In May of 2013, I transferred from the University of South Carolina to Clemson University, where I now hold a degree in History and a minor in Philosophy. (I know, I know, some people still call me a traitor). About two weeks after I moved to Clemson, a friend and I decided to go thrift-shopping. I was low on summer clothes, and most of my things didn't fit. We went to a large thrift shop named Thrift Shop. After spending about 20-30 minutes browsing through the racks of clothing, I found a couple pairs of shorts, and maybe a shirt or two, and went to check out at the counter.
After the guy behind the counter bagged my clothing, I was on my way. When I opened my car door to get in to leave, I looked at Chris, the friend I was with, and said, "Chris... I'll be right back, I need to go back inside to ask that guy to come to our Bible Study tonight." There was a real pull in my mind and in my heart to go open my mouth and share with the guy at the counter. It was summer in Clemson, and anyone still around had nowhere to be; that's just how summer in Clemson works. I shared with the man in the thrift store on that hot, summer day in Clemson, SC in 2013. Now, he is a brother of Christ. Here is his story.
Conversion, by Nick Jewell
A long time ago..... In a Thrift Shop far far away.....
I grew up in a Baptist Church where I was taught to treat others with respect, love everyone, and get baptized because it's what Jesus did, and I should want to be like Jesus as much as possible. This all worked out great for me and my lifestyle until I got into college. I began to have heart palpitations related to my chemo treatments I had as a kid when I was diagnosed with cancer. By this time in my life, I had become a great long distance runner, but the doctor told me I would never run long distance again. He also said any over-exertion athletically could cause tremendous problems for my heart. My athleticism and my identity changed overnight. I didn't know who I was without being able to define myself as a runner, and I didn't know what to do with my free time now that I wasn't running 3-10 miles a day. I turned to Ultimate Frisbee. They took me in and treated me as family. None of them were Christians, but they cared for me, and gave me very worldly possessions and deep friendships with a "no consequences" attitude that I clung to like a drowning man to a piece of plywood. Eventually though, this lifestyle of doing what I wanted when I wanted felt empty.... I was nice to people, I was loving and sarcastic, I was giving and slow to anger, I was a lot of good things but none of that mattered because my heart belonged to the world. That's why I felt so empty, as cliché as that sounds. My friends filled that emptiness with drunkenness, lustfulness, and common selfish practices for worldly pass-times that fill anyone's ego to burst.
When I was a senior in college I was over it, I wanted a healthy relationship with a girl, I wanted a purpose in life that I felt would make a difference, I wanted solidarity in the fact that I was living a life I could be proud of and that God could use me, I wanted to make a stand and I was tired of just doing things the way my friends were doing them, floating through life, living however they wanted with what seemed to be little moral compass. That's when I met Daniel who decided to shop in my thrift shop.
I wasn't eager to join a church around the area because I perceived churches around my area to be filled with two kinds of people. Either people who had not experienced troubles and had a pretty easy life (in my mind how could you not believe in a God when everything is going great for you-- a lot of people my age couldn't empathize or even sympathize with an identity or medical change like one I had gone through) or people who were close-minded privileged college students, set in their ways because it's what their parent's parent's parent's did, and they had little to no conviction themselves in what they believed.
It was then that I met Daniel, who seemed a goofy college kid that knew what he was talking about. He randomly told me that he was doing a Bible study Wednesday night and asked if I would like to join. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Of course I was interested, so I said yes. Daniel, it seemed, was similar to me. He grew up in a skateboard crowd, and he had seen some tough things and had decided they were not worth compromising his faith over. He was neither of the stereotypes I had pictured him to be. He took me to meet Kieth Winship who was also a very laid back guy and also seemed to have experienced the temptations of 20-something, later deciding they weren't worth losing his faith over. It was refreshing to see that Daniel was around my age, knew what he believed, had general answers for most questions, and had deep convictions. When he prayed he didn't pray like other people, he prayed to a living God, choosing his words carefully and honoring God with his prayer instead of using the prayer as a wishing well, throwing in good thoughts with a little love and hoping to receive something in return. I thought to myself, "Man this guy has the conviction I want, he must be quite the leader in his church." Then, visiting his church, I saw that the whole congregation was like this. It was a church that taught strong convictions, that didn't let the little things slide. It was a church that asked tough questions, got tough answers, and then actively changed their lives accordingly because they truly wanted to do all they could to put God first in their lives. It was amazing to see God actually put first in the lives of His people. I wanted what they had.
God had used Daniel's friendship to show me that my life is no more or less difficult than anyone else's. These people had experienced temptations and troubles and wrestled with God as much and more than I had, yet there they stood praising His name, putting God's will above their own, studying his word everyday. The rest was up to me. I had to weigh the cost of becoming a disciple, which would mean not doing the things that my friends were doing-- even actively opposing some things. These were friends I had made over the past 5 years. In the end it was an obvious choice, a difficult but obvious choice because I love those guys, they were there for me when I really needed friends, and they showed me the plain, blunt truth of God when I was at my lowest. Now my life as a disciple has been tough, as is anything. It came with growing pains and there are still things I struggle with. But when I lay my head on my pillow at night and pray to a living God thanking him for the day and praying to have the ability and know how to bear good fruit for His kingdom to grow, knowing His perfect truth makes all the difference.
Make The Most of Every Opportunity
Do you remember the beginning of the story? I had already left the thrift store. My bag of clothes was in my car, the driver's door was opened, and I was one step away from getting inside my car and driving away. I often consider what would have happened had I decided not to go back inside to talk to Nick. Praise God!
God uses us as his instruments in every situation we're in. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5, "Make the most of every opportunity." What is an opportunity? Merriam Webster defines it as "an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done." How many moments in a day can "something be done"? I may be a fool for saying this, but I'd argue that something can be done in every single cognizant moment in our lifetimes, and that something should be!
Regardless of your stage of life, whether you're a student, just entered the working force, have no family, have an old family, or have retired, we are all faced with situations every single day where "something can be done." I fear too many of us rely on the opportunities that scream in our faces, the situations that someone else invites themselves to discuss the Bible with us, the people that convert themselves while we watch and listen. If we are considering the spiritual battle that we discussed in Part 1, then the only proper response is to create opportunities at every possible moment to save as many possible people. The world's corruption is eating humanity alive, and to wait for an opportunity to present itself is detrimental to the salvation of the world. Disciples shouldgo and make opportunities.
We have one life to live, and are given an average of 70-90 years to live it. With the population increase growing daily and evermore, there is no time to wait for others to come to us. We must "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything" Jesus commanded us, creating every opportunity with the wisdom and fellowship of the Spirit within us, praying for God to use us powerfully and effectively. There are too many people and not enough time for us to wait for opportunities. Let's make them happen.
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:17