Redemption for a Wasted Youth

By Steven Binus

As a curious10-year-old boy, I had my world torn from beneath me by an ugly, brutal divorce. I escaped this catastrophe with drugs, alcohol, and friendship with unbelievers. After years of use and abuse, I found myself in a pit of sin, feeling empty and alone.

After about eight years, the health of my body and mind began to deteriorate. My best friend Josh was also a drug addict. One day, to my surprise, I received an exciting phone call from him. He had stayed up the whole night reading The Richest Caveman, the testimony of Doug Batchelor. I remember Josh telling me that he was sick of living like he was and that he wanted his life to change like Doug’s did.

At first it was hard for me to believe that Josh had actually read a book, let alone a “Christian” book, but somehow he persuaded me to get a copy to read myself. Though I remember thinking, I’m never gonna finish this book, I read the whole first half in one sitting. Then, for some reason, I put it down for about four months, and the devil began to work on me hard.

I was almost 19 and in need of money, so I decided to buy drugs at a low price in Washington and then sell them in California for more. After purchasing the goods, I put them in a hidden pocket and went to the airport. I also threw The Richest Caveman in the luggage. I didn’t really think that I’d read it but thought I’d bring it just in case.

In California, I lost money on my investment and squashed all chances with a girl there I really liked. I left feeling like an idiot! But on the plane ride home, my mind racing with my failures, I remembered the book!

Tears of Change
I began reading where I had left off four months ago. I read about Doug’s conversion and to my surprise I began to cry. God was speaking to me. He was telling me that I needed to have a complete turnaround in my life. As I continued reading I came across more stories of others who gave their hearts to God as a result of Doug’s ministry, and I cried every time.

I finished the last sentence of the book right as the wheels touched the ground. For the first time in my life I got what I call “the Holy Ghost shivers.” God was awaking in me a longing to be changed, transformed, and reborn, and from this point on I would never be the same.

After the trip to California, Josh and I decided that we were going to stop being drug addicts, but this was all we knew. It seemed like the harder we tried to overcome, the deeper we fell back into sin … until one night.

Shading our eyes against the glaring morning sun, Josh and I stumbled out to my car after a long night of partying. With vague memories of drunk driving the night before, I thought, We should have died last night, as we drove to my dad’s house. I was regretting the promise I made to my dad to come to church that Sabbath. A girl named Stephanie was preaching and my dad really wanted us to hear her sermon.

Josh and I were living with my dad, and upon arriving home we decided to sleep off our stupor rather than go to church drunk. But just as I drifted off, Josh came barging into my room. “I wanna go to church!  I don’t know why, but I wanna go to church!”  I finally relented.

We staggered into the church just before the sermon began. As I listened about Jesus’ first calling of His disciples, the fact struck me that they dropped their nets and everything else they knew to follow Jesus immediately. I remember her appealing to the congregation, “It’s time to get out of the boat of sin and into the boat with Christ!” God was speaking to me through that girl, and I knew that I needed what she had.

A Hike in a New Direction
After church Josh and I went on a hike with my dad, and he suggested we invite Stephanie. She accepted the invitation, and we headed over to Hamilton Peak for a wonderful afternoon. My dad and I started talking about heaven. I dreamed about all the wonderful things heaven had to offer.

Back at the car, I asked Josh what he and Stephanie had talked about all afternoon. His answer: heaven. I smiled as I replied, “My dad and I were talking about the same thing!”

We talked about heaven the whole trip home. That night, Josh, Stephanie, and I kept talking. We interrogated Stephanie about the kingdom of God. To our amazement, Stephanie had an answer from Scripture for every question we asked. She was like a living Bible commentary!

I realized that I wanted to accept Christ, but I didn’t know where to start. Josh, however, did. After cutting up my fake ID and removing my tongue ring, I decided that giving my heart to God wouldn’t be so bad after all, but I knew that temptation would get the best of me eventually. Josh must have been thinking the same thing because just at that moment he shared his great idea.

“Dude, we need to get out of here,” he exclaimed. I suggested backpacking. We left the next day. It was a six-mile hike to our first camp. That night, we had a Bible study at the campfire. In nature, and with Stephanie’s own love emanating from her, we began to understand the Salvation story in a new way.

Later, I felt impressed to go down to the river. At the bottom of the hill, I saw a large, flat, moss-covered rock.  It seemed like a perfect place to kneel, and that God had put it there just for me.

I fell to my knees and gave my heart to God. I could feel joy pumping through my veins, as if the earth became heaven itself. I wanted to laugh, yell, jump around and be quiet, all at the same time. I knew Jesus would carry me through the rest of my life.

The next day Josh gave his heart to Christ and we came back to the real world as two completely different men.

Steve BinusBegin Again
It didn’t take long before I fell again, but these lapses helped me to grow. I began to understand how dependent on God we really are. I have found that the key to a victorious Christian walk is claiming the promises of God. In James 1:2-4, we are told, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” This promise has given me the strength and courage necessary to enjoy the spiritual battle we face every day.

As I look back on my conversion, I notice three important ingredients that helped lead me to Christ: reading The Richest Caveman, the prayers of many, and Stephanie’s willingness to show me Jesus. Now I am assured salvation and a place in God’s kingdom. Every day I try to pass on the gift Stephanie gave me.

It’s been almost 10 years since I first gave my heart to God. Since then, Christ has led me through many experiences to prepare me for my life work, which now includes being the youth pastor for Sacramento Central Church. It’s amazing how God brings things around full circle, because my senior pastor is the man who first showed me Jesus through his conversion story.

In conclusion, I have but one thing to say, and that is—GOD IS GOOD! I appeal to everyone reading my testimony to search your own heart. Where do you stand with God? Are you running from Him like I was? Are you ready for serious changes in your life? The Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Won’t you take a moment and give your heart to Jesus?

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