Ryan Sanders – My Testimony

Top view of religious male crossed hands in prayer

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12:11

By the word of their testimony; my testimony has no doubt been an anchor to my soul. When I’ve been in the midst of a battle and didn’t know up from down, I’ve been able to resort back to my testimony and the miracle God performed in my life and it has helped me overcome no matter what I’ve had to face. I don’t feel my testimony is greater than anyone else’s, for it’s not mine, but God’s. My greatest desire when writing this is that someone might be encouraged and see that God is still on His throne and still moving in people’s hearts and lives.    

 I was born in Springfield, Ohio in 1984, I spent most of my life growing up in a single-family home. My parents divorced when I was four and split their ways, with me going with my mom, this was a difficult time in my life, which caused me grief and heartache in my years to come. With my mom and I moving frequently, 9 times before the 7th grade, seeing my dad every other weekend and being raised around bad relationships, was not your ideal childhood. Mom and I would move in with her boyfriend or find an apartment to call home, I can only remember going to church a handful of times throughout my childhood but never was taught much about the things of God.

By the time I was in the 7th grade, we found a nice home to settle down in and mom found a decent job. My mom and dad’s relationship, for as long as I can remember, was not very good, they would run each other down in front of me and they had two different sets of rules for me to obey, my dad being the more liberal of the two. These things were not helpful in my upbringing and caused a lot of anger and lack of respect towards others and myself. At one point in my life, I did not see my dad or talk to him for a period of about 8 months. The reason why I feel that mentioning these things are necessary is because, the environment I grew up in, is what molded my character and eventually led me to God.

At the age of 15, not going to church or knowing much about the things of God, although at times I would tell my friends if they swore to God and was lying they would go to hell. I can remember in middle school, I once tried to quit cursing and feared using God’s name in vain. Looking back now I can see that I had a tender conscience towards God at a young age. During this point in my life things started to become a real struggle for me, not having very many friends and finding it hard to fit in with my peers, I became very depressed. My relationship with my mother was poor, we fought often, my grades were slipping and I was becoming very rebellious. My mom and I went to counselors and talked about our differences, which only seemed to make things worse between her and I. Being so depressed and finding very little happiness as a teenager in high school, I began to think about suicide and how people’s lives would be affected without me.

Although I never attempted suicide, I thought about it many times. Then one night while I was lying in bed watching T.V., I began to think about my life and how sick and tired I was of feeling so sad and unhappy. I was weary of the darkness that veiled my mind and the miserable feelings I felt inside, I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, so I got up out of bed and knelt down next to it and began to pray. I prayed that God would somehow relieve me of this dark and heavy burden that I felt. The next morning I woke feeling free from that heaviness and sorrow that had encompassed me. Although I didn’t get saved, however, I knew God moved on me and took the depression away.

That moment always stayed in the back of my mind and would from time to time cause me as a young man to look to God for relief from sadness and heartaches. My junior year of high school I went to a different school and had found some new friends to hang out with. These kids were different, they weren’t the preppy kids like at my old school but were kids who were raised in settings similar to mine. They did drugs, stayed out late and partied hard, I could relate to these guys and they accepted me. They were a bad influence on me and my mom did not want me to hang out with them, but I didn’t care. I eventually got expelled from high school and had to go to a school for bad kids. There I hung out with even worse kids, kids whose parents didn’t care for them and they did whatever they wanted. The whole time falling deeper into sin at a young age, I would smoke pot after school and still going to my dad’s on the weekends, I would party with my friends who my mom absolutely despised.

My mom eventually kicked me out of the house at age 16, which I went and lived with some friends I knew. I felt free, and at anytime I could do whatever I wanted. I no longer had to abide by my mom’s rules, in which I had rebelled against since a young boy. We would do drugs, drink alcohol and party. My mom, however, wasn’t satisfied with letting me go, so she told me to move back home a short while later. My senior year wasn’t much better. I went back to my original high school and attended a special class where if you just showed up everyday you were doing a good job. I remember turning in only one homework assignment for my whole senior year. My sin was paving the road for my future.

I finished high school and used my graduation money to go to Florida to see my cousin. Again having no thoughts towards God, I was running full steam ahead with the course of the world. After I got back to Ohio, my cousin motivated me in a way where I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted to work two jobs, stay out of trouble and save money. That was short-lived. I got a job working for a plant nursery and met some Mexicans who liked to party also. I spent late nights drinking and driving, taking whatever drugs I could find and afford.

One night while out drinking and partying with a friend from work, we came very close to getting ourselves hurt and in a lot of trouble. When he dropped me off at my house, my mom was waiting at the door for me. Up until then, for as long as I can remember, I was and had to be very deceitful in order to hang out with my friends and party. I would sneak around and tell lies, all to get my own selfish way and not have to obey my parent’s rules. Growing up I used to wish that my parents did drugs and didn’t care about me, so I could do whatever I wanted, just like my friends; how foolish and ridiculous I was! My mom eventually became suspicious of the secret lifestyle I was hiding, even to the extent that she gave me a drug test at the age of 16, which was no surprise that I failed. But now that I was 18, things were going to be different — I was going to go by my own rules.

Not soon after, I found myself again without a place to live. I found a cheap hotel, filled with prostitutes and druggies, to call my new home; sin was really doing me a lot of favors. Still keeping a job but not having a vehicle made things very challenging. My dad picked me up in the morning and afternoons to and from work and I would rely on my friends to drive me around. Although life had become very inconvenient for me, I was still determined to make it own my own, no matter the cost. I continued in my riotous living and was sinking deeper into the miry clay of sin every day. 

I would like to take a moment and tell what sin was doing to my life. I was so determined to do what I wanted and I didn’t want anyone telling me otherwise. But it just brought misery and sadness into my life. The way of the transgressor was hard for me; I was angry inside, full of bitterness, I had hatred towards others, and often thought of ways to hurt people that did me wrong. I was deceived in thinking that taking and selling drugs was a good lifestyle and I desired to succeed by doing those things. Rap music was a big part of my life and listening to it just drove those desires. There were things that I was involved in, that growing up as a young boy I told myself, I would never do, my conscience was slowly being seared.    

Time doesn’t allow nor do I feel it’s necessary to tell of all the bad places and situations sin took me into, some of the ruthless people I encountered and some of the evil deeds that I committed. The whole time searching and seeking trying to be like those people that were filled with all kinds of wickedness. I was unhappy and so was everyone around me. Sin was promising many things, I had dreams of how life was going to work out for me, but things just got worse and the life I envisioned, never came true. I took drugs and drank alcohol, to try to ease the pain I felt inside and fill the empty void in my soul. I was hardening my heart and I tried to make others think I was something I wasn’t. I was letting the devil have full control of my life and did not care about the repercussions.

During the summer of 2002, I asked my dad if I could move in with him and my stepmom, they consented. I got hired on at Honda, as a temporary associate in September. At work, I often struggled with my temper and getting along with other co-workers. Using drugs, alcohol and involved in some bad relationships, God’s mercy was keeping me from a lot of lifetime scars. I got into fights, hung out with drug dealers, robbers and thieves, which at any time could have landed me in jail or even worse, a casket.

Then one night a life-changing event occurred. I had gotten home from work and my dad was up waiting for me, which was unusual for he worked first shift. He was sitting at the computer and was looking at an article on the internet. He asked me if I knew the people the article was about. I did, it was two of my close friends and they had been in a drunken-driving accident. One had died and the other was taken to Columbus in the intensive care unit. I raced to Columbus devastated and when I got there my friend’s mom told me the news. This really had an effect on me; it brought true soberness into my life.

My friend eventually pulled out of his near-death experience and returned back to the hard sinful life he lived before, I wouldn’t know how this tragedy would exactly affect me until later. Around this time of my life, I went and seen a psychologist. I talked to him about life and how I felt abnormal and out of place with others around me. I thank God I felt out of place in a life of sin. Needless to say, the psychologist didn’t do a whole lot for me. I didn’t know at the time but this was God dealing and working with me to get me saved.  

While at work I met a guy, he liked to party and do drugs, which was common ground to me. He said he could get some good drugs and told me that if I wanted him to, he would get them for me. I accepted his offer and after work, I took the drugs that I had bought from him. I went over to a buddy’s house that night and when I got there, I began to feel strange and very uneasy, so I left and went home. Tossing and turning in bed, I couldn’t sleep nor get my mind off my life and how miserable I was. I kept thinking about how I couldn’t get along with the people at work, I was constantly fighting with my boss and my home life wasn’t much better. I was ashamed of the things I was doing, I was desperately trying to squeeze every little drop of pleasure out of my sins, I was lonely, lost and in need of help.

The people around me didn’t seem happy, I was hurting people that I cared for by my selfish actions and somehow did not care. All these things kept rehearsing themselves in my mind and the more they would, the more I became broken and contrite. I started weeping out loud, a hard cry and then I turned and cried out to God, calling out His name and wanting relief from my misery and shame. Psalms 34:18 says, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” And that’s exactly what happened. I wish everyone could have been there because I find it really hard to put into words exactly what happened next. I’ve told many people my testimony and still have a hard time describing the miracle that took place that night, I guess that’s why they call it a “personal” testimony.

When I cried out to God, He was waiting to answer, He had been dealing with me for a while and was waiting for me to give up and give over and that’s what I did. I was finally willing to lose my life, for God has promised that, “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” God came down and spoke to my soul, not in an audible voice but as an inspiration. He told me through his spirit that the things, “sin” I was doing, I was going to have to give up in order to find true happiness and relief from my heartaches and sorrows. I’ll never forget just how the spirit of God witnessed to my soul and showed me the way to salvation.

Then as quickly as he came, he left, still crying and seeing a ray of hope, and not completely sure what had happened to me, I proceeded into the bathroom. I looked into the mirror; I pray that I never forget looking through the mirror at myself broken and contrite, tears flowing down and ready to do whatever it took to get help. Then I felt impressed to look up and with both hands in the air, I said several times, “I accept you, Jesus, I accept you, Jesus.”

Now you could have asked me 15 minutes prior to this happening, who Jesus was and I would have looked at you unknowingly, that’s how ignorant I was. I didn’t know any Bible scriptures, I had never heard the word salvation nor was I ever thought anything concerning who Christ was and why he came. It wasn’t the drugs or a figment of my imagination that caused my experience, but it was the grace of God that bringeth salvation, teaching me to, deny ungodliness, worldly lusts and that I should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.

After I accepted Christ into my heart and life, the burden of sin immediately lifted and I was free, yes free indeed. I woke up my stepmother, still shook up and told her, “I think I have just accepted God into my life.” I wasn’t really sure what all happened, I just knew I was different. I told her that I was trying to be someone I couldn’t and how sad and miserable I was trying. Later that day I talked to my dad and told him I loved him, which I hadn’t done in more than 5 years. I met with my mom and told her how sorry I was for being a rebellious son and all the sadness I had brought into her life.

I told my grandparents next, I was at the dinner table when I told them that I was going to serve God, still not truly knowing what that meant. My grandma said, having a Methodist background, “you don’t have to be real religious.” That struck me wrong even then, knowing no Bible Truth. A guy at work came up to me that night, asking if I could get him some drugs, I told him that I was going to start living right for now on. Having some questions about my new life and having no desire to go back into my old ways, I bought a Bible. Sure enough, I opened it up to the exact scripture which answered one of my questions. The faithfulness of God, to my soul.

Unfortunately, however, not being sanctified and not knowing much, I went back into a life of sin. I sinned against my conscience and I can remember doing it, I remember willfully committing that which I knew was wrong and how horrible I felt afterward. This time in sin, I wasn’t involved with the heavy drug use or the alcohol as much, but I was still a slave in sin’s dark prison. Being driven and made to do wrong, I was in no better shape than before. I remember telling a person about the experience I had, still not fully understanding it myself. They said to me, “Wow, I need something like that to happen to me.” Falling fast and needing a hand to help me out, God was not satisfied to leave me out in sin. Seeing an honest heart that wanted to serve him, he led me yet again.

One night couple of months later, while on the assembly line, I was working around a man I knew was religious. Prior to that night, we had not talked about the things of God nor had he mentioned or invited me to church. However, I felt impressed to ask him if I could go to church with him. There had been other guys in my work area that was trying to get me to go to their religious organization instead. I can’t help but believe God put it in my heart to ask him to go to the church of God that night.

That was and still is the start of the greatest blessing that ever took place in my heart and life. Being very nervous and not knowing what I was getting myself into, I drove 45 minutes to meet him to go to church and continued doing so afterward for about 3 months. I can honestly say that I was so ignorant, that I never understood one word that came over the pulpit. But through the spirit of God, convicting me of my sins, I began to count the cost and try to lay certain things down that I knew were wrong. In other words, quit the sin business on my own.

I was successful at quitting some sins; however there were certain ones no matter how hard I tried and no matter how much human reasoning I used, I just couldn’t stop myself from doing them. Knowing what I know now, I can see the same struggle Paul was having in Romans chapter 7, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” I can remember one time vaguely, I was being driven to sin and I was determined that I wasn’t going to yield, but it overtook me. I had to do it and afterward was so ashamed of myself that I bowed at my bed and prayed that God would forgive me, but I knew where God wanted me to bow. At a public altar of prayer, which was really intimidating for me. I didn’t want to get in front of everybody, not because of pride but just out of pure fear, this I believe was a trick of the enemy.

The spirit of God would become very strong during alter call, I can remember very plainly even today, telling myself, after not yielding to the spirit of God during one service, that I would try one more week to stop the things I knew were wrong. The same thing happened that week, like all the others no doubt, struggling and warring within and losing every day is a very dark place. I had enough, I was weary of fighting a battle I could not win and I realized I needed some help. I had fallen into some of the same sinful bondages as before and it was causing me sadness and heartache. Looking back, I can see, where during this time of searching for God and attending service, the devil was really trying hard to bring sinful pleasures into my life. He used people and situations to try to hinder me to go to services. I couldn’t count how many times I had to press my way out to go to church. But I wasn’t going to allow these things to hinder me, I was willing to cut all ties to sin and burn every bridge regardless of the cost. I wanted a better life and I knew in my heart what I was going to have to do to get it.

On April 27, 2003, at the age of 18, when the invitation began to come down to the church of God altar. I took that step — it only took one! — and after that God did the rest. Moving out of my pew was such a mountain for me, but how could I have not, the spirit of God was so strong; I could feel it pulling at my heart to go to that river that floweth freely. It was the greatest decision I will ever make. When I repented of my sins, Christ came down and took off the shackles of sin; He opened the prison door wide open and set the captive free. I have absolutely no regrets, no intentions of going back, God has given me great victories in my life and freed me from the rigorous bondage of sin. He has made me sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.

It’s been a wonderful life with peace and pleasure that no tongue can tell. God has brought me through many a sore trial and proving tests, but looking back, no matter how tough and how hard they may have been, they’ve always produced something good in my life. God has since blessed me with a beautiful wife, a good job and a life worth living. He has helped and kept me undefiled from the world and has given me a desire to tell others of this wonderful way. I love the truth, my pastor, and God’s people.

For surely goodness and mercy shall (and it has) follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.