By: Kelley McLaughlin
“Whoever makes a practice if sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
When I was 12 years old, I remember being at a revival meeting and hearing this Scripture passage being read. I didn’t want to be a child of the devil. I knew that I was a sinner and I wanted to change. During the invitation, I went forward to confess my sins. After talking with the preacher and my mom, they realized I didn’t quite understand the concept of accepting Christ as my Savior or the full meaning of being saved. I later came to the same conclusion. The preacher and my mom worked with me over time to learn what God had done for us through His Son.
Eventually, it all became clear to me and, two years later, I once again went forward during an invitation and accepted Christ as my Savior. My journey of faith began at Victory Baptist Church. It will always be the point in the universe where I can say, “On this spot of dirt I met Jesus for the first time.” And each time I visit my family, I return to that church, just like it is home.
Now, I could simply end the story here and say I have grown much in the past 40+ years with much more left to learn. But growing closer to God and becoming more Christ-like has been a daily struggle, so don’t give up.
My journey has not always been easy, but never has it been so difficult that I felt alone or abandoned. There have been many people who have influenced - and continue to influence - my faith. Most importantly, my parents and grandparents. I grew up in a very close-knit family where the entire extended family lived within four miles of each other and almost all of us attended the same church. The church itself was also full of great people of faith who looked after me like I was their own. My teens and high school years were filled with work, Boy Scouts, school, hot rods and church - in that order. Yet, every facet of my life had a component of faith, and by God’s grace, this kept me from straying too far from Him. Thankfully, this solid foundation stayed with me as I went off to college.
One night in college, I was looking for a quiet place to read the Bible and ended up sitting down in a closet. A few people came by and started giving me a hard time for sitting there reading the Bible instead of going to the party. A friend saw them and forcefully said, “Hey, does Brett give you crap about you doing or not doing anything? He’s cool! He has faith and stands by his beliefs whether or not you like it. Leave him alone.” Wow! Had I somehow been a silent witness to Gus all those years as I would quietly seek to spend time alone with God? Had God sent Gus as a guardian to watch over me as I sought Him? It’s difficult to know, but my point is: we each have something God wants us to do. We may not even know what it is, but by being faithful to Him and attempting to do His will in everything we accomplish more than we know and more than we possibly ever could if we tried to do it ourselves.
A lot has happened in my life since college. I started a business, moved to Atlanta, met my beautiful wife, Stephanie, moved to Oregon and moved back to Atlanta. At each step and phase of my life I have continually felt God’s presence and Stephanie and I have made every effort to seek His guidance. Though not always easy, God has never failed to bring us through each change and challenge - a little stronger and a little closer to each other and Him. We put our faith in Him.I’m not here to say I’m perfect, or that I stand as a model Christian. On the contrary, I would rank myself among the worst simply because I know my deepest secrets and failures that are ever-present before God; yet He still loves me. I do not “always” seek God’s direction first and I do not “always” succeed. Even when I seek God’s direction and help, success is not guaranteed; God often uses these times to teach me how to lean on Him more.