A Pocket Full of Power

I grew up in Northern Virginia, in a town called Manassas. I had loving parents who did everything in their power to raise me and my siblings right; they just didn’t take us to church. I remember making wrong decisions so many times growing up. I was a bad kid – a liar, addict, alcoholic, and blasphemer.

Halfway through my senior year of high school, my principal came to me and said, “Lester, you have enough credits to graduate. You need to leave now. Don’t come back until June, when you walk for graduation.” I was basically kicked out of high school.

At age 17, I felt a need to change my life. I didn’t even know who God was, but I sensed Him speaking to my heart. I enlisted in the military in an attempt to escape from the life I was living. I remember standing in the Military Entrance Processing Station in Baltimore, Maryland, when a man approached. He handed me a New Testament and said, “You’re making the best decision of your life.” I thought to myself: I don’t know; I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff, but this is scary!

As I left for basic training, I found out my girlfriend was pregnant. We got married when I came home on leave in December, but when I returned to training, life was a struggle. I traded a lifestyle of drugs for one filled with alcohol. I had a new wife, a child on the way, and I was drinking myself to death.

I had no idea about the power of the Word of God, but I knew there was something special about it.

For whatever reason, I carried that New Testament in my left front pocket. Every time I changed my uniform, I would transfer it to the next front pocket. I had no idea about the power of the Word of God, but I knew there was something special about it. Even when I deployed to Vicenza, Italy, on a Quick Reaction Force team, I carried that New Testament with me.

Eventually, my wife arrived in Italy with my two-week-old daughter. I picked them up at the airport in Venice and took them to our home. Then, I jumped on an airplane to Congo. I came back six months later, but I immediately went to Haiti. When I came back from Haiti, I went someplace else. I deployed over and over again. Before I knew it, my daughter was four years old, and I had seen her very few times. In September 2001, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I got out of the service, and I went back home to Virginia.

The next five years of my life were spent trying to rebuild a relationship with my family, but I could not put what I had done behind me. I pulled out that New Testament and read Matthew 11:28, which says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” With that, I surrendered my life to Christ. I was baptized that year, and I felt God’s call on my life to ministry. However, He wasn’t done, and things got worse.

After Christmas in 2004, we lost everything to a house fire. A month later, my dad fell off a scaffold, and we had to shut down our masonry business. Feeling overwhelmed, I re-enlisted in the military. Four years later, I was in an airborne accident that shattered both of my legs, broke my back, and separated my shoulder. I thought to myself: What now, Lord?

On an airplane heading back to Landstuhl, Germany, I said, “God, You’ve got to give me something. I don’t know what I’m doing.” He said, “I called you into ministry, so why are you running?” That day, I surrendered my life completely. I prayed, “Lord, whatever it is you want me to do, I will do it. I can’t do anything else now, and there is nowhere to run.” The Lord called me to preach, so I became a minister.

That New Testament was given to me in 1996, and I carried it with me because I knew it had some kind of power. It exploded in my heart, and it revealed the one true God to me. It showed me where I could find what I needed. My own power kept me running. His power gave me rest.

Lester Harper is currently the pastor at Reilly Springs Baptist Church in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

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