By Harris Holsapple IV
The Word of God says we can defeat the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, so I want to share my story. I have gone to church my whole life. In fact, my grandfather was a Methodist minister for thirty to forty years.
My family went to church; it was what we did. It wasn’t who we were. When I was in seventh and eighth grades, some of the leadership in our church hurt me deeply, leaving me feeling unloved. I thought, “If this is how church people treat me and they think I am a problem, then God must feel the same.” A seed of bitterness and anger took root in my heart. Our family ended up leaving that church hurt and broken.
When I was in ninth grade, we visited a Pentecostal church. There I heard a message about how Jesus takes us as we are and even loves us as we are. I thought, What? You take me as I am? That message of pure grace spoke to my heart, and I gave my life to Jesus. I’m not saying everything was suddenly wonderful, but that was the beginning of my faith journey.
Like most families, mine wasn’t perfect, but I grew up in a supportive home and I’m thankful for my family. But because of my hurt, I was full of anger. At a young age, I was exposed to pornography and became addicted for a long time. This addiction carried into my Bible college life and into my marriage. It caused even more situations with anger.
Anger is a secondary emotion. Like a weed with deep roots that keeps popping up, my anger kept resurfacing because I had not gotten to the root of my issue. My hands are full of scars from me punching things because I didn’t know how to handle my anger. I loved people, joked with people, talked a lot, but I was always angry, hurt, and broken inside.
I went into ministry right out of Bible college, got married, and moved 2,000 miles away, from Oregon to the Midwest. I thought because I was in ministry, I had to say yes to everything, to do everything. I worked day and night. I said yes to everyone else, but no to my wife, Sarah. It wasn’t until years later that I would realize I needed to stop trying to be Jesus and start pointing people to Jesus. I needed to stop trying to be the Savior and instead lead others to the Savior. I was in a very lonely, hard place. Then two years into my marriage and ministry, my anger got me arrested, and I went to jail July 3, 2006.
The next day, Independence Day, offices were closed, so I had to spend two nights in jail before facing a judge. I was forced to think about what I had done and where my life was. After I was released, I realized I had lost my ministry, my job, and maybe my wife. I remember crawling underneath the dining room table in a fetal position, all alone, two thousand miles away from my family and everything I grew up with, feeling like a total failure.
The accuser of our souls kept repeating the phrase, “Look what you’ve done. Look what you’ve done!” I felt a darkness over me, and I had a choice to make: give up on the call God placed on my life or fight for it. It felt like I was at a “T” in my life. I could go down a dark path or choose a path that would be hard, but one where I would be following Jesus. At that moment underneath that table, I surrendered my life, my addictions, and my anger to God. I haven’t dealt with anger since July 3, 2006.
Most things were restored, but I was still hurt. The devil kept lying to me, saying, “You’ve lost the ministry. You’ve disappointed a lot of people. God doesn’t want to use you. You’re a mess-up.”
We moved from Illinois into my father-in-law’s home in Arkansas, trying to get back on our feet. I was able to find work at a Fortune 500 company full time, so that was a huge blessing, and God kept blessing me with promotions at work. Eventually people encouraged Sarah and me to get back into ministry, but we knew we weren’t ready until a few years later when we decided to go into ministry part time as youth pastors. However, when a new pastor was hired to lead our church, he didn’t like some of the stuff I was doing or saying. My calling came into question, and the other leaders’ confidence in me disappeared.
The devil took advantage of the situation and said, “See, I told you.” I was so hurt, I ended up leaving the church.
Sarah started attending another Pentecostal church she had found, but I wouldn’t go. I felt like God was ashamed of me. Thankfully, my wife didn’t give up. She kept asking me to go with her to church. Finally, I relented and went, but I sat clear in the back. A few weeks later, an evangelist who operated in the gift of prophecy and words of knowledge spoke at our church. I hadn’t seen anything like this and thought it was crazy.
Yet in the middle of his sermon, the evangelist called me out, saying, “You in the back wearing such-and-such color shirt.”
After looking around, I realized he was talking to me!
“The enemy has been lying to you,” he said. “And all those things that have been spoken over you and said to you and things you believe are a lie. You have been called into ministry. God has a call on your life, and He is calling you back.”
The speaker quickly moved on and kept preaching, but I was wrecked. I couldn’t believe God loved me enough to find me in a room of four hundred people, call me out, and say, “You do have a call.”
At that moment I truly followed Jesus with ALL I was. A few months later I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and filled with His power. God has been the difference in my life.
Sarah and I soon moved to Iowa where I became a youth pastor and eventually would become a lead pastor. My wife and I have been married nearly 18 years, and we have two beautiful children. God is using us in spite of me because Jesus is the difference. I am thankful for what Jesus has done and thankful for the resurrection. Trust me, I would be the last one to say, “I’m going to stand up and preach in front of a bunch of people” because the enemy tells me I am not worthy. But it’s God working through me who is worthy.
God also wants to make you whole, heal you, and set you free. If you would like that, pray this prayer with me.
This journey has been hard, but it’s been amazing. Jesus is the difference!
About the Author
Harris Holsapple IV is the lead pastor at First Open Bible Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He leads the church with fresh vision, excitement, passion, and creative ideas so they can win Cedar Rapids and the surrounding areas for Christ. Pastor Harris has a heart to see lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and to see people experience new life. He and his wife, Sarah, have two beautiful children.