“With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
I was born in 1965, in the United States of America, where I enjoyed a fairly typical childhood.
My father left my mom when I was 5, so she had to work hard to raise my two older brothers and me. Consequently, she wasn’t home much, and I entered my teenage years with a strong sense of insecurity and desperate need for acceptance. To gain the approval of friends and peers I began to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
At the age of 16, after my mother died of cancer, I became very angry, which in turn led to the more frequent use of stronger drugs to numb the pain and sense of purposelessness that plagued me. By the time I reached my early twenties I had completely lost all sense of direction and worth. I had began indiscriminately doing whatever was necessary to maintain the addictions I had become so in bondage to.
As I became more desperate to stave off the withdrawal symptoms that threatened daily life, it eventually got me in trouble with the law and it was only a matter of time before I ended in jail. During one of my incarcerations, at 26 years old, clear-headed for the first time in years, I began to awaken to the reality of what I had become. I felt a crippling sense of shame and hopelessness as I surveyed the trail of destruction left behind by my life. Family-less, friendless, I was utterly alone in the pit I had dug for myself.
In what I now recognize as an act of God’s providence, I found himself thumbing through a small Bible I had picked up in the jail. Opening up to the Gospel of Matthew, I began to read about the life of Christ. It was a struggle to understand in the beginning, but soon captured my imagination as one page after another narrated the extraordinary person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. This newly awakened understanding turned into full revelation the more I read. The truths and light of Jesus’ life and teaching pierced the darkness of my life like a burning noon-day sun.
I realized God was speaking to me, offering me, at the darkest point in my life, forgiveness for my countless sins and a brand-new beginning through the sinless life, sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I became aware that everything I had sought after in my life, could only be found in relationship to God. The worth, purpose and fulfillment I was so thirsty for was finally realized in Him.
Under deep conviction of the Holy Spirit, I confessed my sins to God and invited Jesus into my heart to be my Savior and Lord. The painful, empty and visionless life I’d led earlier was replaced with joy, peace and a clear sense of meaning. In another section of the Bible, it taught me, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
God’s great love and mercy enveloped me and gave me new life.
For the very first time, I understood what it meant to be free from the guilt and destruction of sin and to have sweet friendship with this merciful and loving God. God healed me of my addictions and my life slowly took a completely new path forward.
From my very first encounter with God, I understood that His Word, the Bible, was absolutely central to experiencing God and growing in the knowledge of Him. The more I sought God in the Scriptures the clearer the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, became central to my life. More and more I began to understand that God’s grace was the life and breath of every believer for each day. The more I hungered to live a life pleasing to God, the more I understood my desperate need for the Holy Spirit to empower me for daily living.
I saw only one reasonable response to what God had done for me; to tell anyone who would listen about the life-changing love of Jesus and the power of His cross.
As I sought clear direction forward, I came upon a passage of scripture where it reads “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The path was before me. Find other believers in a local church and grow in my knowledge and experience with Christ.
It was during this time that I began doing ministry with children, youth and the elderly through a local church. The simple and solid commitment to the study of God’s Word deepened my relationship with God. These early steps of faith soon opened up more opportunities of serving in new ways.
In 1994 I went on a 10-day mission trip to Moscow that would forever alter the course of my life.
It was during that trip that God confirmed His call for me to be in more long-term ministry. Later that year, I returned to Moscow for a year commitment, focusing on reaching people on the streets with Jesus’ love and salvation, and working with the local churches, mentoring young believers.
In the course of that year, God gave me another gift that would forever change my life. I met a beautiful young woman named Darlene. Working together side by side, we fell in love and got married in Moscow.
We stayed on in Russia to oversee the opening of a new church in southern Moscow. Little did we know that this opportunity would become an incredible eight-year season of ministry. I received my ordination as a pastor in 1998 through Calvary Chapel.
Towards the end of our ministry in Moscow, God had already planted a desire in our hearts to begin work here in Cyprus, the place we have called home since January 2005.
Today, as Pastor of Calvary Chapel Paphos, we have the distinct privilege of overseeing a loving multicultural community of believers from all corners of the globe. The diversity of ages, nationalities and cultures that make up our congregation have become uniquely and beautifully blended at the foot of the cross, where every church gathering still has its beginnings and endings in, “…Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
The verse at the top of the article, from Jeremiah 31:3, is my story in a single sentence. “With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” God’s pursuing, persistent love broke through the bleakness of my life and won my heart. It had nothing to do with my worthiness or deservedness. In spite of me, God saved me from my sins through the precious life and sacrifice of His Son. As the Apostle John wrote, “we love Him, because He first loved us.”
What God has done for me, He will do for you.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and foever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
The Bible says we have all sinned. We’ve all fallen short of God’s holy perfections. It also says, Jesus came specifically and ultimately to save us from that state. You don’t have to be a drug-addict to recognize you’re a sinner, or your need for a Saviour. Turn from your sins to God, stretch out the hands of faith and receive the gift of Salvation that was purchased with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Be born again and receive the life He promises through His Spirit.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
By Pastor Tim Mattox
Paphos Calvary Chapel