By Jonathan SrockMany a story has been told of how people find that true relationship with Jesus Christ. They always turn out just right. Some people never tell the rest of the story. What am I saying? Well, I'm about to tell you about a good fiiend of mine who never really was a stable Christian. He was always getting into trouble. I became a sort of council for him in his roughest times. He didrft get it right away. But later on in his life, something happened that just made him think about that very thing: the concept of not sinning.
Well, I'm getting too far ahead of myself. Let's just go to the beginning. My name is Ben Puckett. I was raised in the church and became saved when I was about ten years old. I diddt completely understand everything about Christianity either.
One Wednesday night in Friend for Life--my youth group--Pastor Jerry stood up and said, "Everyone, I've planned a camping trip for all of us in two weeks. It will be lots of fun and we will learn a lot about Jesus on this trip. We will be going for three days. I will have papers next week for us to fill out."
A camping trip sounded to me, a fifteen year old totally enthusiastic young man, like a great time. But little did I know what God would put together on that little trip. You see, God had plans for me. But he also had plans for another youth whom I knew from school as 'The Punisher'.
The Punisher was a guy about sixteen years of age and his actual name was Zack. He was the meanest bully in school. He would torture anyone within a two foot radius if they were not part of his gang. He was about six foot one and very muscular.
I traveled to school on his bus. That Thursday I remember like yesterday. It was the day I learned that God can use me too.
"Hey, boy!" I could hear The Punisher say, " Carft you hear me, little boy. Yeah, you in the green shirt." I began to sweat as I heard that color because he was speaking to me. I turned around and answered, "Yes?"
"You know this is my territory and I own that seat, don't you?" he asked. "No, I didn't know that. "
He looked at me with his most evil eye and growled, "So now that you know, why are you still here?"
I began to shake and then I heard a small voice say to me, "he is quite muscular and he is the kind of person that would fight. I suggest you move and let him be."
This was the voice of the devil. How would I know? Because shortly after he said that, I heard another voice say, "No! He must know God. Why not challenge him to come to church. Maybe challenge him to go on the trip. I love bullies too, Ben. Remember what Paul said in your morning devotions, 'and how can they hear without someone preaching to themT He must know me. I am his only chance!"
As afraid of The Punisher I was, I could not resist the Holy Spirit. I began to hear the words of Paul in my head... 'and how can they hear without someone preaching to themT Then I looked straight at him and said, "If you think you're so tough, Punisher, how about taking me up on a challenge?"
"A challenge?" he echoed. "What kind of challenge?" He was hooked. He couldn't back down from a challenge. He was the biggest bully in school. His reputation was at stake.
"I challenge you to come to my church's youth group for one night and walk out unchanged." I laid down the challenge to him and he just stared at me for about five seconds. Then he burst out laughing.
"Oh little church boy! What a challenge! You ask me to come into your church, sleep through your little service, and then leave? Ha! You're on."
I then reminded him to come out unchanged. After that I gave him the place and time. The bus arrived at the school right after that. School started with a buzz as 1, the little church boy, walked through taunting halls.
Everywhere I went that day people laughed, scoffed, and bet large amounts of money on The Punisher's assured victory. At about lunch time I sat down one table from Zack to eat my lunch. He peered over at me and snickered.
At that time I prayed for my lunch and, before saying 'Amen,' I added, "God change his heart to follow You." I sat meditating on this very thought when a couple of my very best friends who happened to go to my youth group sat down next to me.
"Everyone is talking about that challenge!" one said, "Do you really think God can change someone like that, Ben?"
"If God can heal the blind, the deaf, and the lame, He can certainly turn Zack's heart around. I believe God is going to work an awesome miracle on Wednesday night."
"I don't know," said the other, "It is possible to reject God, you know."
"True," I said, "But when he hears the Gospel, and understands it, he would be a fool to reject God."
Later that day in my last class, which was a study hall, I once again thought of the glory of God and how he can take trash and make something beautiful out of it. I also thought about how Zack would turn out if he accepted Jesus into his life. What a powerful tool God could make of him! On the Wednesday night of the challenge, I picked Zack up at his house. He was casually dressed and his house was bustling with family members running here and there. His mother stopped to greet me and yelled for him to come downstairs. She didn't mention any words or feelings of concern for what he was doing.
As we walked down the street to my church, Zack began asking me questions about my family. He seemed so different. He was not acting like the person from school. He was more like a normal person. When I asked about his family, he stopped and looked at me. Then he said, "They don't care about what I do or say and they're so busy they just ignore me half the time." He began walking once again.
We walked into the youth center where my youth group meets and sat down. Then I introduced Zack to just about everybody. He looked at me with amazement after greeting them all and said, "These people act like they care about me. But they doift know who I am or what I've done. You can't trust someone like that. But they look as if they would trust me."
I told him that they care for him more than he could ever imagine and that God cares for him even more than they did. He just sat there as if that very fact was impossible to believe. The service started with the sermon. Pastor Jerry talked about what I had thought last Thursday: that God can make something beautiful out of anyone. He talked about the signs that would follow a believer of Jesus Christ. Then he told us that the reason God would want to take the time to make us something beautiful out of us was because he cared for us.
In his altar call he had two items. The first was for believers who wanted the power God promised them. Most of the youth group went up for prayer and the Spirit moved among them. Everyone who went for prayer came back with Holy Spirit fire and power glowing off of them. Then Pastor Jerry gave his second item. "Now that God is in this place, are there any of you who would say that you want this Jesus? Is there anyone who wants Jesus in their life? I urge you not to fight with God. You know who you are and God knows too. What I say won't bring you to Christ. Some of you feel the tug of the Spirit upon you. Dodt fight it! Give in to the Almighty God."
As I turned to Zack, he was shaking from head to toe and sweating. He was beginning to weep as Pastor Jerry kept telling us about Jesus' death: how he did it all for us and to take away our sins. When he said, "...And friend, God wants to get inside of you and turn your ashes to beauty. He wants to personally know you and he wants you to personally know him. Think of how you can know the Master of the Universe. Jesus knows all the bad in you and He still wants to be your best friend! "
As soon as he said that, Zack jumped out of his seat and ran down the isle. When he got to the altar, he fell at Pastor Jerry's feet and cried, "I want what God has for me, preacher! I want Jesus in my life!"
Pastor Jerry smiled and bent down, "God has been waiting for a long time. What is your name?"
"Well, Zack, God told me about you. Through the Spirit of God in my prayer time God told me how I was to meet a young man this very night who would not resist Him. God told me you have a lot of problems at home."
Zack opened his mouth wide open and said, "How did you know this!"
"Zack, God told me. He knows everything about you. He's even got the number of hairs on your head counted. Now, how about you close your eyes and except Jesus into your heart because with God as an ally I can tell you that all of your problems will be gone. "
As Zack bowed his head the Pastor invited all of us to come and lay hands on him. He said, "Zack, the Bible, God's Word, says that if you confess your sins to God, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins. Let's pray together for God to do just that and for you in him to begin today."