I WAS ATTENDING MY OLDER BROTHER’S memorial service, and I was in tears! Testimonies abounded from his two divorced wives, two loving daughters, many extended family relatives, partying friends, work associates, and church friends from the later years of his life. The power of prayer and God’s grace were brought into such clear focus that we all left praising the Lord!
Alan had been wild and was separated from the Lord and the church most of his life, but Jesus had found a way to save him in the last few years before his death. Our parents, who had previously passed away, will be so happy at the resurrection! A life lived mostly in rebellion to God’s principles was redeemed just in time, like the thief on the cross.
Alan died of a massive stroke. The previous week he had attended small-group Bible studies, a diabetes recovery seminar, and a Friday evening evangelistic series where he had again reaffirmed his decision to totally surrender to God and accept His gift of eternal life.
In the fall of 2010 my young pastor son, Zac, and his wife, Leah, decided to make Alan one of seven people to focus on for intense intercessory prayer during 40 days of prayer and fasting at Andrews University. About that time I, too, felt impressed to strongly plead for his salvation.
Major traumas began to happen to Alan. His second wife left him, and his diabetes grew worse, leading to the amputation of a leg. But amid these trials and others, while lying in a hospital bed, Alan finally said yes to Jesus. He still struggled with challenges and temptations, but he was now in the family of God and covered by His righteousness. With support of loved ones and a caring, active church family, he continued to grow in Christ throughout the rest of his life.
“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 43:5, 6, NKJV
Are you praying for someone who hasn’t yet accepted Jesus? If so, don’t give up! It took more than 70 years of prayer for Alan. My older sister, Carol, was 55 before she returned to God and was rebaptized. The last years of her life were spent helping young people at an Adventist college and growing her own personal relationship with Jesus.
I was raised in an ordained preacher’s home with my brother and sister (7 and 14 years older than I). My mom was a church school teacher, and my dad was a publishing director. We were three preacher’s kids (PKs) who had broken our parents’ hearts. They had cried out to God in desperation for their family for many years.
My dad traveled a lot for his job, and Mom took us to church. We all also attended Adventist schools. Although my mother eventually developed a close relationship with Jesus, at the time she did not have a living experience with the Lord or assurance of her own salvation. To her the Christian life was more about behavior and following the doctrines and rules of the church. She often expressed her own doubts that she was good enough to be saved, but also urged us to try to obey and said that we “probably” could make it to heaven. This had an unintentional effect on my siblings and me and contributed, in part, to our not developing a personal saving relationship with Jesus for ourselves. Our parents also failed to engage us in mission and outreach, and I, too, rebelled against God and the church. I grew more and more resistant to spiritual things and more and more interested in worldly temptations.
I was expelled from three of our academies, began using alcohol and drugs, and became involved in various dangerous activities. By the time I went to college, I wanted out of the church with all its rules and restrictions. I wanted to be “free,” to have “fun.” So I moved out of our home and in with friends who were negative influences on me. I was taking pre-law and making good money at a part-time job, but my friends and I were living an unhealthful and non-Christian lifestyle—to the point where our lives could have been destroyed. But even when one friend, the son of a conference treasurer, was killed in a drug deal, we just longed for more excitement and adventure.
At this point my parents did something very, very right. They called all the literature evangelists and other friends to pray for their boy Jerry. They did not hide my rebellion but asked everyone they could to claim Bible promises for my deliverance and salvation. They put their hand on such texts as Isaiah 42:7, 16, Isaiah 49:25, and Proverbs 22:6, because they knew that God’s Word is powerful and unleashes His power in the war behind the scenes.
And God answered those many united intercessory prayers! The people prayed me miserable! Instead of enjoying my lifestyle, I grew worried and depressed, and my relationships began to fall apart. Young people who have believing, faithful Christian parents and friends can’t get away from the love of Jesus and the drawing of the Holy Spirit! God loves with an everlasting love, and when we intensely join together in prayer and claim His promises, He
works in miraculous ways.
One night some years later, after a bad drug trip, my girlfriend and I were sitting in our apartment feeling depressed and asking, “Why aren’t we happy? We are free of church rules and can do what we want, but we’re not enjoying our lives. What will make us happy?” Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was there to guide our minds.
We began to think of everyone who had treated us with love when we were so mean to them: the woman from the Adventist church who had brought us food to our apartment; our parents, who had continued to love us unconditionally; and the Bible worker who himself was a recovering alcoholic that my dad had sent to our door to try to help us. We treated him meanly and slammed the door in his face. Even though he was angry at first, he later came back, put his business card into my pocket, and said, “Someday you are going to need me. When you do, call me.”
Finally, that night we said, “Maybe what we are really looking for is love.” We remembered from our training that “God is love,” so we decided to give Jesus a chance and called the Bible worker—even though it was in the middle of the night. He came regularly to study the Word with us and two of our friends. He also encouraged us to attend a small Adventist church in West Denver, Colorado, that was on fire with the love of Jesus. The members surrounded us in love even though we were coming out of the rock music and drug culture. Their acceptance was unconditional, and if we didn’t attend the Friday night study group or missed church, they called us, asking, “Where were you? We missed you!” Although Satan in many different ways tried to pull us back to our previous lifestyle, we were rebaptized about six months later. My dear father, with tears in his eyes, had the privilege of rebaptizing me and three of my friends.
Soon I felt God calling me to full-time ministry, and the following fall I enrolled at Andrews University to complete my undergraduate degree in theology. The first day I walked onto the campus, the young man in charge of Christian ministries met me on the sidewalk. As we talked, he asked if I would help lead out in coordinating small groups of students who would be planning for evangelistic outreach meetings in small area churches in the spring. I said yes, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience that helped to ground me in my walk with Jesus.
The members of my small Bible-study group became my nurturing friends and outreach partners. We praised, prayed, studied the Word, and encouraged one another into a major revival of godliness and joy. We are still friends, and many of us are currently leaders in the church. God is so good!
So keep praying for those wayward loved ones! We are told that “ministering angels are waiting about the throne to instantly obey the mandate of Jesus Christ to answer every prayer offered in earnest, living faith” (see Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 377). Also, “fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5, 6, NKJV). Praise God, for He is able!