A Real Testimony by Ben Toh-1998

I found an old diary I left in Manila, Philippines, at the UBF chapter where I am staying. In it, I wrote on Easter Sun, Apr 12, 1998 a testimony I had forgotten about entitled “Thanksgiving Despite Myself.” Inspired by Joe-2005, I am sharing what I wrote, which will please UBF people. They might wonder why I am no longer that person, though I am still that person, except for theological adjustments regarding dualism, gnosticism, patriarchy, paternalism, anthropocentricity, authoritarianism, and the gospel. Joe-2005 wrote an imaginary report in 2012. I actually did write this in 1998, which I had never shared with anyone. As Joe-2012 responded to Joe-2005, Ben-2012 might respond to Ben Toh-1998. This is what I wrote:

“Thank you, Lord, that you have been with me until now, despite myself. I know that I have failed to live up to your grace because of the corruption and depravity of my heart. I know that when you blessed me I became loose and ignored my conscience by enjoying my physical and worldly life. I am sorry that I have grieved you and your servants by becoming a discouragement and a bad influence to others. But I know that the root problem is that I have lost your presence and your blessing upon my life.

Even though I loathe myself and my life, I cannot deny your love, mercy and grace to me. I also cannot deny your discipline and your divine love which I know will help me to indeed loathe my life in the world. But as a physical man and an earthbound man, I still seem to cling to the small pleasures of life, such as enjoying friendship and intimacy with my wife and children, as well as entertainment. But I pray that I may embrace your disciplinary love until I no longer enjoy my physical life and the things of the world.

Although I have failed the first 17 years as a Christian, I pray that, if you are willing, I may have the chance to restore your presence and your blessing upon me in the next 30 years. I know that I am a most stubborn stonehead like my father. I know that I well deserve your judgment and punishment for “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7), and that “God will give to each person according to what he has done” (Rom 2:6). I know that I am experiencing “wrath and anger” as well as “trouble and distress” because I have been evil, self-seeking and pleasure seeking, instead of seeking glory, honor and immortality (Rom 2:7-9).

I know that because of me, your precious flock under me are all wondering and directionless in their hearts without exception. Forgive me for this and help me to restore my heart, until I might someday pray like my Lord, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (Jn 17:19). Help me to discipline myself until I learn to value prayer in the AM and PM.

I think I know and can see the sins that are before my eyes over the last 10 years. I have inadvertently and by choice enjoyed the lust of my eyes through TV, videos and movies that have robbed me of my spirit. I have enjoyed meaningless excitement and meaningless victories through sports. I have wasted countless hours playing computer games like Tetris, and reading about sports, movies and entertainment. I have done all these things while living in the midst of your great servants, Dr. Lee and Reverend Mother Barry, who are giving their lives in the world mission headquarters. I know that I am an unforgivable sinner before you and before your people.

I know that I am “weary and burdened” because I lived in the flesh and did not “live by the spirit” (Gal 5:16), and because I did not take Jesus’ yoke upon me nor learn from him.

Someone said that I am scientific, analytical, and for the most part objective, because of my training as a doctor. So when I heard that I became corrupted after I found out (something sexual), I began to think about it and analyse it. My conclusion is that this discovery allowed me to justify my curiosity about sexuality that obviously arose from my own sinful nature and from the evil inclination of my own heart.”

I ended rather abruptly. This was what I wrote 14 years ago. Please comment, or compliment, or critique, or query, or advise Ben Toh-1998.


  1. Ben,

    First of all, I say we need to post many more of these kinds of testimonies! I have several hundred megabytes of similar testimonies I and others wrote.

    On one hand, I can’t stop laughing hysterically, because I cannot imagine you writing this! God’s transformation of you is remarkable, knowing you now and comparing to the Ben-1998 who I used to be afraid of :) You truly are “no longer that person, though I am still that person, except for theological adjustments regarding dualism, gnosticism, patriarchy, paternalism, anthropocentricity, authoritarianism, and the gospel.”

    Seriously though, although BrianK-1998 felt almost exactly the same way as Ben-1998, he would NEVER have guessed that you felt like this. Ben-1998 was portrayed to BrianK-1998 as the “best 1:1 Bible teacher in UBF” (If I remember correctly that was an announcement given by Samuel Lee passed onto us). You were something of a legend who always had 50 sheep every week. So it is good to know that Ben-1998 had real feelings, albeit an overdose of unhealthy self-pity.

    My only words to Ben-1998 now would be: cheer up!

    • Dear Brian-98, “You SHOULD be afraid of me. Don’t you know how fruitful, spiritual, mature, and exemplary I am as a shepherd and 1:1 Bible teacher!” Ben-98. {Ben-2012 would add :-)))}

  2. Joe Schafer

    Dear Ben-98,

    Please don’t take this in the wrong way. I respect you and your faith. I believe that you have accepted certain teachings of the gospel, at least in a doctrinal sense. But through your words, I don’t hear an authentic present experience of grace. What I hear is a whole lot of self-loathing, a false humility that some have called “worm theology.” You are not a worm. You are an image bearer of the Triune God.

    Your friend, Joe-12.

  3. But, but, Joe-12, I do know grace. I know I am made in God’s image. So, yes, I do loathe my sins. After all, Jacob was a worm too (Isa 41:14)! Ben-1998.

  4. Reading your testimony (especially the title), made me think of something I read from, Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.

    “Most of us have been exposed to such a mutilated form of biblical submission that either we have embraced the deformity or we have rejected the Discipline altogether. To do the former leads to self-hatred; to do the latter leads to self-glorification.”

    It seems as if Ben-1998 loathes himself. Something Foster continually emphasizes is that the spiritual practices of discipline are not the goal, but only instruments to the goal. Ben-1998 is focusing on the outward acts, but he’s just burnt out and immersed in worm theology. “Self-denial is not the same thing as self-contempt.”-Foster

    There is a balance. Spiritual discipline is essential to growth and depth. But the acts of discipline are not what save us.

  5. Love the quote, MJ. Posted it on FB. Must re-read Foster’s classic which I read years ago. I “missed” that quote, since I was sure that I was NOT embracing the deformed/”mutilated form of biblical submission.”

    Since becoming a Christian in 1980, I have always loved being a “worm” before God (Isa 41:14)–then in 1998 and even today. Is there a difference? I think so, but it’s quite subtle and subjective.

    In 1998, there was a lack of inner confidence and boldness because of a degree of self-loathing, which I perceived to be humility. Today, I see that as a disguised pride expressing itself as a false sense of humility.

    Today, because of a “deeper” realization of grace, I am bold and confident, I have no fear of anything or anyone (except for the fear of God), simply because of a confidence in the love of God that has absolutely nothing to do with me. Yet, I do not believe the humility is squashed by my boldness, because I am still ever in awe for still being that worthless “worm” for which Jesus had to die.

    I love the gospel for ONLY in the gospel is both humility and boldness always in tact simultaneously. Outside of the gospel, either humility of boldness will be lacking. Or we flip flop from boldness to humility and vice versa depending on our “spiritual performance.”

    If I think I am doing well, I am bold but not humble. But if I think I am doing poorly, (as when I wrote what I did in 1998), I was “humble” but not at all bold or confident. But it is not really humility, because I “refused” the grace of God because of my own perception of my own poor performance.

  6. Gajanan Nial
    Gajanan Nial

    I clicked dislike above, because I did not like Ben-98’s testimony. :) But I superlike Ben-2014 who has been a greatly transformed brother in Christ.

    By the way AbNial-98 was full of life, and joy and peace and hope, and zeal, b’coz he met Jesus as his Savior and Lord that year, and knew nothing of what Ben-98 is talking about.

    • Thank God that AbNial-98 and Gajanan-2014 are “full of life, and joy and peace and hope, and zeal.”

  7. johnbird

    Boy, does this bring back memories. Of hour after hour of listening to such stuff. Worse, of writing it myself. There are times when I wonder whether all the work of rebuilding my life since leaving UBF has been worthwhile, but this testimony takes away all doubt. Thank God for freedom.