To God & Family
(The Ron James Story)
Have you ever wondered why it's so hard to know if God is real? If you're searching for some answers about the reality of God, perhaps my story will be of some help to you.
I was raised in the inner city of Chicago during the 60's when there was a lot of racial turmoil. My father was a policeman. That was a blessing, because word spread throughout the community to the gangs that if they messed with Dad's kids, he would be on their doorstep now.
In high school, I became involved in sports and music, and made a name for myself. Because I had been gifted with considerable talent, I became your typical know-it-all teenager: bigheaded and confident that I could do anything I set my heart on doing. My senior year, I became the captain of the wrestling team, and was offered scholarships from several different colleges. My head got bigger and bigger.
Upon entering college, my father told me to push aside girls and the party life, and concentrate on my studies and wrestling. It soon fell on deaf ears, because the pull of girls was too strong of a temptation on me. I joined a band, and we played around the city. Between athletics and my music, I thought I was untouchable; like nothing could keep me from succeeding.
During my freshman year, I placed second in a 16 team-wrestling tournament. My coaches were awestruck. I started getting in the newspapers and more in the limelight. Along with all this attention came women and drugs. I didn't even have to pay for the drugs. They were just handed to me. Anything I wanted, it was there. All of this attention, and I was only age 17.
I decided to explore this wild, carefree life a bit further my sophomore year. I stole a car, just for the heck of it. It was a dumb thing to do, and I ended up getting kicked out of college because of it. But with my big confident ego, that was no big deal. I could do whatever I wanted to do, so who cared, right? So for no sensible reason, I stole another car two weeks later. Now my father being a policeman-he couldn't understand why his son was doing these crazy things, messing up his life, right? Could anyone blame him?
At age 23 I married a girl of 18. We had our first child when I decided to pursue my career as a musician. I packed my bags and went out to California, leaving my wife and child behind. The band I joined up with became quite popular, and I couldn't resist the women and the drugs that were so available. Because I had so many women, I decided that I didn't need my wife any longer back home.
My career soared. I started meeting important people in Hollywood, and doors began to open. On the outside, people thought I was happy because of my success. And I tried to pretend I was happy. After all, I had captured the American dream, right? Fame and fortune were becoming mine, with all the women and drugs and money life could offer. Deep down inside though, I was not happy, nor was I fulfilled. Something was missing.
While this was going on, my wife and now two children were back in Chicago, trying to make it on their own. I was driving down the Pacific Coast highway in my bright red Fiat, when suddenly I felt an urge to call my son. "When are you coming home, Daddy?" he asked. "I haven't seen you for so long." Something deep inside began to happen when he asked that. Tears began to stream down my face. I made a tough decision. I decided to leave California, and go back home to my six-year-old son. I was soon to audition for Solid Gold, and things looked more promising than ever for my career, but the tears from my son crying for his Daddy . . . it somehow got to me.
I didn't realize it was God changing the course of my life, but I thank Him for it today. I got down on my knees and I prayed, "God, you can have all the money, fame, clothes, cars - if you'll just bring my family back." I wasn't living for God, but that was my prayer. Two days later my expensive car blew up. Jobs started falling through. Everything starting falling apart and I thought . . . Hmmm - God must have heard my prayer.
I went back to Chicago to be with my wife and family, but my wife didn't want anything to do with me. And I thought ... Now wait a minute, what's going on? I gave up everything in California: my career and fancy-free living, and saw God answer my prayer as things began to fall apart . . . and my wife now wants nothing to do with me? What's the deal, God?
My wife filed for divorce. But as time went by, we talked off and on, so I still had hope. Now the funny thing-during the time I was in California, my wife had given her life to the Lord. She got saved, which I thought was interesting.
But back in Chicago, I got involved with other women as well. And I fell back into many of my old habits, getting involved with drugs and other women. My wife finally got sick of everything and moved to Grand Haven, Michigan, where her mother lived. I really didn't care by then because I was back into my own selfish ways of living. By that time we had been divorced for four years.
It's funny how God can get your attention, when He's calling you to turn your life over to Him, and you aren't particularly interested. One day I got a letter in my paycheck envelope that read: 'You will pay x-number of dollars weekly to your ex-wife because of your children.' I got real pale. I had big plans to spend that paycheck on getting high and having a good time, but now suddenly there's only $28 left! I got real sick.
I soon realized there was no way out of this. God was not going to let me get off free. During this time we had a third child, a daughter. I drove up to Grand Haven occasionally to visit my children. I never told Lisa I was coming up to visit her; just my children. I was stubborn and proud.
On July 31, 1988, I came up to visit my family. That Sunday morning Lisa said, "Well, we're going to church." I had no desire to go to church. "What do I need to go to church for?" I asked her. But then I got to thinking. I had driven all the way from Chicago to see my children, and if they go to church, I'll only get to see them for a couple of hours. But if I go to church with them, I'll get to see them for the day. I decided I'd go to church just to have more time with my children. It was a set-up from the Holy Spirit!
A man by the name of Mike was ministering that day. I didn't know him from Adam. I walked into the church and he gave me this big hug, and I thought to myself: is there something WRONG with this guy, giving HUGS?
I sat there in church putting up with things, and this Mike starts telling a testimony about one of his friends who had committed suicide, and didn't know God. That had really hurt this Mike guy, because he hadn't had a chance to minister Jesus Christ to this man. Oh boy . . . the Spirit of the Lord began to convict me as I heard that story, and then when he was finished telling the story, Mike gave an invitation to anyone who wanted to turn their life over to Jesus Christ. Something was telling me it was the right thing to do, so I went forward.
At that time in my life, I was having relationships with three different women, so now I knew I was going to have to end them and start living a godly life as best as I could. But not long after, the Holy Spirit began putting a desire inside me to want to be with my family more, especially with Lisa. So with her consent, we decided to remarry. But that created a dilemma. My job was in Chicago, but my family was living in Michigan. By a step of faith, I decided to quit my job in Chicago and move to Grand Haven.
The day I left Chicago and walked through the door of the house my wife was at, she hung up the phone and said, "You've got a job here in Grand Haven." We both knew it was God's hand in our affairs.
As a newborn Christian, I studied diligently the things of the Bible, and gained much knowledge about God and His ways. I also remember going back to Chicago during that time and getting with some of my old drug buddies. They kept telling me how much I had changed, and they wanted to know what it was about me that happened. I told them it was God, but they refused to believe it. "It has to be something else," they said.
Out of all the guys I went out to California with in the band-there were nine of us - eight of them are divorced now. I'm the only one that stayed married to his first wife. That's God. I thank Him for setting my life in order.
In church, I was called forward and would be prophesied over at different times. "You're in training," would come the prophetic utterance.
"Yeah, okay," I'd say to myself, "I'm in training to be a Christian, I know."
"No - you're in training to be a Pastor."
"A Pastor? No way!" I couldn't receive it.
Every place I went, someone would bring it up. "God's calling you to be a Pastor." I couldn't dodge it no matter where I went in church circles!
I found God has a way of dogging a person; bringing them around to His call in their life, if they're truly sincere in their desire to be obedient to God in all things. Part of me didn't want to do it, but as I tested waters, I knew God was calling me to become an undershephard, or Pastor. What I didn't expect was to be called to start a church in Grand Haven! "What's wrong with starting a church in Chicago, God, where all my Christian friends are? (Which were mostly all African-American).
Again, God got His way. Since then we've been pioneering an outreach in Grand Haven, Michigan called ANTIOCH CHRISTIAN CENTER. As I've sought God in His purposes for the work He's called my wife and I to do, He has moved my heart to make our main goal at ANTIOCH CHRISTIAN CENTER simply this:
We're to help equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the UNITY of faith, in accordance with Ephesians 4:11-13. (Emphasis on UNITY is solely that of the author)
This testimony started out by asking this question: Why is it so hard to know that God is real? Now that you know a little of how God has worked in my life, perhaps you can receive a little easier the scripture truth I'm about to give. In Corinthians 2:14 it reads:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
If you're trying to come to the realization that God is real by intellectual means only, you will constantly be frustrated. To know God is real, you must begin to experience Him. Not experience religion-experience God. Allow me to explain it in this manner. Jesus dealt with a lot of people in His day. In fact, it was most of the religious people opposing Him who hung Him on the cross! We still have religious people in this day and age who will tell you about God, but can't tell you a thing about the joys of having a personal, intimate, living relationship with Him. Why didn't the religious people around Jesus want to get to know Him personally intimately - like the 12 original disciples did? Because they didn't like what He was saying and doing. What Jesus said about God and what they believed about God was vastly different.
The same issue still exists today. Do you want to know Jesus, or do you just want to know about Jesus? If all you want to know is about Jesus, then if you desire to be spiritual, I guarantee you, you'll grow to hate those who know Him. But if you want to know Jesus, then you're responding to God the way He desires for you to respond to Him. Once you begin to know Jesus, you'll begin to act like Jesus. To act like Him means we must love like Him. To love like Him means we need to begin esteeming others as more important than ourselves. (See Philippians 2:3). To esteem others as more important than ourselves means that whites need to esteem blacks as more important than whites. It means that blacks need to esteem whites as more important than blacks. It means that Pentecostals need to esteem Baptists as more important than Pentecostals, regardless of Bible differences. It means that Baptists need to esteem Catholics as more important than Baptists, and vice-versa. It means that the love of Christ has no conditions. None. [Esteeming others as more important than ourselves does not force someone to believe what I believe, nor force me to believe what someone wants me to believe. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal truth to a person, and He doesn't do it by force, obligation, manipulation, or coercion].
The love of Christ also means that the Church, the Body of Christ, needs to show an open zeal to bring unity in the Body of Christ without conditions. We need to do this no matter what the pain or cost, so that we are a reflection and conduit of Christ's love to this world and to each other in the most tangible and recognizable form known to mankind: To esteem others as more important than ourselves. That's what Jesus Christ was and is. He proved it by dying on a cross for humanity. By His own free will He esteemed the sinners of humanity as more important than Himself.
Coming to know God is real is the process of inviting Jesus Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord, asking Him to forgive you of your sins (which He always does), getting yourself water baptized into Jesus Christ, asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to fill you, and then diligently reading the Bible, studying it so that you know everything God wants you to know about Him and His ways. In the process of doing this, you'll begin having the privilege of praying and trusting the Lord Jesus to work in your difficult situations, and you'll see circumstances begin to change; events will begin to happen; doors will begin to open; confidence in your ability to change situations with your prayers will happen. There won't be a shadow of a doubt that God is not only real, but also alive. Alive in your life! Everything else will become secondary. Which color or nationality of people won't matter anymore. The outside of people won't matter (or at least it shouldn't!). The inside of people-their spirit and attitude - that's all that will matter.
Why will this happen? Because you'll come to realize that imperfect people-sinners saved by God's grace like myself-make up the Body of Christ. Imperfect people who were once outside the Church - now they're inside the church, for God to go to work on them, to begin to perfect them, which is to make them Christ-like in all manner.
What better place has God got to clean messed up people? That's what the five-fold ministry is for Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers (Eph 4:11-13). And as long as God is bringing messed-up sinners to church who need to be cleaned up, we're going to have imperfect churches.
And what will be the key to imperfect Christians and imperfect churches coming into UNITY OF THE FAITH (again see Ephesians 4:13) with other imperfect Christians and imperfect churches as God truly desires they do, to where they will start esteeming others as more important than themselves? It starts with forgiveness. As God has forgiven me, it will be Christ's unconditional love working through me that will enable me to forgive others. Forgiveness working through the unconditional love of Christ will be the key in getting along with my other brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, no matter what they say or believe about me, or how they treat me. Out of that will come the power of Christ flowing through us to begin to truly "esteem others as more important than ourselves."
The only thing that will stop it will be selfishness. Men building their own little empires, justifying in their minds that God has called me to do such and such, with no regard for the rest of the Body of Christ. It's comforting to every Christian to know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), isn't it?
Thank you for allowing me to share my story and thoughts with you. I pray that it may have helped you in some way.
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A Special Message: http://www.precious-testimonies.com/Exhortations/f-j/HelpingShareTheMessageOfTheCross.htm
Dear Reader -are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To get to know God; to be at peace with God; to have your sins forgiven; to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity; to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life.
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