A LIFE CHANGED
PASTOR GREG LAURIE OF HARVEST CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP SHARES HOW HE FOUND THE ANSWER TO THE BIG QUESTIONS OF LIFE.
BY GREG LAURIE
I WAS BORN IN THE 1950s; what a time to be alive! It all began so innocently. James Dean was a movie star and so was Marilyn Monroe. Ike was president, and Elvis was king. For 25 cents, you could get a burger complete with the trimmings.
I remember watching “Leave It to Beaver” on black-and-white television, but life at our house was not like it was at the Beav’s. I came from a broken home and was often carted off to different parts of the country on short notice. I got used to the term “new kid” and was lonely much of the time. I had an artistic streak, and I often retreated into my private world of cartooning.
I had no father. I was born out of wedlock, and there was quite a lineup of different men my mother married in her quest to find meaning in life. I was raised in an adult world that was disillusioning. I quickly tired of the alcoholic haze that hovered over my home life. At an early age, I determined that there must be more to life than what I had seen so far.
I grew up too soon — even in the age of innocence known as the ’50s. But that age came to a quick and brutal end like many icons of the era: James Dean in a head-on car crash, Marilyn Monroe by overdosing on barbiturates, and John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. by assassins.
Now it was the ’60s, and kids my age were trying to get a handle on all these dreams going up in smoke. Like millions of other teens, I thought I could — we could — change the world. “Never trust anyone over 30,” now a cliché to describe the mindset of the generation, rang true for me.
I remember the first time I saw the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” I was living with my grandparents, who were thoroughly disgusted by those four mop tops from Liverpool. But I was intrigued. As they went through their many phases of musical and personal discovery, I followed suit on the heels of a whole generation. We didn’t follow the music as much as the musicians, Pied Pipers of a generation playing the soundtrack to our lives. We were caught in an unseen current; none of us knew where it was leading, but we were enjoying the ride.
Like so many others, I bought into the idea that drugs might contain some of the answers I was looking for. It seemed that everyone was doing drugs. I followed along at first, believing that the answers to the questions would eventually come. However, it wasn’t long before I saw the futility of this lifestyle as I watched my creativity, motivation, and skills diminish. I was told drugs would make me more aware, and in many ways, that was true. I became more aware of how empty and lonely I was. After a particularly frightening drug-induced experience, I knew I had to stop doing drugs forever.
I had also seen the devastating effects of drugs on the lives of some ’60s cult heroes who self-destructed in their prime: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison — all gone. Add to that the ominous cloud of the Vietnam War that hung over the heads of the nation’s young men, including me. Every one of us who were draft age lived with the uncertainty that any minute we could be heading for Vietnam. Then there was Watergate. We watched the highest office in our country unravel and saw a president fall.
All these converging issues caused fear and disillusionment. I found myself asking the big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? What will happen after I die?
One day, on my high school campus, I was watching a group of about 30 Christians sitting on the front lawn. They were singing songs about God. I determined to study the group, but from a distance. After all, I couldn’t sit close enough for any of my friends to think I was one of the Jesus freaks. That would have been social suicide in high school.
I was touched by their sincerity, even though it struck me as odd that anyone my age would want to spend time singing about God. Then a young man stood up, opened a Bible, and began to speak. I don’t remember much of what he said that day except for one statement based on Matthew 12:30: “Jesus said, ‘You are either for Me or against Me.’”
That really struck me. Never before had I heard that faith in Christ was an either/or deal. I looked over at these Christians and thought, Undoubtedly, they are for Him. Knowing I was not one of them, it dawned on me that I must be against Him.
The preacher told the group that anyone who wanted to know Jesus in a personal way should get up and walk forward to pray with him. I thought, If it truly is possible to know Jesus in a personal way, I would love that. Immediately, the doubts came, but before I knew quite what was happening, I found myself standing with a handful of other brave souls, praying to receive Jesus Christ into my heart and life. I had the distinct sensation that a tremendous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. In no uncertain terms, I knew my life had changed dramatically.
Not long after, I found myself teaching Bible studies — of all things. This is ironic considering I was not the best student, to say the least. But I had never read a book like the Bible before, and it came alive to me; I wanted to share it with others. Since then I have pastored a church for more than 40 years and preached in evangelistic events such as Harvest America. I love to share the gospel and tell others how God can change lives!
GREG LAURIE is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, California, and featured speaker at Harvest Crusades and Harvest America, large-scale evangelistic events. Laurie’s down-to-earth style of proclaiming the gospel is evident in the nationally syndicated radio show A New Beginning, the weekly television program GregLaurie.tv, and in more than 70 books, including Hope for Hurting Hearts written in the aftermath of his son’s sudden departure to heaven. For more information about Greg Laurie or Harvest Ministries, visit www.harvest.org.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (November 2015). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.