My seventh grade classmate who shared the story of Christ with me was a matter-of-fact kind of guy. Here's generally the way he told me the gospel: "You're going to hell, and you need to get saved."
In fact, he was even more pointed than that on the mornings when he'd meet me at the classroom door with, "It's a good thing you lived through the night ... because you'd be in hell right now if you hadn't."
To be honest, my primary motivation for following Christ as a 13-year old was to escape the hell I'd heard so much about from my friend. I can look back now over the last 40-plus years, though, and I see so many benefits I never even considered back then:
1. Sleeping without worry. When you first hear the gospel the way I did, you don't sleep well. I will never forget the first night's sleep I had after Jesus saved me. I slept like a baby because I no longer worried about what would happen to me when I died.
2. Not fearing death. This many years after God saved me (and obviously closer to death now than I was then), I still don't worry about it. I don't want to die today, and I'd prefer it not hurt when it comes—but I do not fear it.
3. Gaining family outside my family. By that I mean that God has given me folks who've become as much my family as my family of origin. The love God gives us for brothers and sisters in Christ is an amazing, uniting, satisfying love that can carry us through even when we haven't felt loved otherwise.
4. Being redirected to better plans. When I became a Christian, I was sure I was going to be a teacher. I made those plans in kindergarten (really!), and nothing was going to change them—except, that is, for a call of God that would eventually allow me to proclaim His Word and God's plan is always right.
5. Meeting my wife. Few people know at age 13 the person they are going to marry. I didn't. In fact, I didn't know her at age 13, 15, 20, or 25. She's in my life now because two church secretaries thought I needed help in meeting the right person and making the best marriage decision as I approached my 30s. They were right.
6. Not worrying if life doesn't make sense. I'm enough of a control freak that I'd prefer to be in charge, but I've learned that God really is sovereign over life. If things don't go my way, that doesn't mean it's time to get stressed. God will work it all out.
7. Learning that "stuff" doesn't matter. Sure, I'm glad we have a home, a car, etc.—but I know from conducting dozens of funerals over the years that you really don't take it with you. It's seriously liberating when you stop worrying about stuff.
8. Being forgiven over and over again. At my conversion, I was grateful that God forgave my sins. What I didn't know then was that the rest of my life would be about God's forgiving me each day, each hour, each moment. His forgiving love really is sweet.
The peace God gave me about eternity when I became a Christ follower is still real to me today. What I didn't realize then—but I deeply appreciate now—is that faith is as much present tense as it is future tense.
Maybe you know non-believers and struggling believers you might direct to this post today. Send them this way, and let's pray they would see that today is the day to serve Him.
What other blessings have you discovered during your Christian walk?
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless' daily blog posts at www.chucklawless.com.
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