Watch Video

TV & Video

Champion Power Lifter Weighed Down by Life

CBN.comIn 2003, Jonathan Bernor was a national champion power lifter. But before that, he was also one of the biggest drug dealers on Long Island. “Money, power, respect—is what motivated me to sell drugs. That whole street mentality.”

Jonathan’s parents divorced when he was young, which left a gaping hole in his heart. “I remember that day very strongly. My parents had been arguing, and my dad had left the house. I was in the utility room with my dog, just crying and weeping. He didn’t come back. I had a relationship with him, connected with him, but with him not in the home, it greatly affected me.”

Other kids picked on him because his family was poor. Jonathan envied the nicer clothes and toys that other kids had. So he did something about it. “I broke into neighborhood homes when people were out to work. We’d break in and take some stuff. And that made me feel real empowered. And then, I started selling drugs.”

Jonathan took an interest in weight lifting when he was 14. His increased strength gave him a newfound sense of confidence. “There was a kid in the neighborhood who, since I was a little boy, used to always pick on me. We were in his front yard, and he was picking on me. Another guy was there. I couldn’t take it anymore and I kind of lost it. I went after him and threw him to the ground. And that’s when things started to change as far as me getting picked on.”

He also continued to deal drugs. He dropped out of high school his senior year, and became one of the top drug dealers on Long Island, with suppliers all over the country. “I sold marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, steroids. We had a big burglary ring. With the drug dealing, I felt like a man. I felt like I had power and respect.”

During this time, Jonathan’s mother became a Christian. She talked to her son about Jesus, but nothing she said or did could sway him. “She’d bring us to church. She was continually pointing us to Jesus Christ. But at that point in my life, I had no desire to turn to Christ. I knew where to turn; I just refused to turn.”

While still in his teens, Jonathan was arrested for dealing. He wasn’t sorry for his actions, but he was sorry for disappointing his mother. “My uncle, who was a police officer, ended up being at the precinct, brought me home. My mom was just weeping. And I felt remorse for it. Maybe for a couple of weeks I was going to clean up my act, but it just didn’t last.”

Jonathan was put on probation. But instead of giving us his dealing, he made a vow never to get caught again. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but says he couldn’t stop. “There were times I would get this burst of, ‘If I die right now, I’m going to hell. I am just completely rebelling against God—not just in my drug dealing, but in my life-- I’m a sinner.’ But at that point, it was just not enough to make me bend the knee.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan continued power lifting, which became his passion. He entered competitions and studied those at the very top of their game. “I got a magazine. And in the magazine there was fellow named Mike Hall, who, at the time, was the strongest power lifter in the world, and he was a Christian. And I remember reading this article and it just kind of piercing my heart like, ‘Wow. This is really incredible. This guy is so strong, and he loves God.’”

It gave Jonathan a new perspective on Christianity. “God was using a sport like power lifting to keep my heart soft. There were times in the gym when I would cry---or want to cry—because I felt like God was saying, ‘I’ve created you to do this for My glory.’”

Still, it wasn’t enough to cause Jonathan to change his life. But a life-threatening illness did.                
“I started developing this tremendous pain in my stomach. It was bad. It got worse and I went to the hospital and they did all this testing and they diagnosed me with pancreatitis.”

The prognosis was not good. “They have to put you on fluids and IV’s. You can’t eat. And then what happens is you waste away. And as you are wasting away—because you can’t get the proper nutrition--you succumb to other diseases.”

After the doctors examined Jonathan, he began to examine himself. “Everything that I had held so dear in the world—all the money, and respect and power and street cred—it was once sweet in my mouth and it started becoming real sour.”

Now facing his own mortality, he came to a turning point. “I thought, 'My life's over. It's done. I'm gonna die or I'm gonna end up this frail, malnourished guy for the rest of my life.’ And it was really heavy only heart. I went up to the roof of the hospital and I remember just praying, ‘Jesus, I know You’re real. And if I’m going to die, then I have to live for You--something that has eternal weight and eternal glory’—and I surrendered my life.”

He was released from the hospital and sent home. What happened next stunned Jonathan. “A few days had passed and I’m waiting for my pain, this terrible pain in my pancreas to come back—and it’s not coming back. We went to my mom’s. My mom said, ‘Let’s go to dinner.’ And I looked at my mom and I said, ‘Mom, I think Jesus healed me of my pancreatitis. And she looked at me and said, ‘Son I think He did.’”

Jonathan has been pain and symptom free for over ten years. He later married Nikki and they now live in Tampa with their son Josiah. Jonathan still lifts competitively and uses his platform to talk to young people about Christ.

“I was bad to the bone, and yet God brought a healing to my body, and more importantly, I felt like my heart was healed. I’ve been given a new heart with new desires. Who would’ve have thought it? Well, God thought it. God knew it. God planned it. That’s what excites me. The sport of power lifting, and using it for His glory, excites me.”

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Right-click on a link below and choose "Save link as..." to save the file

High Definition - MP4
High Quality - MP4
Low Bandwidth - MP4