Finding Victory Over the Struggles That Hold You Back
THE ROAD TO MINISTRY
Johnny was born in Lumberton, North Carolina and his father left the family when Johnny was seven, leaving his mother as a single parent of six children. Johnny became rebellious in his teenage years and struggled with alcohol and gambling. By the time he was 16, he dropped out of school.
When he was 18, he met and married Janet Allen. She was a Christian and invited him to church each week but he never went. A man named N.W. Pridgen, who would come into the hardware store where Johnny worked, also constantly invited him to church. Finally, Johnny told his wife they could visit church. After a several Sundays, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. Johnny immediately told everyone how Jesus Christ had changed his life. He led his mother and a former boss to Christ. Years later he led his father to the Lord.
Johnny earned his GED and went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in Religion at Gardner Webb and later went to seminary Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention from June 2008 until June 2010. Of utmost importance to Johnny is his relationship with Christ. He said, "The bottom line is that the greatest calling in my life is not to be a pastor. The greatest calling is to be a Christian, a Christ follower.” Johnny has been the pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia since 1986 which is now one of the largest churches in the U.S. with more than 20,000 members.
Johnny focuses on issues Christian men commonly face, but the principles can be applied to anyone. Johnny says, “We simply cannot fight a spiritual battle with carnal weapons. When we do that, we are trying to do work only God can do.” He says a stronghold is, “any habit that has got a hold of you.” He says strongholds are created in several ways. Some common ways include leaving your mind unguarded, keeping bad relationships, and justifying temptations. He reminds us that we can prevent strongholds by protecting those sensitive areas. For instance, we can renew our minds by reading God’s word to combat evil ideas. We can also keep godly relationships that will affect us in a positive way. Finally we can remember that temptations are often stronger than we are. We should not give satan even an inch of leeway.
For men, the biggest footholds form what Johnny calls a “triple play.” He says the strongholds of sex, greed, and pride are intertwined, and they are the “big three” that take down most men. They can be avoided by putting safeguards in place. For instance, one way to avoid sexual sin is to have accountability. Johnny warns to be wary of tempting situations that might seem innocent enough, but could land you in trouble. Another safeguard can prevent greed. Johnny says the antidote to greed is generous giving. He says, “Generous giving reminds you that you are not the owner, but merely the steward of everything in your care.” Finally, men should safeguard against pride. One of the best ways to avoid pride is to pray for humility. Johnny says a good prayer is, “Lord I humble myself before you. I submit to you and ask you to remind me daily that everything I do should be with the motive of glorifying you and only you.”
The primary weapon we possess that destroys stronghold is the process of confession and repentance. Confession happens when we “come clean” to God about our sin. Repentance means to turn away from them. Another weapon is knowing how to forgive others and ourselves. When we learn to forgive, the power of shame is destroyed. Other weapons include reading your Bible daily, staying under the control of the Holy Spirit, and finding godly friends to keep you accountable for your actions.