Barry Couts tells how he got to know Jesus as a real friend and Savior in everyday life.
My mother was widowed when she was three months pregnant with me. So I never knew my father. Never met him. But I’ve always had this sense that God was looking out for me; that a higher being, way beyond myself, was always looking out for me. And I think it kind of came because of the fact that my mom believed in God; she trusted in Him. I felt as if God was very close to us at home, and all my life.
But then as I started to grow and, specifically when I hit the seventh grade, I understood that I was missing something. I knew that if I kept doing what I was doing, I was going to be like one of my uncles who had been in prison and had a rough road. Others also told me: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to end up like him.” This created a need in me because I didn’t want to do that; I didn’t want to be a menace in society.
Around the same time, I attended a Pentecostal church in Urbana and a preacher there was preaching to young people. He was saying that all our righteousness is as filthy rags unto the Lord, unless we ask Him for forgiveness and come to a personal relationship with Him. “It’s just filthy rags, what we’re doing on our own. We need to give our hearts to Jesus!” That kind of struck a chord in me and I felt that’s what I needed for a deeper life. So I did that. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, which were many, and I asked Him to come in and be Lord in my life.
A Friend who tells me the truth
I didn’t know what that meant exactly. But, little by little, I started to understand that there were things I was doing that weren’t according to God’s Word and weren’t according to His blessing. That’s what Jesus did for me when I realized I needed a deeper walk with Him. He started to speak to me about things in my life that I could align to His Word, and He helped me to do that! I couldn’t do that myself. There were things that were just beyond me.
He started to reveal to me my own selfishness – times when I was just thinking about myself, or using my time selfishly. He revealed those truths to me. Then, because He revealed them to me, I could see that I didn’t want to be like that; I wanted to change!
To me, that’s how Jesus is able to help me as a personal friend. It’s written that “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” Proverbs 21:2. In my own eyes, something can seem right, but Jesus is able to peel back the cover so I can see the truth. Maybe I was motivated by jealousy or envy, even though I didn’t know it at the time. He peels it back and then I start to realize that because others weren’t thankful for what I did for them or didn’t say anything about my “good works,” I feel insignificant, or feel like what I did wasn’t good. That just means that I didn’t do it for His sake.
He can reveal my motives to me through His Word and Spirit, so I can change from doing things for myself and start doing things for Him and for the others. To me, that’s a real friend – someone who will tell you the truth so that you can be helped.
A Friend who can help me become good
It’s written in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. He never committed sin. All sin came underneath His feet! Because of the overcoming life that He lived, He’s now able to help all of us who are tempted. Jesus is able to help us so that, instead of preserving our own will and living for ourselves and after our own pleasures, we can be true disciples who deny themselves and take up their cross. (Luke 9:23) Jesus is able to help us so that we really come to the point where we hate the evil within our own nature – we hate doing what we know is wrong.
So it’s something that I don’t even want to do any longer. I can come to a freedom where I don’t even want to do sin, the thing that I know is wrong. Jesus is able to give me life – that’s actually coming to life. Where I get life in myself, because I know Him. I obey Him. I start to think like Him, to become more like Him! Not like a robot, but in my heart, in my very being, I want to be good. And to come into that is so very different from just getting the forgiveness of sins. Then I can come to the point where I have virtue, where it becomes me to be good. It becomes me to help others, and not be critical, but to bless. That’s what Jesus is able to do. Not just to forgive me my sins, but give me a new life. I can be a new creation.
Jesus wants me to come to blessing and into anointing. That’s why it’s so encouraging what is written about chastening. To be chastened means that someone is telling me how to do it better. And the reason why I am chastened or trained is so that I can get to the end result. (1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 12:5-11)
If someone wants to be a doctor, then they have to go into the training of a doctor. You can’t want to be a doctor and go to clown school and think that one day you’ll be a doctor. If you want to be a doctor you have to be in that training for a doctor, and that’s really what it’s like. It’s not that He’s showing me what I need to do to make it hard for me. It’s just the calling that He has for me, that He wants me to be like Him! All the virtues – goodness, mercy, love, longsuffering, patience, goodness, kindness. If I submit myself to the truth (God’s Word) and to His chastening, then little by little, I’ll experience that I am being changed into what He wants me to be and that makes me happy.
So, there’s nothing wrong with me when He tells me the truth. The truth of the matter is that when I see how I need to change, it just means that I’m coming closer to the end result of being good, merciful, and kind – the virtues. It’s important to never forget that just because I see that something of the way I am doesn’t line up with God’s Word, it’s not necessarily a negative thing. Actually, it’s an opportunity for me to be cleansed from doing what I hate. If I disagree with my own sinful tendencies, if I deny them by the power of the Holy Spirit, then I can go deeper into what I want, into the virtues. So I must never get discouraged when I see what I am as a person, because He wants to lead me out of it into the cleansing, so I can become completely pure!
A Friend I can talk to about anything and everything
And when I think about my personal relationship to Jesus, it’s basically everything! There’s nothing that I come across in my daily life that I wouldn’t ask Him for help or guidance with. It could be as simple as times where I couldn’t find my car keys or couldn’t find something. And I would say, “Jesus, you know that I need to go to work, or I need to do this, and I can’t find my keys. Please help me do something so I can find my keys.” Then I keep looking. To this day, I’ve never had to call the locksmith because I lost a key. Not because I haven’t lost keys before, but I’ve always been able to find them. It’s funny, but even in the little details of life, there’s nothing too small that I can’t talk to Him about or bring it to Him. And I think as a man, I think it is easy to think I don’t need help for this or that, but in my relationship with Jesus, He has been such a friend to me that I can talk to Him about anything. In that relationship with Him, it’s almost like a father and son relationship where you can speak about the smallest minute things with one another.
Sometimes when I think about others, the greatest thing I can do is to pray for them. And that’s the kind of personal contact that Jesus hears. He hears every single whisper and He goes to action when I pray! And I think that’s how my relationship with Him is. Every little thing, whatever comes to me, I pray and He can help in every situation.
And when I partake of a life with Jesus, and start to experience that I’m not tempted in the same way that I used to be tempted, then that’s proof that I’m learning of Him. I’m learning to go the way that Jesus went. In life, to be able to love from my heart and to be who I am in God, so that I’m not just doing what someone else expects of me or just being what I think is good. I’m able to get a relationship with Jesus where He can tell me, He can speak to me, and I can see where to lay my life down. And I can become like Him.
He has the power. He is omnipotent. If He wants to do a miracle, He can do a miracle. He can do whatever I need. He is a personal friend that can take me and lead me right through all these temptations and situations of life! He helps me in all of it! That’s a huge friend and Savior to have every day.