When I was first asked to write this paper I was overwhelmed with the task of describing what a "Christian" might be. But upon some reflection it is clear that a person who becomes a Christian doesnt suddenly develop into a super-species. He is merely what I am, someone who has accepted the bridge of reconciliation back to God.
There was no trick to it. I was just a man with no direction, no apparent purpose that made any sense, full of selfishness and propped up with pride and alcohol. It would be nice if I could say that my "good sense and faultless judgement" led me to the answer. But I didnt suddenly "become aware" and go to the altar full of spiritual fervor. Instead I found myself in a terrible position, sick and tired, experiencing total failure at home, facing the worst crisis in my life, unhappy, alcoholic, and with nowhere to turn. I was told that God would change everything, and I couldnt stand the way things were, so I turned toward Him in desperation. Its known as "fire alarm religion" and it has saved many a wrecked life, perhaps more than any other way.
At first I may have given some credence to the notion that I would never have trouble or grief again because I now "belonged to God." But it wasnt long before that myth was dispelled. The fact is I was still in a lot of trouble, and would be in a lot more, so much more that if I had known I might have given up and died right on the spot. Within eight years I was to persevere through a long separation, the death of my precious ten year old son Joe, and finally the death of my beloved wife Susan. I not only survived, I emerged victorious. There was never a day that I was strong enough to handle any of it.
You need to know that once a person gives their lives over to the Creator He begins to quite literally form him to be "more like Jesus." Now, if you have ever had a friend or relative who is arrogant in his ignorance, who knows about half of what he thinks he does and still boasts like a strutting rooster, you have known me. It seems an impossible task to take such a man and move him toward selflessness. Nothing short of that is what God is doing in the lives of countless Christians.
It is a fact that troubles and trials are the cornerstones of change in the human character. Most Christians begin to see that experiences on the spiritual mountaintop are not the only things God uses to change them. I once pondered the same things Job did. Why do solid Christians suffer with pain, heartache, sickness and death? Why would a loving God allow such tragedy to come upon His own children? Only by living through wrenching hardship are the reasons revealed. I find that I have personally demonstrated almost superhuman powers of endurance. I have lived through things that would certainly have led me, and left me, deep in a scotch bottle. How did a selfish man survive all the grief and hard times? The answer lies in strength received from outside. There is indeed power OUTSIDE your own self. This, more than any other doubt or fear, has been the reason some have been reluctant to commit to Christ. If they commit, the fear is that God might fail them. What would they do then? The fact is God does NOT fail them. If a man steps forward in faith there is tremendous change and amazing power that quite literally reconstructs his basic personality. I know because I have experienced it, and seen many others who have also experienced it.
One of the most incredible changes in my case was the revealing of, and delivery from, the anger that had found a constant home in me. It not only made life miserable for me and my family, I also discovered that I nursed this familiar feeling and kept it going. Once that was gone I was able to address life from an entirely different perspective. And that was but one of many changes I experienced.
And today, I know the heartache of a father and grandfather faced with the tragic end of a daughter's ten year marriage. A month after my sixth grandchild was born my son in law decided that he was "unhappy" with the marriage. There was no attempt to "work it out." There was no counseling, he just left. Within a month we were to find out that he was having an affair with my daughter's best friend. The ladies had been best friends from age 14. He has since moved in with her and her five children. My instincts, of course, were both vengeful and meddlesome. When my very first attempt to "correct" the situation with manipulations failed rather miserably, I sought God's direction. It turns out I was not supposed to guide the situation through physical force or orchestrate a resolution, but support the family with physical security and intercessory prayer. What a bummer! A 62", 280 lb. man is far more adept at a direct resolution than a peripheral support role. However, after many years of learning the principles of spiritual warfare I must concede, if nothing else, that He knows better than I.
I also get to watch as God is turning my daughter into a tremendous prayer warrior. Her troubles have brought her back to God in such a powerful way that I wonder if this alone were not the reason for the crisis. My grandchildren are gaining a Godly mother. They are being prayed over regularly by many. They will suffer, as I did, from a broken home. But they will not be crushed by it. We dont know, at this writing, how this will turn out. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will use it for good.
During the years of learning there were many mistakes. There were people from whom I had to ask forgiveness. There were times when my mouth would open and extraordinarily dumb things would come out. But there were also times that I knew I was supposed to be in exactly the place I was in, and knew what I was supposed to say. There is great satisfaction in knowing that God has directed you to a certain place, with certain people and a pre-determined happenstance and has given you the answer someone is frantically looking for.
If you are looking for perfect people there is little chance you will find any amongst us. Christians are people who are taking advantage of Gods heart. He is like a parent who can scarcely stand to see the misery His children have gotten themselves into. A father who has made provision to restore them to the purpose for which they were created, and welcomes each one back to Him with great celebration. Who could resist such a father?
As I understand the messages He has left us, it becomes clearer and clearer that He has gone to a great deal of trouble to create the right circumstances for us to live here. The right amount of matter in the universe to make sure planets were formed and not just gas clouds, or giant stars with no planets. He made sure that this planet cooled at the right time, the sun was the proper distance away, the moon was the right size and shape and the planet had the water necessary. The thousands of parameters that must be within very narrow margins in order for life to survive on this world should make it obvious that God went to extraordinary trouble in order to fellowship with us. There are even more incredible lengths and sacrifices He has endured in order to build a bridge between us so that we might cross over and be restored.
Consider the horrendous heartache He must feel when He offers the world that bloodstained bridge and they turn Him down with impudence. We Christians live our lives right next to people who could not care less about reconciling with God. It is as if we live in another universe. We work and play next to those who are perishing. We try to share our exceedingly good fortune with them and many times they ridicule us. Nevertheless, there are those who will yield because of us and, since we are eternal beings, the rewards are dazzling. If you are a Christian you are heir to magnificent things. If you are not, you need to be.
Roger Langlois; Electronic Media Director, Scientific Advisor to his Church in California and a number of Internet Forums.