Here we are again, can you believe it? Christmas is just around the corner! Stores decorated, just waiting for our money, and we are excited to give it to them because we know it will make a loved one happy. (At least we're hoping it will.) All the talk is around food and gifts. "Whose house will we eat at this year, and what in the world will we get Grandma? She doesn't need a thing!" That sounds familiar, doesn't it? But what about Uncle Jack? Every year he comes with the family, and we're careful not to talk too much about religion around him or he gets a little "huffy." But, you know, what if this past year the Holy Spirit has been working on him, without us even knowing it? Maybe his old fishing and hunting buddies have been talking to him about the Lord — you never know. Persistence is rewarded, as you will see in this testimony from Roy Ray, a member of First Baptist Church in Centerton, Arkansas, where Stuart Bell is pastor.
I'm Roy Ray. Growing up in the boot heel of Missouri, I didn't go to church and didn't know much about God. At the age of 15, I got hooked on alcohol, and that led to drug use. I lived that lifestyle until about 1981, when I married Sheila and started a family. At that point I turned into a hard-working husband and father to our three children. I remember some people coming by and inviting me to church during that time, but I was not very interested in going. I would go on Christmas and Easter Sunday with Sheila a time or two, but that was all.
Then — what we all dread but happens so often now — the place I was working decided to close the doors, so we moved to Centerton in Northwest Arkansas. On one fall day, a FAITH team from First Baptist Centerton, led by Terry Horton, came by and asked if I knew what it would take for a person to go to heaven. I gave the perfect answer: Be a good person and go to church. They then asked if they could share how the Bible answered that question, and I said sure. So they shared with me what the Bible said and how I could go to heaven. The Bible said receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior and repenting of your sins was the only way. Right then I realized what God's Word said, but I was not ready to receive Christ.
After they left, my wife said she had told me about this before, but it's as if I had not heard what she was telling me. Then spring came, and that same FAITH team led by Terry came to my door again and shared God's Word with me again. I told them "no" again and that I felt like there were some things in my life I needed to fix first. Time rolled on, and fall came around, and my doorbell rang again; but this time it was a FAITH team from Eagle Heights Baptist Church, led by Jerry Carwile. As soon as they started talking, I told them that I went to church and was not interested. This was not true; I was just trying to get rid of them.
Then about two weeks later, Shirley, a friend of my wife's from work, asked if her husband, Frank, and their pastor, Sam, could come visit us. Sheila said sure. Frank was doing FAITH in their church, so when Frank and Sam arrived … here we went again … through the FAITH outline. But by this time in my life, and after hearing it so many times, I knew that I could never fix my entire problem and Jesus would take me as I was. That day I got on my knees and asked God to save me, and He did. My life has never been the same!
You may not believe this, but I started doing FAITH the next spring, as a learner. In the summer I went on a mission trip to Huron, South Dakota, and with God leading me, I took my first person through the plan of salvation, and they received Christ. Since then, I've been through fifteen semesters of FAITH and three mission trips. Then God led us to First Baptist Centerton, and I was able to tell Terry Horton thanks for being obedient to the Great Commission by going and telling others.
It continues to amaze me how much Jesus has changed my life from those days when I was dodging Him and trying to avoid Him every way possible. I am grateful to persistent and intentional Christians who do not take "no" for a final answer. The Holy Spirit kept people coming, and I'm so thankful He did!
Maybe this is the year you should talk to that loved one about Jesus. As you sit at the dinner table, look around you. Is there someone that you are not sure where they would go if they were to die? Isn't it worth a try? Don't wait to get "the call," it will be too late then. I'm praying for you; go get them for Jesus! Make this holiday season count for Christ!