My oldest son David, who just turned 14 last month, was diagnosed with autism when he was 20 months old. He was considered high functioning and progressed quite well through the many therapy programs he went through for several years. We chose to homeschool by the Lord's leading when all other options through the public school failed. We came to realize when David was around 10, that he had Aspergers Syndrome (a high functioning form of autism). If you don't know much about AS, I will just be brief as this will be too long to go into that detail. David is extremely bright and does not struggle in academics, but struggles a great deal socially, and emotionally. There are many other concerns with fine motor skills and sensory issues that affect much of how he is as well, but for now I will focus on his inability to be flexible, and his difficulties to see things outside of himself. Transition is very challenging for kids with AS, and they see things from a very skewed perspective. I know we are all selfish, but typically we have a filter (a conscience) that tells us what is appropriate to say out loud and what we should not. David does not have that filter. There is a major issue with anger and anxiety that lies so deep in the depths of his heart, that had made the past 13 years extremely challenging. When David did go to school for a couple of years, his anger and anxiety hit a level that really concerned us. We pleaded with our Dr. for help. I NEEDED someone to direct us to some help. I wrote a letter to the neurologist that diagnosed him and explained precisely what we were dealing with so I would not leave anything out, and we didn't waste each others time. After reading my letter, the Dr. looked at me and said, "A behavioral program, or the health food store is not going to fix this. The root problem is anxiety and the only help is to put him on medication". We discussed the possibilities although that was a last resort for us. We almost felt we were at that point as David began to get very angry and even sometimes violent. We were not willing to go down that route as the Dr. explained that the type of medication he needed to be on was not recommended for children under the age of 18, and the side effects were depression and suicide.
We went home and cried and prayed. As we prayed, we were reminded of something we have read many times in God's Word. You see, the Dr. said there is no cure for anxiety other than medication, but I could not help but be reminded of Philippians 4:6-7
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There is a cure for anxiety, but we were very aware this needed to be a God thing. We were also very aware that if God didn't get a hold of David's heart, that medication may be in his future, but we would commit ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit to lead David to Christ and to help David see his need for the Lord to get him through this. So many times our words fell on deaf ears. I will admit we were inconsistent with our parenting, and often times were driven to anger ourselves, which made us feel like complete failures. But never did we back down on the standards of God's Word, and what HE required of us. David has grown tremendously over the years as far as how he dealt with things outwardly, but the anger was still very prevalent. it was so evident because that was always his first resort and often times it was to forgo a consequence. We hit these issues of the heart every time, as we believe it is the heart that is the wellspring of our behavior. If the heart is right, the behavior will flow out of a natural love for God and not just because of correction. Again, we have continued to see growth in David, but something happened this past weekend that I believe is a memorial stone in David's life and ours. I wish you had the time to hear all the details (and I wish I could even remember them all) of how these events came together, but I want to share with you a testimony that David wrote yesterday. In his homeschool lesson he was required to write a speech that he was to give to a certain audience. He chose to write his testimony. We were completely blown away by what this 14 year old wrote. One thing we do love about David is his honesty. He does not say what he does not mean - and you will see that in his testimony. He does not pull any punches.
Before I end with David's testimony, I again want to give glory to God for His Word, His promises and His faithfulness. We are so unworthy of what He has done, and we thank Him for His indescribable grace!
(This is a rough draft, so it has several errors- and it is very long)
Hello and welcome, this is David Cooke, and I'll be speaking to you all about my testimony and hope you have the patience to listen.
First Main Point- My Struggles to get to where I am now
Trust me, I'm not fully grown. Not that it's possible. But I'm nowhere near being a really strong Christian. I'm still spiritually young, however I want this to give people encouragement to get through the early stages of Christian growth. I've had a lot of struggles spiritually during my time, however I've really been thrown into the crossfire of spiritual warfare in the past few months, and I hope hearing about mine will help you to grow spiritually stronger.
Subpoint A- Seven Years Old and My "Conversion Experience" which really meant little
Sometime when I was a seven years old I asked my mom how to be saved. I don't remember the exact words she used, but the answer was not really correct. She told me simply to pray a prayer and Jesus would come into my heart and I'd be saved. The bible never says that! I don't even remember the motives behind it, was it a real genuine wish to be saved, or was it just to please my parents, it doesn't matter! There is nothing in the bible that tells you to pray a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart and you'll be saved. Jesus says in Luke 13:3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Note that he does not say No I tell you; but unless you ask me into your heart you will all likewise perish. And It's not anything to do with a lack of forcefulness in those words, it's not the point. Jesus says it clearly again in in Luke 13:5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Just 2 verses later! He must mean it!
He also says in Luke 9:23 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. What is denying yourself? It means that it's not all about me or you, It's about others and even more Importantly It's about Jesus, the son of God.
I learned in sunday school one time about JOY. JOY stood for Jesus, Others, and You. And Jesus, at the front, is the most important of all. Others, in the middle, are more important then you, and you are last. The bible fully supports this in Philippians 2:3hp Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Oh what my parents hadn't taught me at the time. I don't think they had yet come to the knowledge themselves. I started having doubts at the age of 10, and thought that they were just strange, insincerities that could never be backed up in scripture. I was wrong, they are backed up quite strongly in scripture, as I have shown you.
Subpoint B- Preparing a move to Little Rock- I didn't care but I do now
It was March of 2007, the first of my struggles on my walk with God, or, If I had one at the time. Most of the time up till then, there really wasn't much happening. I had a happy life in Lehigh Acres Florida, two wonderful friends and some neighborhood kids to play football, and just nothing seemed to matter but me.
Or, In my mind, that was all that seemed to matter.
Nothing was really that important. I went to church every week with some likely false assurance of being a Christian. I didn't know all the other stuff that's involved, like denying yourself and repenting. I prayed a prayer, so I was saved, right?
As I said earlier, the bible nowhere supports the idea that being saved is just merely praying a prayer. But my either unsaved self or very baby Christian self showed itself the day my parents told me we were leaving home and going to Little Rock eventually. We didn't know how long it would take, but we in practice ended up having 15 months before we even left our house and 2 more before leaving state. We still aren't there.
That night I cried a lot, understandable, and I didn't want to go, understandable. But time and time again I told them we shouldn't do it. Why? I didn't want to leave my friends in Southwest Florida.
What were we to do there? We were going to work for Family Life, a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ, and it worked with marriages and families. Did I care then about the many families that could have their marriages saved because of what my parents would do through that organization? No! But should I have, and should it have been expected of me to have? You bet your lifesaver!
Besides, they were fulfilling the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Now, I pray to the Lord who saved me that we will get there as quickly as possible and do the work there he would have us.
Subpoint C- Thirteen Years Old and really starting to learn what it means to be a Christian through my parents
In March, 2008, we went to The Transformed Conference at our church, McGregor Baptist, done by the way of the master. It was there that I learned about false conversion, ways to witness, exc. I thought for a time I got saved that day, but I would later learn (Or maybe deep down I knew then) that just knowing the truth wasn't enough. I had never repented that I knew of, really. I still didn't understand.
In July, 2008, we had to move out of our house because the people we had recently sold it to moved in. We went to live with our Aunt Gina and Uncle Ricky in Ft. Myers. It was a heavy and frustrating transitional period, and my severe anger problem, buried for at least a year, attacked again.
I also started having doubts about my salvation, and when I talked to my parents, they really understood them and I was really correct to be unsure about my spiritual standing. The bible says in 2Corinthians 13:5 examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Paul Washer, a great, convicting full-time preacher said something along the lines of "Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Don't ask yourself whether you have repented, but whether you continue to repent today. Don't ask yourself whether you have believed, but whether you are continuing to believe today.
It seems that the bible supports the idea that salvation is not merely a prayer, but that you must examine yourself and see whether you are continuing to believe in him and repent. Do you hate your sin? Many of us, including myself often, do not. If you do not, ask God to help you to hate it and love him. If you don't know it, ask him to show you. Subpoint D- The "(John) and (Dennis) Incidents" and how to handle them
Two incidents in consecutive weeks have helped grow my faith to where it is now. I didn't handle them all too well, but I later learned the right thing to do and will help me to grow in the future. They both occurred at the youth group at Calvary Baptist Church with two annoying kids at youth group named (John) and (Dennis). It may not be surprising for you to hear that they are friends.
(John) is a kid at youth group who is always very annoying, but a particularly annoying habit he has is to throw wet paper towels into my stall (And heaven only knows how he knew I was in there.) What I did at the time was threaten to hurt him, but in reality, I asked a youth leader to talk to him. Although that action was in the right, it was wrong for me to threaten him like I did.
On the way home, I was repeating and repeating to my dad how I wanted to punch him, how I didn't care that it was wrong exc. And this was only last week. This week a lot has changed!
(Dennis) is an annoying kid at youth group, who, like (John), always wants a reaction. To get one, he breaks a cookie and drops it on my lap. What did I do? A reasonably good choice, but not the best one. I told him to pick it up and upon his refusal I told a youth group leader who made him clean it up. What would have been the ideal choice.
My mom summed it up well in these words "Turning the other cheek that is in this case cleaning it up is the only thing that has power To show Jesus' love. Jesus backs up her opinion in Matthew 5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. This is the biblical thing to do.
Subpoint E- Fourteen and still much to learn
If you think that by listening to me all this time that I think I'm a self-righteous jerk who thinks I'm better than everyone else, you are gravely mistaking.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, I have a severe anger problem I am trying to defeat, but I'm not so sure I can alone. I need to trust God to help me get past those problems in his timing which will help me to be a greater witness for him. As you may see, my testimony is not really complete, nor is anyone's. The Christian, either a long-time Christian or a reasonably new one like me (Though I don't know the exact time which I got saved) We are always learning new things about God. If you're still a child living at home, you may be thinking, "I can't do anything for God, I'm too young." Whether it be Satan or society, don't let them lie to you. The book, Do Hard Things is a book for teens, by teens, and they certainly aren't bound by that lie. Second Main Point- Who says young people can't do big things for God?
It may seem impossible for a young person to do things for God, but it really isn't. I have read some of the book Do Hard Things which tells about some teens that really did go out and take on huge responsibility. In this part of the speech, I'll tell you about this book, my personal example of a time I took a small, Although you may consider it big, it really isn't, example of doing something for God, and my big plans for the future which may not correspond with yours. As is said in Veggie Tales "Little guys can do big things too." Subpoint A- The Do Hard Things book and 1 Timothy 4:12
1Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
After reading that verse, do you still think it's impossible for the young to do big things for God? It's not.
In the Do Hard Things book, the authors (Two brothers wrote it) told three stories about t teens from long ago who did Hard Things. Here are two of the stories in my own words.
A man named George was born in Northern Virginia in 1732 to a middle class family, and he lost his father at 11. At 16, he had mastered advanced math such as geometry and calculus. At seventeen, he was official surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia. This was a man's job and was heavy work. He grew up to become the first President of the United States, George Washington.
David, not me, different David, was ten when he began his career at sea, and at 12 he was given command of a vessel that was captured during the War of 1812, and had a mission to return it to the United States. The former British Captain was upset about being ordered around by a 12 year old. He was allowed to keep his pistols, A symbol of his position, out of respect, and he said he'd go on deck with them. David responded by telling him if he did he'd be shot and thrown overboard. The former captain believed him and stayed below.
Talk about guts! And over something worldly! And we don't have the guts to tell our friends the greatest news in the world, eternal news about Jesus. Neither do I, but it's a problem. Remember the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." This applies to the young and the old. Subpoint B- Handing Out Tracts in the mall
As I previously admitted, I'd call myself a young and immature Christian who has much to learn and much to do. However, the bible supports the idea that the young can do big things, and I have done something reasonably small that proves the idea that the young as well as the old can fulfill the great Commission.
The story started on Saturday, February 14, when my dad told me that that next Saturday the Schmitts were going to go to the mall to witness to people. I originally had no desire to go, but quickly changed my mind Sunday Morning. That changed quickly on Sunday Night, when I had my issue with (John), I realized that, if I can't handle that, am I ready to witness? But I decided to go, and handed out six tracts at the mall. I didn't talk to anyone, but I put the gospel into their hands. You can surely do the same.
Subpoint C- My dreams for the future, and why should you care?
My dream for the future a week ago? Make Video Games, be an author, something along those lines. Now? I want to proclaim the gospel. Am I a person who cares for nothing worldly and only the spiritual? Far from it! However, I am a person who wants to please God and grow closer to him, and to fulfill the Great Commission. Every Christian's dream should be the same.