(continued from Fusion newsletter)
Bill's path would become more difficult before it got better however. His life got so bad, that he became an alcoholic, and once his playing days ended, he did not have a job. His marriage was hanging on a thread, and he was depressed. Combined with a tragic upbringing with the loss of multiple family members and extreme dis-functionality, Bill's life was in shambles. At that time, he was ironically invited to a Christian Hockey Camp to teach hockey to young kids, since the camp was short on instructors. Bill declined several times because it was a Christian camp. He finally decided to help, and that's when his life changed. One evening during the camp’s chapel program, Bill found himself in a prayer ring with 5-10 year olds. That’s when he noticed the boys were praying for him. While holding Bill’s hand in this prayer ring, they prayed that he would find a job, that his marriage would be healed and redeemed, and that he could be freed from his alcoholism. At that moment, as his turn to pray was approaching, he realized he had never prayed before, and no one had ever prayed for him. In complete brokenness, Bill experienced the love and forgiveness of Christ, and in a pool of tears, made Jesus the Lord of his life.
While his life change was undeniable by those closest to him (most notably his wife who forgave him and has been doing ministry with Bill ever since), these weren’t the only people that noticed Bill’s change of life. His old buddy and teammate, Jack Carlson, noticed and completely disowned Bill for becoming a Christian. Billy Graham also noticed, and on the contrary, was so moved by Bill’s transformational story that he invited Bill, along with Steven Curtis Chapman, to tour with him on his Christian Crusades in the 1980s and 90s. It was during one of those crusades that Bill reconnected with his old friend and hockey teammate, Jack Carlson, who had up until then not spoken with Bill for 12 years. Jack, whose life had continued its downward spiral, happened to be sitting in the basement of a friend’s home about to take his life, when he happened to see his old friend Bill sharing his life transformation on national TV with Bill Graham. At that moment, in the same fashion that Bill had given his life to Christ when 10 year old boys prayed with him, Jack gave his life to Christ when he heard his “ex” friend Bill sharing his testimony with Billy Graham. His life change was so dramatic that he and Bill currently visit hockey camps around the world to share their mutual faith and life stories.
How many of us feel too “unworthy” to be used by God? I don’t know many people who have felt as unworthy as Bill and Jack. And I don’t know many people who are more committed to serving God than they are. Today both of them truly feel that their lives are worth nothing except to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given them--the task of testifying the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24.
How many of us feel that our circumstances are just too messed up for God to use us? It’s amazing what can happen when we invite God into our circumstances. God has the ability to change and redeem even the most difficult things. As we approach Easter, I’d like you to think about a man named Peter, who out of weakness and fear denied knowing Jesus three times. Peter watched Jesus being falsely accused, beaten, and insulted (Mark 14:57-66). He was afraid Jesus would die and not fulfill his mission, and he was fearful for his own life as well. Peter saw the people’s hate towards Jesus, and he found that he was not prepared to face the ridicule and persecution that Jesus was suffering. He quickly discovered he wasn’t nearly as bold as he had proclaimed earlier, and in fear he denied knowing the One that loved him. However Jesus’ love was so great that instead of reprimanding Peter, he had a higher goal.
Peter in his discouragement and disillusionment tries to find solace in fishing, and there Jesus visits and restores him (John 21:1-5). He equips Peter to strengthen the other disciples (Luke 22:32) and to prepare him to be the pillar of the early church in Jerusalem. While Peter was struggling with the thought of failing Jesus, Jesus was preparing Peter to do great works for him.
I read somewhere, “At the end of your life your greatest regrets won’t be the things you did but wish you hadn’t. Your greatest regrets will be the things you didn’t do but wish you had.” My prayer this Easter is that you do not look back and regret not giving Jesus an honest chance in your life. Jesus's death on the cross represents him taking on our wrongdoings (sin) so that we could be free from them forever. His resurrection from the grave represents a new life with him, our opportunity to turn away from our previous way of life, and walk in a new direction with him. I've never known anyone that's regretted inviting the Living God into their lives. Because when we do so, he promises restoration, healing, forgiveness, and salvation…eternal life with him. My prayer is that you do not say no to Jesus before you give him an honest chance. I promise, you will not regret it! For "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!" (Romans 8:1)