Not That Person Anymore – Roy + Jason

Greater Things   -  

ROY: I started in jail ministry a year ago, September 2022, and right away felt as though that was an area God wanted me to be in. I could empathize with the men there, share a similar problem, and Jason happened to be one of the people that, when he was there, was faithful to the class I was teaching and something seemed to click with him as to what I was sharing with them.

What I tell the guys down at the jail every time is I’m there to be an example of hope. I was there, felt that yoke of addiction and thought there was no way out. The only way was Christ. I think Jason said the line that hit them was that I said the only difference between them and me is that they got caught. Because of my experience of being there, having that yoke, knowing the struggle, wanting to be released from it, and not knowing how but by God’s grace and mercy He did it.

I decided to be part of Prison Ministry when it was brought up on the screen in Men’s Group on Wednesday Night. Once I got there I met the men that would come to the class. Just to get context, we would ask, where do you stand spiritually? Every single guy except for maybe two or three every week would profess Christ as savior. I know through my own experience those dudes are me. I tell those men all the time that I just love being there. I empathize with them. I know what the struggle is, and I tell them all, God got a hold of me. I walked away at fourty-four, God brought me back at fifty-six. It’s never too late. And I’m there every Sunday. I love it. And I said it to the guys down there last week, there’s a lot of things I could be doing on a Sunday afternoon, but I love being there. I don’t want to miss Sundays because I want to be there with those men.

JASON: Well, a period in my life I had a critical incident where I should have relied on God. I’ve always professed Christ but I was kind of lukewarm. He was not my rock, you know? So rather than relying on God, I tried to do it my own way and I fell into addiction and my life just unraveled.

So through a series of addiction, years and years of that, I ended up going to jail for shoplifting. That was my lowest point. I’ve tried rehab, cold turkey, and nothing else worked and I found myself in jail. I said, “I need God,” and I just I cried out to him. “Please, I need you. I just can’t go on. I want to change.”

I started reading the Bible and then I realize, “Oh, we can go to church in here?” Then, boom, I met Roy and it was just his enthusiasm and his unapologetic love for God. He never held back – talking about the personal relationship you can have with Jesus – it just it spoke to me. It was inspiring. I continued to go there and thought, “This is somebody I could really model my life after.” I want to know more about how he got to be where he is, because he also spoke of his battles with addiction and how he broke that with God.

I made it a point that when I got out of jail, I wanted to seek him like a missile. And I did. As soon as I got out, I was right here. I saw Edisson, I recognized him from the ministry. I said, “I’m looking for Roy.” He brought me right to him, and I kind of just said, “Can you  help me?” and Roy, he wasn’t bashful at all. He said, “Absolutely, that’s what we’re going to do.” He got me set up in the Men’s bible study.

I was definitely, and maybe to a certain extent still, intimidated. Some of the guys are spiritual powerhouses, knowing scripture, so it was a little intimidating, but it took the awkwardness away that everybody’s so nice, just so welcoming, with open arms. What a great group of guys.

There’s always that guilt or shame that, you know, boy, if some of these people knew what I have done and who I am – even though I’m not that person anymore, I have changed and continue to change –  but if they dig into my past and find out, they’ll think is this somebody we really want to be around? You get that like in your heart, but you just have to have faith, you know?

ROY: I remember when I first met Jason. Since then, just the amazing work that God has done in his life right away, you know, he wanted to be serious with it. We challenged him with doing a thirty week Bible study. He readily joined men’s ministry. I invited him to be part of my table. We started a small group in August. He works for me and he’s become a dear friend.

Without getting too personal, there was a really big moment maybe two or three weeks ago that was presented to him where the way he handled it, you could just see the spiritual maturity that has happened in him as he’s been faithful… being in church, being in God’s Word, being in prayer. He brings his son, his mom. It’s just it’s exactly what you’d want to see. And the wonderful thing is that the end result of our faithfulness isn’t predicated on us. It’s the work of God through the Holy Spirit and He just asks us to be faithful.

JASON: Like I said, I’ve always professed Christ. 

I always felt saved, but now, looking back, I never truly lived saved.

I just said, “I want to do everything I can to give my life to God.” I look at it kind of equated to working out. You don’t see a big change in a week. But then you look a couple of months back, it’s like, “Oh, I’m starting to see a change in myself for the better.” This is great, you know? So I just keep plugging along

Roy’s story encourages me in knowing that life isn’t always going to be easy, in fact, there’s going to be hard things, but we grow from that. We get stronger from the hardships. And one thing he says is use your hands, your platform, these bad things that we’ve gone through in life – we can help others with that.

So hearing his story, I can relate. That’s happened to me. I felt like that before. I’ve gone through that. But look at him now. I can aspire to be like that, you know, it can happen to me if I’m faithful.

ROY: I had that feeling where, I would sit in church and hear a pastor talk about a peace that passes all understanding. Unfortunately, the theology that was my first taste of Christianity was through an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. Everything was fear based. And that’s just not sustainable.

I never knew the intimacy you could have with the living God…

…the previous state of trying to live a life in obedience to God based on fear and thinking that the only time you’ll hear from him is when you’ve done something wrong. I don’t think there’s a worse place for a human being to be than to know the truth of the battle of good and evil but just feel powerless to live it and be stuck there.

I was a young man raising a family and building a career. Because I didn’t know the level of the relationship that you could have with God. And because of that, when I walked away, my kids followed me and every single relationship was affected negatively by me not having that intimate relationship with God. It reminds me of Mark 4:19 where it talks about the cares of the world and the things of the world – they take your eyes off the things that are important and how that leads into so many bad things.

My wife said this to me once when we were thinking about leading a small group,

“God will not call you to do anything unless he empowers you.”

That pull for drugs and addiction, there is no there is nothing that can break that power unless it’s something that’s more powerful. And the only thing it’s more powerful is Christ. If he’s calling us to that, there is no way that he wouldn’t empower us to overcome that.

If he didn’t, he’s cruel. And he’s NOT cruel. My heart is burdened for them because, most of those guys, it’s not their first rodeo. They’ve been there. I know how your mind works. “This time it’s just going to be at night. This time its just going to be on the weekends. I’m going to manage it.” You can’t manage it. 

There’s a Blaise Pascal quote that there’s a God sized vacuum in your heart. And if it’s not filled with with God, it’s going to be filled with something else. When it is filled with God, man, nothing is better than him. 

A couple weeks ago, Pastor Alan preached that that your pain is your platform. I use that all the time down there with them. He said, “People that have been to a real dark side or God has pulled them out of a real dark hole, God can use them in a special way.”

And I’ll say to the guys down at the jail, the reason why there is the parable of the prodigal son is because there are a lot of prodigals. And the same with the ninety-nine sheep and the one.

The thing is, I wish I didn’t have this testimony. I’d prefer not to, but as much as he calls me to use it, man, I’m going to use it.

JASON: Lord knows there’s a lot of addiction in my story. So I toyed with the idea of maybe getting my certification for being an addiction counselor and trying to help people with my testimony of how God lifted the obsession with drugs and showing people what’s been done in my life. This way I can give to others.

You can’t receive a gift like this and keep it. You’ve got to share it, spread the good news.

I’ve thought about that. I’m still early in my journey right now, but however God wants to use me, I’m open to it.

My family’s already told me how they’ve seen such a significant change in me and they are so proud. My mother has prayed for me for years and they are really ecstatic with the things that’s going on in my life and their lives. With my son, I kind of dropped the ball spiritually teaching him. That was always a major, major regret. So once I started myself on this path, that was one of the first goals. I’m bringing my son along with me. I’ve got to get him involved. He’s taken to it really well and he’s enthusiastic and I’m just really proud of him. I’ve seen some spiritual growth in him and I hope it continues for years to come.

That’s been one of the many gifts that I’ve received. That’s one of the best gifts. I took him to the bowling alley one day just to get some wings and I’m just like, “Let’s dig in,” and he was like, “Dad, let’s say grace.” I mean, that just got my heart. Gave me goosebumps, man.

My previous experiences with church is, “Okay, come to church on Sunday and we’ll share the gospel a little bit and have a nice week.”

But at First Naples it’s really the people I’ve encountered. It’s inclusive and they want to get you involved. And there’s so much more than just Sunday and holidays and we’re done. I mean, I’m just blown away by this church. I really am. They want to get you involved and they keep an eye out for you.

It’s been great, a great experience. And I thank the lord for that and for this church.

ROY: I was talking with one of the guys on Wednesday night at the table about discipleship and it’s like a lack of discipleship is like a child being born and then you just leave it to its own devices. It really is almost like believer abuse because to not be aware of how powerful your sinful nature is, how powerful and unrelenting the enemy is, and when all that stuff is going on, not to be taught how to instill spiritual disciplines, to be aware of the things that are going to come.

To really go to the next level, it’s to be able to speak truth into people’s lives.

For example, to be able to give one another the freedom where if we see something or something is being said, to address it. To be able to give one another the freedom to say sometimes hard or challenging things, but then also be willing to receive it.

If we’re a church family each and every one of us has each other’s back. We have just collectively said, listen, we’re on a mission here to to walk out the mission that God has given us, and part of that is that we have one another’s backs and we are willing to to be corrected and to correct. 

The whole idea, the discipleship stuff, it has flowed down through someone in the church realizing that and now through the jail ministry into a guy who’s who’s receiving that. Then it goes from him into his son… his mom sees it… I mean, it’s exactly how you would write it up.

JASON: My son Brian brought one of his friends to church here, who’s never been to church ever. It’s amazing. 

I mean, Pastor Alan just, you know, God speaks through him. His messages are just powerful and relatable. And I just look forward to it every Sunday. I’m just anxious to get to church. It’s so great. You know, I love hearing his speaking.

The people just filled with love, compassion, and encouragement. There are so many avenues to get plugged in. The men’s group is spectacular.

You don’t feel alone here. You don’t feel alone and you don’t have to feel ashamed.

So, I was raised Presbyterian and it was really conservative, you know, it’s not boisterous or whatever. And Roy asked me once, “You go to a rock concert… are you shaking your hands up and hootin’ and hollerin’?” I said, “Yes.”

And he said,”Why couldn’t you do that for God? Isn’t God so much more?”

He had a point. And my son’s kind of like me. So I said, “All right, we’re going to have a challenge. Pastor Alan, he stands to the right of us in services, so whatever Pastor Alan does, we got to do too. If he raises his hands, we gotta do it, if he’s clapping… whatever he does.”

So we did that.

We had a great time. It just made it so much more fun, you know? And then after a while, it wasn’t just a challenge. We got used to it.

ROY: It takes a while to be demonstrative in your worship. Like forever. The way I would feel about worship was, “Let’s just get on to the message.” My wife helped me to realize that.

I know that me doing it is an encouragement to other men, because is it totally natural? No, but there’s a reason, you know. I see a complete change around me Because you have your spot that you usually sit and there’s men around me there used to be nothing, but now arms up! It’s cool, it’s sort worship discipleship. Just your modeling of behavior. My prayer always when we start is, Lord, I want to worship you in spirit and truth and to be able to do that.

I remember when Pastor Alan came here and he was being interviewed and he said, “I love worship and you’re just going to see it.” And pastor is quick to say, you know, it’s not Christian karaoke.

You can sense God moving in there. The people in the worship ministry are not putting on a concert. There’s enthusiasm.

I started realizing my heart is stirred by watching love of God coming out of those that are worshiping as well.

So it’s a collective thing and that’s why we need one another. To be able to correct and be corrected. To worship together.

How fortunate we are that God does put us in a family and that He put us in this one.