Another Prodigal Son Reunited

(The Eric La Barge Story)

Jesus Did It!

By: Eric La Barge

Editor's Note:  "The Prodigal Son Syndrome' is a very common spiritual disorder with humanity. Millions have experienced the affects of it, and multitudes will continue to do so in the future. It is one thing to ask Jesus to be one's Savior: it is another thing to let Him become LORD of one's life. God desires that we trust Jesus Christ to not only be our Savior -- to keep us from hell upon death -- but to ALLOW Him to become LORD in every area of our life, starting NOW ' not once we die.

If we resist the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, there is ALWAYS one consequence that results: our sinful nature refuses to let go . . . and our besetting sins give more place to the devil to rob us of God's blessing, favor, and joy in this life. God knows that the ONLY way to break the power of our sinful desires is for His Lordship to reign in our lives. There is just no other way.

Perhaps you consider yourself a Christian. You've asked God the Father to forgive you of your sins, believing that the wrath awaiting you from God upon your dying was poured out on Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago. Now God's wrath will not be poured out upon you when you die, but heaven and glory will be your eternal destiny. Fantastic! We all want that, don't we?!

Yet maybe it's hard for you to admit to yourself that you STILL enjoy sinning the way you used to before you asked Jesus to become your Savior. Or ' maybe you want to quit sinning in certain areas, but just can't seem to stop. Either case, God's remedy many times is to let us dig a deep enough hole for ourselves to eventually wake up and realize that our disobedience to God is simply something He won't bless. He'll forgive us of our sins always if we ask Him to, but He won't bless our disobedience ' no matter how much we would like Him to. It's impossible for Him to bless our disobedience, because it's totally contrary to His nature. God can only do that which is His nature.

The sooner we learn that God cannot and will not bless our disobedience ' the more peace we will have with our Lord. The more peace we have with our Lord, the greater blessing we are to our heavenly Father. The greater blessing we are to our heavenly Father, the more useful we become to Him. The more He chooses to use us, the more exciting life becomes. After all, if there is anything we enjoy doing more than being used of God ' we have not totally surrendered to His Lordship. That puts us in a position to suffer much pain, if we don't willingly surrender to His Lordship as quickly as we can.

This is not to put condemnation on anyone. Even I, writing these very words, have not let Jesus be Lord of every area of my life, though I'm striving to.  A person who may have a deathbed conversion to Jesus Christ obviously has not had time to let God's Lordship work in their life. The Bible doesn't give us much insight into those situations. So ' the purpose of this testimony is to simply let the Lord speak to those He desires to, to profit by reading it. Let's not read anymore into it, okay? Walking in obedience according to God's Word is difficult enough. Let's not give the devil opportunity to make it anymore difficult than it already is.

My name is Eric Labarge. I'm writing this from prison. I was born in a middle class family in a small community in Michigan. My family was very active in church. I attended church regularly as well, but not to grow close to God. My purpose for going to church was to meet girls and laugh at the preacher. I was seldom serious about anything; everything was a big joke to me. I did things and didn't care who got hurt in the process, as long as I got ahead.

At age 17 I went to prison and spent three years there. That's where I started going from bad to worse. When I got out, God was the last thing on my mind. All I wanted to do was party and have fun.

Within a year of being out of prison, I married a girl. I claimed that she was the woman God had given to me, but I sure didn't treat her like it. All I did was get drunk and get high, and cheat on her and spend money on myself. Every now and then I would get 'righteous' around her, as long as I didn't have to give up any of my favorite sins or go to church too long.

As time passed, I lost my desire to try to even be good. I had trashed our marriage and was always broke. As pressures mounted from my wife and children, big bills and low pay and the law again, I felt overwhelmed.  I thought I would run away and begin a fresh start. I left my family behind on Christmas Day at about 3 A.M. in the morning without even saying goodbye to my children.

I went to live with my grandmother in Florida. She was a strong Christian and tried to help me save money and spur me on to go to church, but it wasn't working simply because I was not committed to Jesus. Eventually I found a place out in the country so I had no one to answer to but myself. I acquired a girlfriend who was a crack-cocaine addict, who always had alot of her friends over at my house. Crack was a drug I wouldn't do, but it didn't bother me if others used it.

The authorities in Michigan found out where I was living and the word was that they were going to transport me back there to be prosecuted. I moved out of my house and stayed mobile with the group of crack addicts I had made friends with.

You would think I would have started getting serious with the Lord by then, but I didn't. One day the police caught me and sent me back to Michigan. That's when I started getting 'serious' with God. I started praying and reading my Bible a lot, and I believe it was real at the time; as much as I knew how to be 'real' about it, anyway. I asked God to somehow get me out of jail, and if He would, I would promise Him I would follow Him devoutly once He did.

Two weeks later they couldn't get a witness to testify so they had to let me go. Free I was, until shortly thereafter I was picked up and sent to a county jail for an old drunk driving charge. That cost me a month. Meanwhile I was looking at a more serious charge in Flint, Michigan. That sentence would be 40 years to life. That whole month in the county jail I did everything to stay close to God. However, the closer I was to getting out the more I thought about parties and women and maybe running again.

Once I was released I stayed with my parents and went to church with them. But sadly, I was not yet committed to the Lord. Quickly I turned my back on Him.

Months passed and I came closer to the time of my court date and sentencing. They got a witness to testify, and my lawyer said I was going away for a long time. I ran again. I determined I was going to have to play it cool this time and live my life pleasing to the Lord if He was going to keep me out of jail.

I didn't though. I got high and drunk for almost 6 months. I ended up in jail on a mistaken identify down in Mississippi. There I was in jail, on the run, with no I.D., no family, friends or money. The name I gave them was false. It was there in that jail that I started reading the Bible and praying again. I asked God to forgive me of my sins and pledged to get serious with Him. That's when I realized it had to be God's way or nothing. I prayed again that I would be set free from that jail. I said, 'Father, I will serve you out there and will not turn back to my sinful. Selfish nature.'

A month and a half later I was called out to speak with an undercover cop. I went to talk with him about the case and told Him I was not guilty. They had made a mistake thinking I was someone else. He suggested I be finger printed. If they ran those prints, I thought, they would know who I really was. I went back to my cell and prayed, 'Father, your Word says we can ask and receive if we don't doubt.' As I was praying and believing they came to the door and said I was free to go!

There I was free again, but with no money, friends or place to go. So I stood on the Word of God in Matthew 6: 25-34, where I read it to mean that we're not to worry about our living conditions, and Philippians 4:19 where it says that God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. I had met an inmate briefly while inside that jail in Mississippi that said I could live with him if I got out (but inmates say that all the time and don't usually follow through with it) plus this man had gotten out almost three weeks before me. But in faith I looked up his number and called. His mom answered and explained that her son was at work, but he had mentioned my name to her and that I was more than welcome to live with them.

The Chaplain at the jail drove me out there and gave me $5. I met the people; they were dedicated Christians. They gave me a three-bedroom trailer all to myself.  The next week I found a job that paid cash too.

Things were great, but I was not committed to living my life for Jesus. Within three months I was back to drinking and getting high again. I finally stopped going to church all together. Pretty stupid, wasn't I?  Here God had been there for me time and time again but I continued to live life the way I wanted to.

I lost my job and was asked to leave.  I still had no I.D. and was on the run and nowhere to go. I ended up working on a cock-fighting farm. I worked hard every day and received room and board, plus $25 a week, which I spent getting high and drunk. I lived there for a year and finally couldn't stand it any more. I finally prayed to God and asked Him to forgive me of my sins again, and asked if He would provide a way out. He did. A friend of mine said I could live with him and his wife I would take care of his lawn and other house-hold needs. He would pay me $50 a week plus give me room and board. I was in awe at how much God blessed me, yet I still was not committed to Him.

I stayed at that house two weeks. I had everything given to me and didn't even work that hard. Life was great. But I wanted to be more than a 'friend' to my friend's wife. She wanted the same. We ended up sleeping together and that was the final straw. Her husband knew I was wanted and when he found out what happened, he turned me in. A little more than I year later I sat in the same jail I was freed from.

I prayed to God that night like never before. He opened up my life to me like I had never seen it before -- how being his child and a co-heir with Jesus Christ is not just asking Him to forgive you of your sins so you won't go to hell: this is just the start ' just the beginning. We must choose to be committed to living our life that is pleasing to Him ' not the selfish, dishonest and destructive ways we lived before turning our lives over to Him. If there is no change for the better in our lives that is pleasing to God ' we're just playing games with Him, others and ourselves.

A peace came over me like never before. I came to understand that living with God was living in God, and God living in me ' not just with me. God won't truly live in a person unless He's eagerly invited and allowed. It's a personal relationship that should NEVER be so personal that others can't detect how genuine it really is. In fact, it should appear very obvious to others around you that His presence is in your life by your actions along with your words. If it's just a show, others will quickly detect it and be repulsed by it. God will make certain

I saw that there were many changes I needed to make and didn't know how or where to start. I asked God to forgive me of all my sins again and all the times I said I would serve Him and didn't. In a solemn prayer I covenanted with God that I would start serving Him totally from that point on. After I did that, I felt a load lift off me. I felt clean, renewed, transformed into a new man.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If I was to live my life for Christ forever things in me needed to change and I asked God to start working on me and He did. I was able to stop cursing and was able to read my Bible every single day.

They finally came and picked me up and brought me to Michigan to face my trial of 40 years to life. While in jail I spent my time reading the Bible, studying, going to every church service I could go to and witnessed to every bunkie I had. I prayed that God would set me free and believed that He would.

Sentence day came and they gave me 20 years. I say 'they', because God has given me freedom -- freedom from myself. He gave me self-respect, self-control, true friends, but most important of all, He game me His love. This love is a love I never knew before, but it's perfect; always giving and never taking. Sometimes I have to remind myself I am in prison. God has truly blessed me in all areas of my life. I now have a wonderful relationship with my family and the friends I have are solid Christians that are committed to serving God.

I am so thankful that God never gave up on me. I've come to realize that He never will. As long as we will keep going back to Him and confess that we have messed up, ask Him to forgive us, he always will. Maybe some people have found it easy to be a Christian. It was never easy for me. My sinful nature, which Christ took my eternal punishment for , (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) didn't cease operating in my life the moment I asked Jesus to be my Savior. Nor did it stop the different times that I promised God I would stop messing up if He would only give me another chance. Truly I've found that our sinful nature cannot be trusted, no matter how many times we tell ourselves and God that we'll never sin anymore.

Knowing that God never gives up on us, no matter how many times we break our promises to Him, is what keeps me wanting to serve Him and obey Him. If He was a God who gave up on us just because we sinned one too many times, then maybe things would be different with many of us. But the Bible promises that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrew 13:5) . . . as long as we keep coming back to Him and repenting for our wrongdoing against Him. It's hard for me to understand why anyone would reject a Lord and Savior like this for very long. Especially One who died in their place so they wouldn't have to receive eternal punishment upon dying that God says we truly deserve.

Dear reader, if you happen to be someone right now reading this who once walked with the Lord, but have pulled away from Him, I want to encourage you to turn back to Him.

He is waiting for you with open arms, no matter what has happened in your life.

Remember ' God never gives up on us. Yet He allows us the freedom to give up on Him if we let our hardened heart's grow cold toward Him. Saying it another way: He loves us enough to allow us to even go to hell, if that's what we truly want. He won't make us do something we don't want to do. That's the God of love who died for our sins. Thank you, Jesus!

The Christian walk is not really a contest to see who can win first. It is a marathon  The goal is simply to finish. It may not be very pretty how we finish. It's okay for Christians to fail ' to take a because the pain has been too intense: we just don't have to

God never quits on us during this life. We quit on Him. The wise just don't drop out of the race indefinitely They rest ' and jump back in the marathon . . . knowing that if they don't . . . their awaiting glory will become their shame.

If you wish to contact Eric La Barge, his address is:

Eric La Barge #183851
West Shoreline Correctional Facility
2500 S. Sheridan Dr.
Muskegon Heights, MI 49444 


"And this gospel of the kingdom [Jesus died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).

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