Four Words That Changed My Life
-Jerry Wilhite

Four Words That Changed My Life

My name is Jerry Wilhite, and this is my story.

Growing up in the mid-western state of Iowa, I had all a boy could want – a solid home life with parents who loved me; a 120-acre farm on which to hunt, fish, hike, and ride my motorcycle; a small school where four major sports were offered; multiple job opportunities; wholesome friends; and, eventually, a car I could call my own – a blue Volkswagen Bug. By the time I finished high school in 1977, it had been my fortune to participate in football, track and basketball during each of my four years. I had coveted awards and positions; class offices usually bore my name; in my possession had been three different motorcycles; and I had one of the highest-paying part-time jobs in south-central Iowa. Graduation day even had its honors. My proud heart was nurtured and became even more proud.

I shouldn’t forget to mention the little Baptist church in that small town, where my parents took me with fervent regularity, and the impact that church made on me. Even my “religious” side was being cultivated and developed. Memorizing verses, attending Sunday School, weekly Bible School, Youth rallies, state-wide conclaves, and Bible camp all helped “teach” me what every good person should know. Bible knowledge? I had it.

Choosing a college to attend was difficult for me. My parents presented an offer for each of their four children, “If you attend one year of Bible college, we’ll pay all first-year expenses.” Little did I know then of the impact that offer would make on my life. My older sister opted for marriage. Being the second child, and the first of three boys, I thought I would chance it and take advantage of this offer. What could one year of Bible college hurt? “Probably just a glorified Sunday School,” I thought.
Through my parents’ guidance, I sought out and applied to a Baptist college in Wisconsin. The possibility of playing on a college football team aroused my attention. But, when I arrived on campus, I found that college football players were a lot bigger than the pint-sized fellows I was used to. Was I ever glad the college fielded a soccer team with smaller fellows on it! My next two weeks were consumed by attempting a sport I had never even seen played. Before long, classes were in full swing, new friends were being acquired, and opportunities abounded.
“Through my parents’ guidance, I sought out and applied to a Baptist college in Wisconsin.”
But something was desperately wrong. I began to hear preaching like I had never heard before – or at least I did not remember hearing. Stirring messages ripped at my heart and spoke of a living, vibrant relationship with Christ that I did not know. How well I remember one particular night as a freshman when an itinerant preacher thundered forth with the Word of God and left me with a feeling of the heavy weight of sin, an immense void, and an overwhelming feeling of meaninglessness with my life. The preacher used verses such as Romans 3:10, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one,” and Psalm 53:2 and 3, “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every on of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doth good, no, not one.” Verses like these stung me. At first, I didn’t know that was happening. I did know one thing for sure, something was desperately wrong with me. Time and time again, message after message, year after year, the Lord mercifully knocked at my heart’s door, but this self-made and self-righteous fellow wouldn’t budge.

Getting busy would usually calm my fears, so that is what I did. By the commencement of my senior year, I was busily involved in sports, academics, and extra-curricular activities. I became dormitory supervisor, a vice president of the mission prayer band, our senior class chaplain, the student body chaplain, the president of our society, and the president of the inner-society (a composite of all officers in every society on campus). Participating in the college chorale and faithfully working in a Baptist church filled my days, nights and weekends.

In the fall of 1980, as a senior, I began to become astutely aware of my lost condition. By lost I mean that I was sinful and purposeless in my life, with no true relationship with Christ. This all came to a head one particular day in November as I was walking through the dorm performing a routine room inspection. For weeks and months now the Lord had been seriously dealing with me through Bible messages, the lives of others, and my own Bible study. The thought of being lost and without Christ had crossed my mind many times, but I persisted in problematic and perilous thoughts. But this morning was different.
“The successful, yet struggling senior student finally yielded!”
The successful, yet struggling senior student finally yielded! Going to my own room and kneeling by an old stuffed chair, I finally admitted to the Lord my utterly lost condition and need for Christ in my life. I was tired of having the external criteria, yet lacking the internal and eternal Christ. Admitting to the Lord my hopeless and unsaved condition was not an easy thing. I had been successful in many ways – especially religiously.
Though I don’t remember all that I said, nor how long I spent kneeling on the tile floor talking to the Lord, I do well remember saying four words and getting to that place where most people don’t want to come. With these four words, I admitted to both God and myself exactly what I was. “What were those four words?” you may be wondering. “Lord, I am lost!” Upon admitting my true condition, I asked the Lord to save me based upon the promise of the Scripture: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” When I arose, I had a peace and an assurance that I never knew until that time. The burden of sin that so long I had carried was lifted. I began to see a new power in my life giving me victory over sin; a different attitude toward those around me; and a sense of being right with God.

If you have never yet been truly saved, then why not admit your condition “…all have sinned…” (Romans chapter 3, verse 23) and accept Christ. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans chapter 10, verse 13)