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The Prodigal Son

I am a believer in Jesus Christ that struggles with self, pride and alcohol, and my name is Paul.

My Testimony = My Faults and God’s Grace

When I reflect on my childhood I was truly blessed with a loving supportive family from my parents and grandparents.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I hope you hear what God has done in my life and it may help you grow closer to Him.

John 3:30 He must become greater and I must become less.

I was raised in the small town of Cave in Rock in southern Illinois. My father was an only child and raised by loving - hard working parents. He grew up working around a farm and sawmill. After high school he joined the Air Force and was in the Vietnam War. My father wore many different hats with regards to careers throughout his life but was always a great provider for our family. He came by this strong character honestly from his parents.

My mother is one of the kindest most patient people I have ever met. She got this from her mother who was a great Christian woman as well, not to mention a teacher and Principal of schools. I can remember her spending hours with me at her kitchen table when I was in elementary school, anything less than an “A” was unacceptable. I owe much gratitude to my parents and grandparents.

Dad and mom provided a very loving home for me and my three younger brothers.

My mother’s father was a dysfunctional alcoholic and we saw very little of him while growing up. I remember this because my mother always reminded me that this addictive behavior was in my blood and I had better be cautious with alcohol. My Mother didn’t drink because of this. Her stepdad however was very much a part of my young life and a very spiritual man. He would take my younger brother and I to church every Sunday when we were young. Even today when I hear Bible teachings or read the Bible, I can remember hearing these same stories as a child.

Proverbs22:6(NLT) Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

I can remember attending church and when the invitation time would come, I was convicted to submit my life to Christ, but I didn’t honestly want to live this Christian way of life. My thoughts were clouded by my personal desires and pride.

What I didn’t realize at this time or for the next thirty years was as we read about in Romans 6:16b you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.

I was fortunate that I was able to begin working with my Father and Paternal Grandfather at ten years of age. They owned and operated two gas stations, bulk oil delivery business and a small engine shop. They were both patient and supportive of me learning new skills and tasks. I enjoyed spending time with Dad and Grandpa, wrenching on things, progress, and helping/pleasing people.

Although I had every opportunity to follow God my besetting sin of pride took over at a very early age. This word “sin” isn’t very common these days, it seems we would prefer to call it anything but sin. I find it interesting how today we struggle with the same sins we read about in the Bible all the way back to Adam & Eve in the garden, primarily “following our sinful yearnings and desiring to be equal with God instead of obeying and following God.”

As many of you may know, when we crack the door open to sin, Satan is right there to embellish our selfish desires. The worst part is as we begin to feed these insatiable desires, our desires don’t decrease but increase.

I began drinking alcohol around the age of twelve. Alcohol was exciting for me because “real men” drank alcohol. This quickly became a way of self-medicating, it brought relief of the self-imposed pressure to please everyone while seeking approval and attention.

I met my wife of 21 years when I was 15. I got my license in October 1983 and got married in the following May 1984 and had our son in November 1984 when I was 17. My son although unexpected was another one of God’s wonderful blessings. We graduated high school living in my parent’s basement. I worked for my Father and she went onto college and got her degree.

When I was 20 years old, I started work at a rock quarry where I worked midnights and found plenty of roughnecks that liked to work hard and play even harder. There wasn’t much moderation in my life, too many times it was about me and more.

Now looking back, it was like I had a huge hole that I was trying to fill with anything but God.

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

C.S. Lewis – “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."

We had a daughter in 1992, I truly believe God blessed us with her as another way of getting my attention to humble myself. I can remember the tears of joy when she was born. I totally recognized her as a gift from God, and looking back, this was one of those times in life when I should have heard God speaking to me in a big way.

Unfortunately, a long story short I was still consumed with self and sin. I stayed married for another fourteen years, we moved to the STL area in 1999. We divorced in 2006, I went through a couple of relationships and DWI’s. As I have learned through CR, hurting people – hurt people.

After the second DWI, I met a counselor who one night after SATOP class I admitted to him that I thought I was an alcoholic and I would like to stop drinking. CR Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. Romans 7:18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good but cannot carry it out.

I stopped drinking alcohol on February 14, 2010.

One Sunday morning at home after a 7:00AM AA meeting, I was feeling convicted (from the Spirit) to attend church. I had been to this church a couple of times before over the past years. When I walked into the church, to my surprise they were having a six-week sermon series called the “Road to Recovery”. They were spending six weeks on the Twelve Steps of Recovery. I felt like Christ himself was setting beside of me. This was a very spiritual and changing time for me. “My Spiritual Awakening.” (Now looking back on this it was like in John 9:25 when Jesus healed the blind man) “One thing I know, I was blind but now I see.” I have many memories, but one was the first three steps summarized were 1. I Can’t! 2. God Can! 3. I think I will let him! This was where I learned a couple of my favorite Bible verses James 4:7-8 submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8. Come near to God and he will come near to you.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in Luke 15 – The Prodigal Son – I can relate to this young man. I recall standing in those church pews as a young man with Jesus reaching out his hand to me, calling me to follow him. Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Instead, I wanted my freedom, through my pride I wanted to pursue my personal plans and desires. Unfortunately, this led me deeper into slavery. Over the next thirty years, I became a slave to my wrong desires, then wrong deeds, then a literal slave to sin. Then a critical turn in the prodigal’s story in verse 17 “when he finally came to his senses”. He planned to return to his father and scripted what he would say when he saw his father again. Then my favorite part of the story in verse 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

I too like this young man was not able to find true freedom until I yielded to our Father. But when I finally decided to repent and turn from my desires and sinful lifestyle, He met me with arms wide open welcoming me home. He wants to call all of us to Him. He loves us unconditionally and has a plan for each of us.

I am grateful to tell you that shortly after this major turn in my life God brought me my best friend and wife Donna. We both place God first in our marriage and are growing together spiritually.

I mentioned earlier how I liked progress, whether exercise, training or learning something new, when we follow Christ the progress or transformation is continuous if we will humble ourselves before Him.

One of my latest spiritual growth tools is the enneagram test. This test is assisting me to better understand myself, God, and others. Transformation begins with observation. This test shows me my besetting sin is “yes”, you guessed it “Pride”. The grace God offers us to battle Pride is Humility.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less and Jesus more.

“Humility, the place of entire dependence upon God, is from the very nature of things the first duty and the highest virtue of His creatures. And so, pride—the loss of humility—is the root of every sin and evil.” ― Andrew Murray

Isaiah 26:3-4 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! 4 Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

I have heard it said that resentments are the greatest reasons for relapse in recovery. I find myself struggling less with my past as God is finally getting through to me that I cannot change my past. He is teaching me to live in the present hour, place my focus on Jesus and love others as he does.

I say it does not matter if you heard about Jesus Christ for the first time tonight or if you have been walking with Christ for 30+ years, Celebrate Recovery will benefit your life and others around you.

If you are new in recovery, I ask you to give God and CR several weeks before you decide this isn’t for you. Please trust me when I say God knows what you are dealing with and he wants to help you through it, and he will. It is no accident that you are here tonight listening to how God has brought me hope and I assure you that you can find this same hope in Him.

May God Richly Bless you and keep you!

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