In 1991 I used to see this fellow, a little younger than I was, pushing a mail cart around the halls of the financial services company where I worked. He had a rather committed 1990′s mullet hairstyle working for him and he and I almost never spoke as we passed each other in those narrow corridors at the office complex in Duluth, Georgia. My world back then consisted of me, me, me and my pursuit of pleasure -I was little interested in making any new friends so I turned a blind eye to the young man in my peer group. About a year later I was transferred into his department as I switched shifts in order to gain a 10% pay increase (more beer money, I thought back then). Working night shift now, on my first night in the data center I met him and, for the first time, we spoke. His country drawl didn’t seem to match his face and I found him pleasant and welcoming. Within an hour of meeting him he began talking to me about this King he loved. He spoke of God, of Jesus Christ and his church with a sincerity that made my woeful heart really uncomfortable. He asked me if I was a Christian and I mumbled hesitantly that I was (after all, I was born & raised in the South). He rejoiced when I made that pitiful confession that I was a believer and told me that he had been praying for a Christian to work with. My response to his outspoken joy? I told him to calm himself down because I wasn’t “that type of Christian”. A few years later he would tell me that he knew that very night that I was deceived about my faith. That was over twenty years ago and it was the day I became acquainted with Scott Johnson who would spend the next three years battling for my life. Ultimately he would win that war and lead me to the Savior who meant everything to him.
“A friend loves at all times,and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17
When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ on a Thursday morning in August of 1994 I had no idea of the forthcoming changes that God would work on my behalf. Everything became ridiculously new in a matter of 24 hours. The alcohol, drugs and bleakness that had owned me since the age of fourteen were swept away in an instant. A peace I could not fathom started owning me and I began to breathe something I had never really known before: HOPE. Of course the first person I communicated with was Scott who had swapped to the day shift a few months prior to my conversion. I sent him an email which simply said, “I turned my life over to God yesterday and I’m a brand new man.” Though Scott was cautious about the legitimacy of my experience he gave me the benefit of the doubt. Within a few days he was able to see that God had rescued me and that my life was being made new. It was Scott Johnson who began to teach me God’s Word when I transferred to day shift to work alongside of him. It was Scott Johnson who challenged me to fall in love with Christ through prayer. Scott was the one I went to when I sensed in my heart that God was calling me to preach four months after my conversion. It was Scott who hawked over those early months of my journey and warned me of dangers in my life as I hesitated to break away from my former associates. It was Scott who became my best friend at the time and who taught me every single discipline that a young Christian needs to learn. He was 22 years old. I was 24. For the first time in my life, I had a brother.
Amy and I will leave tomorrow afternoon and drive up to Crossville Tennessee where Scott has served for about ten years as the pastor of Lantana Road Baptist Church. I will have the privilege of preaching in his pulpit on Sunday morning before heading back to the flock I serve in Lawrenceville for our Sunday night service. I’m planning to share with his church from Ephesians 3:14-21 with a heavy emphasis on verse 20 which declares that God is “able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think”. If there are any doubters about the strength of verse 20 in the audience on Sunday morning, all they would need to know is that the man preaching to them had no clue how blessed his life would be eighteen years ago it is today exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. God used Brother Scott Johnson to reach me, a miserable human being, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only did my eternity move from condemnation to acceptance, but my whole future on earth changed. Without Scott there would be no Jeff & Amy. There would be no Alicia and Landon. There would be no Pastor Lyle of Meadow and no Transforming Truth. If it were not for Scott I am unsure if I would even be alive today because I was on a fast track to self-destruction twenty years ago. God is sovereign and will accomplish His will but…He uses people. People like Scott Johnson. People who care and love and take the time with people like I was who seemed to be a permanently lost cause.
I’m looking forward to seeing him, hugging him and thanking him tomorrow. He’s a hero to me.