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Include God in Your Life?

Brandon Ward

A 30-day challenge
    God is eager to make a difference in your life. Psalm 34:8 says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” There’s a challenge for you. Will you take God up on it—even for 30 days?
    If so, hook up with God in His Word and in prayer every day. At the end of 30 days, see if you can say, like Brandon, that a relationship with God is worth it.



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Sometimes It Takes a While




by Brandon Ward

My relationship with God didnít happen overnight.

    Have you ever had a life-changing experience with God? a single defining moment that, when it happened, you knew without a doubt that you loved God and were willing to do anything for Him? I never have.
    I always thought that’s how an experience with God happened, but I found out that it doesn’t have to happen that way. I came to this conclusion after a long time and after many experiences that were not life changing by themselves, yet together they made a huge impact on my life. This is my story about how I learned to love God.
    It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school that the thought of changing my life to include God really hit home. That year I had a core group of friends.  Their names were Jared, Kenny, and Annie. They all worked as literature evangelists, while I worked construction for a local guy.
    A couple months after school started, I was out of a job. We finished the building we were working on, and the next construction project was too far away for me to work and still attend all my classes and activities at school.
For awhile Jared, Kenny, and Annie had been encouraging me to apply for one of the open positions in the literature evangelist program at our school. I didn’t do it since I was making good money working construction. Plus, I wasn’t sure that kind of job suited me; I didn’t think I could talk to strangers and tell them about God. But since I was out of work and had to find a job, it became a viable option. I applied to the program and got accepted.

Just a job
    At first being a literature evangelist was just a job to me, and I didn’t try very hard. I didn’t make much money, either. So my parents told me I might have to find another job.
    I hate personal failure. I knew that if I gave up on the literature evangelist job, I’d feel like I failed. So, drawing on my own personal motivation and the encouragement of my friends, I began trying to sell books.
    It amazed me how the people at the doors changed. They became more interested in what I had to offer. They were willing to listen to me, because they heard passion in my voice. But I felt like a major hypocrite, because it was all a front. I still didn’t believe in what I was doing, I just kept doing it.
    Jared, Kenny, and Annie were all spiritual—or at least they were trying hard to be. I saw this in them whenever we hung out, and I was kind of drawn to them because of it. I wanted a spiritual life badly, but still I wasn’t willing to change.
    Annie and I eventually started spending a lot of time together, and we became really close friends. We were almost dating, I guess you could say. We soon learned that I wasn’t the only one who had feelings for her. Kenny, Jared, and another kid, Chris, liked her, too.
    Annie, not really sure what she wanted, started  pulling away from me and hanging out more with Chris. Then she switched and hung out with me. Then she went back to Chris. This little triangle of love got really old. I look back on it now and think it was the dumbest thing ever. But when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t think about that.
    I liked Annie a lot, and I felt as though I  had failed each time Annie pulled away from me—and I hate personal failure, remember? So this added more stress to my life, on top of all the guilt I felt for lying to the people I sold books to.
    Then, there were my grades. I got straight A’s during most of grade school. But during my seventh grade, eighth grade, and freshman years, I majorly slacked off. At the end of my freshman year, I had a 2.5 GPA, and I hated myself for it. I felt like a failure.
    I determined to try and graduate with a 3.75 GPA, so I pushed myself hard in my schoolwork and stressed out a lot over stupid little things. I realized I needed to pull a 4.0 GPA to raise my overall GPA to a 3.75. I drove myself hard to get it, which just added more stress to my life.

Prayer to the rescue
    All that stress, combined with the stress I had from major problems going on in my family, started catching up to me. I realized I couldn’t just run from it or ignore it anymore. I had to face it, and I doubted I could do it alone.
    One night I knelt down and prayed for the first time in a long time. I told God my feelings, and that I really needed help. When I finished praying, I felt as though I’d wasted my time.
    In my free time I started thinking about why I was so reluctant to include God in my life. I realized that nothing really was going my way anyway, so what did it matter if I gave God a chance?
    My conscience was getting to me for pretending to be something I wasn’t at work. My dating life was a mass of frustrating emotions. My grades were slipping. I didn’t know really what to do to change my heart toward God, even though I’d been raised in the church. I never paid attention during Weeks of Prayer—I hadn’t even listened to an entire sermon since I was 8 years old.
Since I don’t like talking to people about my struggles, I determined I’d find God on my own. I had no idea what to do to find Him, so I just began praying as often as I remembered to do it. At first I hardly ever remembered. If I was lucky, I would see someone pray at a meal, and it would remind me to pray. After awhile, I started  remembering to pray for every meal and then during work when I talked to people who looked like they needed God in their lives. I even started sending up spontaneous prayers, thanking God for the flowers on the trees, for the weather, and for anything that reminded me of Him.
    I don’t remember when or how prayer became real to me. All I know is that it did, and my life fell into place after that—at least it seemed that way. I still had problems, but I didn’t feel alone any longer, and I didn’t have to carry them all on my own.
    All this didn’t just happen in one night—it didn’t even happen in a month. It took a lot of time and effort for me to develop a spiritual life at all. Even now I still struggle to keep my relationship with God going. I do it, though, because it’s worth it.   

    Brandon Ward is now a sophomore at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he’s double majoring in religion and pre-med studies. He likes playing any sport, surfing, and reading. His home is in Centennial, Colorado.
 





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