In May 2016, my college baseball career abruptly ended, and I had to face the difficult truth that I wouldn’t play forever and would soon have to get a real job.
January 09, 2020
A STRANGE MAN NAMED JOHN
In May 2016, my college baseball career abruptly ended, and I had to face the difficult truth that I wouldn’t play forever and would soon have to get a real job. Over the summer, I applied for several teaching jobs close to my hometown of Reinbeck, Iowa, but despite several interviews, wasn’t offered any of the jobs. In early August, I got a call from the Mediapolis School District in southeast Iowa. I interviewed on a Friday, and the following Monday, I accepted the job. Mediapolis was two and a half hours away from my hometown, family, friends and my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife. I was scared and nervous.
As I began my new job, I was questioning my purpose and feeling a lack of fulfillment in my life. One October night, I was lifting weights when I had a life- changing conversation with a complete stranger. My fellow PE teacher, Jeff Sands, was in the weight room with a strange-looking guy. The man accompanying Jeff had long black hair and was barefoot, was obnoxiously loud and strangely energetic.
“Hi, my name is John Joyce!” he said holding out his hand. I was reluctant because I just wanted to get home without talking to anybody, but I shook his hand and introduced myself. “So do you go to church around here?” John asked. I explained to him that I had recently moved to Mediapolis and hadn’t found a church yet. “So do you believe in God?” He quickly asked. Normally I probably would’ve tried to get out of this conversation as quickly as possible, but I as I look back now, God was definitely softening my heart so I would listen to John.
I answered yes to John’s question and sure enough, he immediately responded with another question. “How are you gonna get to heaven?” Now I was really puzzled. I tried to think of what I had learned from my brief days in Sunday school but quickly realized I never truly learned anything about salvation and how one obtains it. So, I gave his question the best shot I could. “By being a good person?” I said. John smiled, “No, that’s not gonna do it.” Now I’m thinking, “Ok Mr. Know-it-all, what’s the answer?”, so I asked. The following words from John would change my life. “You can’t earn it, man. It’s by faith and faith in Christ alone that we are saved. Don’t take my word for it; it’s all in the Bible.” And the truth shall set you free…
After that night, John and I quickly became friends, and John discipled me for the next year and a half and helped me grow in my faith and trust in Christ. He brought me to Bible studies he was involved with, and eventually I joined two other Bible studies with him. God used John to help me come to faith in Christ, and I am so thankful He did. I am a better husband, friend, teacher and coach because of what Jesus has done in my life. I am still a work in progress, and I won’t be perfect in this life. None of this is of my own doing, but it is by the grace of God that I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
Since that October night, God has been working in my heart and life in many different ways. When my wife and I decided to take a step of obedience in following Christ by getting baptized at Prairie Lakes Church May 2019, several of our family members and a few friends were there, including that strange guy from the weight room. The Bible verses below gave me the answers I was looking for and may help you too.
John 3:16, John 11:25-26, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2: 8-9, Galatians 2:16, Romans 6:23