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William Ritchie is a Term 3 IMPACT195 student sharing his testimony at our End of Term Celebration this Thursday night. Read his powerful story of life change here.
“Good evening. My name is William Ritchie. As of tonight, I am an IMPACT195 graduate. And I want to let you know this evening, that because Jesus Christ lives in me, I am a new creation. In Galatians 2.20 it says ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’
I think it’s important for you to know that in the past, I have struggled with my identity.
I went through a lot during my short time on this earth. My mom and dad divorced when I was still a baby. While I was growing up, I split time living with each parent. It was not uncommon to witness my parents arguing, using drugs or watching the cops show up on my doorstep.
In 2003 I joined the Marine Corps at seventeen years old. During this time, the war in Iraq was just getting started. Consequently, my infantry unit received orders to deploy over there. This deployment would end up becoming a defining moment in my life.
Exactly ten years ago this month, while serving in Iraq, my unit was involved in one of the largest battles during the entire war. It was an extremely intense experience to say the least: fourteen U.S. service members lost their lives, a Marine Corps helicopter was shot down, and about one-hundred and sixty insurgents were killed. After our tour was over, my unit redeployed back to the states.
This is when I began to notice that I had some serious problems. I started drinking, using drugs, and engaged in numerous immoral behaviors. Even worse, I rushed into an unhealthy marriage. My soon to be wife and I were only nineteen.
According to the world’s standards, my marriage was pretty good. At just twenty-two, my wife and I were able to purchase a home. We also didn’t struggle with debt, were able to buy things like brand new cars, and both had successful careers. To me, it seemed like I had it made. Life was grand or so I thought. But even though I thought everything was perfect, deep down inside, I knew that my sinful tendencies were only growing worse. Everything finally shattered in 2007.
During a routine medical screening, I discovered that I was HIV positive.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on the final day of my four-year military contract. In fact, I had already turned in my ID card and was just issued my separation orders. I drove home pretty excited that day and was very enthusiastic about the future. It seemed like I held the world in my hands. I guess you could say that I thought I was invincible.
God was pretty quick to give me a wake up call though.
As soon as I walked into my apartment, I received a phone call with a Camp Pendleton area code. My gut told me that I had a real reason to worry. I picked up the phone and a very nervous doctor began to tell me that she had something to share with me. I knew what it was before the words came out of her mouth.
I panicked, which made her panic.
You’re never supposed to tell someone that they are HIV positive over the phone. According to her however, the military forgot to tell me this crucial information. She just wanted to make sure that I knew. I frantically asked her what I was supposed to do. She couldn’t take my emotional state and hung up the phone on me.
Because my identity was wrapped up in how much money I had, my health, and reputation and status, I made the decision to commit suicide. I planned to hang myself. I can remember taking off my belt and tying it to a rafter.
But I couldn’t follow through with it.
Over time, my emotional state would gradually get better. However, my bondage to sin remained. I became an atheist. I reasoned that there couldn’t be a God, that there was no divine helper, and that we were all on our own.
In 2009, my wife and I separated. I guess I figured that if I changed my circumstances, things would have to get better. I blamed her for all my problems and for introducing drugs into my life. Yet, I soon realized that changing my circumstances did not free me from the bondage that I was enslaved to. It was my meaningless pursuit of happiness and pleasure that left me empty and addicted. I was only destroying my life.
But praise be to God, I finally figured it out.
During the summer of 2010, I gave God a real chance. I cried out to Him and admitted that I was utterly helpless. I pleaded with Him that if He was real that I could sure use His help. I even made a deal with Him by saying that I would go home and read my Bible if He would help me overcome my vices, addictions, and immoral tendencies. I was desperate.
That night, after reading a chapter from Psalms, God answered me in a dream. He showed me what my life would look like without Him. Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. He also showed me what my life would look like with Him. Needless to say, I was more encouraged by the part that had God in it. In fact, I saw a brief glimpse of me standing on a stage and telling people about God, much like I am right now.
Since I have given my life to Christ, I have only fallen deeper in love with Him.
God has gently and lovingly pulled me away from everything that was causing death and destruction in my life. He has given me hope, purpose, and a destiny. He has freed me from addiction and immorality. He has given me joy, peace, and eternal satisfaction and fulfillment.
All of this was revealed to me right here at IMPACT195. At this school, I have learned that because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I am an adopted Son of the living God. And, because I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. My identity is no longer in the world; my identity is in Christ.
I have now realized that I am blessed with every spiritual blessing, chosen, blameless, loved, predestined, redeemed, forgiven, lavished with good gifts, enlightened, sealed with the Holy Spirit, waiting to receive an eternal inheritance, and that I have an eternal destiny and a purpose.
Because Christ lives in me, I am a new creation, free from all guilt and condemnation, and fully equipped for every good work.
And that’s the point of it all. Because I’ve discovered my new identity, I am able to turn from sin and step into my eternal purpose and destiny, which is to lay my life down for my brothers and sisters, doing whatever it takes to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
I am so thankful that God sent me to IMPACT195. I would not have come to understand what my new identity is if I did not come to this school.
If there is anyone out there who is struggling with the issue of identity, I challenge you to cry out to God. Pray to Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you and to reveal who you are to Him. And consider attending this discipleship school or a school like it. You will never be the same again."