Revised January 31, 2018
By Samuel Brooks
When I was 10…going on 11, a relative of mine became very ill and I had prayed every night for several months that God would heal him. To me, God was like a genie in a bottle; I’d only go to God when I wanted something. When he passed away, I became angry and bitter towards the doctors and God. I had begun to drink alcohol and doubt Him. I also began to question God’s reasons and motives: How could God allow this to happen when I’ve simply asked Him to heal? Now, I believed in God and went to church (mainly because my mom made me and I didn’t want to argue), but I didn’t have a relationship with God or even cared to for a long time. I didn’t even believe that God could perform miracles.
When you don’t make God #1 in your life, you begin to see other things, people, or even yourself as “God”. When God’s not #1, there’s no real sense of joy, peace or hope in your life.
When I was 12 or 13, some friends and one of my cousins introduced me to pornography (Playboy and Hustler specifically). At 14, my parents divorced after 16 years of marriage and, when they divorced, I began to act out more by getting more involved in various crimes because I felt the need to regain control of my life, which, to me, meant hurting others. I got hooked on pain killers when I was 16. I partied a bit, and tried to fill my life up with work and achievements because of this void that I was feeling. Even the close group of people that I hung around with was involved in some of the same activities that I was. However, I take full responsibility for the things that I’ve done; no one forced me to do what I did nor was I raised in a bad home environment. Everything that I did was because I wanted to do those things. There were times when I was being looked at by the local police department because of the people that I associated myself with. There’s an old saying, “you are who you hang out with.” It doesn’t matter if you grew up in church, if you attend a Christian school, help the community, or whatever the case might be…if you surround yourself with the wrong people then you’ll be known to be no different from them and, sooner or later, they will influence you. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with true believers—to hold you accountable, to help guide you in the right direction as you do the same with them. I’ve also bounced around to 6 different denominations when I was growing up, but I never really read the Bible for myself. That was my life for 13 ½ years—from the ages of 10 to 23; I’m 27 now. That’s half of my life right there!
Around my junior year of high school, my niece and nephew came into my life (my niece was about 12 and my nephew about 9 at the time). I felt the need to change so that I could be a better role model for them; but, I also believed that I was so far from God’s grace that there was no way that I could ever be saved. So, I continued doing what I was doing, and was playing both sides of the fence (Matthew 7:13-14) by acting like a saint on Sunday and then acting like a devil the rest of the week.
One day, shortly after graduating high school, I became so intoxicated from pain killers that I ended up writing a friend a message where I was verbally abusive because I had heard rumors that she was saying or doing things behind my back. I also had a violent temper during that time. However, due to how intoxicated that I was, I had no idea what all was said until she responded a couple days later. I felt so much guilt and conviction by God that I prayed for the first time in 8 years. I also sobered up on my pill addiction in January 2011.
However, a year after becoming sober from pills, I relapsed! Between the amount of hours that I was working and only getting a few hours of sleep a night, I was drained and began to feel depressed and hopelessness! It was so bad that I was having nightmares about every night of things that I’ve done, things that I planned to do and other things that were completely random. So, I went to the store to purchase various over-the-counter pain medications. I then went up to the loft above the garage at my house and began texting a few friends with hopes that someone could help because I was planning one of two things: 1) getting high or 2) dying that day. One of my friends that responded was too busy to talk to me but took the time to contact my mentor, Paul, who then called me shortly after. I never expected to hear from him since I never reached out. At the time, I thought that it was strange that he was calling me. When I answered, he asked “How things were going?” I explained to him the situation—how much pain I was in and what I was planning to do. He then asked if he could “pray for me over the phone?” I said “Sure.” He basically just prayed for God to have His way and that I would have peace. After getting off the phone, I flushed the pills down the toilet and completely cut them out.
As time went on, I started dating this girl. One night, as I was driving to her place, I could clearly hear God tell me to “turn back for home.” It was the first and only time that I could hear Him audibly in my head, whispering. I didn’t know what to think at the time and I tend to be a very skeptical person, but I knew that it wasn’t simply me feeling convicted or sleep deprived. However, I ignored Him. As I drove home later that night, I felt absolute guilt and shame for maybe the third time in 13 ½ years. I finally hit rock bottom and made the decision to become a Christian. But first, I had to accept that if God could forgive others that have had even darker pasts than I did then surely He can forgive me for my sins. To be honest, I didn’t feel clean, free or have peace from my past until I surrendered, was baptized in the name of Jesus and filled with the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking in tongues.
On a Tuesday afternoon in November 2014, I made the decision to get baptized. I had been meeting with the outreach minister, Scott, for Bible studies for a little over a year prior to that point; and as I was sitting in the changing room, I began to repent and ask God for forgiveness for everything that I’ve done. I didn’t recite the Sinner’s Prayer but poured everything out on the table. Then, I walked up the stairs to the baptismal pool in the sanctuary, and even though he told me that the water was “warm”, I stepped in and that water was not warm. I don’t know what his definition of warm was but that was not warm at all. Then, I was immerged and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 KJV). Four years later, on September 1, I drove to my church to meet with my brother, Jax. I sat in my truck for a while, repenting because my goal was to be filled with the Holy Ghost that day. I then met him in the student ministries room located in the upper level of the church’s gym. We began saying praises to God. About 45 minutes to an hour into it, and the best way that I can describe it, I began to feel the left half of my body get really warm while my right side stay cool; it felt as if electricity was moving along my face and head; my throat began to close up but I could still breathe and then I received the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance (Acts 2:4, 2:33, 10:44-48, 19:1-7, 1 Corinthians 14:22, and John 3:5). Afterwards, it felt like my jaw wanted to keep going and I had all of this energy that I didn’t know what to do with. Let me be clear, this is not a denomination thing or a tradition thing but a God thing!
In all honesty, once I became a Christian, I’ve lost some friends, job opportunities, and have been criticized by some family members and friends over how often I attend church during the week and for deciding not to consume alcohol. But, since becoming a Christian, I’m no longer hooked on pills (2012), I haven’t been hooked on pornography since the end of 2015, last year (2017) marked the first full year that I hadn’t consumed alcohol since I was 9 or 10 years old, and I didn’t spend a second behind bars; nor have I been involved in any crimes since 2014. Even though I’ve lost job opportunities because of my faith, I’ve only been unemployed for a total of 2 ½ weeks during the last 8 years; I’ve always had a job, never have been homeless. I even closed my music entertainment business 2 years ago because of the ties it had to my old life. When I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the balance on my tuition bills, God somehow provided a way for me to pay my bills on time without going completely broke. He’s my way maker, my provider and chain breaker! He’s the only one that’s never failed me! I thank Him for His grace and for offering me a second chance when I least deserve it. I’m not following and worshipping Christ because He’s my pastor’s God or my family’s God but because He’s my God (John 20:28)! All praise, honor and glory goes to Him and Him alone. In response to my life prior to becoming a Christian and even now, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done” (Philippians 3:7 NLT).