When I was growing up in the Wilmington, Delaware area my parents made an effort to find a church for our family with good standards and good people. They started attending the local Bible Presbyterian Church and I became part of Mrs. Clark’s fifth and sixth grade Sunday school class. After one of the lessons she asked me the question, “Eric, do you know if you are going to heaven when you die?” I shrugged my shoulders and said that I did not know and then stayed after class for her to discuss the issue with me.
After class, Mrs. Clark explained that there was a prayer I needed to pray in order to become ‘saved.’ With her guidance, I prayed the words and phrases she told me I needed to use. That day I remember others congratulating me on becoming a Christian and telling me how happy they were over my decision. It seemed like a pretty emotional moment.
In the days and weeks that followed, I began to ask myself what really happened on that day when I said that prayer. In the privacy of my bedroom I began to read and study my Bible like I never had before. “I remember crying out for God to help me understand.” I remember crying out for God to help me understand what I was reading and what the terms ‘saved’ and ‘Christian’ meant. I would read and pray, read and pray, over and over again. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
While reading my Bible a point came where I realized that I had not really made a decision on my own or committed to anything. I read about what I was; a sinner who was constantly sinning. A hatred and disgust of myself set in. I took that disgust to the Lord and told Him that I hated what I was and wanted to turn from self and sin to him. I then cried out that I believed that he died for me, was buried, rose again and was alive! “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15
I then asked him to ‘save’ me and make me one of his children. I told Him that I wanted to place all my trust in Him, to take my life, make me a new creature, and to direct me as Lord of my life. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Cor 5:17
When I left my bedroom that day, everything had become new. Through reading my Bible I learned that I had entered the Lord’s army. Boot camp, classroom training, and ongoing daily workouts would be required to strengthen me or I would become weak. There would be periods of learning similar to what a new recruit might experience, periods marked by weakness, fatigue, errors in judgment, and wrong decisions. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3
I did not realize or understand the nature of the battles that I would be facing right away! There was real conflict within me: obedience to my parents vs. wanting my own way, being different vs. wanting to fit in with neighborhood kids, being kind to my younger brothers vs. wanting to exert my strength and size over them. My mind and my body were at war with each other and there was an enemy present who fed my senses and a drill sergeant who spoke to my heart. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” 1 Peter 1:7
“In each lesson there was a challenge, a decision to be made, a commitment or action to be taken, and a result or payout.” In each lesson there was a challenge, a decision to be made, a commitment or action to be taken, and a result or payout. One challenge came on a Palm Sunday during my teenage years. I wanted to ride my trailbike and Dad said no. He even removed the spark plug from the engine without my knowing. My decision was to challenge my Dad by arguing, cursing, and fist fighting him in front of missionary dinner guests. My Mom called the police to have the fight broken up. After the policeman restrained me something unusual happened. Rather than penalize me, he had a discussion with me, and warned me about the decisions I had made. “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” Pro 1:23
My parents sacrificed financially to send me to Christian school and when I graduated I came under attack by the enemy again. I landed a job that offered me all the overtime I wanted and big paychecks. I was able to afford fancy cars, lots of travel on weekends, motorcycles, and many other “fun” things of the world. The cost, the enemy proposed, was only to miss a few church services. However, the few turned into many. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” 2 Tim 2:4
Some former schoolmates from the Christian school were also experiencing financial ‘success.’ Some spoke of sinful activities that they were doing and many seemed no worse for what they had done and were continuing to do. My enemy began to speak to my flesh and self and tell me I could do the same and be no worse for it either. After all, if missionary and pastors’ kids were involved, why couldn’t I do the same? “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7
Little did I realize the danger of that direction in combination with separation from a church. In turn, I remember crossing paths with other Christians who questioned decisions I was making. Conflict started to arise in my mind and I knew I had to make a correction and go in another direction. Rather than seek the Lord’s help in making a decision, I followed my own thinking and decided to return to college and move away. The solution—go to college in the ‘Sunshine State!’ “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 16:25
In the ‘Sunshine State,’ away from all authority I had known, the enemy would work to feed my senses and weaken my mind even more. Without authority, a church, daily feeding on God’s word, and a prayer life, I would be wide open to attack. “But God was still there.” But God was still there.
When I arrived at school, the Lord helped me by causing the dorms to be full which led the school to break policy and allow me to live off campus as a freshman. I ended up living and working at a property operated by my parent’s church and run as a Bible conference. I was thankful that I would be safe from the party atmosphere at those dorms. At my new workplace were some who seemed to be serving God and I observed them. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 37:23
But the enemy took advantage of my poor decisions and led me to consider other ‘Christians’ who were engaged in sin and appeared to be getting away with it. I remember being prodded to engage in immoral behavior by individuals who worked there, taking the advice, and thinking if brother so-and-so can get away with it, so can I. God responded by sending messengers to warn me to stop.
He also sent motor vehicle accidents with fatalities that could easily have been fatal to me as well. I responded to some of the warning signs by visiting a local Baptist church and listening to messages on tape. When I heard the preaching, a hatred of the things that I had done stirred me and caused me to want to separate from the temptation. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
The desire to separate from sin and temptation, and other financial and academic reasons, led me to make a right decision to transfer to another college near my parents’ home in New Jersey and live with them. This decision would require accountability to my parents. I was determined to seek God’s help and deliverance from the sin and not repeat the mistakes I made in the so-called Sunshine State. The enemy tried to get me to repeat some of the same mistakes, but I heeded the warnings and put distance between myself and temptation. God blessed me academically, financially, and spiritually for doing so.”Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 2 Cor 6:17
God also answered my seeking on other levels. He sent my Bible-reading, singing, praying 80-year-old grandmother to move in with us. She quoted scripture and reminded me often that she was praying for me. Then, just before graduation I met my future wife. The preaching at the Baptist church she and her family attended warned me and challenged me to walk closer with my God. I saw that I had a lot of work to do, began to study and memorize Bible verses, and ask God to clean me up.”Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” 1 Peter 5:6
Over the years the enemy has used different strategies and tactics in each battle and my drill sergeant, in turn, has given specific warning and arranged events so that I could be delivered. Do you have evidence in your life of a commander telling you which way to go? If can’t you look back and see the warning, chastening, and blessing that only a heavenly Father can provide? If not, would you consider a bible study to find out why not? “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6