Feature

No Longer Playing the Game

Life-changing freedom in Christ

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Man, I’d like to have what they have! I could see that the congregation at Fairhaven Church (Dayton, Ohio) had a genuine desire for God—and I didn’t.

I grew up in a fundamental, legalistic church and as a senior in high school made the decision to follow Christ, but that was as far as it went. I knew exactly what to do, say and how to act. I had all the “head knowledge” about Jesus, but my heart was far from Him.

Even as an adult, I was going through the motions. I had been doing daily devotions but never with consis-tency or meaning. I would read the Bible in the morning, but by the time I went to work, I would forget what I had read. I did devotions just to say to myself, I did it.

I stayed busy to ignore the spiritual emptiness I felt. It affected me, my family and my marriage. Even though I didn’t want to face it, I believe God had been dealing with me for years.

When we arrived at Fairhaven Church about eight years ago, I could see the freedom people had in their worship and relationships with God. And through a series of my own bad choices, God recently brought me to a place where I had to make a decision about my walk with Him. I needed to step across the line for my own good and for the good of my family.

War for My Soul

For several days, as I wrestled with this decision, I experienced unbelievable spiritual warfare. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I was physically exhausted. A battle raged over my decision to surrender my life to Jesus Christ as Lord. I was wrestling with the bad choices I had made in the past, thinking about how many years I had been playing this game and about what people would think of me. Everybody thinks I’m okay, I thought. I kept going back and forth.

Finally one afternoon, I drove to the church to see if my friend and pastor, David Smith, was in his office. I pulled into the staff parking lot and could see Smith through the window, by himself. I gathered my thoughts the best I could and walked inside. He knew what was going on. My wife, Jean, had let him know I was struggling. He had tried to contact me, but we hadn’t connected.

There in his office, I fell apart. I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I went through the whole process of what had happened over the years and just laid it out before God. Smith and I got on our knees and prayed for a long time. When I walked out of his office, I was a free man—totally different. I wondered, What took me so long? Why had I ignored it year after year?

Until this point, I had never given Jesus Lordship over my life. I never took that next step that needed to be taken. I had been living in the flesh for many years, and I had filled my life with everything but Him. I had ignored God. Spiritually, I continued to fail, which was hard for me and my wife. She knew the real story. She knew what was going on. I feel terrible that it took me that long to get where I needed to be.

Smith gave me a book called Devotional Classics. Each day I read the Bible and that book, and my thought process has completely changed. Now, I actually remember what I read! I come back to it at the end of the day and write my thoughts on index cards. I’m reading the Bible, rereading it and thinking about it.

You’re Mine

I’ve shared my story with others, and no one has said, “Gee, you haven’t been a Christian all these years?” Instead, the feedback I’m getting from other believers is that we’re on this journey together. That’s what the Body of Christ is all about—to encourage one another, share experiences and build each other up. I told Jean, “I can’t help but tell people about it.” Now, I desire to share what God has done in my life.

Before, my head and heart had been hardened, and I’m amazed that God didn’t just give up on me. Thankfully, He continued to pursue me. It was as if He said, “Hey, you’re one of mine. You’re not going to get away.”

I think about the years behind me and why I waited. I don’t know the answer other than my pride. That has been part of the battle over the years. God had to bring me to a point where I could hear Him say, “You have a decision to make—what are you going to do?”

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