Refreshing New Program "The Winding Road Home" Coming Soon
February 22, 2019
God Can Use a Wretch Like Me - A Story of Encouragement
March 27, 2014
Written by Russ Salerno, Jr.
God has always been good to me. Growing up I can’t remember “doing without.” I’ve had it real good and feel fortunate about that. There are times when I can remember being stressed out about money, though. One of those times was in the early 90’s after I graduated college. No longer did I have the perks of playing college football (free food at the cafeteria, housing and things like that). Now I was on my own.
In my pursuit of becoming a punter in the NFL it was hard to keep a decent job because I needed the flexibility to “go” at any given time as my agent set up workouts. It’s a good thing that my parents taught me the value of a dollar early in my life. Because of that I have never let really debt control my life.
After my football days my dad and I started a company called ExecuSource in 1997 that God blessed tremendously. The business grew no less than 150% a year and we sold it in 2003. I ended up working for the company that bought ExecuSource for about a year. Shortly after that I landed a job in the NASCAR Racing Series as Dale Jarrett’s Pit Crew Coordinator for the UPS Racing Team.
I got the job through a connection I had with my friend Mike Ford, who is currently the Competition Director at BK Racing, and learned quickly that NASCAR is a professional sport and it’s as cut throat as any other professional sport out there. Here I am dealing with and working in the professional sports arena again. I travelled the country every week and had what many would consider a dream job. It’s funny because I was never really a big NASCAR fan so I didn’t see it that way.
When I began my career in racing I felt that it would be short lived for some reason. I can’t explain why I felt that way other than maybe the guys that had been in racing their whole lives were looking at me as this “new guy” with no experience. That didn't matter to me, so I began to get to the business of God’s work at the racing team. As I served as a coach for the pit crew I started a Bible study during lunch break that grew from just a couple of guys to about fifteen in a short time. God blessed my time in NASCAR and it was a wonderful experience. This is a huge part of this story!
I knew my racing days were numbered when Mike Ford, who basically got me hired, moved on to a better opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing. That left me in a hostile environment without the guy who supported me and my role on the team. Just two short weeks after Mike Ford left I was on my way home and the owner of the team called me on my cell phone telling me “not to come in tomorrow.” I thought he was joking with me because my job performance wasn’t an issue, but he was serious. He said that I could stop by tomorrow and get my things. That just blew my mind!
This was politics at its best and I was the victim. As I arrived at the house that evening all I could think about was having no insurance for the kids and the fact that my wife left her job and was trying to start a business of her own. How were we going to make the bills? I knew that I had a challenge ahead of me.
Shortly after the race team let me go I received a call from a private Christian school where I put my son’s name in the lottery with the hopes of sending him there. They informed me and my wife that ours son’s name was selected and that we had 48 hours to let them know whether or not we wanted him to attend the school. Now what?
My wife and I talked it over and after praying about it we felt like we wouldn’t be trusting God if we turned down this opportunity. So, we paid the initiation fee (that hurt the pocket book) and agreed to pay the monthly tuition. The question then was how we were going to pay for it.
Two days after we made that decision I received a call from a friend of mine. He asked me if I would be interested in selling some property as a sales rep at a land sale his company was hosting in a couple of months. He said that all I had to do was show up on a Saturday and tour scheduled appointments. If the prospects bought a piece of property I would get a commission. I agreed.
During the time up until the land sale I was interviewing for work and getting turned down everywhere. The fact that I owned my own business and was successful actually worked against me. The devil started to work on me. I found myself up late at night thinking that I was never going to find work and believing that I wasn’t much of a prospect for employers. The devil backed me into a corner pretty good.
While all this was going on I was in a Bible study where we were discussing the different names of God. We put all the names of God in a hat and each of us drew one. We were then supposed to do some studying on the name that we chose and come back to tell the class about what we learned. As God would ordain it, I chose “Jehovah-Jireh” (God the Provider). I couldn’t believe it because that is exactly what I needed. As I began to do a deep study on the name Jehovah-Jireh it comforted me and reminded me that my basic needs will be met. It helped bring me through the tough time I was going through.
The time had come for the land sale. I was a bit nervous because I had never sold land before but I thanked God for the opportunity. To make a long story short, I outsold every person at the land sale that day and made enough money in one Saturday afternoon to pay for two years of my son’s tuition. All I could say is at that point is “Unbelievable.” The next day was Sunday and it was my turn to tell the class about the name that I chose and as you probably guessed, it was a testimony rather than a recital of what I learned.
When I tell people this story I remind them that my 2005 was a year that I learned a lot about myself and my creator and that I would do it all over again if I had to. I am in NO WAY promoting a prosperity gospel message. In fact, when I hear about preachers using the pulpit to promote self, health, wealth and prosperity the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up.
What I have is not mine. It’s God’s stuff that He is loaning to me. I am just fortunate enough that He would give me responsibility over a few things here on earth. I praise God and thank Him every day for what He has blessed me with, but my faith in Him is “objective” not “subjective.” My faith is not “subject” to my circumstances in life. Christ is the “object” of my faith and because He does not change my faith in Him does not change. My source of strength is Christ Jesus alone.
Here comes the good stuff...I would be remiss to finish and not tell you about an amazing story about that Bible study I started at the race team with a few friends. You remember that, right? During the Bible study I was blessed to play a small part in leading a friend of mine, Jay Thompson, to the Lord. I got to see God change his life drastically. You could see it in the way Jay walked that God changed him forever.
Unbelievably, just three months after I lost my job with the race team, struggling with being unemployed, Alex Smith, one of my old crew members called me to tell me some bad news. He informed me that Jay and his wife were killed instantly while riding a motorcycle when someone crossed over into their lane of traffic. I fell to my knees the second I heard that because I literally physically could not stand. Alex just wanted to remind me that God used me in a powerful way at the race team. I am getting emotional even as I type this thinking about Jay. I just wanted to praise God that He used me during my short time in NASCAR. He is amazing!
I hope this story encourages you to share the gospel whenever you get a chance to do so, because life is a breath. God is sovereign in all things and I believe that Jay was the reason I was brought to that point in my life. All the preparation God was putting me through was worth it and God put me in THAT place for THAT reason and I will see Jay again on the other side of eternity.
God put it on my heart to start VoiceBox Ministries a couple of years ago with the intent on equipping and encouraging Christians to "intentionally" share the gospel message of Jesus Christ. He has blessed our ministry in so many ways since it started. We have been blessed with the opportunity to serve throughout the United States and as far as Romania and Bulgaria, helping Christians to realize the tremendous honor that we have to share the Good News with a dying world. Jesus stepped in to pay our fine with His life's blood and we "get" to share that with others.
On March 16th of every year, as a part of "Operation Just 1" we are asking every Christian to get off the bench and share the gospel to "Just 1" on that day. I can't begin to describe the feeling of joy I received when I got that call from Alex telling me about what happend to Jay. That joy comes from God and can't be purchased with money! Step out in faith with thousands on March 16th each year during "Operation Just1".