Finally, A Faith that Transforms

All that Steven Hicks knew about the Bible came from the movies. “I also knew about certain forms of worship, but I didn’t know anything about Jesus.”

When his parents divorced when he was a child, he quit going to church. He went back briefly in high school, but it didn’t really “click” for him anymore.

He eventually tried out another church, where a minister told him all religions were the same. “At the time I thought it was really cool,” Steven says. “It broke down some barriers for me.”

Although Steven liked the minister, when he started college he once again quit going to church. He tried reading the Bible like a novel but never got farther than halfway through the book of Numbers.

StephenIn 2005, a friend named Hugh invited Steven to a Bible study. Hugh bought him a Bible and even had Steven’s name engraved on it, and they dove right into doctrine. “That approach might not be the best for everyone, but it worked for me,” Steven says. In the first study, they talked about the millennium. “I had never heard anything like that before. I couldn’t get my mind off it. I tried to talk to my friends about it, but they weren’t interested.”

Every week at Hugh’s Bible study, Steven learned something new. He was even using the Amazing Facts Study Guides. Finally something clicked: “I began to see the world in a whole different way.”

Shortly thereafter, Steven heard about Amazing Facts, unaware that he’d been using our Study Guides! Steven felt fairly confident in his doctrinal knowledge, but an Amazing Facts series with evangelist Jason Morgan in Santa Cruz, California, gave him a deeper understanding. “I’d been kind of scared of the church,” explains Steven, “But Jason’s ability to flesh out doctrine kept me coming back.”

Early in the series, Steven gained a deeper knowledge of Jesus. “I thought I had a relationship with Jesus, but it wasn’t a personal one,” he admits. “All of Jason’s messages moved me, but the one entitled ‘Blood on the Throne’ sent me to the front of the room!” The message drove home Jesus’ sacrifice, bearing all the pain Steven had ever experienced, along with the pain of everyone else who had ever lived. Steven found himself in front of a room full of strangers, overcome with emotion because of his love for Jesus. “That was something I never thought would happen!”

Going Deeper
“Later meetings brought up hard topics, but once I understood Christ’s sacrifice, I wanted a relationship with Him badly enough that it was worth working through those tough questions,” says Steven.

Another message that Jason laid out was the pattern of prophets God has used through time, which was the message that convinced Steven to be baptized. It bridged the gap between the ancient and modern worlds. “In the Bible you read crazy stories, like the sun standing still. No one I know has ever seen anything like that; it’s not in history books. It’s easy to think of the Bible as a whole different world,” he says. But when Steven understood that the Spirit of Prophecy operated in the modern world, he suddenly saw that his world was the same as that described in the Bible. “I realized that if the future is really going to be like the Bible says, I couldn’t live my life the same way anymore.”

Still, Steven had a lot of opposition to being baptized. His family, friends, and even his girlfriend wouldn’t understand. “If I was going to go forward with this, I would be the only person I knew outside of the church who understood things this way.” But after talking it over with Jason, he took the step forward. The church welcomed him with gifts and made him feel loved; some of his friends even came to witness his baptism. “It was a joyous day,” Steven says. “I felt like a totally new man.”

Even though his girlfriend Marina eventually joined him, sadly, most of his friends wanted nothing to do with Steven’s new life. And his family still doesn’t understand why, when he comes to visit, he wants to spend Saturday morning at church instead of with them. To them, religion is rules, rituals, holidays—not a relationship.

Many different cultures—Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, etc.— lived together in his home community, a suburb of New York City. “I was always proud of how we all got along,” Steven explains. “But the reason we got along was that no one actively lived whatever their faith was. But religion has totally changed my life.”

The Next Step
After his baptism, Steven sensed God calling him. At a General Youth Conference event in December 2008, he obtained information about AFCOE from the Amazing Facts booth.

He wanted to attend but first made a “deal” with God. By this time, he had married Marina, so he felt responsible to someone else. “I told God, ‘I need to be out of debt before going to AFCOE; I can’t have all these bills and no way to pay them.’”

By August of 2009, he’d paid off his last debt. “It was an answer to prayer,” Steven says. So he started AFCOE this past January. “Pray for me now,” he asks, “because I have only enough money to get me through this course! God will have to show me what to do next.”

Steven says he’s astounded by what he’s learning. “Before I came I studied the Bible a lot, but what I am learning now is how to connect with God on a daily basis: How to wake up with Him, to walk with Him, to go to bed with Him.”

Steven says God has eliminated problems in his life—both physical and mental—that he didn’t even know were there. “Watching the people here walk with God has been like looking in a mirror and seeing that I’m not quite clean.” Even his marriage has been strengthened during the short time he’s been at AFCOE.

Steven enjoys the other students’ different perspectives. “We learn from each other and lift each other up.” The instructors, he says, each have unique strengths, and seem to have been led by God into positions where they excel.

Bible StudyThough he’s uncertain what the future holds, Steven would like to go back to his church and start an outreach program. “I would love to help my church grow and reflect Jesus to the community,” he says. “I’ve also been writing since I was a kid and I want to dedicate that talent to God.” He dreams of publishing a book, a story based on Daniel’s prophecies. “Mostly I’m open to whatever God has to teach me, and I’ll go wherever he leads me because I know He knows best.”

Of his lifelong experience, Steven explains, “Looking back on the years since I started reading the Bible, the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the self-improvement, are all to the glory of God. The first 25 years of my life bear witness that I could not have done those things on my own. If God can take a mess like me and do what He’s done, He can do it for anyone who will let Him.”

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