I was about to throw away the greatest opportunity of my life

I’m Pastor Craig Laidacker, and this is my story:

When I was 7 years old I began attending a country church.  I was baptized, I was confirmed, and I sang in the choir. I also memorized dozens of Bible verses, because the person who memorized the most verses earned a small New Testament.  I went to the country church for 8 years and never missed a Sunday, yet my heart was not right with God. I did not know the Lord.

At age 15, I left the country and moved to town. Because I wanted to “fit in” and be like the other guys, I started to smoke and drink.  Along with the drinking came gambling and stealing. My drinking continued through high school and a tour in the Air Force.  While I was in the service, my mother would write me letters.  She would always include a paragraph about the Lord Jesus Christ and my need for Him, but I would skip over that section of the letter. My mother often would put some gospel tracts in the envelope, but I tossed them in the trash.

After I served in the Air Force, I traveled a while. One day as I was walking down a street in Seattle , I saw a group of people singing hymns on the street corner.  One of the men was playing the guitar, and I noticed that his face was radiant with joy.  I wished I had that same joy. But when I saw that the group was handing out gospel tracts, I quickly crossed to the other side of the street to avoid them.  I wanted nothing to do with God.

When I returned to my hometown, I started working second shift at a factory. After work, some of us would go “boozing.”  Often I would wake up the next morning with a terrible hangover and very little memory of what had happened the night before.

All this time my mother and my brother were praying for me.  Many times my mother would invite me to church.  I hated to go to church! The friendliness of the people made me nervous, and during the sermons, I felt like the preacher was speaking directly to me.

As time went on, I became more and more miserable. I hated what I had become, but I was powerless to change myself. I seriously considered suicide, but I was terrified of death, especially since I knew I would have to answer to God for my sinful behavior.

Then when I was 27 years old, my mother, my brother, and some people from their church invited me to evangelistic meetings.  To please them, I decided to go. I went on a Wednesday night. As the preacher was delivering the message from the Bible, I heard about God’s love. I understood that God shed His blood on the cross and rose from the dead, so that I could be forgiven of all my sin. I knew I needed to believe on Jesus—not just in my mind, but in my heart. I knew I needed to repent. (Repentance is the desire to be rescued from sin; it is a willingness to turn from one’s own way and surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ.) I wanted to be right with God, but I didn’t want to surrender my will to God. I wanted to live my life my way.

The preacher’s message shook me up, so after the service I went to a bar to have a few beers and think it all over. I couldn’t get the message out of my mind, so I went to the services again Thursday night. That night the preacher said that God will give new life to anyone who receives Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I thought, “New life!  A fresh start! This is what I need.”   It all sounded great to me, but I was stubborn.  I did not want anyone, including God, to be in control of my life.

The next night I went to the services again.  As I sat through the sermon, I was convicted of sin. I had sinned against God, yet He loved me and died for me. He wanted me to surrender to Him. I heard the preacher say that if a person says “no” to God too many times, the Lord will withdraw the invitation to be saved.  I realized that I was about to throw away the greatest opportunity of my life:  Jesus Christ, the great God of all creation, was inviting me to come to Him.  He was ready to forgive me and bring me into His family, but foolishly, I was resisting Him.  At the end of the sermon, the preacher asked for those who wanted to give their lives to Jesus to stand to their feet.  I had to make a choice. That night I decided I would no longer resist the love of God: I stood to my feet in surrender to Jesus. The moment I yielded my will to Him, I felt clean inside.  I knew I was right with the Lord! I wanted to shout, “Thank God I am free — free from the burden, guilt, and condemnation of sin!”

That night, June 28, 1968, God gave me peace and joy I never knew was possible, and He promised me a home in Heaven.  God gave me a new life and new desires. That night God took away my desire for alcohol. I wanted to go to church and read my Bible! What a change Jesus Christ makes in a life!

I am so glad that I didn’t miss my opportunity to be saved.

John 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.