Danny Sullivan

           

HE REMBERED ME

Testimony of   Danny Sullivan

          I would like to give God glory in getting me to the place where I could finally stop working and rest in the finished work of Christ.  I don’t understand why things had to happen as they did and have only recently understood why it took so long. That being said, I never had an honest heart before God.  I never could see who or how bad I really was.  My mind set was that God was just not being fair; however, He loved me all the way and allowed me to see that I was my own worst enemy, and God was never at fault. 

          I have lived in Nettleton, Mississippi my entire life.   My mother raised me in a Baptist church, where we attended until there was a split caused by unfaithful members being brought in to vote against the pastor, forcing him to leave.  We left that church along with several other people and started a new church.  I was a young teenager at the time.  I grew up during hard times.  My dad was an alcoholic, which made things even worse.  I sat under preaching from the time I was a small boy, but I never heard the total “real” truth until the early nineties. 

          Even at a young age, I believed in God and was concerned for my soul my whole entire life.  My first decision for Christ was one Sunday night in 1968.  We always had a song of invitation after the message to give people an opportunity to make a decision for Christ or to join the church. I stood up after the invitation was over and told the church that I had just gotten saved.  Why I did that, I don’t know.  We were never taught about the ways of God and nothing really changed in my life at that time.      

          As I grew older, I knew something or should I say someone was missing in my life.  This caused me to start searching and I made several false professions.  In our church, we were taught you go down during invitation,  ask God to save you; just believe and you would be saved.  We never understood anything about the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing a lost man to Christ.  I never even knew that you had to experience lostness (realizing your condition as an unsaved or lost man) or brokenness over your sin against God.  There were just so many things we never heard.

          I thank God for not taking His hand off me during those years.  He continued to give me mercy and grace, even though I knew nothing about Him.  Thank God, He didn’t leave me to myself.  As best we knew, there were some good services, but for the most part, there were a lot of old traditions practiced every church service. In 1970, the members built a new church and named it Eureka Baptist Church.  I attended that same church until March of 2003.  I was the last one of the original members to leave.

          I married Julie Bishop in 1975, and we have one son, Scott.  God gave me a good family, a wife who stood with me and prayed for me during the difficult times, even though I wasn’t a good husband during those years.  I thought I was an ideal church member.  I never drank alcohol, never did drugs, never smoked, never ran around with the worldly crowd, taught Sunday School, was church treasurer, did devotionals, was an ordained deacon, went on visitation, and did just about anything that the other members would not do. However, I think that proved to work more against me than for me.  From the church’s standpoint, I was “it”.  At home, I was not always what I professed to be at church.  We went through a divorce in the early 1980’s. But even in that, God worked by allowing our son to recover from bronchial pneumonia, which brought us back together.  We were remarried in a little less than a year.

          In 1982, for the first time, if only in my head, God let me see that I was lost and that I didn’t know Him.  Several from our church were visiting another church during revival services.  The visiting evangelist was preaching on three kinds of church members, and I saw myself as the one who had everything - except Jesus.  During the invitation, I grabbed my pastor’s hand and asked him to go to the altar with me.  He wanted to know why we were going to the altar.  I told him that I was lost and wanted to get saved.  During all my other professions, I would tell the preacher my reason for being at the altar was because, “I guess that I am lost,” never really understanding real lostness.   My pastor told me that he could not save me, but would I trust him to tell me about Christ, the One who could.  He prayed for me, and then asked me to pray.  When I finished praying, he asked me if I got saved.  I really didn’t know or didn’t even know what to expect, so I told him that I needed to pray again.  I’m sure I thought that I’ll get it right this time.  During my prayer, it came to me what I had always heard all my life:  salvation is not a feeling, and God does not lie.  Doing everything I knew to do at the time, I concluded that I had just gotten saved. We stood up and told the church that I had, and I honestly thought that finally this was the real thing.  Everyone kept propping me up, and I was becoming more religious every day.  But, I can’t explain it, something inside me was still not right!

          I went with this experience until the early 90’s, when Bro. Jim Stafiej became pastor of our church.  He introduced us to new things from the Word and a lot of old traditions were torn down.  However, some of the members could not accept him or his new teachings and left.  Through his coming, we met several new preachers and members from other churches, who acted differently from the way our church was.  As I sat under the preaching and heard their testimonies, something began to really trouble me about the experience I had in 1982.  As time went on, I would catch myself going to the altar and asking God to show me if I truly was saved or still lost.  It was evident, they had something that I did not have.  I would go outside late at night and sit on the tailgate of my truck, knowing that I had an emptiness on the inside that I could not shake.  My wife would come out, and we would talk.  But, I just could not give in to say that I was still lost, after everything that I had done for the church. 

          In 1994, Bro. Ed Paschall was preaching a meeting at our church.  On Thursday, there was something going on inside me and I had stood it as long as I could.  I made up my mind that during the night service, I had to get honest with God, myself, and the church.  I stood up and told the church that I was lost.  After getting honest, a peace came over me and a burden lifted.  Little did I know, but that night began a fifteen year journey in my quest to find Jesus.  During those years, I sat under powerful preaching like I had never heard by great men of God:  Bro. Charles Shipman, Bro. Greg Moffitt, Bro. Tim Rutherford, Bro. Claude Mills, Bro. Terry Owen, Bro. Mike Williams, Bro. Charlie Garza, and many others. 

          My life became like a roller coaster – up one day and down the next.  God would show up during services, but pride and unbelief kept me from resting and trusting in Christ.  I made many trips to the altar but never got any real peace.  Bro. Terry told me one night that I was not broken over my sin.  Bro. Charles told me that I was trying to get saved and then believe.  I would listen to tapes, read pamphlets, read testimonies, but nothing seemed to work.  Discouragement would set in, but for some reason I never totally turned away from God.   I had made up my mind that I had to have something real and didn’t want another false profession.  I had no excuse, but God had to work repentance and faith in my life.  I just could not see who I had really become.  At times, I became contended just being lost, and at times people would prop me up telling me to get away from that Shipman crowd, repent to God, and go on with my life.  They would say there was no way I could be lost.  During these years, I made life miserable for my family, but they stood with me.  My wife kept praying and writing pages of promises for me to read, but I just could not stay serious. 

          Sometime around 2000, our church began to die.  People began to leave, one person or one family at a time.  I had been there so long and thought that I could not leave.  We were always told that God had something special for us and I didn’t want to walk out on God.  He was my only hope.  Finally, in March of 2003, God convinced me that I needed to leave the church. Here I was, a lost man, with no church or pastor.  I visited churches but I never found a place where I could settle in and call home.  God reminded me of a statement that Bro. Greg told me a few years earlier, “When you don’t know God is around, you must obey the man of God and believe what he says is from God.”  I never saw that before and didn’t realize that God would actually speak to people through the preacher.  Bro. Greg told me that I had to go where I could find God.

          A short time later, I began going to New Oak Grove (now Faith Baptist Church) in Myrtle, Mississippi, where Bro. Claude Mills is pastor.  I had visited there many times over the years.  I attended Sunday morning services most of the time and occasionally on Sunday and Wednesday nights.  I attended part-time for about six years. 

          The members there were so different now than they were in the nineties.  They were praising God, loving on each other, and even loving on me.  The preaching was powerful but with love, people had gotten saved, and others were now getting saved.  I felt like an outsider wanting to fit in, but I was so out of place.  I wanted to know the God they knew, but I could not find Him.  I even attended meetings from time to time but never really wanted to go all the way with God.  In my own mind, I was sacrificing a lot just to drive that far (about 60 miles one way).  I had a hard time accepting Bro. Claude as my pastor, because I did not understand that he loved me.  I had been hurt many times by preachers walking off and leaving us with no shepherd at Nettleton.  My life was in a mess.  I didn’t know what to expect, how to know when God was drawing me, or how to know when or if I should go to the altar. 

          Bro. Tim Rutherford preached a meeting that really helped me.  He preached from the Book of Ruth that week.  God moved on me and used Ruth 2:8-9, “Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:  Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? And when those are athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn.”  God told me that I was not to leave Faith Baptist Church, but to stay with Bro. Claude and remain under him as my pastor. 

          In November of 2008, after coming back from the mountains, God began a work in my life like never before.  My eyes were opened and I began seeing things in a different way.  I was so religious and thinking of myself as being better than other people.  I would watch them as they lived their lives and would say to myself that I don’t live like they do; thinking myself to be somebody when in reality I was actually a “nobody.”  One Wednesday night, Mrs. Becky Dye told me as she looked at me face-to-face, “They are who they are, not trying to hide their sin, but you are trying to cover up who you really are; passing judgment on them, not seeing that you are guilty, and even worse than they are.”  WOW!

          Bro. Paschall sent me a pamphlet about Paul counting the cost.  God began to show me that this is real stuff, and I am right in the middle of it.  Something began happening to me, and I could not stop it.  I began carrying a load that was weighing heavy on me.  As I read the pamphlet, God began letting me see that I never cared about anyone but myself and that I had done whatever I pleased, when I wanted and had never stopped to think about who would be affected or what would be the result of my decisions.   I never saw how much I was hurting God just by making promises and not being able to keep them.  I would do whatever I desired and would justify myself and my actions, finding a way to tell God that they were alright to do. 

I had a spell with my nerves and blood sugar, losing about fifteen pounds.  I could not sleep or eat and everything put me in a state of panic.      God began taking things and desires away from me.  He began changing my attitude towards Him.  Things I had been doing were no more important to me.  I was getting a hunger for God.  For the first time in a long time, I was becoming serious about God and His Word.  I didn’t understand what was going on, but it was good seeing something positive going on in my life.

          Work was slow and I spent hours reading the Bible.  God gave me twenty-two pages of scripture that I wrote down - promises from His Word that began giving me hope.  I shared some of them with my wife, and she was amazed at what was going on in my life. Her prayers along with others were beginning to be answered. 

          As a few weeks passed, my confidence in Faith Baptist Church and Bro. Claude was becoming stronger.  One Sunday night before church, I went to Bro. Claude and asked him what was wrong with me.  His answer was not exactly what I expected.  He told me that I was an indecisive person, trying to be on both sides of the fence. Basically, what he told me was that it was time to get in or get out.  It was decision time for me. 

          Up until then, I was only going to church on Sunday mornings, using the drive as an excuse, but just really not wanting to and being satisfied with my decision.  God got my attention through Bro. Claude’s answer to me.  I began going to church every service.  My nerves were getting better, and I was learning how to love God by loving on His people.  My desire to be around God’s people was overwhelming.  A love was coming out of me that I never had before.  The Word was becoming alive and being important to me.  I was becoming sick of who I was and determined to go for God - no matter what the cost.  I didn’t even know if I would ever get saved, but I decided that it would still be better to seek and serve God, regardless of the outcome. 

          Bro. Claude preached a message to let God do of His will and good pleasure.  In that message, he said that God would do what was needed to reach me.  He also said that we need to quit trying to figure out how God would choose to save us, and just let God work. He (God) didn’t need my help.

          Another Sunday morning, Bro. Claude preached from Joshua 24 on it’s time to chose who you are going to follow.  I sat in my seat, full of pride, and almost waited too late.  But, finally, I got up and went to the front of the church and stood signifying that I was making it public that I was choosing to follow God regardless of the cost. 

          I found myself doing things that I didn’t even know I was capable of doing.  I just started being obedient to whatever I felt God was asking me to do.  For example, the service before Camp Liberty in February of  2009 at Bro. Terry’s church, Bro. Claude preached on how to get prepared to get to Jesus’ feet.  The last thing he said was, “No bitterness could be in your  heart.”  I am not proud of this, but for twelve or so years I had carried a grudge against Bro. Terry for a simple thing that happened.  Something done out of immaturity and definitely not meaning to offend anyone.  This had kept me from being faithful in going to camp.  That Sunday night, on the way home from church, God told me to call Bro. Terry and make things right, and I did.  We talked and forgave one another and started all over.  God set me free, changed my heart toward Bro. Terry, and I went to camp and got help to continue on.  The problem was me and it kept me from God’s will being done in my life for all those years. 

          On Wednesday night at camp, Bro. Mike Williams preached that supper was ready and the poor, blind, and crippled were invited to come.  Seeing myself in that condition, I went to the altar, but I could not rest or believe that a place was prepared for me at the table.  When that did not work, I tried to be thankful.  That didn’t work either.  I couldn’t understand why others were getting saved and I couldn’t.  I went back to my seat and asked Bro. Claude what was wrong with me.  He told me that I had to stop working and rest in Christ’s finished work.  I went home from camp not getting saved but learning four important truths:  (1) I had to stop working; (2) How to serve others; (3) There was still room at God’s supper table; and (4) God said He would help and strengthen us. 

          The following week, Bro. Greg Moffitt came and preached a meeting for us.  His messages included (1) How we harden our hearts, (2) How to get out of the snare of the devil, (3) We must receive the love of the truth and, the sure mercy of God, (4) Who can have mercy.  He stirred up the sinners by reminding them of the goodness of God. 

          God used that week to draw me closer to Him. I wanted to know and be right with God more than anything the world had to offer.  I saw how I had hardened my heart each time I rejected what God said through the preaching.  I realized how Satan could trap me at his choosing and, by me not trusting Bro. Claude, it left me caught in his snare.  I also learned many other things:  How His Word had not always been important to me causing me to push it aside; how sure the mercy of God is and right in the middle of the passage, a lost boy cried out for God to remember him; how I had to be a guilty sinner to go before God; and how I had taken God’s goodness for granted.   Also, He let me see that when I prayed, I thought God should respond and give me deliverance never realizing that I was an enemy of God and His church, and I didn’t deserve for God to do anything for me.  I had to be willing to lose my life to have His.  I listened to the tapes over and over hoping to see something I had missed.  I asked God many times to let me see myself just as I was, but I just never could see myself as condemned and deserving hell.  I knew by the preaching that it was this way, but for some reason, it just never clicked in me. 

          The next Wednesday night, Bro. Claude preached that we must lay aside everything in our lives that doesn’t match up with God’s ways.  I went to the altar and tried to do that.  After the service, I asked Bro. Claude what I should do while he went to Bro. Reed’s funeral.  He told me to do nothing, but he gave me a book and said to read one page of scriptures about how salvation was provided.  I went home that night and read every one of them.  I didn’t mean to be, but I was working myself into a frenzy, trying to believe and figure everything out.  I had such a hunger for God.  I would go to sleep praying and wake up praying.  I just wanted the turmoil and struggle to come to an end. 

          God was showing me just who I really was.  Other people could see me, but I couldn’t see myself.  He showed me how prideful  I was, how self-righteous, how judgmental, how I wanted God on my terms, and how I was not even a good religious person.  All my props were knocked out and I had nothing left to stand on. 

          I laid down Thursday night with heavy fear in my heart.  I had read in the Book of Hebrews where some people did not enter into rest because of their unbelief.  My unbelief was overwhelming and fear of not getting saved was weighing heavy on me.  That heavy weight remained on me for a few weeks.  My wife had also told me that she had a dream on two occasions that I had passed away, but through everything I had dealt with over the years, God would be faithful to finish the work He started in my life bringing me to Him.

          As far as I knew, Friday morning of February 27, 2009 would be just an ordinary day, but God had different plans.  My wife was asleep in the den.  My son was asleep in his room.  I was expecting a phone call from my plumber concerning a job we were to go look at.  When I awoke, everything seemed normal.  I laid in bed in my “praying mode,” waiting for his call, which came about 7 o’clock.  After talking to him, I laid back down and prayed some more.  I do not have adequate words or a means of explaining everything that happened in those  next few minutes, but here is the rest of my story of God bringing deliverance to my soul. 

          As I was lying on the bed, I suddenly felt an urge to go into my closet.  Not knowing why or really even questioning why, I just got up and went into my closet.  I shut the door and fell on my face and began emptying myself of everything inside of me.  Tears were flowing and I remember asking God to let me feel my guilt and shame, and let me see just who I really was.  At this time, I still had no idea God was anywhere around, especially in my closet.  

          As I was on my face, God let me see Christ for the first time.  He was so real.  I saw myself crucifying Him, spitting on Him, walking all over His blood, mocking Him, hitting Him, laughing at Him, ramming the spear into His side that had the wrath that was reserved for me, and shoving the crown of thorns onto His head. 

          I still don’t know why things happened as they did, but I rolled over and sat on the floor and leaned back against a gun safe that was in the closet.  I decided that I would get up and go back to the bedroom. But as I sat on the floor, I realized that I was in the presence of God.  He was right in front of me.  He was so real, and I knew He was there as my judge.  I don’t know why, but I addressed Him as “Your Honor.”  The feeling that came over me was unexplainable.  I was empty, hopeless,  condemned, guilty, and so helpless.   It was as if I were a dead man, separated from God by my sin, and I knew I was condemned to hell.  At that moment, I felt it was over for me and sentence was pronounced over me.  I was getting exactly what I deserved.  I did not argue with God.  There was nothing I could say.  For the first time in my life, I was before God, a guilty, condemned sinner that deserved no mercy from God.  Then I told God two things:  “It is ok.  Hell is what I deserve, but I’m still going to keep going to church.”  I was so broken and miserable that I actually felt it was over for me.  I had crossed God’s deadline.  I began to call out to God, telling Him that I was sorry for who I was and for my sin and begging Him if there was any way, could I please have just one more chance to make things right.  I told Him, “It was me that put your Son on the cross.” 

          Then, all at once, God let me look back to my left where I had seen Christ a few minutes earlier.  Immediately, from the depths of my heart, three things came from my mouth:  (1) You did that for me, (2) You did that for me, and (3) You saved me.  Everything was happening so fast, but I had believed and rested in the truth that Jesus had died just for me.  I was still sitting on the floor and thanksgiving was erupting from my soul.  I could not sit still and while thanking God and praising Him, I started laughing at the same time.  Everything was so sweet and precious.  None of my other experiences were anything like this. 

          I got up to see what time it was.  I had been in the closet about an hour.  I decided to take a shower.  God had cleaned up the inside, and I wanted to clean up the outside.  My eyes were swollen, and I was very weak.  Still praising God and laughing, that was the best shower I ever had.

          When I got out, I went outside and began to re-live what just happened.  Nothing like this had ever happened to me before.  God began telling me that He invited me into the closet where He was waiting for me.  Had I not gone, I would have missed Him.  He let me see and experience everything that I had asked for.  He let me feel guilt and condemnation.  He also let me see that Jesus did everything He did just for me, and that He did not have to give me mercy. As Bro Greg had preached at our meeting from Psalms 106, verses 4 and 5:  “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.”  Then in verse 8, “Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.”  This had been my prayer, and when I asked God for one more chance, He saved me for His name’s sake.  He had everything set up, and I did not have to work at believing or trying to be thankful.  They were just there.  God gave me a joyful laugh and peace in my heart.  Just as the guilt and condemnation became real to me, they were gone just as fast. 

          Saturday morning when I awoke, something was different.  I did not go into my praying mode as before.  God let me know that I was at rest and the struggle was over.

          I had always wondered how it would be to experience real salvation, to meet Jesus in person, and not be talked into another counterfeit experience.  God remembered me and a scripture Bro. Claude gave me on Wednesday night said to me, Jesus became my substitute.  God gave me something real and when I ceased from my works, I found myself at the feet of Jesus with Jesus taking everything I was and giving me everything He is.

          The last time Bro. Greg preached to us at Nettleton, he said the church was dying and if God did not do something, it was over with. Now the building has been vandalized and is falling in.  I asked Bro. Greg what God meant when he told us that God had something special in mind for our church.  His answer to me was, “you” are what God had in mind from the beginning.  God chose to give you life, fulfilling the first promise ever given to me, that being from Habakkuk 2:3, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”  

Thanks to everyone who encouraged and stood with me on my journey.  Special thanks to my wife and son for their love, support, and being my friends.  Special thanks to God’s Ambassadors for being faithful to preach His Word.  Special thanks to Bro. Claude Mills for being my pastor and for telling me what I needed, especially that Christ is my substitute.  Special thanks to my family at Faith Baptist Church, who took me in as a stranger. Most of all, thank you, God, for saving my soul and giving me something real that I did not deserve.  Because of your grace, I am finally free.  Thank you, God!