Below is a true story of a man that was changed by the grace of God. I am glad to share this story as I have seen first hand that his life has been changed! (2Cor. 5:17)
“…not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” – Rom. 2:4
Today I must declare the goodness of God by sharing a story with you and perhaps challenge even my own heart and maybe the heart of another in how good God is.
In October of 2009 there was a 26 year old man named Travis Berryhill living the life of a homeless drunk on the streets of Shelby. He had ruined every friend and family relationship that he had and although there were multiple places he used to live and jobs he used to have, these were all destroyed by drink (a topic for another day but if you play with this sin remember what GOD has said: “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like and adder”) and there was no place for him to sleep but at the homeless shelter, under a railroad bridge, in his brother’s shed, or in a crack house while stoned.
In the midst of this life of misery (may I stop and say: “no more miserable than your life if it is not lived for God even if it does NOT involve the sin of drugs and alcohol”) there was a longing or a thirst for meaning and for his soul to be filled. As Travis searched for this meaning the deceptive cult of the Jehovah’s Witnesses began having Travis study with them on a regular basis. Because they treated him kindly and did not mind his smelly clothes and his homelessness, Travis was attracted to them – someone whom he thought loved him.
At the end of October, 2009 Travis was walking the streets in his misery but his heart cried out to God: “God if this (Jehovah’s Witnesses) is the right way please keep me in it but if this is not the truth would you please show me the truth?” At this point I would like to remind you of Hebrews 11:6 which says: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” A very short time later in the same day there was a man who believing that God had called him to the streets of Shelby, was driving through one of the rougher parts of town and he saw Travis to his left about 100 yards away. There were many people on the street that day and he had already passed others by. However, the Spirit of God spoke clearly for him to pull his car over to a parking lot and wait on this man. When Travis approached, this man stopped him and asked him about his soul and if he knew Jesus as his Savior. Travis replied: “I study with the witnesses”. The man invited Travis to his church that evening (Sunday evening). Travis readily agreed and attended church that evening. When the man picked him up later that evening for church, Travis smelled of alcohol and the man knew that Travis would stick out like a sore thumb in the church they were going to. At church, nothing seemed to happen in Travis’ soul and perhaps he was too under the influence to have even understood anything that was said.
When Travis’ new friend discovered that he was homeless, his heart was moved with compassion and he began picking Travis up almost every morning and taking him to work with him, to the store to buy him things that he needed, and then to his home each evening for dinner and time amongst his family. After a few weeks Travis made a profession of salvation on November 2009. There was an initial growth and his friend noticed that Travis had a real love for reading and study and studied his Bible and other books about the Bible regularly. But the alcohol still had a great hold on Travis and began taking him right back to the streets. There were nights and days where Travis would disappear while he used alcohol and sometimes drugs and then would reappear after a time. One day two men from the church spent some time parked across from a place where Travis was drinking and cried out to God to have mercy on his soul and to save him from this life of misery. His friend gave him much of his own clothes and shoes only to find out later that Travis had lost them or left them at the last crack house. Travis would call him many times in the middle of the night completely out of his mind with alcohol. During this time Travis continued to go to church off and on but could not seem to get victory over this great sin that controlled his life. After months and months of ups and downs, near death experiences (the man picked up Travis from the emergency room twice with deep knife cuts, and even a wound from the grazing of a bullet), and disappointment after disappointment, Travis agreed to be dropped off at Durham Rescue Mission in June of 2010 about three hours away from Shelby.
His friend really didn’t expect things to turn out any differently. In fact he was quite sure that any day he would receive a call from Travis in the middle of the night and find out that he was already back in Shelby – drunk. However after a couple of weeks he received a letter in the mail from Travis. This letter was written by a sober man, a man who knew God, a man who had spent much time in prayer and in the Word of God. His friend was stunned – surely not, this is impossible, this won’t last. A couple of weeks later another letter came, this time it was longer, this time it was filled with more scripture and praise to God and examples of how God was giving victory. Finally Travis was able to call his friend and explain to him that a few days after he had arrived, he had fallen on his knees and cried out to God to deliver him from sin and to change him. He had begun to seek God in His Word and God had begun to create a new desire within him – a desire to pray, to read His Word more and he felt no desire for alcohol. Travis friend was amazed. Was this real? Everyone he knew told him that there was little hope, that alcoholics don’t change, that the ups and downs would be there forever. He’d even begun to wonder himself although he still wanted to believe the simplicity of God’s word when it says in Psalm 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” His friend used to wonder “now if the Bible says this, then can it not be true even for an alcoholic or a drug addict?” but it seems as if the world even the church world holds no hope for these men. As he was hearing Travis’ voice on the phone he knew that he was indeed talking with a new man – a new man! Sure, everyone else would doubt for some time, even his own family would surely think that this would pass but his friend KNEW that GOD had done a work and that when GOD does a work, HE does it right.
Travis has written these letters week after week after week. Each letter shows a deeper, more intimate knowledge of the Christ who saved him and a love for his Savior. In fact, many of these letters have been an encouragement to Travis’ friend – even sometimes being exactly what his friend needed. Travis has shared in these letters how God has convicted him and helped him in the so called “small” sins like pride, and anger, and lust. Travis has shared how that God has placed a call on his life and how that he has no desire in life other than to live for Christ and to preach and teach the gospel. In fact, God has provided one miracle after another in his life. He has one week to graduate from the Bible courses at the Rescue Mission. He has been given a job. He has been given a scholarship to attend a four year Bible College where he plans to prepare to serve God with his life. He was baptized two weeks ago as an unashamed public confession that his old man died with Christ and that he is a new creature!
Do you see? Jesus saves! Jesus saves to the uttermost. Maybe you are not living a life of drugs and alcohol and maybe you even go to church and do good things regularly. Maybe you even could tell me from the Bible how to be saved but are you? Have you been born again? Are you a new creature like Travis? II Corinthians 5:21 says: “For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin (Jesus was sinless); that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (Jesus).” Travis didn’t do anything but cry out for mercy. The sinner in Luke 18 didn’t DO anything but cry out for mercy. Do you deceive yourself into thinking that because there is so much good in your life (you are healthy, you have a job, the bills are paid, you have a house, you have a car, you have children who play sports, you go to church – maybe even a good Baptist one) that God is OK with your sin? What sin you say? I am not on drugs and living on the streets, stealing and hurting people. What about your heart? Is there anger? Is there pride? Is there lust? Is there a love for the world? Do you worship at the television every night? In fact would God have the same judgment against you that He had against Sodom? You say “Oh no!” there is no homosexuality here!” Read Ezeiel 16:49 “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” What is your life now? No man can serve two masters the Bible says. I beg you today, to do like Travis did – fall on your knees, confess your sins and cry out to God for mercy. His blood can take away each stain.
Christian, there is one today – one who is lost. If you will walk in the Spirit, God will show that one to you. Remember Zacchaeus? In Luke 19 the story of Zacchaeus tells that there was a great crowd that day. Yet Jesus sought the one. Remember that Jesus saves. The work is not our own. The Spirit of God can point the way to the one who is ready to believe. Don’t give up on the one who seems impossible. God answers prayer. There are many similar stories right in the little town of Shelby. Someday I’ll tell you about Tam Do, and Clyde, and David, and Debbie, and Daniel and many others that God saved right out of impossible situations who are now living more frutiful lives for Christ than many a pew sitter.
Eph 3:20-21 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.