Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from “Kingdom Man” by Dr. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and president of The Urban Alternative.
By Tony Evans, Special to CNN
(CNN)–All I had ever known up until I was 10 years old was chaos in my home.
I was the oldest of four children and the atmosphere was volatile for all of us. My father and mother were in constant conflict, making divorce seem like the only possible outcome.
Having married young, they were still trying to figure out how to make life work. They often argued about how to handle finances, especially when there was little money to go around.
I could have ended up a casualty of a broken family, like so many of the kids around me in inner city Baltimore. But my life was forever changed the year I turned 10.
That was the year my dad turned to Jesus. He’d been invited to visit a nearby church for a special event. While there, two men asked him if he knew if he’d go to heaven when he died. He said he wasn’t sure.
The men explained Christ’s sacrificial and all-encompassing atonement and, for the first time, my dad understood the path to salvation.
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He didn’t just accept God’s salvation; he immediately became fired up about God and the Bible. He became an instant evangelist. Whenever my dad wasn’t working, he’d take me along to pass out biblical tracts on street corners or in visits to the local prison.
If I went downstairs to get a glass of water late at night, I’d see Dad reading the Bible or praying on his knees. He had to do that when my mom wasn’t watching.
My mom didn’t like my dad as a sinner, and she liked him even less as a saint. She did everything she could to make his life difficult. But my father did everything he could to show her love.
When my mom would start with him, he would stop what he was doing and start praying for her on the spot.
One night, my mom came down the stairs with tears in her eyes. My dad was reading his Bible.
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She told him that she could not understand how the more she rejected him, was unkind to him and tried to prove that believing in God was wrong, the kinder he was to her and the more he invested in God’s word.
“I want what you have,” she said, “because it must be real.”
They got down on their knees and my dad led my mom to Christ. He led all of us kids to him too and modeled the value of making God the central focus in all that we did.
He held weekly Bible studies at our kitchen table and instilled a love for church in his kids. On the Wednesday nights that he had to work late, I would walk four miles to get to our church. Dad taught me to view all of life through a spiritual lens.
If my dad had not exhibited the courage to change, my home would have become another statistic. I would have ended up a casualty, and my own four children might have ended up casualties, too. It is common for children to end up as statistics when men do not accept their God-given responsibilities.
Forty percent of our children go to sleep at night with no dad at home, and the percentage is even higher among minority groups and in the inner city. Divorce is part of the problem, but many men father children without helping to raise them. They have become like the abominable snowman – their footprints are everywhere but they are nowhere to be found.
When fathers come home after a tough day at work, they should come home to serve, like my father did, teaching lessons around the dinner table and leading the family in worship and prayer.
For 35 years, my father had to lift heavy boxes as a longshoreman. But on Sunday mornings, even if he had to work all the night before, he’d wake us up. And I’d say, “But dad, I’m tired.”
He’d say, “No, son. I’m the one who’s tired. But we are going to church. Because for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Evans.
We all have things that we are dealing with. Some of those things are small and then some of them are large. But those struggles can be a little easier when we just stop and take some simple steps. I would like to say that I discovered these a couple of weeks ago, but the truth is that the bible points out time and again these are steps that we should be taking.
You say WHAT there are steps that can help in the struggles of life? Yes there are steps that can bring peace and comfort in the middle of the struggle. I am in the middle of a struggle to get guardianship of my Mother that has Alzheimer’s but I have had roadblock, after roadblock because of her boyfriend. Just to understand he has been living with her for 15 years for free, so he is afraid he will lose a place to live. So because of his fear he has not been willing to work with my sister and I on appointments that we needed our Mother to go to.
My Mother is at a point where she is very confused and does not understand things, so someone has to make appointments and take her to all of them. It took 2 months before I was able to get her to a lawyer appointment, but I really just want you to understand some of the ongoing struggle. Two weeks ago my husband so kindly called to talk to her boyfriend and to see if he had made a doctor appointment for her that we needed, so that we could go to court for Guardianship. He said No, and she is not ready for that, and I am not going to do that to help you out.
When my husband got off the phone he looked at me and said he is not going to do anything to help you in this process. I looked at my husband and said we need to pray. He looked at me and said yes, like OK we will later on tonight. I again looked at him and said we need to stop and pray. My husband looks at me and said “Oh you mean now”. I said yes NOW, God knows our hearts and God knows the situation. This is something that we are unable to change, but God can change this situation. I said this needs to be Gods will not our will, even though we want the best for my Mother.
At that moment we stopped everything we were doing and got down on our knees. I prayed fervently and called out the truths of what God had shown me. But I said I surrender this to you Lord and I trust that you will take care of everything. I said Lord you know our hearts and I know you will do what is best in your plan for this situation.
The next day I was at a Youth Conference and the first speaker has a message about when Jesus walked on the water and Peter stepped out of the boat. Now I have heard these verses discussed in many different ways, but that night it was different. Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and that he would meet them on the other side. Even though he was not in the boat he never said that he would not be with them. Suddenly I had an aha moment. You might say WHAT!!! Jesus had told me to get in the boat on this journey with my Mother, and he said that he had laid my path to walk. But he never said that it was all going to be easy, in fact the BIBLE says we will face trials and tribulations. But that does not mean that Jesus is not walking with us and it surely does not mean that he won’t be on the other side of the lake.
The rest of the weekend and into the next week I kept thinking about these things and I would continue to talk to God and reaffirm that I trusted that God had this situation with my Mother taken care of. Then less than 5 days later I get a message from my Mother’s boyfriend. He is being driven by fear which I know is not of God, but I know God allows confusion just like what God did with the Egyptians when the Israelite’s were fleeing Egypt. Suddenly he has made a doctor appointment for my Mother and he is desperate for me to go to court to get Guardianship for my Mother. In fact he was telling me I needed to go to court as soon as possible.
The hardest thing for many of us to do is to stop and surrender what ever is going on in our life. We want to help our kids find salvation, we want to see our families do better, the struggles of life are many. But what if you stop struggling and stressing about those things, you start getting on your knees and surrendering them to God. God knows your struggles, but if you are anything like me you want to fix things yourself. It can seem really hard to just stop and surrender. But I think that if we would all stop trying to fix things ourselves and instead we would get on our knees and surrender things to God we will see change. Stop trying to make everything our will and instead ask God to interject his will into our struggles. We may start to find peace and comfort. We may start to find out that life is not as much of a struggle. We may really discover what it means to rest in the Lord.