Although my story is neither dramatic nor profound, I thought it might be helpful to hear from someone who has spent his lifetime trying to live the Christian life. As you get into church and speak with other Christian people, you will meet others whose stories are a profound monument to God’s Saving Grace.
For me and my family, it all started back in 1952 when my Grandpa, Emmett Gilbert, gave his life to Jesus Christ. Before his conversion, he was a heavy drinker, and would get into fights. He tried several times to change his ways and clean up his act, but the habit of alcohol was too strong for him.
One day he was pulling up to his house, when he noticed a car in his driveway that had a clergy sticker on it. He muttered to himself, “If he gets smart with me I’ll throw him out!” He went inside to find a minister who had a kind and gentle spirit. The minister asked Grandpa what was keeping him from joining his family at church. Grandpa said, “Man, my heart is black as hell!” The minister responded with the Bible verse from Isaiah that says “…Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18b).
This verse had a profound effect on Grandpa. He got back into his pickup truck, lit up a cigarette, and started down the road. At a bend in US 52, he looked up through the windshield with tear-stained eyes and asked God to forgive his sins. In an instant he became a brand new person. He flicked his cigarette out the window and drove back home, where he emptied the fridge of all the beer he had, and went out back to break the bottles over each other. His four year old son, David, who is my Father, asked my Grandma why he was breaking all the beer bottles. Grandma told him that his Daddy had met God. My Dad asked, “Who’s God?” at which time Grandma sent him out to ask Grandpa. My Dad became Grandpa’s first of many, many converts to Christianity.
Grandpa went on to be one of the best Christians I have ever known. He became a missionary to many different countries. He especially had a deep compassion for the poor people of Haiti, where he visited many times. He led a couple witchdoctors to faith in Christ, and broke up a Voodoo meeting where they were about to sacrifice an infant to their satanic gods.
Because of his influence, my Father followed in his footsteps and became a minister of the Gospel. As a result, I was raised in a strong Christian home, and became a “third generation Christian.” I can’t really remember a time in my early days that I did not try to be a Christian. However, I publicly went forward to pray and receive Christ in a Revival Meeting around the age of seven.
I would like to say that I have always done what’s right and never failed the Lord. However, when I reached the teen years, I struggled much with sexual addictions, which caused me to be “up and down” spiritually. I often would be disobedient to God, and would need to ask forgiveness. God was always faithful to forgive me, as He promised in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I lived a frustrated life for many years, because I was trying to serve both God and my own sinful desires. But God’s plan is not to save us in our sins, but to save us from our sins.
As an adult, I went through some times of depression, which I believe God used to draw me closer to Him. Through these dark terrifying times, I realized that I needed God’s help in my life more than I needed anything else. I fully surrendered all my will and self to Him, a point that is essential for all Christians to come to in order to serve God as they should. It is very hard to keep one’s self in a state of constant surrender to God, as we are human and the “flesh is weak.” God led me to use accountability as a tool to help me keep myself under subjection. With God’s help and the tools He has given me, I have been able to break free from the addictions that kept me hopelessly bound for all those years.
Recently, my wife Lisa and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We have two teen-aged sons. Our family attends church together regularly. Some would look at us as a strong, happy family that has never had any serious issues. However, the fact of the matter is that it is Satan’s plan to destroy all families. Lisa and I have had many difficult times throughout these 20 years. I believe many who have had less problems would have divorced long ago. But because of our vow to each other, made before God in the presence of many witnesses, we determined to stick it out regardless of the consequences. God has honored our commitment, and has kept us together and brought us through many of those problems. Our marriage is much stronger and happier today because we determined we would honor God and our vows rather than seek our own selfish interests. The family unit is one of the greatest building blocks of our society, and must be guarded with all we have to keep it in tact.
And that’s where I am today…living for God, raising my boys to follow God as well, and trying in my own feeble way to point others to Christ…