April 1, 2014

A Sailor Surrenders

Standing in line for breakfast in a Navy boot camp in Florida, I said to myself, “What have I gotten into?” I was eighteen years old, eight hundred miles from home, and feeling very alone. Having recently graduated from high school, I had been accepted into college but then decided to take another route and join the Navy. Little did I realize what that meant, but God had His hand over me even though I was not serving Him.

Growing up, my parents always had us children in Sunday school and church. Our family was very close, and I was the first child to leave home. Of course, I knew that my parents were praying for me. When I went into the military, they gave me a little New Testament. I would always read a few verses in it before talking to my mother on the telephone. That way I was prepared to answer yes when she asked if I had been reading the Bible. Even though I was not saved, I wouldn’t lie to my parents because I never wanted to hurt them. Every time there was temptation to do wrong, I remembered what my parents had taught me. There was almost unbelievable pressure toward sin, but I always felt as though my family would suffer if I gave in. Even though they were far away, I felt that if I did something wrong, they would know it. That attitude stayed with me all through my time in the military.

After being in the Navy for two years, life was not what I had thought it would be. My group of friends did not have many positive goals, and they were not the type of people I should have been hanging out with. However, they were all I had, and I loved people, so I told God that if He would get me away from these friends, I would live for Him. I put in for and received a transfer to California. On the way to the West Coast duty station, I was in an accident. Although I was not injured, God spoke to my heart, saying, “What about your life?”

After arriving in California, I resumed my old lifestyle, yet God continued to call after my heart. What mercy! One of my friends fell asleep while driving to Mississippi, and he was taken suddenly into eternity. The moment I heard the news, I thought, What is my life all about? Where is eternity for me?

One Friday morning I was on watch on the ship until 4:00 a.m. Standing there on the bow with a heavy heart, I looked into the heavens, and said, “There must be a God somewhere.” I knew my parents had peace and fulfillment in their lives, and I did not. After getting off duty, I went to my workplace four decks below and prayed, “God, I’m not going to be fancy with You. I don’t know how to pray.” It would seem prayer should have been an easy thing for me, since I had been raised in a Christian home. My parents sang praises to God, prayed around the altars, and had a good time serving the Lord. Yet somehow I missed the point that I needed to get right with God now. I just put it off, assuming that I would seek salvation when I was older.

However, that morning I said, “If You will save my soul, I’ll live for You for the rest of my life,” and I really meant it. I was sick and tired of the way I had been living. Although it was outwardly moral, it was not right!

However, that morning I said, “If You will save my soul, I’ll live for You for the rest of my life,” and I really meant it. I was sick and tired of the way I had been living. Although it was outwardly moral, it was not right! I wanted something different. Jesus came into my heart and made a change. Nobody was there to tell me, “Man, you look so different!” But I knew it down in my heart. This was what I had longed for.

The moment I got up from praying, the thought came, What will your friends think? But I did not care. I said, “Lord, if I never have another friend, I have You!” That change of attitude made all the difference in my life.

It had been several weeks since I had talked to my parents, so I phoned them. When my mother answered, I said, “Mom, I’m saved now.” She began to shout and cry and praise the Lord. It was the best phone call I had ever made! What I did not know was that in faith my mother had told some other believers, “The next time Ron calls home, he is going to be a changed person.”

Indeed I was a changed person. I had been working on the ship with a man who lived a Christian life. Although I wasn’t going to church, he often came in on Monday mornings and talked about how great it had been to be at church on Sunday. That probably would not have bothered me if he had been twenty-five or thirty years older than me, but he was my age, he enjoyed church—and I wasn’t going to church! After I’d been out with my friends, I knew that my weekend had not been a good time.

The Monday morning after God saved me, I went to him and said, “Johnny, I’m saved now,” and we glorified God together right there. Things were totally changed from that moment on. As we worked, there was a different atmosphere. We could talk about Jesus, and we worshipped Him together with all our hearts. God also put other Christian friends in my life, who encouraged me along the way. What a great God!

Then God gave me such a deep hunger for sanctification. All I wanted to do was build a close relationship with Jesus. I knew if I loved Him as much as He loved me, He would show me how to live holy. He did just that. He purified my heart and gave me such a love for Him that I did not want to do anything to hurt Him.

My soul was eager to receive as much as God wanted to give me. When I heard that there was the gift of the baptism which would empower me with the Holy Spirit, I sought for it immediately. One night when I went to service at the Los Angeles Apostolic Faith Church, I purposed to receive the promised gift. As I prayed following the service, two elderly women began to pray with me until the Lord baptized me. God saw my hunger and determination, and He did not disappoint me.

My wife and I were married not long before I was saved. There was a great desire in my heart for a godly marriage, but my wife was not saved, so I began to pray that God would save her. I did not know how He would do it, but I believed that He would. Before very long, she prayed and yielded her life to God, and He changed her life, too. God gave us a daughter, and we have been so blessed these many years since we were saved. God has allowed us to help spread this glorious Gospel in ways that we never could have imagined, and for that we are so thankful.

Nothing excites me so much as realizing what God did when He saved me! Often I think back and say, “Lord, what a miracle! You’ve given me something worth living for.” Out of the millions of other people out there, He chose me at that moment in time, and helped me yield to Him. I am so glad that I came to Jesus when I did, because I have never missed a moment of joy since I have been with Him. Satan has been there to try to distract and discourage me, but I am on the Lord’s side. It is exciting to know Jesus, and I recommend this Christian life with all my heart.

apostolic faith magazine