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FIRST-PERSON: Room in heaven for Darrell Porter

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–I read the news with shock and sadness. An autopsy revealed cocaine in Darrell Porter’s system, and a medical examiner determined that the drug was responsible for the former major leaguer’s death.

As I’ve digested the report over the past few hours, I’ve pondered on what this means for Christians. What are we to make of this? Here’s a man, once addicted to drugs and alcohol, who made a clean break and lived a godly life for so long. He encouraged young people not to follow his example, to stay away from drugs. How do we to respond to the fact that he relapsed into the clutches of the demons that enslaved him for so long?

For one thing, Porter’s death is another vivid example of the power and evil of sin. It’s a reminder, especially to young people, that drugs destroy lives.

Porter’s family echoed this in a statement they released following the autopsy results: “The fact that he failed shows the evil of drugs and the power of the disease. His death is now an even stronger case against the drugs that are prevalent in our society.”

If you’re a teenager, this tragedy shows exactly what can happen from abusing drugs. You are sadly mistaken if you think you can experiment with drugs as a teenager or young adult and then kick the habit when you get older.

Porter is proof that strong odds are against you in ever kicking the habit. He stayed away from drugs for more than two decades, but he was never free from their allure. The seeds he sowed as a young man eventually took his life.

This incident also in no way negates or cheapens the glorious transformation that took place in Porter’s life. His pastor, Paul Bazalgette, of First Baptist Church, Blue Springs, Mo., offered some insights into this.

“The fact that one struggles with this and another struggles with that, that’s what we’ve got Jesus for,” Bazalgette said. “Darrell lived 23 years completely drug-free. That’s a miracle. It was a beautiful and wonderful thing that God did in his life.”

Every believer struggles with sin of one kind or another, Bazalgette said. Scripture does not promise that we will ever achieve perfection in this life.

“We are a work in progress,” Bazalgette said. “Darrell Porter is a classic example of every last believer. We’re all struggling between one kingdom and another.”

This is a truth that should warm our hearts. Darrell Porter was not perfect, nor is any other Christian. But despite our imperfections, God’s salvation is assured to all who trust in Christ.

God’s mercy was wide enough for people who have murdered, like David; people who have lied, like Abraham; those who have been cowards, like Peter; swindlers like Jacob; and those who have been drunk, like Noah. I’m confident there’s room in heaven for drug addicts like Darrell Porter.

And I’m thankful that Porter is finally in a place where his demons will haunt him no longer.
Ellsworth is a regular columnist on BP Sports, at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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