The Testimony of Arnold Wayne Weckeman
Change can occur in a heartbeat or incrementally over a protracted period. Sometimes change is good, other times not so good. There are times when change is our own doing and times when it is totally beyond our control. Change can be deceptive, initially appearing tragic and senseless, yet eventually turning out to be beneficial in some unexpected way; such was the case concerning the most significant change in my life.
My change began in 1982 on the roof of a building in Harlem, N.Y. while serving as a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department. In the process of cutting through the roof of a burning tenement with an extremely loud saw, I damaged my hearing.
The injury to my ears involved not only a moderate degree of hearing loss but also tinnitus, a constant loud ringing in the ears. Following a battery of audiological tests, I was informed that I would have to learn to live with the ringing. The audiologist also recommended I change my occupation, explaining that any further exposure to loud noise would worsen my condition. The prognosis was devastating; learn to live with this tormenting ringing in my head, quit the fire department!
Before this incident, my life was, in many ways, ideal. At 36 years old, my health was excellent; I was very happily married, owned my own home, and loved my job. I actually looked forward to going to work. Life was great, and it was easy to take my many blessings for granted. How quickly it all changed. Shortly after the fire department injury, my wife and I found out we would never know the joy of having children.
During this dark period, when the world could offer no help, I first became aware of an inner void. For the first time, I realized how unpredictable and fragile life is; how helpless we are on our own. The realization caused me to ponder the existence of God. I wondered if God was real, and if He was, did He care about me? The more I thought about God, the more I realized that if there were ever a time when I needed Him, it was then. Finally, when the darkness seemed too much to bear, and there was nowhere else to turn, I called on the God whom I had all my life ignored.
Although God didn’t miraculously make everything perfect at that moment, I now realize how merciful He was to us during the remainder of that difficult period of our lives. Although things would never be the same again, we gradually learned to pick up the pieces and go on. Yet, somehow, I couldn’t forget that day in the field when I cried out in desperation for God’s help. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how hypocritical it was to ask for help in times of need and then go back to ignoring Him when things were better.
At that point, I purposed in my heart that I would make a sincere effort to find out more about God. It didn’t make much sense to call on a mysterious deity to whom I was a stranger. If I were going to call on Him during hard times, I could at least try to get to know Him in good times. I knew that the Bible would be the logical place to start, so I began by reading the Old Testament, which turned out to be very interesting, yet somehow failed to address my personal need. A short time afterward, the Church’s groundskeeper behind my house recommended that I begin in the Gospels. Sad to say, at that time, I didn’t even know where the Gospels were in the Bible. Finally, I started reading the book of Matthew. Even though I didn’t understand all of what I was reading, two things became apparent. First, this was an extraordinary book; second, Jesus Christ had to be someone far greater than a mere mortal.
I soon found myself wondering why I hadn’t even bothered to read this fascinating book before. It was during this time that I first became aware of a mysterious tugging at my inner being. Soon it became apparent that I was either reading God’s truth about Himself or the greatest lie ever told. Either way, there was no denying that what I was reading was profound, potentially life-changing. Could it be that I was reading the very words of Jesus Christ Himself? This One who claimed to be God incarnate. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, somehow, He revealed to me something about myself that I subconsciously knew was true but didn’t want to admit. The Bible was telling me that there was something inherently wrong with me that needed to be made right…that I was a sinner in need of a Saviour.
When I realized the magnitude of change, a decision to trust Christ would involve, I stopped reading the Bible. For a while longer, the truth about Jesus Christ would remain shrouded behind my unwillingness to accept the truth about myself. All my preconceived ideas about nutty Christians and Christianity threw up a wall. The whole thing was too incredible; besides, what would my wife and my friends think. What about the guys at the firehouse! I convinced myself that the last thing I needed was any more major changes in my life, best to leave well enough alone. Yet, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t. Subconsciously I knew an inescapable reality had been revealed. There was no denying that I was a sinner.
Although my reading had provided new understanding and knowledge about Jesus Christ, at that point, it was only head knowledge; it was not yet a “saving knowledge” of Christ. “The head never hears until the heart has truly listened.”
In the weeks and months that followed, God’s word continued to convict me in everyday circumstances, feeding the inner conflict, and turning my heart. The more I thought about life and considered this sin-sick world in which we live, the more I realized that the Bible was probably correct, but I was fearful of what the change might require.
Then one night, I gave in and read just a little more. This time, I started in the Gospel of John. The other scripture I previously read had been very convincing, yet it seemed as though my prior reading had been in the dark, and now someone had turned on a light. Somewhere in the first couple of pages of the Gospel of John, a truly amazing thing happened; suddenly, it was as though I had come face to face with the Creator of the universe!
At that point, it became perfectly clear. It was true, Almighty God Himself, in an incredible act of love, had come to earth in the form of a man. Jesus Christ was none other than God in the flesh. A perfect, sinless man who willingly went to the cross to pay the penalty for my sins, to die in my place! Three days later, He conquered death by His resurrection. Jesus Christ is the “last Adam,” which came to undo the first Adam’s tragedy.
This same One was now inviting me, through His word and His Spirit, to accept Him as my personal Saviour. All that was required was heartfelt regret, humility, and child-like faith. To take Him at His word, believing in His substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection on my behalf…placing, my total trust in Him and Him alone.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom.10:9-10).
Without a doubt, my life’s most incredible experience was that precious moment I opened my heart to the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. At that second, I knew that I was forever forgiven, not because I deserved to be forgiven, not because I had somehow earned forgiveness…but because I humbly acknowledged my hopelessness and surrendered to God’s mercy. Instead of deceiving myself concerning my goodness or rationalizing my righteousness, I agreed with God’s assessment of my true condition: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23) “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom.3:10).
In reality, self-righteousness is nothing more than a form of self-deception that excludes us from God’s righteousness. “For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) [Emphasis mine]
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Jesus Christ (John 5:24).
I have shared this with you, hoping that you also might consider God’s incredible love and forgiveness, found in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
May the Lord also open your eyes to the truth of His Word.
To God be the glory, Arnold Wayne Weckeman