“The Bible transforms lives! You better believe it! Don’t let the Bible get ahold of you because when you do, you’ll never be the same!
“Amen! Amen ‘Pastuh.’ Preach it. Preach the Word!”
I was 13 when I heard these words shouted through the cheap sound system at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in East Cleveland, Ohio. That Sunday morning was cold and rainy, and I couldn’t wait for service to start because that’s when the preteens were allowed to actually sit in service with the adults.
I was not as excited to hear the sermon as I was to sit in the very back pew of the balcony with all of the other teenagers. I just wanted to be recognized as a teenager. Everyone could see you in the balcony. Everyone would know that Byron Davis was now a grown-up!
Praise and worship time was great, because when everyone stood up you could not miss being seen by everyone who was seated on the floor. It was cool. I just knew ALL eyes were on me and that I looked like I was paying very close attention to every word the pastor was saying.
I was an adult now, so I had to look spiritual and astute. I had to nod my head at all the right voice inflections, just like I saw my grandmother do during hundreds of services before. I was prepared for this moment. My moment. It was important that I communicated with my body that I was taking in this adult sermon. So as the preacher began to speak, I zoned in to catch every word he would throw out over the next hour and a half.
About halfway through the talk, though, I didn’t know if I could stay focused. I was getting tired, and my interest was now being divided by Yolanda Saun-ders’s sandy brown hair. Yolanda was in the ninth grade and was sitting in the row right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it. Every time she flung her hair from the front of her left shoulder to the back it was like poetry in motion. Her hair smelled great. I had a crush on Yolanda, but I knew I had to stay focused.
No sooner than Yolanda flung her hair, for the last time, almost winning my full attention, did pastor Hawkins cry out in a screeching voice, “The Bible transforms lives! You better believe it. Don’t let the Bible get ahold of you because when you do, you’ll never be the same!”
Those words jolted me. They pierced my very being. The power and truth in what pastor Hawkins declared penetrated my heart. As a result, curiosity for this power compelled me, throughout high school, to study God’s Word for myself. I loved my time in the Word. The desire to be wise like Solomon drove me to search and research Scripture. Learning how to communicate the gospel to my friends, and see them come to receive God’s saving grace, was even better.
I must admit, at times I could be very prideful in my zeal, but God had a way of using life to mold and shape my humility and character. And I thank him for that. I thank the Lord for never giving up on me; even during times I let my pride and selfishness lead me away from the truth of his Word.
God’s Word never returned void. Its truth was true whether I wanted to believe it or not. Its truth stood alone, with no need to be defended. Its truth truly got ahold of me and set me free. And it was the truth of God’s Word that ultimately led me to rededicate my life to Christ and eventually to answer the call on my life to pastor and disciple others through their relationship with God.
As I reflect on my life, Roman’s 8:28 rings loud and clear, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
To this day, I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember all of what pastor Hawkins’s sermon was about. All I remember was the moment the Word of God got ahold of me. And pastor Hawkins was right. My life has never been the same.
Byron Davis serves on the staff of Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, California, and as the director of Dream of Destiny (dreamofdestiny.com).