I was reared in a Catholic home and spent the first fourteen years of my life believing that all I had to do to get into heaven was be good and go to church. My exposure to any other religions or anything to do with Christianity was very limited, so I thought everything was fine.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen, with the guidance of my Sunday school teacher, that I found this kind of thinking and believing to be incorrect. My teacher was preparing a few others and me for Confirmation. She was an elderly lady who believed in and had been faithful to the Catholic church for most of her life. Praise God that she accepted Christ as her personal Savior just a few months before she taught this class and made it her ambition to spread the gospel as long as she could. She explained that I had to invite Jesus into my heart in order to get to heaven. You don’t get there by being a good per-son or going to church (any church), or even obeying the laws. All you have to do is say a prayer and ask Jesus Christ to live inside your heart, say you’re sorry for your sins, obey His commandments, and you will go to heaven.
I was thinking this was good news, but I really didn’t have much experience with praying. About the only time I prayed was when I was in trouble and I wanted God to save my hide. I guess this was kind of the same thing. She continued by explaining that praying is just talking to God. After that the class prayed together and I became a Christian.
However, my experience of being saved didn’t really make me feel or act any differently. I was glad that I knew I would go to heaven, but I still didn’t have the goods to live the way God wanted me to live. It wasn’t till several years later that I learned how to live according to God’s Word.
In the meantime, during my tenth grade year I had my first real girl-friend. I dated her through high school and the beginning of college. This was when I started making bad decisions that literally would affect my and her life forever. Sexual misuse and drinking was the path Satan took me down. This lifestyle for me continued and progressively got worse the longer I participated in it. When I went to college, the University of Mississippi (fall ’88), I broke up with my girlfriend and began partying more than ever. My drinking and sexual misuse accelerated and soon didn’t satisfy me, so I turned to drugs. By God’s grace, I managed to stick primarily to marijuana–it could have been much worse.
Because of all the sin in my life, my grades suffered. If you had asked me back then, I would have said that I was doing all that I could do. The truth of it is that I really didn’t care about my grades. I would focus on anything but my schoolwork. I enjoy hunting and fishing, and on several occasions I would skip classes in order to do these things. Finally, my parents became disgusted with my grades, pulled me out of the university and made me go to a junior college where we lived. This occurred after my fall semester in ’89.
What a shock! After being free to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted-things changed. I was now living back under my parents’ roof and things went back to how they were in high school, i.e., curfews, structure, accountability. In an attempt to motivate me, my parents made a deal with me. They said if I could maintain a B average through a semester and summer school then they would let me go back to the university. This was a challenge and I liked it.
I stopped partying as much and started studying more. It was during this period that I was introduced by a mutual friend to Ginny, who later would become my wife. We started dating in June of ’90. Today I would describe myself, at this particular stage of my life, as about to walk off a cliff only to be grabbed by Christ through Ginny at just the right time before falling into the hands of Satan–possibly forever. Not long after meeting Ginny, I met her family and extended family and immediately made a connection that would never be lost.
Ginny had recently graduated with a degree in English and was awaiting the start of law school in the fall of ’90. At the same time, I was able to meet my parent’s challenge and got the nod to apply for re-admittance into the university. I spent most of my time at school with Ginny. She had very good study habits, and I began to spend time in the library with her and really study for the first time in my life. Because of this I did manage to make good grades. Also, it was during this time that I began to understand what it really means to be a Christian. Things seemed to be going great, but I was only fooling myself because the drinking and sexual misuse were still a major part of my life.
In January of ’91, I attended my first Zerubbabel Conference in Jackson, Mississippi. I had a really good time and knew that I wanted what the people I met there had. I didn’t really understand it, but I did know that this was where God wanted me to be.
As the semester passed, I began to really know that my behavior was sin and realized how serious it was. But, I still wasn’t ready to do anything about it. Finally on August 1, 1991 at summer camp in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Ginny and I decided to come clean by confessing our sins and stop living the way we were. My decision was prompted by the topic being discussed at camp–the damaging affects of keeping secrets. Tom Prewitt kept saying that you’re only as sick as your secrets. It seemed like he said this 1,000 times and each time I felt my stomach tighten up. I really cannot remember anything else that was said or taught. Finally, I knew that something had to be done. I was feeling sick and my heart was literally skipping beats. I thought that I was going to pass out. It turned out that this was the Holy Spirit’s conviction for me to "fess up." I don’t know if I could have done it on my own, but the blessing was that Ginny and I both were prompted by the Holy Spirit to tell the truth. This didn’t make it any easier, but when you know what the right thing to do is and you want to go God’s way then there is no stopping you.
If you don’t catch anything else in my testimony, I want you to understand this. This was a life-changing event. I imagined how hard it was going to be telling Ginny’s family what was going on. I was prepared for the worst. But, it was actually the opposite of what I had thought. They felt sorry for me and weren’t mad like I had imagined. This proved to me how God’s forgiveness works. Now there is a catch to this–you can’t continue to sin and expect God’s forgiveness to always be like what I described. God hates sin. If you are living in sin, God knows it and your consequences will be severe if you don’t stop partaking in it. Do yourself a favor and walk away from it while you still can.
At that time, I committed myself to a new way of life and began to understand that "I" couldn’t live straight on my own. It had to be Christ/I. Tony couldn’t stay straight, but Christ/Tony could. I examined myself even further and knew I had to get some other things straight with Ginny about my past. Soon after August 1, 1991, I discovered that I had a drinking problem. Drinking and my behavior associated with drinking was a huge source of my problems. So, I stopped drinking and haven’t had a drink since. Also, with the counsel from several people, I stopped being sexually active. In order to withstand temptation in this area, I found that it was important to stay current with what I was thinking and feeling. And I noticed that when I didn’t do this I could feel myself slipping back into my old patterns.
During the next year, Ginny and I became engaged, finished college, moved to Boone, North Carolina, started a business (with her family), and married January 2, 1993. Starting a business is a really scary thing. There are many problems and challenges that come my way, and many of them are not things that I can go out and fix myself. However, there are some problems that I can fix. Examples include employee problems, unsatisfied customers, and the general upkeep of the facility and grounds. Sometimes this is very difficult and overwhelming, so I have to have faith in the fact that Christ through me can remedy the problems and then implement the necessary steps to fix the problem.
The hardest situation I was faced with was when it seemed as though our business was not going to make it for a while. I truly believe that our business is successful today because we, our family and friends, believed that this was God’s business, and as long as we were faithful to Him and did all that we could, then He would provide. Our business, although successful today, could be gone tomorrow, so this kind of faith is still very current in my life. I have recently become a father and I am extremely grateful for where God has me today. I know that I don’t deserve it.
Another situation in which I have to exercise faith is with my father-in-law, Tom Prewitt (see "A Look at a Book" by Ginny Mansoor in the July-August 1997 Intercessor). He is in Biblical sin, and knows it, yet will not make a choice to get out of it. This is very upsetting to me because I see all of the pain and suffering that is caused by his decision. My wife and I have a five month old baby, whom he has never laid eyes on because we will not fellowship with him while he continues to maintain an adulterous sin-filled life. The Bible warns against even eating with such people (1 Cor. 5:11). From a worldly perspective it seems as though he will never return and take his rightful place as head of his household, but by faith and because of what I know about the Bible, I can believe that his reason will return and he will once again walk in fellowship with God. This passage in the Bible has been particularly meaningful to me: "But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride" (Dan. 4:34-37).
Through all of this I have learned that when faith is applied to a situation long enough then there comes a point where it is not as hard to continue to apply faith because it almost becomes fact to you. I know Tom will be healed and once again walk with God and be "clothed and in his right mind" because that is what God desires for him. It was only through faith that I was able to get to this point.
Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and head of Samaritan’s Purse and World Medical Mission, has had a major impact on my life. Recently, Mr. Graham has dedicated some of his time to spread the gospel through crusades. I have been fortunate enough to attend two crusades-one in Visalia, California and the other in Tupelo, Mississippi. Although both were very enlightening and equally as successful, it is the Tupelo Crusade that I would like to share with you. For the past few years I have been very concerned for my parents’ salvation. I knew my dad wasn’t saved, and I wasn’t quite sure about my mother. Much to my surprise this dilemma was sorted out on March 9th, 1997. My parents met me in Tupelo for the crusade to hear Franklin Graham preach. They hung on every word and were actually listening to what he had to say about salvation. I couldn’t believe it. My mom, maybe, but not in a million years would I have imagined that my dad would react the way he did. I knew that it was going to take a miracle from God to convert my dad. Well, it happened on this night. When Franklin was finished with his message, he invited people to come down to the coliseum floor and accept Christ. I thought, This is where it has to happen-I must find out about their spiritual state. I leaned over to Mom and asked if she wanted to go down and accept Christ. She shared with me that she had done this. Then I looked at dad and before I could say anything he said he wanted to accept Christ and wanted me to walk down with him. What a miracle! I thought, This couldn’t be happening. I always knew that the circumstances and the timing had to be perfect in order to humble my dad enough so the salvation message could penetrate his Catholic beliefs. God works in ways that we could not even imagine. He can make a situation turn out however He wants, and my experience is that it happens when you least expect it. I hope this will be encouraging if you are in a similar situation.
I am very grateful for where God has me today. I co-manage a successful business. I enjoy working with my business partners (my brothers-in-law). My wife and I have a God-centered relationship. I have a new, healthy, bright baby boy. And I have a new family and extended family that loves me, cares about me, and holds me to God’s standards. None of these things do I deserve. They are all purely God’s blessings that He has bestowed on me. But life does not stop there. God continues to present me opportunities on a daily basis to apply faith, and as long as I don’t choose to go Satan’s way, then through God’s grace the situation always works out the best way–His way!
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 14 No 1
- What is this Human Self of Ours?
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- Tony’s Testimony
- Zerubbabel Focus: Z Youth!
- British Conference Report
- Musings on the British Conference
- Bible Study: Undiscovered Self
- Body, Soul, and Spirit
- Questions & Answers
- Area Fellowship News: Boone
- The Mailbox
- Tape Talk
- New York Conference Report
- Youth Report: Fall Harvest in New York
- Anatomy of Unbelief
- Need–Evidence of Supply
- Words to Live By…