My Personal Testimony
Scripture Text: Psalms 119:71-"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes."
I was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on October 12, 1921, and grew up in the steel mill town of Donora, located about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. Fortunately, I had a Christian mother who sought to bring up her two children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4) And it was not unusual for my mother, my sister, and me, along with the minister of the church, and his wife; to be the only ones who would attend the mid-week prayer meeting on a bone-piercing, cold winter night.
While I was yet young in years, my father was led to the Lord as a result of consistent witnessing by a fellow steelworker. This brought about a noticeable change in our home, and even though I was but a child, the added spiritual fervor made a deep impression upon me. The daily prayers and Bible reading became a way of life in our home, though it often interfered with childhood plans for pleasure.
At about 12 years of age, my conscience began to make me aware of the increasing sin in my life, and I had the desire to be "saved" like Mom and Dad. But, as in the case of most young people, I fell prey to the pleasures of the world, and began to count the social cost of living for the Lord Jesus Christ. I was so fearful of what my schoolmates would say if I got "saved". (Proverbs 29:25; Luke 12:4,5)
It was also at about this time that my parents, in addition to attending the denominational church on Sunday morning, began to visit a little "Gospel Hall" in Donora, where the Christians gathered simply unto the Name and Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 18:20) My sister and I began to attend the afternoon Sunday School there, as well as the Gospel Meetings every Sunday evening. Needless to say, the impact of the Gospel was deeply impressed upon my heart, but again I allowed Satan to blind my mind, to both the wisdom and simplicity of trusting Jesus Christ as my Saviour, and my Lord.
When I was about 14 years old, I attended a special series of evangelistic meetings at the denominational church where the Gospel was being faithfully preached. At the conclusion of one of the services, the evangelist made his customary "altar call", and several persons in the congregation "went forward", presumably accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Others in the audience began to stare at me, and their pathetic look had me down the aisle and standing at the altar before I realized where I was. Afterwards, many people shook my hand, or patted my head, to express their pleasure in the fact that I had "gone forward to the altar". The unexpected attention made me feel real good inside.
It wasn't long till I was baptized and added to the membership of the church; but as I've often said, "I went down into the waters of baptism a dry sinner, and I came up a wet sinner---still on my way to Hell !" Unbeknown to me at the time, I had never been truly convicted, by the Holy Spirit, of my sin against a Holy God. True, I was religious, I was baptized, I even joined the church and took communion, but I was still a "child of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2); a "child of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3); a "child of the Devil" (Acts 13:10); and I was hastening on to the place that Jesus Christ called Hell". (Luke 16:23; Mark 9:43,45,47)
Shortly afterwards, a certain unscriptural practice crept into that particular denominational church, and my parents decided to leave, and to affiliate themselves with the fellowship of Christians who gathered for worship, ministry of the Word, and the preaching of the Gospel in the little "Gospel Hall". They were convinced that God would have His "blood bought" people simply gathered unto the Name and Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and owning His Lordship in assembly fellowship.
Many times I wished that we would have joined the big denominational church nearby, rather than being affiliated with the small, and insignificant store front building called the "Gospel Hall". I was so afraid that my schoolmates and other friends would see me going in and out of the meetings being held by the so-called "Brethren". Attending these indoor meetings was bad enough, but "insult was added to injury" when I had to stand on the nearby street corner where they preached the Gospel in the "open air". Such indignities, I felt, should never be imposed upon a sensitive teenager; and as I stood there with my head bowed and feeling so ashamed, I sought to hide behind the group, just in case any of my friends would pass by and see my predicament.
It was while under the soul-searching ministry of faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, that I was awakened to the dread reality that, when I was about 14 years old, I had made a "false profession" of faith in God's Son. Yes, I was a spiritual fraud, who was still spiritually "dead in trespasses and sins". (Ephesians 2:1) At times, during the many Gospel Meetings I attended, my heart was burdened by sin, and oh, how I longed for some relief; but the enemy of my soul, the Devil, would remind me of my "false profession", and I was fearful of making another. (II Corinthians 4:3,4; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 4:18)
Like so many young people of high school age, I gradually weaned myself away from the influence of my parents. Contrary to their wishes, and often contrary to their knowledge, I participated in athletics, card playing, attended dances, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and other worldly attractions which helped to keep me from thinking about the vast eternity that lay ahead. (I John 2:15-17; Hebrews 9:27) However, having respect for, and reverential fear of, my parents, I faithfully attended the Sunday evening evangelistic meetings in the little "Gospel Hall". And it was during one of these meetings that I heard one of the local brethren preach on the subject, "Prepare to meet thy God." (Amos 4:12) That particular message made such an impression on me that the Holy Spirit, periodically, through the subsequent years, would bring the truth before my mind---I MUST MEET GOD !
After graduating from Donora High School in June of 1939, I enrolled in the State College at California, Pennsylvania, where I continued to indulge in worldly pleasures, and in seeking to "make a name for myself". Aside from the academic studies, my time was taken up with athletics, forensics, various campus societies, dances, card playing, bowling, etc.. And later on, I thought that I had reached the peak of my college career when I was elected President of the Senior Graduating Class. (Ecclesiastes 11:9) As I look back in retrospect, it now seems as though I was but a puppet in the hands of the Devil, and every time he pulled the strings, he was pulling me further away from Jesus Christ. Friend, I was no match for the Devil !
While I was a freshman in college, God was speaking loudly to my soul. I received a severe head injury during one of the college football games, and I was taken to the Uniontown Hospital, where I remained unconscious for several hours. Shortly after this warning from God, I was involved in a serious automobile accident, and I was taken unconscious to the Charleroi-Monessen Hospital, where several hours later I regained consciousness, and looked into the faces of a weeping mother, and an obviously distraught father. My mother leaned over the bed and whispered to me, "Son, the doctors say that you're probably on your death bed, so won't you accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour?" With a pain-wracked body, a cold heart, and a sin-filled soul, I replied, "Mom, I've gone this far without Christ - I'll go all the way !"
What sorrow must have filled their hearts as they saw such rebellion being displayed by their son, an ungrateful creature of a loving God. But "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20), and the longsuffering of God was soon evidenced in my restoration to good health, and renewed strength. (II Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11; I Timothy 2:4)
While a senior in college, I enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC); a program of the Federal Government, which was formed and designed to assure senior students that they could remain in college, and not be "called up" to active duty, until they had graduated. At that time, I was doing my "student teaching" assignment at the High School in North Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania; and was also engaged to marry Betty Jean Schwartz, a beautiful student from Charleroi, whom I had met while at the college.
Following my marriage while a senior in college, and a period of military service in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II, I returned to live in Charleroi, and immediately became active in veteran's affairs, politics, civic organizations, and church activities, while teaching in the local school system. Still intent on "making a name for myself", in 1945 I was elected the Commander of the nearly 1,200 member American Legion Post #22 in Charleroi. I was also credited with having started the first Legion-sponsored Blood Bank in the United States. At the same time, I was serving as the Boy Scoutmaster and Sunday School Teacher at our local church; as well as being a Board Member of both the Public Library, and the Charleroi-Monessen Hospital.
Friend, I was physically active - but spiritually DEAD ! I was religious - but religiously LOST ! Yes, I was very sincere - but sincerely WRONG ! And even though, to some of my associates, I may have been considered a hard-working and community-minded young man, I was filled with PRIDE, and all of my energies were spent on self-exaltation, often at the sacrifice of my wife and children.
In 1946, I left Charleroi to accept a position as Professor of Applied Mathematics at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. Again, temporally speaking, I was "on my way up"; but, spiritually speaking, I was still on my way down - down to the place that Jesus Christ called "HELL". (Matthew 5:22; 11:23; 13:42; 25:41,46)
Shortly after being employed at W. & J., I was asked to fly down to Camp Lee, the U.S. Army base located near Petersburg, Virginia, to inspect the United Services Organization (U.S.O.) operating there. Before leaving home, I wrote several notes and left them in various locations throughout the house. These notes were dated with my departure date, and stated that I had been "saved" that day. I did this because I felt that if the plane, taking me to and from Virginia, should crash and I was killed, sooner or later someone would find one of the notes, and its message would give my parents some hope that I had gotten "saved" before leaving on that fateful trip, and that I just hadn't had time to tell them. Yes, I was more concerned about them, than I was about myself. Needless to say, when I arrived home safely, I quickly gathered up the notes before my wife would find them, and would wonder what it was all about.
Friend, I was in "soul trouble" then, and on many other occasions throughout my life up until that time. And furthermore, I'm thoroughly convinced that whether they realize it or not, no one is ever the same after they hear the true Gospel, preached in the power of God's Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 55:11; John 16:7,8; Hebrews 4:12)
While serving as a Professor at W. & J., I continued being active in religious affairs by teaching a Sunday School class of boys in the largest denominational church in the city. In fact, I even "took the pulpit" in several district churches, at the request of their pastors. Friend, I would actually stand before the congregations and preach the only Gospel I knew - salvation through faith in Jesus Christ ! I was telling them how to be "saved", or "born again", and I, myself, was on my way to a lost sinner's Hell. And what's more - I knew it. Yes, I knew it ! Needless to say, when my Christian parents heard about my "preaching", they hastened to warn me that my hypocrisy, and lack of a reverential fear of God, was incurring the wrath and indignation of a Holy God, Who would not tolerate being mocked. (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 1:23-29)
On one occasion, I was asked to preach on "Laymen's Day" at that large church where I taught Sunday School. I dressed in my multi-colored academic robes, and stood before a large number of parishioners, then scolded them for being "one day Christians", or perhaps, only "one hour Christians". Friend, only God's grace and long-suffering, prevented Him from cutting me down and casting my soul into a deserving Hell, and the ultimate Lake of Fire.
Following my "sermon", the passing of the collection plates, and a final rendition of vocal "worship" by the beautifully gown-dressed choir, I proudly walked down the aisle as the organist played the recessional. I stopped at the door to await the congregation, which would customarily shake the hand of the speaker, as they left the church. The first one to approach me was an elderly woman, small in stature and using a cane. She stopped and looked up at me with soul-searching eyes and said, "Well, I guess we are all hypocrites, aren't we ?" I was stunned by her remark, but I replied, "Yes ma'am, and I'm the biggest hypocrite of all." I then turned and left the building without shaking any more hands, and started to walk several blocks to our home on the W. & J. campus.
I actually left my wife and children in the church wondering what had happened to me. I've often wondered what the congregation thought. Friend, God used that little old lady to prick my conscience and heart, and to bring me under conviction of my sinful condition in His sight.
In 1950, I obtained my Graduate School Degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and accepted a position as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie-Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. We moved from Washington to near Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, and again, after visiting three different denominational churches, we finally decided to affiliate ourselves with a growing and respected congregation of over 1,000 members.
Even though I was still unsaved at the time, it didn't take me long to realize that the church, like myself, was as spiritually "dead as a door nail." However, since my professional career demanded an aura of respectability, we attended that church and suffered through many hours of boring and non-scriptural messages dealing with just about every possible subject of public concern including politics, social injustices, book reviews, movies, the economy, the environment, and even religious philosophy - but no Gospel ! He preached as though we were all headed for a glorious eternity in Heaven !
It is very unfortunate that so many "clergymen", with eternal responsibilities, have never been "born again" themselves; and are leading their congregations down to the place of eternal torment. Surely, it is a case of "the blind leading the blind". If people would only read their Bibles to see what God has to say, rather than to entrust their soul's eternal welfare to the vain philosophy of another mere man ! (Proverbs 12:15; 14:12; Isaiah 55:7-9)
Soon after I began teaching at Carnegie Tech, I noticed that just about every day as I entered the campus, a car was parked along the street near my office, and it was distinguished by the fact that it had a large sign on the back bearing the following Scripture, "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin." (I John 1:7) It seemed to be a daily message from God, and a constant reminder that I was not sheltered beneath that precious blood, without which there can be no remission of sin. (Hebrews 9:22)
On Sunday afternoon, June 1, 1952, my wife and I were sitting in our living room watching a television program of no particular significance. Following the program, the announcer mentioned that the next program would be a sermon by a well-known evangelist. I had heard about the man but had never heard him speak, so I suggested to my wife that we should keep the television set on to see what the man had to say. He spoke about the words of Jesus Christ in John's Gospel Chapter 3, and Verse 3 - "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
During the sermon, my thoughts went back in retrospect to the many similar messages I had heard as a youth at the "Gospel Hall" in Donora, Pennsylvania. I remembered especially, the message on Amos 4:12, "Prepare to meet thy God."
When the program was completed, I went over to the bookcase and lifted an old Bible from the shelf. It was bulging with Gospel tracts which my parents had sent to me down through the years; and which, I must confess, I never read any of them. My wife Betty, who was a baptized Roman Catholic, but was raised as a Methodist, would often read the tracts as we received them from my parents, and would give mental assent to the truths contained therein. After all, she felt that she was of high moral character, and she was living a life not much different from those whom she knew who professed to be "saved". Sure, she believed what the tracts said, but unfortunately, her belief was only "head knowledge", and not the result of Holy Spirit conviction.
As I stood there holding the old Bible in my hands, the thought came to me, "If that preacher's television sermon was meant for me, then I should open this Bible and receive another message from God." I flung open the Bible at random, and it opened to Matthew Chapter 27, which relates the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. I quickly closed the Bible and tried to satisfy myself with the thought that it was just a coincidence. But, of course, it was the Holy Spirit of God speaking to my sin-sick soul; and friend, that was the beginning of deep "soul-trouble" for me.
That night I didn't sleep very well, as the thoughts of my sinful condition were constantly brought before me by the Holy Spirit of God. I kept thinking of the many Gospel Meetings which I had attended in my youth; the many times I had previously experienced conviction of sin; the numerous times that I had trampled underfoot the Son of God - Yes, and the many occasions when God had spoken to me by means of "accidents", radio and T.V. messages, Gospel tracts, personal witnessing, Scripture verses on utility poles, huge rocks, or car bumpers, etc.. Friend, I was miserable ! (Hebrews 4:12)
After a long night of both physical and spiritual exhaustion, I was glad to see the light of dawn, even though I was scheduled to enter the Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh that morning to prepare for an operation the following day. I also had the desire to visit the man who, many years before, had preached on Amos 4:12, "Prepare to meet thy God." I felt that if any man could help me obtain peace for my troubled soul, he could; but since I had to be in the hospital before noon, I had to forego any attempt to visit him that morning. However, before leaving our home, I took the old Bible from the bookcase, and even though it was bulging with Gospel tracts, I carefully placed it in my suitcase and, with a sin-sick soul, off I went to the hospital, alone.
After being admitted to the hospital, I was assigned a bed in the eighth floor sun porch. Following the usual preliminary tests for a new patient, I settled down and began to read the many tracts that were in the old Bible which I had brought with me to the hospital. One after another I read them, and the more I read, the more I was convicted of my sinful condition in God's sight. I read verses of Scripture which I had memorized as a child in the Donora Gospel Hall Sunday School, and the Holy Spirit of God really brought them to me in convicting power. It was then that fear really gripped my heart, and I dreaded the thought of dying in my sinful condition, and having to meet a Holy God.
Now, please don't misunderstand me, I did not fear the impending operation, because I had been hospitalized on nine previous occasions. However, knowing how often I had rebuffed the Holy Spirit of God in my past life, I was fearful that God would take this occasion to claim my life, and damn my soul. (Luke 12:5; Proverbs 29:1) I was also aware of the fact that even though the Holy Spirit, through God's Word, was dealing with my soul, I had no guarantee that I would ever be concerned and convicted again. God says, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." (Genesis 6:3) We also have the warning in Hebrews 4:7, "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts."
One of the verses which I was reading seemed to speak to me very loudly. It was Psalms 119:71 - "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes." Surely this was the reason that I was laid aside on a bed of sickness. God wanted me to be wise, and to stop long enough on my mad and ambitious career, to "consider their latter end". (Deuteronomy 32:29) He wanted me to turn my attention to Calvary's Cross to behold His Son - "The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) God wanted me to realize that it was my sins that nailed Jesus Christ to the Cross. Yes, He wanted me to accept His love, mercy, and grace which were manifested in the sacrificial death of His dear Son. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8,9; I John 4:10)
At about 3:30 in the afternoon, my wife came to visit with me in the hospital. She seemed to sense that something was troubling me, so she remarked, "Minor, you seem awfully nervous and upset about something. What's bothering you ?"
I was somewhat embarrassed and I didn't care to discuss my problem with her, so I simply denied that anything was wrong with me.
She then responded, "Well Minor, if you don't tell me what is troubling you, then I'm going to tell your doctor that you're upset about something."
Friend, I had complete confidence in my doctor, and I was convinced that he could meet my physical needs, but I had no reason to believe that he could help me spiritually, so I said, "Betty, the preacher we listened to yesterday on the T.V. said that unless a person is 'born again', that person would never get to Heaven; and since I've never been 'born again', if I should die in that operation tomorrow, my soul would drop into Hell."
Betty looked rather startled, and after a few moments of silence she asked, "Why would you go to Hell, after all, you've lived a pretty good life, and you haven't done anything really bad ?"
I replied, "But Betty, I'm a lost sinner and I've never repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour. In other words - I've never been saved !"
Looking at me with an obvious sense of frustration and sympathetic concern, my wife then asked me a very important question. She said, "Well Minor, if you're not saved, then why don't you get saved ?"
That was it ! Right then and there before God, and with a contrite heart, I acknowledged my sinful condition, and I simply placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my own and personal Saviour, and the Lord of my life. And even though feelings have nothing to do with salvation, I wept for joy as the burden of my sins rolled away. They were covered by the blood of God's dear Son. Yes, the battle was over, and Jesus Christ was mine - not only for time, but also for all eternity. For over 30 years I had been serving sin, self, and Satan, but now I was ready, willing, and able to serve my new-found Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He was the One Who came from Heaven, lived a sinless life on earth, yet, in love for MY soul, He shed His precious blood at Calvary's Cross. (I Peter 1:18,19; Romans 5:8,9;) And I love what we read in Revelation 1:7, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
Well friend,--that's my testimony. That's how I was "saved", or "born again". The Bible says in I Peter 1:23 that we are "born again" by the incorruptible "Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." I simply believed the Word of God which said that I was a spiritually-lost, guilty, and Hell-deserving sinner, who couldn't do anything to merit or inherit God's Heaven. Then I believed the same Word of God which told me that God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, loved me so much that He was willing to take my sins and to bear those sins in His own body on the Cross. (Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:24; II Corinthians 5:21) Yes, and I thank God, that at about 3:40 p.m. on June 2, 1952 - "A COLLEGE PROFESSOR BECAME A CHRIST POSSESSOR".
Friend, are you saved? Have you been "born again" by the Holy Spirit of God from above? (John 1:13) If not, then you need God's salvation, which has been provided for you by the death and subsequent resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 10:9,10)
Perhaps the reader is hoping to reach Heaven on the basis of their so-called "good works", high moral living, religious heritage, culture, education, or some religious ritual such as baptism, confirmation or dedication, or some religious activity such as trying to keep the ten commandments and the "Golden Rule", teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, or even preaching the Gospel, as I had done before I was saved. Well listen, my unsaved friend,--THERE ISN'T EVEN ONE VERSE IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE THAT SAYS A PERSON CAN GET TO HEAVEN APART FROM BEING "BORN AGAIN". The Bible declares that Salvation is "the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:5; 6:23; Titus 3:5; Galatians 2:21; 3:11, 26; Isaiah 64:6)
Looking at it both logically and Scripturally, if we could do anything to merit eternal bliss in Heaven's glory, then answer one question - Why did the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, suffer, bleed, and die that shameful and ignominious death at Calvary's Cross, if you and I could reach Heaven by any other way ?
Friend, the best testimony I can give to the saving grace of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is the fact that of the countless millions of people worldwide, and down through the centuries, who have accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour, there has never been one who ever regretted having done so. Yes, God's only and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, is everything He ever promised to be - A Saviour, Friend, Advocate, Intercessor, and the ONLY Mediator between a Holy God and sinful mankind. (I Timothy 2:5,6)
Unsaved friend, if God, through His Word, is speaking to you at this moment, and is bringing before you your need of a Saviour, then please - please don't put it off ! God's Word says, "Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of Salvation." (II Corinthians 6:2; Job 22:21; Proverbs 27:1; Isaiah 1:18) Yes, just acknowledge your sinful condition before God, repent of your sins, and then trust entirely on the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary's Cross. (Romans 3:23; II Peter 3:9; John 19:30)
In closing my personal testimony, I plead with you, in love for your soul, and in view of eternity, to believe with all your heart, on the Lord Jesus Christ as your own and personal Saviour. (John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:30,31; John 3:36; 5:24)
Yes, my friend, if you'll do that right NOW, according to God Who cannot lie - you'll be saved for time, and thank God, you'll be saved for all eternity. AND REMEMBER, MY FRIEND, THIS IS FOR ETERNITY ! YES, THIS IS FOR ETERNITY !
Evangelist: Minor C. Hawk