“I’m still a work in progress, and the lure of money and success still shines brightly, at times. It’s a daily battle to allow God to use my time, resources, and talents to serve others.”
“I have often found my identity through taking things in my life to the extreme,” said Russell Marks. “In my desire to be accepted, I was frequently the drunkest guy in the room. It seemed as if everyone else was partying and they were having fun, why wouldn’t being the drunkest be the most fun? If everything I had ever seen and heard about college was about partying, what else could there have been to do?
“The binge-drinking, hangover-surviving lifestyle I lived in college continued after graduation. I moved to Atlanta and started a training program with a Fortune 500 company. I planned to complete the training, and move to Dallas with several college friends, and the party could continue.
“One night, on the way home from a concert, I realized just how tired I was of feeling sick and tired. Between struggling at work, with family, and with what friends I had left, it was clear my life had bottomed out, and I needed a change. I searched online for a church in the Atlanta area and found a good one close to my house. I showed up hung over, but God was faithful. I was intrigued by the radical reality of the gospel and the fulfilling life found in Jesus. I continued to explore the faith from the back row.
“By the time I put both feet in the Church, God made it clear that I was unhealthy and needed help from other believers to deal with my hurts and destructive patterns. I didn’t know anyone in Atlanta, and God provided a family of strong believers who showed me what biblical community and regular time in God’s Word looked like. In that season, I trusted Christ both with my salvation and with the daily aspects of my life.
“Several years ago, I was unexpectedly transferred to Dallas for work. God graciously helped me avoid falling into the trap of partying again. I came to Watermark, and on the first Sunday I was there, the speaker read Isaiah 26:8, a verse that had anchored me for much of the previous few years. To me, that was God’s way of saying, ‘Welcome home.’
“One day at The Porch I met some guys who were preparing for their first meeting as a community group. They asked me to join, and we’ve been in community ever since. We’ve seen friends get sober, get married, become fathers, and we’ve learned how to love and serve sacrificially. They have loved me through getting sober, seasons of faithfulness, and seasons of trying to blaze my own trail. They continue to remind me that walking with Jesus has infinitely more substance than the bar ever will.
“I’ve always had a passion for knowledge, and I’ve discovered that the wisdom God offers in Proverbs provides more insight into the business world than a CEO; more on human character than a psychology expert; and more on money than a financial expert. The revealing of God’s character and faithfulness continues to pay dividends in my life. His unfailing love is so contrary to the ‘never enough’ appetite of this world. The vivid reality of spending time with my Maker and Savior makes the bar scene look like an old black and white photograph.
“After I got into community, I also started serving in Watermark Student Ministries. The kids in my Small Group were in junior high when we met. I’ve gotten to see both fruitful seasons and times when the kids were distracted by all that competes for their time and attention. Sometimes the Lord calls me to trust Him and simply be faithful to plant and water seeds of truth; other times I get to see a harvest when students’ lives are radically changed by the gospel.
“One of the areas where Christ has made the biggest difference is work. The company I work for has made a big investment in me, and now I see the importance of honoring God in my career. In the gospel, Jesus shows us how to relate to others, even if it’s radically different from the Corporate America hierarchies and norms. Jesus was always present and fully engaged, and I want to be approachable like He was as I interact with my bosses, peers, and direct reports. Jesus has been faithful to kick down the door of my pride and has (despite my best efforts) humbled me enough to ask people for forgiveness and to hold me accountable when I forget how I have been treated for my mistakes and mess ups. Freedom in Christ gives me the freedom to do the best job I can and connect with others who need to know of His love.
“I’m still a work in progress, and the lure of money and success still shines brightly, at times. It’s a daily battle to allow God to use my time, resources, and talents to serve others. But, I’m thankful that the Lord showed me that a life lived for Him is really fun. It’s a lie from the pit of hell to believe that following Christ is anything other than an adventure. I want the kids I serve in Student Ministries and others to know that life in Christ has meant experiencing life (real life, not the temporary stuff) to the fullest.”