It was the summer of 1999, and I had just finished my freshman year of college at Texas A&M.
As part of a student exchange program, my job for the next three months landed me in North Carolina. A handful of other students from my school also took up residence in the Tar Heel state through the same program. I was grateful to escape the Texas heat and experience some new culture in the southeastern part of our country.
In God’s wonderful providence, my roommate for that summer was a strong Christian named Jason. Due to the uniqueness of our job, Jason and I ate breakfast together every morning before heading out to work. And at the end of each early morning meal of pancakes, eggs, or biscuits and gravy, Jason would open his Bible and read. I would always begin working on my paperwork for the day, but over time, I began to ask Jason questions regarding his reading.
Now I had grown up in a Christian home and was present in church whenever the doors were open. I could rattle off Bible stories and knew most of the storyline and main characters. I could even quote a handful of verses. But I had no desire for God. I had no taste buds for the things of Lord and no craving to know His Word. I had no inclination towards holiness – quite the opposite, in fact. I was far from God, following the course of this world.
Jason’s life was noticeably different from mine, and that drew me into conversations with him about God, the gospel, and my sin. Over the summer, my morning paperwork got put aside in order to talk further with my new friend. And then it happened.
While leaving breakfast one morning in July and driving to work, God performed a miracle.
He saved me. I was not a person simply treading water who only needed to reach out and grab the lifeline that was tossed my direction. No, I was dead at the bottom of the lake, not moving, and I needed life. That day in July, God gave me a new heart. He opened my eyes to the severity of my sin and the perfection of Jesus as my substitute. He granted me repentance and faith and made me alive.
I pulled my car off the road, spent time in prayer, and pulled back on the road happy and delighted to follow Jesus.
My North-Carolina-road experience likely differs from your story, but the same miracle that happened to me is the same miracle that every child of God experiences in salvation. God is the one who saves, and that saving work towards sinners is an incredible miracle each and every time. It was solely His mercy and grace that opened my eyes to the beauty of Christ and His gospel. He rescued me from the domain of darkness and transferred me to the kingdom of His Son.
After the summer was over, I headed back to school to start my sophomore year. The Bible became like food and water for me, and I could not read enough. Jason’s friends became my friends, and I was greatly encouraged in my faith by spending time with these new Christian companions. I immediately got plugged into a local church to sit under the preaching of the Word and gain structure and accountability for my new life in Christ.
The strongest weapon in my fight against sin, both then and now, was to have an ever-increasing view of the greatness, majesty, and holiness of God. Reading the Bible, books on the attributes of God, and conversations with Christian friends have all been a means of God’s grace to that end. And seeing God more clearly has the power to diminish the temptations of this world. Seeing God more clearly helps me live in light of eternity better.
Fast forward 18 years from that summer in July. Jason and that brand new group of friends turned into lifelong friends. We continue to be involved in each other’s lives, providing encouragement, accountability, counsel, and support. Over the years, by God’s grace, new friends have been added to this band of brothers through the church.
The truth is that relationships really matter. They matter to God deeply, and we see this in the relationship of the Trinity. Relationships matter to us as well. One of the primary means God has ordained for our growth in godliness is through encouraging and faith-giving relationships in the local church. This is the place where we lock arms with brothers and sisters to help one another cross the finish line of faith together.
God used the relationship of a faithful young man to show me Jesus and my need for Him. And He continues to use relationships now to do the same. What a gift, and what a grace good friends are.
Sean Gould, his wife, Adrian, daughter, Jane, and dog, Packer, are originally from Austin, Texas. They moved to Birmingham in June of 2016 to be a part of Brook Hills. Sean currently serves as the Pastor of Member Care and one of our elders.