I was only 17 years old, but
I had already reached the end of my desire to live. I
had no more reason to be here.
I had no family. My life of crime was partly to blame
for that. There was also my refusal to work or go to
school or to do anything meaningful with my life. My
mom, of course, would probably have put up with it. But
my step-dad had closed the door, telling me that I was
no longer welcome in his house.
I had no friends. Not that I really understood then what
it means to have friends. All my buddies were into crime
and drugs, like I was. And while there was a certain
amount of honor among thieves, I guess, that honor was
always tossed aside when it got in the way of greed or
escaping arrest or even the desire to have someone
And I had played out my hand over and over, taking
advantage of every friend I had. I had shown them all
that they could never trust me. So now I had no one else
to call on for a favor. I was all alone.
But not completely alone. I did have the law on my back.
There were warrants out for my arrest. Mostly traffic
violations: court agreements I had not kept and tickets
that I had never paid. The police had never been able to
prove my participation in any of the more serious
crimes. So I guessed that I was lucky.
But who wanted this life? Not me. I had already fried my
mind. My use of LSD and a long list of other drugs had
left me without the ability to concentrate or think
clearly. I was unable to sit still and do anything
So it was obvious that I had no peace with God. And if a
person is not at peace with God, then there can be no
joy, no peace inside at all, and no honest hope of a
better tomorrow. I was angry and ruined and without
anyone to care in the world. I had no place to go, and
no reason to stay.
I wanted out.
I had wrecked my car, so I walked for hours across the
big city, making my way to a place on the freeway where
I might at least be able to get a ride out of town. I
needed to go away -- far away. It was not my first time
to hitch rides. I had been traveling across the U.S.
this way since I was 15. I had been alone out in the
desert before, and I was thinking about that now. Maybe
I would just go out into the desert and never come back.
I now walked backwards along the shoulder of the
interstate, facing the traffic and holding my thumb out.
Literally thousands of vehicles passed by but no one
stopped. I walked down to where I finally had to climb
over and walk down to the final stretch of interstate,
the one that headed straight west out of the city. I
knew that I should have better luck here, beyond the
interchanges and all the local loops of freeway.
But I still waited and waited, walking backwards,
holding out my thumb. Finally, a '61 Chevy pulled over
and stopped. At last!
I hoped this guy would be going hundreds of miles into
the west. But the first thing I noticed, as I reached
for the door handle, was a big, black Bible sitting on
the seat. I stepped back for a second, thinking I'd just
waive the guy on. The last thing in the world I wanted
now was some guy preaching at me. Life was already bad
enough. But then I thought about the hours I'd been
waiting for this ride. I needed to get moving. So I
grabbed the handle, opened the door and got in.
Sure enough, Dan wasted little time in asking me if I
knew the Lord Jesus. I gave him my automatic response to
such questions. "Sure I do," I said. "I'm a member of
Timbergrove Baptist Church, right here in town."
But Dan didn't stop. He said, "That's great, Jim." And
then he went on talking about all the things Jesus had
been doing in his life. He told about how Jesus had
saved him from sin, and about how Jesus had called him
to be a singer of the gospel message. And he told about
how he and his Christian friends would go around singing
and telling people about Jesus.
The odd thing is, I wasn't getting bored with what Dan
was saying. He wasn't talking about church, about
religion, about the Ten Commandments, or even a lot
about sin. He was talking about real life, and about how
Jesus had given him a really great life. Now Dan was
doing good things, real things, meaningful things.
I found myself thinking of how great it would be to live
like that. Waking up every day with a purpose and a list
of good things I had to do that day. He also talked
about all the other lives he knew of that had been
changed by Jesus -- people whose live had been
transformed as a result of the work that Dan and his
Christian friends were doing. I thought of how I would
like to have that kind of life. A life that makes a good
and meaningful impact on the people around me. A life
that helps to change the world in good ways.
I was sick and tired of my life of sin. I had nothing
good to show for the years I had lived. All I had was a
long list of crimes and other acts against all kinds of
people -- acts against everyone I knew, plus lots of
strangers. No wonder I was ready to die.
It would be great to be like Dan. But I knew it was too
late for me. I'd already wasted my life, my mind, my
body. I was too bad. I had gone too long in sin, too far
down the wrong path. God already knew about me. He would
never forgive all the stuff I had done, all the lies I'd
told, the promises I had broken, the things I'd said in
my rage -- even things I'd said to Him. No, it would be
better for me to just go on out into the middle of
nowhere, where I could never do anyone else any harm,
and just die.
Dan was telling me that he was a college student, living
at home. He was on his way home now, and he invited me
to his folk's house for a good meal before I went on my
way. I had no deadlines, no schedules to keep to, so I
went along. And in his family, I could see the same
power of Jesus Christ at work.
He then offered to let me meet some of the Christian
friends he'd been telling me about. We went over to a
friend's house where others were gathering. And again,
that evening, I could see the grace of God in Jesus
Christ at work in their lives. All of them told of how
they had been lost sinners until Jesus came along and
"found them," setting them free, giving them a new and
meaningful life. Some of them were now singers or
musicians. Some had become preachers, and some taught
others about the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ.
It was wonderful, listening to them talk, and seeing all
the things that Jesus was doing in their lives. But I
could not be truly joyful, knowing all the while that my
own life was lost, ruined, destroyed by my own ignorance
and sin, my own foolish choices. If only I had really
understood some of these things before it was too late.
But now it was too late. It was beyond being late. It
was over for me.
I sensed, after a while, that the Spirit of God was
speaking to my own heart, calling me to genuine faith in
Jesus. Genuine faith meant a surrender to His ways, His
rule. I could see how happy these other people were to
know and serve Jesus Christ, but I found it difficult to
think of myself as ever being that happy, that much at
peace. Would God really do the same things for me?
I struggled for hours with my questions, my doubts and
fears, my unbelief. I now had a kind of hope inside, but
I didn't know how to act on that hope. The Christians
around me shared their stories and talked with me, and
among each other. They came and went from the room I was
in. I told none of them about what I was thinking, or
how my heart longed for what they now had with Jesus
But God knew. And The Holy Spirit kept speaking to my
heart, stirring up my longing for a new life, a good
life, and a reason to live, breathe, and function again.
I struggled and squirmed inside, afraid to give in to
such a strong hope. I was so afraid that this, too,
would turn out bad for me. I was afraid that I would
fail, that I would mess things up and let God down.
But God kept speaking, calling to my heart.
And finally, late that night, I told a couple of the
guys that I wanted to pray. I wanted to give my life to
Jesus Christ. Many of the others had gone home by this
time. I went into an empty room and knelt down at the
foot of a bed, and I opened my heart to God. I confessed
my sinfulness to Him, admitted my lost condition, and I
asked Jesus Christ to save me from my sins. I asked Him
to take over as the Lord and Ruler of my life.
I cannot express to you all that happened inside my
heart and mind, my very soul, as I prayed. All the old
guilt and shame, all the heavy, heavy weight of misery
and anger and fear was washed right out of me as the
grace of God, the peace of God flowed in. Suddenly, for
the first time in my life, I could feel the Presence of
God, like heaven itself was right there in the room with
And for the very first time in my life, I had real joy
-- the kind that makes you want to sing and shout. I was
amazed. I hadn't expected to feel anything, to sense any
kind of immediate change. But now everything was
different. Really different, from the inside out. I
could tell that I already had a brand new life in Jesus
Christ. Right then and there.
That was a long time ago. I could write a book about all
the things Jesus did for me that night, and in all the
days and nights since then. I've been anything but the
perfect Christian. I've messed up all kinds of things,
in all kinds of ways, many times. I even lost my faith
for a while. But God has been with me all the way, in
every step and in every moment, helping me, teaching me,
training me, and picking me up whenever I stumble. And
my life is not the same as it was before.
Immediately, that very first night, I was released from
the old things that had held me down before. I was able
to go back and tell my buddies, and my old girl friends,
and my parents what Jesus did for me. And some of them,
including my parents, also gave their hearts to Jesus
Christ. And He changed them, too.
I met my wife a few months later in a little country
church just outside the city. We both loved the Lord
Jesus then, and we both love Him now, some 34 years
later. We have 3 children and 10 grandchildren. And the
Lord is at work in every one of their lives, too.
I don't know how your life has been so far. I don't know
all the things you've been through. I don't know all the
wrong things you've done. But I can tell you one thing
for sure: Jesus Christ will set you free. He will take
away all your sins, and give you a brand new life. He
will transform your heart and mind, giving you hope and
joy and purpose and meaning. You will discover why you
were born and what you should do with the rest of your
days on earth. And when your life's work is done, Jesus
will take you home to be with Him forever.
So now it's just a matter of deciding what you really
want. If you want a new life in Jesus Christ, if you
want peace with God and a reason to live each day, then
God will give you those things when you place your faith
in Jesus. Jesus will do for you what He did for me, and
for millions of others all over the world.
The Bible makes this promise: "whoever calls on the name
of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
And again it says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts
"The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who
call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of
those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and save
them." (Psalm 145:18,19)
To find out more about how to surrender your life to
God bless you as you take the step that will change
everything from darkness to light.