My brother once told me: “Bobby, you’re at an age where you have the power to start taking, because no else is giving.” I didn’t realize this was a thought fueled by Satan until my life was in danger and God rescued me.
When I turned forty, I frequented a bar where I befriended a big-time bookmaker. Gorgeous girls surrounded him all of the time and he threw around money like it was nothing. Growing up poor in lower Manhattan, I’d wonder if my parents would ever buy us a Christmas tree only to find myself on front lawns peering at the neighbors’ trees and decorations when the holiday rolled around. I believed that maybe my brother was right and taking, not waiting or giving, could get me further. I took the first opportunity and asked the bookie for a job. The bookie took me under his wing. He impressed me by buying me expensive clothes and groceries while paying my bills. I asked if I could be a collector like his most trusted associates. I didn’t know seeking wealth would cost me so much.
My new employer told me I had to have a heart of stone. I’d have to obey his orders, and not show any mercy to the people who couldn’t pay. For two months, I tried to be intimidating in my tailored suits as I took cash from the customers but I felt guilty every time. My mother raised me to be fearful of the teachings of God, to show love to others and to help people in need. She always said: “What you do not have in money, you will have in wisdom. You will make it in this world with that wisdom.” Even my employer saw a kinder spirit in me, a trait he and the others in his organization didn’t possess. He told me that I was the son he never had, but that the collector job wasn’t the right fit for me.
This failed to quench my thirst for money. The underworld still called and the treasure there was too tempting. One day, an associate from New Jersey contacted me about a position as his bodyguard. I was instructed not to let anybody get closer than five feet to him. If they did, I was to rebuff them by any means necessary. I flourished at this job and nobody my age had ever moved up through the ranks faster than me. Over the next few years, I was making more money that I ever dreamed of. I built my own kingdom of sin with obedient men who did whatever I wanted and kept company with women who I cared little for. While I didn’t realize it then, I was Satan’s puppet, but the Lord was watching it all unfold. Now He was going to show me the price of my actions, and cut Satan’s strings.
I was spiritually blind until the darkest day of my life happened on August 15, 1995. As I walked to work, a car rolled past me slowly. I kept one eye on it and I was not armed. The car made a quick U-turn, ran up on the curb, and several men jumped out, pulling their guns on me. I recognized the men. These men were in the hospital five years ago because I’d put them there after I severely wounded them. They forced me into the car and transported me to a desolate road. These men were taking their revenge. I wasn’t given the chance to fight back.
The men told me to lie face down in the dirt. Two gun barrels were on the back of my skull. I was waiting for the pain, knowing my life was over, and I drew the only card I had left. I cried out to Jesus: “Please help me. Please help me.” I had never called out to him before. In an instant, the Lord put fear into the hearts of these men. They were visibly shaking and stepped back. These individuals were hardened criminals yet they were no match for the power of Christ. I knew it was the work of Jesus and started to breathe again. They shouted at me to remain on the ground, then fled.
I gave my mind, heart, and soul to Christ after that morning. It was crystal-clear that He was giving me a second chance after all of those years I spent taking away from other people. I started to attend church weekly, and pray multiple times each day. The Holy Spirit energized me to offer my services to the less fortunate through food drives and Christian charities instead of acquiring ill-gotten gains for myself. My bodyguard past was behind me because I wished to be a soldier for God. I recite the Warfare Prayer every chance I get, aware of my limitations and God’s limitless strength.
For the first time, I feel wealthy because my worthy God’s love is abundant. I am loved instead of feared, and I am His son. There’s still guilt about the things I’ve done but I know I’m forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I am happier now than I’ve ever been in my entire life. His gift (salvation) is free and the wisdom I’ve gained makes me incredibly rich.
A native New Yorker, Bobby Vernon is now a lifestyle evangelist in the Washington D.C. suburbs. He’s a proud employee of the Giant Food Company who loves spreading the gospel whenever he has the chance. God has blessed him with opportunities to speak at local churches and do community outreach.