Hello. My name is Ben Croston. I am the Middle School Director here at First Friends Church. I would like to share a little of my story here with you. I was raised going to church.
I went to a little church in Akron, Ohio called Eastwood Church of the Brethren. I grew up with a lot of my family at my church: a great grandpa, grandparents, aunts, cousins, my parents, and my sister. We eventually even lived next door to the church I grew up in. This left me with church as a major influence in my upbringing. I accepted Christ as my Savior as a young boy. And I tried to make Him a part of my life during my adolescent years. I went to church camp and different youth groups during my middle school years. I also had a lot of other influences on my life while I was growing up. I played baseball, basketball, and some football. I was in band and in different clubs at school. Friends were very important to me. Mostly good influences though I would say. During high school, the popularity ladder became more and more important to me. By my senior year I was trying to live kind of a dual life. I wanted to be associated as a Christian, but I was definitely doing things that a Christian ought not to be doing.
I ended up going to Malone College for college, by the grace of God. I say by the grace of God because it is there where God really got ahold of me. My first semester there, my childhood faith got confronted. Actually I think I was going through the process of my faith really becoming my own. I ended up taking my second semester of college off because I was dealing with some issues. A lot of those issues stemmed from knowing what I believed to not really knowing what I believed any more. For the better part of a year, I wrestled with myself, my questions, and with the reality of God. I came back to Malone the next fall. I wasn’t really secure about what I believed, but I did consider myself a Christian. God directed my steps to be influenced by some really helpful Christians who were patient, gentle, encouraging, honest, wise, and loving with where I was at in that season of my life.
One night, I had a friend confront me about pride. Calling me out for thinking that I knew more than everybody else. I asked him to leave me alone. I got on my knees that night and I told God that I did not love Him or trust Him. And if He did, He needed to show me something. It is then that a passage of scripture entered my mind. I didn’t know what it was. But I decided to look it up. It was a passage in 1 John 4. It ministered to me exactly where I was. It talks about God is love. And that He already has showed His love for each of us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. It was a life changing evening. I needed loved on. And God revealed Himself to me where I was at. Since then I have had a bit of a rollercoaster of a faith ride. I have had my ups and downs. But I must say, through all of the seasons of my life, God has ministered to my condition. He has been faithful to me in my questions, my anxieties, my hurts, my needs, and more. As the hymn writer wrote about God’s faithfulness, “Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth, Thine own good presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.” That is my story also of God’s faithfulness.