“Testimony Of Marty Ward"

My Story
February 5, 2010

And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. Mark 5:18- 20

During the past several months I have had the privilege of being a part of the Go Ye Therefore Bible study. I am one of those people that have become frustrated with local churches. It is a combination of disappointment and sadness. I am disappointed that many churches have become nothing more than a reflection of the world; and I am saddened because I don't see things getting any better. When I ran across Tim on facebook, I recognized immediately what he was about. I had known Tim in high school in name and reputation only and it made me happy to see that he was serving the Lord so I sent him a message. It was through that initial contact that we have formed a true friendship. Shortly after we started talking, Tim started the Bible study and it has really filled a void in my life.

When Tim asked me to do this week’s lesson, I immediately accepted and we talked about a topic. I was ready to start writing the lesson last week, but every time I sat down at the computer, I hit a brick wall. It just wasn't coming to me, even though I knew the material very well. That same afternoon as I was responding to one of the posts on facebook, it came to me. The subject that I had planned was not what God wanted. It occurred to me that I needed to do what God has commanded all of us to do, and that was to tell my story. I see a lot of posts about this denomination or that denomination and many people supposing to be experts or trying to be teachers. Occasionally I will see someone give a word of testimony, but it is not as often as it should be. Before God will release me to teach another lesson, He has impressed on me that I need to share my testimony with the group.

Four years ago today I did one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to do in my life. My youngest sister Evelyn passed away on February 3 after an extended illness and today was her funeral. I had spent much time with her during the last year of her life discussing her affairs and how she wanted to handle things. One request that she made of me was that I handle all the funeral arrangements and preach her funeral. As I sat there in the church waiting for the service to start, a million things ran through my mind. It was one of those moments that I just had to ask myself, "How did I get here". My family was depending on me to stand in that pulpit and say something that not only would honor Evelyn, but would also give them some comfort. After you finish reading this, you will understand how ironic this situation was for me.

I grew up in Lincolnton, NC. I was one of 7 children and was raised in a Christian home where the Bible was read daily. Church was not just a place where we went once or twice a week, it was a way of life. Most of our extracurricular activities were related to our church. Many of the men in my church were my Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and softball coaches. Looking back I don't think I could have had a better situation to grow up in. Of course we had our problems, in fact maybe more than our share. My dad always put God first no matter what and truly set an example of how we are to lead a Christian life.

You might think that given my upbringing, I would have followed the example set before me as I went into adulthood. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I couldn't wait to graduate High School and get as far away from Lincolnton as I could, so I joined the Navy and left home 11 days after graduation. Not only did I want to get away from my home physically, but I wanted to live my life the way I wanted without anyone telling me what to do. You might say that I couldn't wait to become a full blown sinner.

Over the next 3 years I got involved in everything that I shouldn't. I had been doing everything that my dad had told me for more than 18 years and now I was doing everything that Satan told me. I became heavily involved in drugs while stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. My Navy career ended after I was caught carrying a concealed weapon on base. Even though I hadn't been following God and certainly hadn't taken any of my father's advice, God was watching over me. The commander of my duty station gave my dad a call and after a long conversation, he decided to let me out of the Navy. I received an honorable discharge and was never charge with anything.

You would think I had learned my lesson, but after about a month back home in Lincolnton; I headed back to Florida to take up where I left off. This time I didn't have my dad or the Navy to tell me what to do, so I could get in as much trouble as I wanted. Sin has a way of taking hold of you. Whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling or anything else; unless you are willing to completely turn and go the other way, it will just continue to get more and more control of your life until it eventually kills you. We are all tempted to sin on a daily basis and it's up to us to give in to that temptation or not. It goes without saying that I did not endure temptation, but rather gave in to my own selfish desires and was clearly on a path to destruction.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:13-15 (NKJV)

I want to take a moment to give a word of encouragement to anyone that is reading this and knows someone who is following a similar path as I did. Pray changes things! I truly believe that I am still alive today because of the prayers of my parents and others that knew better than me what I needed. I look back on those days and realize God was watching over me.

On Memorial Day 1984, my friend and I had been boating on the river all day and after dropping off the boat decided that we needed some more drugs and headed to one of the neighborhoods that were known for that. He was driving and I was next to him in the passenger seat. The dealer was standing outside the car talking to my friend. I noticed it was taking much longer than it should have, and I notice another guy walk up with a brown paper bag under his arm. I could see the handle of a small handgun sticking out of the bag and I tried to tell my friend that we should just leave. Before I could say anything my friend tossed me a bag of drugs and hit the gas. His car stalled for a few seconds, just long enough for the drug dealer to draw the weapon and point it at my friend. He told him to stop the car but my friend kept hitting the gas trying to get the car going. Just as we were able to drive away, I heard a gunshot. We pulled around the corner about a half mile down the road and I noticed blood coming from my friend’s mouth. I told him to stop the car and lean forward. He wasn't wearing a shirt and when I saw his back there was a small bullet hole on the right side. The bullet had lodged in his right lung. I told him to let me drive and I rushed him back to his house which was a few miles away where I called an ambulance.

I don't tell this story often, but I wanted to share it to show how destructive sin can be. I was 21 years old and was putting my life in danger every day with reckless abandon. I was a foolish child with no understanding of consequences.

I believe the prayers of my parents and others saved me more times than I can count. Thinking back on that incident, it was as if the people outside the car did not even see me. They never spoke or even acknowledged that I was there. I believe God was protecting me and I didn't even know it.

In case you are wondering, my friend spent several days in intensive care, but was released within a week. The doctors told him the bullet would remain in his lung until the day he died. I left Florida shortly after that and have not spoken to him since.

Turning Point

I realized that my life was headed in the wrong direction and that I desperately needed a change. I called a friend of mine who is an evangelist and asked him if I could come to his house. When I got there I found out that he had made arrangements for me to go to a place south of Augusta Georgia to stay. A business man by the name of Edgar Murah had started a ministry called the Gospel Farm which was a place for young men like myself who just couldn't seem to get it together. At first I wasn't sure about going there, but quickly realized that I had no place else to go.

What I found once I got there, was a 500 acre farm that was home to 7 or 8 boys, two counselors, and a couple of families that lived and worked there. More than that, I found people with a genuine love for others and a sincere desire to help you find your way. I have had more than my share of trials and tribulations over the years, but one truth remains, without the Gospel Farm, I may not even be here today. About a month after I got there I stopped running from God and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. The change that took place on Tuesday night, June 24th 1984, after church, in the small house next to a small lake was as real as anything that has ever happened in my life. God uses people to accomplish his work and I can truthfully say that the people there were the instrument that He used to reach out to a very troubled young man 26 years ago. They never pushed me to do anything. Instead they simply showed me a Godly love that I desperately needed.

I tell people all the time, that if they are truly saved, they should remember the day, the place, and the circumstances that brought them there. My sister was saved when she was 8 years old, and until the day she died, that stuck out as one of the most vivid memories in her life.

I think everyone reacts a little differently to the experience of salvation. For me, I felt very humbled and didn't really say a lot. I had been very out spoken and bold before, but did not feel the need to speak up or act out as I had in the past. Someone told me they could see the difference in me, because I now had a peace and calmness about me. I did find peace in that little town in Georgia. It is a peace that has carried me through many situations, and a peace that I would not trade for all the money in the world. If there is anyone who is reading this, and doesn't have that peace in their life, it is only a prayer away. No matter what your situation, God can see you through. He brings hope to the hopeless, peace to the troubled, and Love to everyone. It has been said that there are many ways to find God, but any way other than His Son Jesus Christ, is a lie.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 (NKJV)

Living My Way

Now I would like to tell you that my story ended there with a "happily ever after", but that isn't the case. In fact, that's not even close. My time on the farm was relatively short, and by the spring of 1985, I was living back in North Carolina. I had been trained in computers while I was in the Navy and was able to get a job with a company in Charlotte as a computer operator. I began to focus myself on my work and over the next 12 years became very successful in the field. I made the mistake that a lot of us make as Christians and I got my priorities all out of order. Work took the place of God as my number one priority, and everything else, including family, was pushed aside. During those 15 years I became a CEO at my church (Christmas and Easter Only). My faith was still very important to me, especially when I needed something, or had problems. I would always turn to God in my hours of need, but when things were going smoothly, I rarely bothered. I was a typical complacent Christian, still trying to do things my way.

Though I was successful in my work, my personal life was a terrible mess. I had been married multiple times, had a son that I rarely saw, and began drifting further and further away from God. At some point I stopped turning to God when I had problems and began turning to alcohol. Going to the local bar became an easy escape from the problems at home, and what began as a couple hours after work, soon turned into drinking into the late hours of the night 7 days a week. I had never really been a drinker, but in a very short period of time, I became an alcoholic and in 1997 as my second marriage was falling apart, I found myself in rehab, and over the next 3 years watched my life completely fall apart right before my eyes. I experienced just about everything that one can experience as an alcoholic, including legal problems, alienation of relationships including my son, problems at work, and health issues. I don't want to go into the details, but let’s just say that at my lowest point, I had become completely non functional. I needed to drink as soon as I woke up and it didn't matter what it was as long as it contained alcohol. I tried many times to get the problem under control, but instead I continued to lose control until I had none.

Now some people may think what I am getting ready to say is crazy, and I guess you would have to live it to understand. It was during those times when I was at my lowest; those nights when I had drank so much that I could not even make it to my bed, that I felt closest to God. I have thought long and hard about this and I am convinced it was because it during those times of desperation that I reached out to him. God is always there and he knew that I sincerely wanted and needed help. The programs the world had to offer only provided temporary relief, if any and I knew there had to be a better way. Now I am not putting down AA, but for me it only made me want to drink more.

My father met a man in Gatlinburg Tennessee and they started talking about the Lord and my dad shared with him the problems that I was going through. My father told me that the man prayed for me right there on the spot. He asked God to completely heal me so that I wouldn't have to go into those meetings for the rest of my life confessing that I was an alcoholic. When my father told me this I thought to myself, that I hope his prayer is answered. I said many prayers during my struggle and many were said on my behalf, but that one has also stuck out in my mind. You see the world had been telling me that I would always be an alcoholic and that there was no cure, yet this man didn't accept that and dared to pray a prayer of total deliverance. I believe that his prayer was more than words, but were accompanied with a strong faith.

On May 1, 1999 I was hospitalized again to dry out, and it was at that point that I did not know if I would ever be able to stop drinking. The day I was released from the hospital my sister called me and asked if I thought I would ever be able to stop drinking, and I told her I just didn't know. Up until then I would have told her yes, I would get it together and be able to quit, but now I no longer believed it. I felt as if I would never be able to give up drinking, and I was right.

May 9, 1999 was Mother's day, and I got up and went to church with my family. We had a guest evangelist and the pastor announced that the evening service would be a healing service. I went to that service and sat there with my head in my hands the entire time. I never left my seat and hardly even looked up. What I did do was call out to God and ask him to take this thing away from me. I didn't fall on the floor or shake and shiver or anything else. I simply asked God to free me, and from that day forward I have had no desire for alcohol whatsoever. What I said before about never being able to give up drinking was right. I was not able to give it up, but God was able to take it away forever. The prayer that was prayed by a total stranger for someone he had never even met had been answered.

I was free from alcohol forever and I was no longer a complacent Christian. God now took His correct position in my life, and that is first. About a year later, God reminded me of Augusta and the Gospel Farm. Shortly after I was saved I felt a call to ministry but did not follow it. Instead I chose my own path and we see where that took me. Many years later I was feeling that call again and this time I followed it. I was ordained in 2003 and God has opened the door for me to minister all over the United States, in Mexico, and in The Philippines. I don’t believe ministry should be a profession, but rather a lifestyle. I still work a regular job and work in ministry as God provides the opportunities. I still have my problems, but I also have peace. And as I said earlier, I would not trade that peace for anything in the world.

As I sat in that Church 4 years ago I truly marveled at how good God really is. It was because of His love, mercy, and grace that I was able to be there for my sister when she died. God truly is a God of miracles.

Shortly after I was set free from Alcohol I wrote a poem that I would like to share. In the midst of life’s storms, all you have to do is call on God and he will calm the storms in your life.

Mark 4:39
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still”. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Peace, Be Still

When all around me there is doubt
I want to cry; I want to shout
And then I feel Him draw me near
I listen to His voice so clear

When all around me seems so lost
He is the One I trust the most
He loves me now; He always will
I hear His voice say “Peace, be still”

I find my refuge in His touch
Within the world He loves so much
Through stormy nights, I am secure
He guides my path so sure

Thanks Tim for the opportunity to share my story. I challenge each one of you to take the time to tell your story as well. You never know who it will touch.

Our Heavenly Father, I come before you today thanking you for you the opportunity to share with others the Love that you have shown me through your Son Jesus Christ. I pray that you will touch each member of our group in a special way, and speak to each one according to their needs. Give them the strength to overcome any obstacles that Satan puts in their path. I pray if there is one struggling with sin, that you will convict them and show them the path to deliverance. I rebuke the work of Satan in the lives our members and their families, and pray that your Spirit will lead and guide each one in the way they should go. If there are those who suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol and may feel like there is no hope, I pray that they will find their hope in You, and understand that the answer they seek is not in the world, but only in Jesus Christ. Help each of us to be bold and as we go through the upcoming week, and give us opportunities to share your Love with those who don't know you.

In Jesus Name - Amen

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