joy that I wouldn’t have done in the past.
These two messages played a big role in deciding to go on the mission trip as it was apparent that God was calling me to go. As he had also told me to come back to Pratt and share my faith here, I decided to go on a 10-day mission trip to San Diego with 25 other students who I didn’t know. On the mission trip, we received a lot of training on how to talk with people about their views. The biggest thing is to be polite and always ask for time, not just forcing them to talk or listen. You want them to talk more than you especially in San Diego, where only about 16 percent of them go to any church. We went over the book of Philippians and had small group discussions. I want to encourage you all to have about a 30-minute period each day to have your own time with the Lord. In addition to praying, you should either read the bible or just think about what the Lord is convicting you to do.
We spent two days on the campus of University of San Diego, talking to students about their faith. With many of the students being foreign, it was interesting hearing their views on their spiritual thoughts, especially when a group of two people had completely opposite views. We walked along the beach and tried to engage in conversations, although we didn’t have as many conversations as most didn’t want to be bothered at the beach. On the last two full days, we visited the Encanto Southern Baptist Church, which is primarily African-American. We talked to a few people around the neighborhood, as well as toured the homeless area. Unfortunately, the homeless had been struggling with severe illnesses so we weren’t actually able to talk with them. We went to Church the next day and it was fascinating how short the songs were. As I expected, the service was much louder with the more than occasional ‘amen’ or ‘preach it’ chants.
It wasn’t a message from God, but a moment that happened for a reason was when the player that I stayed with on my second visit to Hastings, won the tennis match that sent us to Nationals. He said after the match that while that moment of triumph was awesome, it was an even greater feeling know that the feeling of meeting God after we die will be so much greater. It was then that I realized that whatever the prize that we were fighting for in
high school wasn’t really worth it. I was living that championship feeling then and felt like my high school goals were so small, selfish, and foolish. I knew at that moment that God put me on the tennis team for a reason and it was then that I knew that no matter many championships we won, my greatest purpose with tennis had already been fulfilled. I’ve never liked tennis much, certainly not as much as basketball, but I’ve grown so much in my faith that has made it all worth it.
My latest calling was to come speak at the church which I have done today. I was first called by God with about two months left with school. Then, about a month ago, God sent members of our church and asked me to give a message. I started thinking of all that I had learned and what message would be most powerful. To me, the power of personal testimonies and callings are hard to be beat. As far as Christians, everyone is called in Gods’ own unique way. I’ve talked to some people and they say that they’ve never heard God speak to them. Even if he hasn’t spoken you should still follow everything that the bible says. If you have soft hearts and are open to what the Lord has to say, he will speak with you, whether it’s through scripture, prayer, song, etc.
Realize this, in life we have one main job and multiple other jobs. Our main job as Christians that will never change, is to serve others and take interest in their views. We should question them about their spiritual views because even if we don’t persuade them to be Christians, we’re doing our job. Spirituality is not talked about enough in this world in my opinion. Our job is to initiate the conversation and to try to move their needle from a negative 10 to a negative 9. That is our main job. Everything else, like working as a CEO at a bank or working the drive-in at McDonalds, that is a whole different job that is entirely less important. That is, if life is about giving your life to Christ and following his word.