When you become a Christian, you become a new kind of person.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold all things are become new.2 Corinthians 5:17
As a child, I had been well-schooled in the message of salvation, and in my teens, I declared my faith in Jesus Christ and was “saved.” My father and I were baptized together in a small Texas Southern Baptist church at the same evening service. I think that was around 1974. The foundation of education in God’s word so long ago was instrumental in my preparation, but it wasn’t until 40 years later, in my mid-50s, that I was compelled, or led, or driven, or whatever you might call it, to turn to God. It was then that I was changed, in some ways dramatically so, and finally became a new kind of person.
It was an intersection of challenging circumstances that brought me to this point. My father, with whom I was very close, was terminally ill, and we knew the day of his death was near. The anxious thought of losing him, a figure of stability and security, along with other life pressures, greatly intensified my primary source of anxiety and stress – an exceptionally demanding job. I felt that my knowledge, experience, and confidence were at best the minimum needed to succeed. I worried that I lacked the competency required to handle the role, and the workload was daunting. The stress of performance was crushing to me, and a debilitating fear bloomed inside. A constant undercurrent of failure anxiety impacted every area of my life, not the least of which was my relationship at home. At its worst, I was not able to perform at work. In meetings, fear would grip me, and I would freeze up in a panic. With a pounding heart, sweating palms, and an inability to breathe, think, or speak, I had to endure the embarrassment of excusing myself from meetings. Worry that this might cost me the job magnified stress and anxiety – feeding a terrible cycle of fear. It became clear that I could not effectively manage or cope with it independently; self-reliance no longer carried me through the tough days.
The great benefit of weakness is that God will use it to draw you near, and I am very thankful that he does! Knowing that I had reached the end of self-reliance, I turned to him. To the best of my ability, I gave God the whole thing; that is, I gave him my life along with all the issues and challenges. I trusted him to take care of my job, father, wife, kids, attitude, happiness, and future, and he did not disappoint. I experienced his loving kindness as he comforted us through my father’s passing. I was there when Dad took his last breath, and though the separation was difficult, we were at peace through it all. I felt his support as he established me at work, well beyond what I thought possible. Through him, I attained competence, value, and security. Not so much security in the job, but security and comfort in knowing that his plan for me is the best I could hope for. I felt his loving kindness as he blessed my marriage and relationship. We have never been closer or more complete together.
Most importantly, I have peace knowing that all things now work for my good, and after I am done here, I will spend eternity in heaven. I now strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and have true peace with God. I now experience and understand the often-repeated paradox in the Bible: “whoever wishes to keep his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake will keep it.” Read Luke 9:24 I am thankful that God gave me the time to get to this point. My 40 years of wandering in the wilderness had come to an end.
As I mature in the faith, I see self-serving attitudes continue to pass away, replaced by a desire to please God. The transformation is not instantaneous but happens over your life as you pursue God, and he works to sanctify you. Sanctification makes you more like Christ in motives, thought, and behavior. For some, this is a refinement, and for others, this transformation is an astounding miracle, as I feel it was with me. As you soak yourself in God’s word and take in the truth from correct teachers and other believers, he opens your eyes to what is right and proper and convicts you about what is wrong and unacceptable. If you pursue Jesus Christ, you will be changed, and without a doubt, you will look back in disbelief at what you had sought in the world, how you lived your life, how you treated others, and what you thought was OK.