Christmas is a Happy Reminder of the Greatest Gift I Ever Received
The following article was printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 9, 1999:
THE PLAIN DEALER
January 9, 1999
How faith filled void in one life
By Jerry Prugar
For 41 years I followed the religion I had learned about on Sunday and in my parochial school. I had a number of unanswered questions, but I believed that God existed. My particular religion also taught that Jesus Christ is His Son and I believed that, too. And I believed that there would be a final judgment, and so I tried to live by the Ten Commandments and to do good to others. After all, I wanted to be judged worthy of eternal life in heaven. I followed a set of religious guidelines, but did I have faith?
When we have faith in something or someone, we have a complete trust in that thing or person. For example, when we fly off on vacation, we have faith in the pilot, the airplane mechanics, and the air traffic controllers to deliver us safely to our destination. Our life is in their hands.
To whom do we go or in what do we trust to get us through the day or to get us out of a difficult situation? If we can answer this question, we can learn in what or in whom we have faith.
For me the answers were myself and money. I believed I could handle any situation with a thoughtful plan and money. I had done more things right than wrong. I had done well financially and socially. It was now time to be rewarded and to concentrate on the finer things in life.
I never was one for such things as boats, recreational vehicle, motorcycle or a second home. They were too much work. However, I developed an avid interest in American history, then politics, then my wife, then country music, then investing, then my kids, then classic cars, then classic movies, then hunting, then computers, etc.
I learned a lot about each of these, but my interest waned in each – some more quickly than others. I found I still had a void; something was still missing and I didn’t know what it was.
I kept turning inward to find something that would satisfy me. I did not realize it, but this inward turning to satisfy my desires made me more selfish and more bitter at those I perceived were trying to cramp my quest for happiness.
My selfishness and bitterness were beginning to affect my relationships at home and at work. I was not aware of this until my bitterness cost my company a client. I also noticed that my wife and children were becoming more distant. I did not like who I was becoming, but I did not seem to have the self-control to change it. I tried in many ways and many times.
At a men’s conference in 1996, I learned that the lost feeling in my life was due to my rebellion, which had resulted in a separation from God. I also learned that God was waiting for me to come back home to Him and stop the rebellion. However, I learned that just as a drowning person needs a lifeguard to rescue him or her I need a savior to bring me back to God. And just as the drowning person must give up trying to save himself and put his trust in the lifeguard, I must give up trying to work my way to God and put my trust fully in the Savior that He sent – Jesus Christ.
I was tired of being lost. I wanted to come back home. That day I asked Jesus to forgive me for my rebellion. I accepted Him as my Savior, and I asked Him to take me and do with my life as He pleased.
That weekend I felt a change in my heart begin. The bitterness I felt toward others disappeared. I began to have a desire to serve others rather than being served. I went to those that I had offended and asked their forgiveness. I began to pray every day. I started to see my relationships change. I started to have an interest in reading the Bible to learn more about the God that was changing me from the inside out.
So after 41 years I learned that faith is more than just believing that there is a God to be visited on Sundays and then trusting in myself and my money during the week. I learned that being a member of a church does not make me a follower of Christ, but that being a Christian begins with total surrender to God and an acceptance of His greatest promise: whoever puts his complete dependence in Christ has not only eternal life, but a life worth living. And if one believes that promise in his heart and proclaims it with his mouth, others will see his life begin to change. This is the essence of the Christian faith.
After all this happened to me in 1996 I read the entire Bible (about a dozen times or more to date) and found that it is not one book, but 66 books, penned by 40 writers over a period of two thousand years. I was impressed at the unity of it and amazed at the evidence that it is a message inspired by someone who can see the end of time from the beginning, that is, someone outside of time. It IS a message from our Creator transmitted through ordinary men. The most critical message that the 40 authors agreed on can be summed up in the following:
What is our ultimate destiny?
My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. (From Ezekiel 37:27)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (From Revelation 21:3)
But since Adam ate the fruit in disobedience, we have fallen short of the requirement of excellence …………
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (From Isaiah 59:2).
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
(From Paul in his letter to the Romans 3:23)
However, knowing this, God provided us a way back …………
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (From Paul in his letter to the Romans 6:23)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
(From John in his biography of Jesus, the gospel of John 3:16-19)
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, ….
(From Paul in his First letter to the Corinthians 15: 3-8)
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. (From Mark in his biography of Jesus, the gospel of Mark 1:14-15)
Don’t just take my word for it, check it out yourself. Start with the Gospel of Matthew or John. Call on God for wisdom in this, ask Him for help in understanding, or use a simple prayer like mine from 1994 , “God, if there is more to knowing You than I already have, I want it because there has GOT to be MORE to life than this”
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (Jesus Christ quoted in the gospel of John 6:37)