Hello. My name is Joel Dafoe, and I would like tell you a bit about myself. All my life I have attended church, prayed to God, and read my Bible. I learned these things as a young boy mostly because my father was the pastor of a Baptist church, and these things were expected of me. “People who knew me growing up probably thought that I would become a preacher some day just like my father.” People who knew me growing up probably thought that I would become a preacher some day just like my father. From an early age I have been involved in music and athletics, and as a teenager I continued to pursue these interests. Sports afforded the recognition and excitement that became the focus of my life.
After graduating from high school, I left home to attend a Christian college in the fall of 1987. Even though I was away from home, I still remained faithful in my good Christian “habits” – reading my Bible, praying, and going to church. I guess like any habit, I continued to do these things without really giving them much thought. Life at college was exciting for me – I was satisfied with my life’s direction at the time, and was rather proud of the things I was able to accomplish as an athlete. But soon something happened that caused me to re-examine the goals and priorities I had set for my life. I contracted a rare disease that began to cause paralysis throughout my entire body. I could now barely walk, much less run or play the sport in which I had invested so much of my time. I began to recognize that I had been focusing my life on things that were shallow and, well… temporary. “I determined from that point that I would focus my life on doing good things for God.” I determined from that point that I would focus my life on doing good things for God.
Thankfully, God saw fit to allow me to completely recover from this disease. After getting married and finishing college, I began visiting the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church in Emmaus, PA. Attending church was something I had done all my life, so I determined that I was going to faithfully attended all the church services. I began to be involved in several different areas of ministry within the church. But even though I was doing all these good things for God, there was something in my life that still seemed to be missing. One Sunday, a visiting preacher read from the book of Matthew in the Bible. This passage tells how Jesus came to a fruit tree expecting to find delicious fruit, but instead he found nothing but leaves. That phrase — “nothing but leaves” —haunted me over the next couple of days. I was busy acting out all of the good things that I had learned growing up, and yet God must be so disappointed when He looks at my life and sees “nothing but leaves.”
The fact that God sees through my outward actions and knows what is in my heart made me feel ashamed. The Bible says in I John chapter 1 verse 6, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” I recognized that the “good habits” that I thoughtlessly performed did not constitute “fellowship” with God. That word “fellowship” is used several times in the Bible describing the interaction between God and true Christians, and has very similar meaning to the word “relationship”. A relationship consists of things like spending time, sharing thoughts, understanding likes and dislikes, and desiring to make the other person happy. These things would hardly describe my interactions with God up to this point in my life.
The Bible tells us that it is our sin which keeps us from having fellowship with God. I knew that my selfishness had really driven the choices I had made throughout my life, and that pretending to have fellowship with God as I John 1:6 states, makes me a liar. Romans 3:23 states that “all have sinned, and have come short of the glory of God.” I understood that as long as I held onto the things that the Bible calls “sin,” I could not enjoy fellowship with the God of Heaven. “More than anything, I wanted to have a real relationship with God – I did not want Him to be disappointed with my life any longer.” More than anything, I wanted to have a real relationship with God – I did not want Him to be disappointed with my life any longer.
And so, it was a Sunday night in October of 1993 when my relationship with God began. That night I confessed my sin to God, and placed my trust in Him to save me from my sin and it’s consequences – separation from God and eternity in Hell. God’s Word promises a home in Heaven to those that are truly “born again,” and I have faith in Him keeping that promise. My life is much different now, and I would love for others to experience the same joy that comes from having a relationship with the God of Heaven. (Note: saved, salvation, and born again are Biblical concepts referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of a person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God’s requirement for everlasting life)