Stewart P.

Stewart P.

from KS
Story #559
This is hard, I never really thought about my story. I thought I could wrap it up in a few short paragraphs, but that didn’t happen. I don’t know if my story is similar to others on here, but this is my story. Its taken 45 years to get to where I am. Through those years I can look back and see God did not give up on me.

COASTING THROUGH LIFE
I grew up in a small town in Texas. Good people, quiet life, and a church on every corner. My dad moved us there when I was in kindergarden for a ministry position. Yep, that makes me a preacher’s kid? Church for me was just something we did on Sundays, while God and Jesus were just stories from the Bible. I didn’t really care, I just wasn’t interested. After a while my dad lost his ministry position, but we stayed in town when he became a teacher at the local high school. Yep, now I’m the preacher/teacher’s kid. As the years went by nothing changed for me spiritually. My dad would try to discuss getting saved, and I heard our preacher ask for those who wanted to be saved to come forward and be baptized. I just didn’t have ears to listen. And as I hit my high school years I began to rebel. Now it wasn’t open rebellion; I kept my grades up and mostly stayed off anyone’s radar, but I was partying, drinking, watching porn, and all that goes with such a lifestyle. I led two lives; my parents saw the good student, church going kid. My friends saw the other me. The lying, stealing, drunkard. Sometimes the two lives crashed into each other, it was a small town after all. I would take my grounding, say my sorries, but inside I didn’t repent.

CONVICTED OF SIN
I’m not sure how old I was, I think I was a junior in highschool. A friend invited me to a good old fashion revival. For one week this pastor came and he would preach his sermon and at the same time he would draw a picture with chalk. When he was done preaching, he would also be done with the picture. It always pertained back to his message for that night. It interested me enough to go and check it out and it kept me coming just to see what he would draw next. He preached on hell fire more than once; this was a southern baptist preacher I’m talking about. It got my attention. I knew I had never been saved and I didn’t want the alternative. About two weeks later I walked the aisle of my church and asked to be saved. Now, here is where the story should end. Everything should be right with the world.

THINGS GET FUZZY
After all these years in church, here is all I knew. I needed to believe in Jesus, and I needed to be baptized. I told you I never really cared or paid attention. Sad, but true. At this time I knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. Today, I understand now that the conviction of sin and my realization of God’s judgement was the Holy Spirit opening my eyes.

SIDE NOTE: If you’re reading this, and you are getting this ‘aha!’ moment where your heart and mind are telling you, “I know I’m a sinner”, “I know I’m living a life against what God wants for me”, “Jesus really did give all for me,” then I beg of you to reach out to me or someone on this site to learn what it means to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Don’t ignore that small voice, it’s God’s Spirit convicting you and allowing you see clearly that it’s time to quit running from God. To repent and follow after Him.
I felt led to put this in here just now. My prayer is that God uses this story to plant seeds and draw people to Himself. I pray you won’t wonder in the wilderness of life as long as I did before truly allowing Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.

Back to my story. As I mentioned, I knew very little. I so wish someone would have come along and discipled me before and after I went forward. I was asked, “Do you believe Jesus is the son of God?” I said, “yes.” That is what I had been told all my life, so sure that’s what I believed. Then I was asked, “Do you want to be baptized to wash away your sins.” Again, I said, “yes.” That’s what I was up there for. So there I was, I believed in Jesus and I wanted to be forgiven of my sins. Salvation clean and simple. Here is where it gets fuzzy. To this day, I do not know if I truly gained salvation and received the Holy Spirit that day. Heck, I didn’t know I was suppose to get the Holy Spirit when coming to faith in Jesus. I wish I could say that I turned my life around, but I can’t. I was an infant in my faith. I so needed someone to feed me, and nurture me so I could walk. I didn’t reach out and I didn’t know where to go from there. At the time, I was sure of my salvation. My parents were happy for me, I got congratulated by the church members, and I felt forgiven. The problem is nothing really changed. I continued to go to church with my family, but I never really grew in my faith. Instead I still hung out with the same friends and continued my double life. So you see where I’m confused; did I just not grow in my new found faith or did I just get wet and walk around feeling good for awhile.

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
I don’t want to sow doubts about someone’s faith. I’m just telling my story. If this is lining up with your story then I just want to encourage you to take the time to be sure. I understand a person can fall back into a sinful lifestyle and still have been truly saved. I also understand that just because a person chooses to follow Jesus it doesn’t mean they won’t have bad habits and strongholds to overcome. I had a pastor tell me once that just because your a Christian it doesn’t mean you won’t sin. The difference is you can’t enjoy your sin as much. Why? Because when you truly have repented and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. Your sin now grieves the Holy Spirit that dwells in you, and you remain under conviction of that sin. You might try to avoid or deny it, but it’s always there.
It shouldn’t surprise us when a lost person acts lost and is at peace, because they don’t have that same conviction. I’m afraid that was my condition. I went back to pretty much everything I was doing. I knew it was wrong, that’s why I hid it. But, I was hiding it before all this. I do believe I was under conviction of the Holy Spirit that day. That’s the only way we come to see we are lost sinners. Where I failed was trusting in my head knowledge of who Jesus was and the act of baptism to save me. That seems fine, but I read in my Bible that the demons believe in Jesus and tremble. They know who Jesus is. Nobody has to convince them that He is the Son of God. But all that knowledge doesn’t save them.
Today, I now understand it’s not only this knowledge of who Jesus is, but it is coming to that realization of how my sin has completely cut me off from God. Confessing and repenting of my sin. It’s coming to see how much Jesus loved me to die in my place. I understand now that what He did on the cross was for me. I now place my faith, in Jesus alone. I now accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Get baptized? Yes, but not to save but to show outwardly what has occured inwardly in your spirit. Today I can truly say I have been saved. I no longer have a hope so salvation, but a know so salvation. The Spirit convicts me of my sin, yes I still sin, but I can no longer live in sin. That is, I can no longer live a life in complete rebellion without the convicting power of the Spirit letting me know this isn’t right. I haven’t mentioned this, but another way to know is to bear fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As I walk and grow in my faith I can see this spiritual fruit manifesting in my life.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: If someone is reading this and you have the opportunity to help a new Christian walk in their faith, please do it. If you have the ability to create a class at your church to help those who have just come to Christ, please be willing to supply that. As I mentioned, I’m not sure if I was saved and didn’t grow, or I put my faith in the wrong things. Either way, each person should be led into a full understanding of salvation and then fed on scripture and good examples of following Christ lived out in front of them.

THAT’S NOT THE END OF MY STORY
As you can see from above I did finally accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My salvation is made sure in the sacrifice Jesus paid for me. I have confessed and repented of my sinful life. I still fall short, I still struggle, but my hope is sure. I have joy and peace that are not shaken by circumstances. I can confidently trust there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But how did I get to this point you might ask. That’s an even longer story.

GOD IS FAITHFUL, HE DIDN’T GIVE UP ON ME

The years went by and not much changed in my life. I moved to Kansas and went to college. I lived with my grandmother and went to her church. I can’t say I gained much there. I never got involved and just went about my life. I still trusted in the fact I had been baptized and was saved. I met someone at my work and we dated for awhile and got married. We had twin sons not long after and she had a daughter from a previous relationship. So here I was with a family of 5 trying to make ends meet. My wife wasn’t a Christian and it didn’t bother me because I wasn’t living like one anyway.
Some friends of ours invited us to go to church so we decided to check it out. My wife decided to go forward that first Sunday. I don’t know if she truly got saved that day either. More on that later. I was shocked to say the least, but I couldn’t let her join the church without me so I went forward as well. We proclaimed we wanted to join the church, that we believed in Jesus and wanted to be baptized. If your keeping count that makes baptism number 2 for me. This time I know I didn’t have any conversion moment, I just went forward because she did.
We went faithfully and even got involved serving. We got the kids going and made sure they did their Sunday school lessons. At this time I actually started listening. I heard the pastor talk about Jesus’ sacrifice. I started to understand that it’s faith in Christ alone. There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation, but put my faith in His completed work on the cross. Each Sunday our pastor would ask if anyone would like to come forward and accept Jesus into their life. To trust Him as Lord and Savior. I would literally have to hold on to the pew in front of me to keep myself from going forward. My soul was grieved each Sunday, but I couldn’t go forward. Everyone knew I was saved, everyone knew I served in the church. My pride just wouldn’t let me go. I praise God He kept knocking. One Sunday holding on to that pew I finally let go. I walked forward I confessed I was not right with God. I was a sinner and repented of my sins. I prayed for God to forgive me, and I confessed my faith in Jesus as Lord. I got baptized again. Yep, third times the charm.
I began to grow stronger in my faith. I studied more. I continued to serve. I began to allow God to mold and change me. I saw strongholds and bad habits begin to fall. My prayer life? What can I say, I actually now had a prayer life. My walking in the light was slow but steady.

MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS

When your on the mountain, you would think you would see the valley below. Nope. I thought everything was going fine then one day my wife tells me she has been unfaithful. Blind-sided is an understatement. I was devastated. My wife had gotten pretty good at living a double life just like I had.
When asked about difficulties in life, I usually point to this as the worst. I can truly say my faith held me together and got me through it. My parents helped me, my friends comforted me and folks at church encouraged me. I can’t even imagine someone walking that path and not having Jesus in their life. After I found out, I tried to forgive. We went to counseling and I believe we really tried to make it work. In the end she still wasn’t faithful and I asked for a divorce. I go through my life and wonder what I could have done different. It’s a train of thought that will consume you if you let it. I grew from this and took my hard earned lessons and moved on. Hopefully it has made me a better man. I will tell you now, if your thinking of divorce, to think on it some more. It doesn’t make things easier dealing with your spouse. The fights are still there, but your doing it from a distance. Sadly it’s the kids that get caught in the middle. I urge you to put your time and energy into making it work, because you will surely be using your time and energy in a negative way during and long after it is finalized.
Can God make beauty from ashes? Can he heal the broken hearted. Sure He can. In fact it was my ex-wife that introduced me to my new wife Jennifer. Why do I believe I saw God working in this? Because through it all I tried to stay faithful to God’s commands. I didn’t let hate and bitterness consume me. I forgave her and tried to be as kind as I could. I failed sometimes, but I sought forgiveness and tried again. I remember early on through this, with a broken heart and tears running down my face, I layed on my bedroom floor completely sprawled out in prayer calling on God. I don’t remember now what I even prayed, but God heard my sorrow I’m sure. I can say that there is life after divorce. I don’t believe divorce is ever in God’s plan for our lives. He isn’t promoting it, blessing it, or advocating for it. But we have a faithful, loving, and gracious God who can carry us through.

PRODIGAL SON

As mentioned above, I did find love again. I remarried and went about raising my sons. My wife Jennifer was pretty new in her faith, and I had been through the valley. Sadly I didn’t re-climb the mountain. I wish I could say I stood arm and arm with God and I stayed true to my faith. Instead I found it was hard to go to church and face all these couples who knew my as Lori’s husband. Because of that I isolated. They couldn’t know what I was going through. I felt I was letting the kids ministry I was working with down by being so out of step. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, but I hope God raised someone else up to disciple those kids. I’m sure he did. But that led me to slowly attend church less and less with no one counting on me. Jennifer and I went to her church for a while and back to mine, but in the end we just stopped going. We let the busyness of life get in the way. Having the boys every other weekend caused difficulties in making them go to church when they didn’t have to go with their mom. I wanted to avoid the fight. I wanted them to enjoy coming to my house. It was just another excuse to go my own way. This time things were different as I chose my own way. I tried to fight it, but the Spirit tried to convict me all the time that I wasn’t following God’s plan for my life. These convictions caused us to periodically try new churches every once in awhile. It kept me from falling back into all the sinful habits I had dealt with before. In the end I let my indifference to lack of obedience win out. I bought into a lie that I didn’t need a church family to live this Christian life. Whatever you do don’t believe that. You might have been hurt in a church, you might have found yourself in a spiritually dead church, but I beg you to call on God to lead you to a church home. I believe that is a prayer He will expedite if you do your part and search one out. If you don’t I promise you, you are not in God’s will for your life and spiritually your family will suffer. I have two lost sons I love so much that will not turn back to God and trust Jesus as their Savior. That breaks my heart all the time and I have to live with that every day. I failed them as the spiritual leader of the home. I pray for them, I have others praying for them. One day I trust the Holy Spirit will open their eyes and they will not harden their hearts to His message of grace and forgiveness. If you would please pray for Kory and his wife Lauryn and my other son Kyle to be saved.

GOD WAS WAITING, WHEN HE SAW ME COMING, HE RAN TO ME

Fast forward to just a few years ago and God was able to move heaven and earth to get my attention. That might be overstating things, but He did lead my parents to move to Kansas in their retirement years. Out of nowhere, He laid it on their hearts to leave Texas. Mainly to be closer to family and better health care. The closest hospital to their little town was over 30 miles away. After they moved up here they began to look for a church and they found one just down the street from them. They had for years been trying to get Jenny and I to get back into church, so they invited us. We got up one Sunday morning and went to Riverlawn Christian Church. We enjoyed it, worship was heartfelt, message was strong and full of God’s Word. The members were friendly and you felt God moving in that congregation. We went back some more. With my parents encouraging us we had more accountability. Someone actually knew if we were not there. In and of itself I don’t know if that would have been enough to get us to quit our disobedience and allow God to use us. But God wasn’t done. Another thing that God was moving were obstacles in our process to adopt a little girl. This could be another whole story, but in the end we adopted her on her 1st birthday. We had so many people praying for us and we saw so many small moments where God just helped make it possible. With this new child and a renewed interest in church, we knew that we needed to recommit and follow God as a family. Since then we have joined the church, have gotten involved, I serve where needed, and have not looked back. I love God more each day; allowing Him to use me to love and care for others. I see fruit again, He is faithful. He just never gave up on me when I have turned from Him so many times. God has rekindled my Spirit and is using me for His glory. I now understand it’s not about me. It never was. But because of His great love He chose to extend me grace. I’m living for eternity now, and allowing God to use me where He can. As a guy in one of my men’s groups keeps saying, “I’m on an adventure.” Only God knows where to next. I trust day by day. You want to know what the will of God is for your life? Start doing the will of God (love Him with all you have, love others as yourself) and He will direct you. He can hit a moving target. Just keep moving. Don’t become a stagnant Christian like I did. God bless and I pray God can use my story for His Glory. If God is calling you and you know you are lost in your sins, don’t delay, reach out to me or a trusted Christian friend or pastor. Read God’s Word for yourself so you may know if their counsel is biblical. I leave you with this.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than anyztwo-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 3:7-8 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,


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