"I Was the Captain of My Own Ship"
A personal testimony by Jim Chester
I grew up in a Christian home where my parents took me to church every Sunday. At the age of 12, I went through a class to learn about Jesus and how to join the church. But what I did not learn is that there is more to salvation than believing in Jesus.
When I got to college, I began to explore other beliefs including Eastern mysticism. I remember one frustrating night when I challenged God to give me a revelation. "You showed Moses a burning bush. That’s all I want. If you are really God, show ME a burning bush" I didn’t know at the time that God did not show Moses that bush to call him to faith, but to service. You see, I had never really read the Bible. I was married in 1975 to a wonderful Christian girl, who intended to marry a Christian man. I thought I was a Christian at the time because I believed in Jesus. But I had no commitment of heart.
After 17 years of marriage, I was self employed as a magician and living in Louisiana. In fact, I had been self employed most of my adult life, as had my dad and my father-in-law. This led to the idea of being the "captain of my ship", because I had to make all the decisions regarding business as well as home life. Little did I know that this was a major stumbling block in my lack of relationship with God. But things were about to change.
I was becoming successful as an entertainer, but rather than travel on the comedy circuit as some of my friends had, I wanted to stay close to home and raise my kids. Being at home meant that my wife continued to pester me about going to church. I went infrequently and reluctantly. Still, I knew that something was missing in my life and I began to search more earnestly for the answer. That answer came one Sunday when I heard a visiting evangelist speak about "intellectual Christianity." He said that many people had Jesus in their head, but not in their heart. These words cut me and I began to wonder where I had gone wrong. For the next several months I committed to read the Bible. As I got to the letters of Paul it really began to hit me that I had never "died to self"or "surrendered to the Lordship of Christ." In fact, I never even knew what "Lord" meant. When someone said, "Lord Jesus," I thought it was like saying, "Mister Jesus." I had no idea that He was supposed to be the master of my life. But as I continued to read, the Holy Spirit was convicting me and I knew that I had to make a change.
In November of 1991, Jay Strack was in town leading a revival and my wife was singing in his choir. On a Tuesday night in a high school football stadium I suddenly felt like I could wait no longer. I went forward, got on my knees and asked Jesus to take control of my life. After that prayer I felt like 40 pounds had been lifted off my back! I know that salvation is not about feelings, but in my case I really did feel different. And, more importantly, my life began to change! For the next four months I began to grow spiritually. I began to pray on a regular basis, and I also began to recognize the work of the Lord around me. But nothing prepared me for what was to come next.
I was practicing softball with a friend in a field about 80 miles from home, and I had taken off my wedding band because it was in the way when I hit. I thought I had put it in my pocket but, when I got home, it was not there. I knew my wife would be furious (this was not the first one I had lost). But I was sure I had lost it playing softball so I made my plans to go back the next day and look for it.
The following day I returned to the field and began to look but had no luck. As I roamed through the outfield, it occurred to me that I could pray about it. I began by saying, "God, I love you. But you have to help me find this ring!" About that quickly I realized that God did NOT have to do anything, and I was sounding like my selfish, former self. So I started again and prayed, "Lord, I’m sorry. You have done so much for me, sending your Son to die for me. You never gave up on me; even at age 39 you kept the door open. So Lord, I thank you for all you have done for me and I love you. But I have to keep looking so, Amen!" I continued to look for awhile and, finding nothing, I returned to my truck. As I reached for the handle to open the door and drive away I was thinking, "I have done all that I can do and I have failed. I just have to live with it." But before I could open the door, something caught my eye. Taking a step back I saw my ring, underneath the truck. I never would have seen it at all except that, as it lay in the middle of a big, black shadow, it was GLOWING! I mean radiant, inside and out. I was amazed! I stooped to get it, but it was still a few inches out of my reach. In order to reach it I had to get on my knees. That is when I realized that I was seeing the burning bush I had demanded of God so many years earlier.
God had gotten my attention by His light, and He humbled me as He did Moses. As I put the ring back on my finger, I stayed on my knees and thanked God in prayer for the miracle He had performed. But there was a question remaining. I asked Him, "God, what do you want?" And as quickly as I prayed those words the answer came, that I should use the talent He gave me to serve Him. "You mean, I should quit magic and become a preacher I asked. "No," He answered, "I have thousands of preachers, but only a handful of magicians." And so I knew that I had been called to a life of evangelism as a magician/comedian. My wife found it a little hard to believe at first, but she soon recognized God’s hand on me and told me she would support me in any way she could.
Since then I have taken the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands that might not have responded to a traditional method of outreach. God has blessed me greatly as I have ministered not only throughout the U.S. but also as a volunteer missionary in the Caribbean, Brazil and El Salvador. Thousands of young people have prayed with me and have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. What a privilege to be doing something that I absolutely love and being part of God’s work!
This is my testimony, exactly as it happened. What God has done in my life He will do for anyone who is willing to make Him the Lord of their life. If you have never done so, pray to Him, confessing your sin and repenting, turning around and committing to follow Jesus. Ask Him to be the "master" of your life and He will be faithful in fulfilling His promise. Romans 10: 9 says, "if you confess with your lips Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."