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About this series
A Journalist Explores the Credibility and Impact of Christianity
If someone were to ask you: “how do you know Jesus actually lived?” or “can we really trust the Bible?”... what would you say? In this new series, pastor and journalist John Dickerson answers those questions. Using evidence from multiple, reliable sources, and the well-documented impact of Jesus’ followers throughout history, John builds a credible case for the Christian faith. Our hope is that this series will help you confidently say: “Jesus is real, the Bible is true… and I can prove it!”.More from this series
Could Jesus give you a peace? A peace that is with you in your young years when you're looking for a spouse or those early fulfillment things, a peace that's with you in your retirement years, when you're searching for identity and purpose, a peace that's with you, even when you face the end of your life? You'll never know unless you try it.
I want to tell you two stories, true stories of people who gave everything they had in the pursuit of fulfillment. And as a reporter and a journalist, I had a front row seat to both of these stories.
But I found these two different guys who were both seeking fulfillment as much as you ever could.
The first is a man named Scott Coles. Scott is a man who built a fortune of nearly $1 billion. Anything that a person would ever think that might make me happy. That could make me happy. He did it. He tried it. He amassed it.
And at age 42, in the prime of his life with beautiful, healthy kids, having everything that so many people think brings joy. Scott Coles ended his own life intentionally. He just couldn't go on living. And as I interviewed his kids, and his ex-wife, and his high school friends and they said, “He was a nice guy. He was a caring guy. He was a generous guy.” It led me to this conclusion, many roads marked fulfillment, turn out to be life devouring, dead-ends or worse drop-offs.
And that's why my heart for you in this series, even if you don't believe in God yet, is this be intentional about the currents that you place yourself in, in life. Don't be random about it. Don't just step into the currents that are closest to you. Look at where the current leads other people. And I remember I was still driving the press cars at that time and thinking, Oh my goodness, if that guy got all those things and felt like life wasn't worth living, then I probably shouldn't get in the current of thinking that material things will bring me ultimate fulfillment, because I'll never get a fraction of what that guy had. And if that didn't work for him, it's clearly not going to work for me. I've never been the same since seeing, first-hand, a man who had everything that people would think brings happiness, or at least some sense of peace, but he was so hopeless that he ended his own life. What a tragedy. It led me to ask about my life: What am I really hoping will carry me to fulfillment?
Maybe this will be a life-defining moment for you wherever you are in your journey to just kind of zoom out from social media and family drama and workplace drama and everything else in the news. And just think about your life. Like, what are you, what current are you in? What do you think will bring fulfillment? Because we all think something will, but we rarely sit down to actually write it out. And if you were to write it out, you might be surprised.
Well, as I was wrestling with this for my own life, having seen the intellectual evidence of Jesus and having seen followers of Jesus, changing the world, I profiled another person who had given everything in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.
This guy had a totally different life. Grammy winning musician. I spent about three months interviewing him and his daughter. During that time, his videos, music videos were still playing on MTV. He had millions of dollars in the, a bank. He had had investments all around California, but he described to me that his life had been completely miserable. In fact, while I was profiling him and spending that time with him, he described to me in detail, different times where he and his wife were both high on meth and they would get into these violent, physical altercations while they were under the influence of that drug.
He described to me a time where he looked down at his knuckles and he saw his wife's blood on his own knuckles because they had been fighting so aggressively. He described another time where a number of famous musicians and artists had come over to his house for a huge party.
And there were a lot of drugs and a lot of pleasure. And he woke up in the morning and he went out to the pool and his two-year-old daughter was curled up on a towel, right by the edge of the pool. And she had slept there all night. And even through the drug-brokenness of his mind, he just realized my life is a mess, but he had got gotten there by going after fame - getting it, fortune - getting it, achievement - getting it, possessions - got it, experiences. He tried it all and it just let him lower and lower into this darkness.
There was a key moment in Brian's life story where on an Easter Sunday morning, he walked into a church a lot like this near Bakersfield, California, his brain's still half-functioning from drug addiction, broken in life from the pursuit of fulfillment currents that had beaten him up.
And he doesn't remember everything from that Easter message, but he remembers these words of Jesus, where Jesus says to you and me: “Come to Me all of you who are weary, all of you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.” What a claim from the guy who claims to be God, the guy who claimed to knit you together in your mother's womb.
And here's why Brian's story has such a different ending than Scott Cole's story. See, Scott Coles never gave Jesus a try from all the people I talked to. He just never considered it. He ridiculed it from the river banks like I used to do, but he never tried it for himself. Brian said, Hey, I've tried everything else. I might as well try this Jesus thing. And on that Easter Sunday, he chose to give it a try. And he called out a prayer.
God, if You're there, I believe. Jesus, if You're there, I need this. You say, You give rest to the weary. You help burdened. If You're there, I need that. And all he did, with a childlike mentality, through that brain confused by drugs, said, “God, if You're there, I want Your help. Jesus, if this is true, I need You in my life. And part of Brian's story is that then within about two months after having been a drug addict, really since high school. He had started with marijuana in high school and it had just kept leading him deeper and deeper all the way to heroin and meth.
He'd been a drug addict for more than 10 years. And within three months he was sober. And that's the part as a journalist. When I heard that, I thought, no, no, that does not happen. I'm going to spend three months with this guy and I'm going to find out the truth.
And the truth, as I hung out with Brian and his daughter who was in late elementary at that time was that he had totally transformed that he had changed from the inside out. He had intentionally given away a lot of the wealth. He didn't need that stuff anymore. Brian Welch found in Jesus something that he couldn't find anywhere else. And I saw, first-hand with my own eyes, what a contrast from the billionaire who didn't have Jesus and ended up taking his own life.
One day, Brian and I were at a PF Changs in Scottsdale, Arizona. And he looked across the table at me. And this is what he said. I had my tape recorder rolling. He said this, “I had $3 million in cash sitting in the bank, all the cars I wanted, a $200,000 pool. I don't know how that's even possible, but apparently it is. Nannies, the nicest house, real estate in California.
And I was miserable. Now, just think about that for a moment, there’s nothing wrong with a $200,000 pool. If you have the money and you want to spend it that way, but if you think it's going to bring you fulfillment, be smart enough to look at other people who've gone down that current. What a shame it would be to work your entire life and get into your sixties or seventies or eighties and look back and be like, I gave everything. I only got a fraction of what these other guys got. And I could have known from the beginning that isn't going to fulfill me. But I love what Brian said after that. He says, “Then I found God and was like, this is all I've ever wanted. I didn't find what I was looking for in all that stuff.” You know, if you're seeking fulfillment and inner rest, you're the kind of person who Jesus invites and helps.
And I want to be clear. There's nothing wrong with these other things that can fulfill to a level. God wants you to have a rich and full life, but the deepest fulfillment isn't found in getting outside things and bringing them in. It’s found in connecting to the Creator of the universe internally, and then having a source of joy and fulfillment that kind of bubbles up from within, through all the different seasons of life, through all the economic ups and downs, and relational ups and downs.
And I just wonder, where have you been exhausted in your hunt for fulfillment? Where have you maybe been let down in your quest or your search for fulfillment? Where has your soul been full of anxiety rather than rest? You can come to Jesus today in the same simple way that Brian Welch did on that Easter Sunday.
Well, I want to tell you about just one other person, this is a skeptic and it's a totally different personality profile, because you might be listening and thinking, Okay, John, interesting stories, helpful to know, but I really don't expect millions of dollars or worldwide fame to make me happy.
And maybe you're more like me. Those things have never been options for me, okay? But you know, I'm a pretty good guy. Part of my story, before I became a fully devoted follower of Jesus, I didn't go on some drug binge. I graduated from college early and I worked hard and I did all the right things, but I found that still I was lacking something.
And so wherever you find yourself on that spectrum of what you're pursuing for fulfillment, I've found the same thing to be true that I've found in Jesus, something that's not available anywhere else. And this next guy I want to talk to you about is a person who maybe you can relate to because he was a good guy.
He kept most of the rules. He wasn't addicted into anything. He even believed that Jesus existed. In fact, he'd seen Jesus with his own eyes, but this whole thing that Jesus is God and could meet his deepest needs, he was not buying that. He was a skeptic in that sense. In fact, this guy got so annoyed with Jesus claiming to be God, that he would make fun of Christians. He would even harm Christians. He would go around and mess with the Christians.
This guy, his name was Saul, but eventually he would have an encounter with Jesus where Jesus showed Himself to be God. And it so transformed him that he then became a follower of Jesus. And he then went around telling even when he would get imprisoned for it, or whipped for it, or beaten for it, “Jesus is God, Jesus is the fulfillment that you seek.”
And here's how he put it in one of his letters, which is recorded in the new Testament. He says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” What's the gospel? Very simply, it is the good news that the God who made you loves you, that He came into this world as the person of Jesus. And He willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty for your mistakes and mine. And that you can be made right with God, not by doing a bunch of good things, but by simply believing and admitting your need - that you need Jesus help. And if you believe in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, you will be saved. That's the gospel.
And this guy who was a skeptic, a hardened skeptic, and who hated Christians would become so transformed that he wrote, “I'm not ashamed of the gospel.” Why not? Because it's the power of God. And that's what I've found in my life. The good news of Jesus connects you to the actual power of God. You can have the power of God in your life. And it's a power that leads to salvation so that when your body dies, you're going to spend eternity in heaven with God. But not only that, it leads to freedom in this life and fulfillment.
And this path, this current it's available to everyone: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will be saved.” It's available to you today. But the question for you is this: Will you try it? Will you get in the current? Because it brings salvation to everyone who believes. From my own experience, I would say, and I think from Saul, the skeptic’s experience, your belief does not have to start out as a perfectly mature, fully-formed belief.
That's not how we're born, right? Wouldn't that be the weirdest thing? Like you're looking on Instagram and some mom has a baby and she's holding this like 48-year-old dude with a beard, right? Like we, we start as babies and we grow and we mature. You don't have to have every question about the history of the universe and every book of the Bible, you don't have to have all that stuff answered, to say, “God, I believe that You love me and You made me and I want this fulfillment. I want this relationship with You.”
You start there. And then He feeds you and He grows you. That's been my experience anyway. Jesus invites you to find fulfillment and rest in Him. He invites you to find something that you can't find anywhere else. And that's why I love that verse in Jeremiah 29, “You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” So, if you're here and you're considering what do I believe or what am I looking to fulfill me in life?
Have you maybe just been sampling the things that are around you rather than being intentional to say, Where will this path take me? Have you forgotten Jesus in your search for fulfillment?
Maybe you were raised as a Christian. You even been coming to church and you're like, “Yeah, I'm a Christian.” But have you ever actually really said, This is what I'm putting my faith into fulfill me. Have you ever really tried it for your fulfillment? And more importantly for your eternal life?
Maybe you're here and you're a believer and you just needed this reminder today that all those other things, and they might not be bad things, but they're not going to fulfill you the way that Jesus can.
I've noticed that most of the people who are the most critical of Jesus have never tried it. And I was there for a while on those river banks, making fun of the people in the current.
But once I actually tried it, this claim of Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,” it turns out to be true. But you've got to come to Him. You've got to give Him a try.
The fulfillment of Jesus is found in the space between religion and relationship. That really was my journey. I grew up with a religious teaching about Jesus and then I went full circle away from it and I studied just Jesus Himself. And I came all the way back and I want to encourage you.
If you've cast off Jesus because of His followers to look at Him Himself, look at His words for yourself, and by simply praying to Him, “God, I want to find my fulfillment in You. Show me what to do with my life. Show me which path to take, catch me up in Your current.