A Message Just for Me
November 1, 2004 - Click, click, click ... click, click, click ... I flipped through television channels from my living room chair. I stopped at a Billy Graham telecast. He was talking to probably millions of people in the television audience, but it was as if he were talking to me—just to me.
by James McArthur
Decades earlier I had grown up in a church in rural Ontario and heard the story of Jesus, but I never understood it as something that related to me personally. I had a basic belief in God, but nothing beyond that. As a teenager, I fell away from the church, which had been more of a social experience than anything.
I became a police officer at age 20, and I began living an unhealthy lifestyle that included alcohol and many poor decisions. After I married I lived in two worlds—my world of being "one of the boys" with my colleagues, and my world of being a dad and husband who attended an occasional Sunday school picnic.
At about the 10-year mark of my police career, I started to question where I was going in life. My path was becoming very wide, morally speaking, and I had reached an all-time low. One morning I was so hung over that my wife, Brenda—who always showed me God's love—had to call in for me to say I couldn't make it to work. Later that week, I played fastball with the police team and fractured my ankle. I ended up in a full-leg cast. Everything stopped, and I had a lot of time to reflect.
Ten days after the incident, blood clots formed at the fracture and moved into my lungs. I couldn't breathe and was rushed to the hospital.
As a police officer I had dealt with the crisis of death and had been trained to be in control always. Now, I wasn't in control. I spent ten days in the hospital, three of which were in intensive care.
Within weeks, as I was recovering at home, I came across the Billy Graham telecast and understood for the first time the Gospel message. I recognized my sinfulness and my need to turn from it. I also accepted that Jesus is who He says He is. During the next two nights, I mulled over these things. Then, awkwardly, in the quietness of the night, I prayed the prayer Billy Graham had explained.
I gravitated to the church I had been marginally attending with my family and grew in the Lord as I became involved in different ministries and hungered for Bible teaching. I also chose to leave police work and the lifestyle that went with it.
I experienced a new level of spiritual growth in 1995, when I attended my first Promise Keepers event and also helped with Mission Ontario, where I was able to thank Mr. Graham personally for influence he has had in my life. More recently, in addition to coordinating the men's ministry at my church, I enrolled in seminary part time, and I took a field representative position with Promise Keepers Canada.
The New York School of Evangelism, which I attended in August with my nephew, reaffirmed in my mind that beyond proclaiming the message of salvation, we need to disciple people, help them grow and be committed followers of Jesus Christ—not just "saved people." I'm more committed than ever to discipleship now.