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The Reality of Grace

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“I grew up in a Buddhist family with divorced parents,” said Andre Norasith. “Although I moved constantly between Dallas and Chicago, my family made sure I went to temple each week. I understood part of the Buddhist religion as, ‘If you do good, you get good in return.’ I thought if I did good things for others, I would be rewarded with success in tennis and relationships with girls.

“I spent most of my time in Chicago (where my dad lived) because he was very involved in my tennis career and training. As a family, we dreamed I would eventually play professionally. As a teenager, I played in national tournaments throughout the country, but even at an early age, the travelling lifestyle introduced me to alcohol and inappropriate relationships with women.

“When I got a college scholarship for tennis, I felt like my life was at its peak of success – girls, drugs, parties, and an athletic career. At one of my tournaments, I met an aspiring musician. He knew I was majoring in business, so he ended up asking me to be his music manager. Our partnership turned into a friendship. Before we would go to the recording studio on Sundays, he would take me to a Christian church near Chicago. I would show up hungover or high from the night before, just trying to look like I fit in. My only other church experience at that time was a visit to The Porch at Watermark, but I was quick to write off the people I met.

“The following summer, while leaving to visit my mom in Texas, my dad told me that she was diagnosed with cancer. To help my mom with finances, I ended up moving to Dallas for the summer and working two jobs. One was coaching tennis at a country club where I could also practice. A few of my coworkers were Christians and members of the same student ministry. As we formed friendships, they invited me to different hangouts and activities. This was the first time I saw faithful Christians living lives honoring to the Lord. They loved me, accepted me, and were there for me through my mom’s cancer.

“Two days before I left for Chicago, one of those friends showed me an illustration that explained Romans 6:23. He shared that we can receive eternal life with Christ by accepting grace through faith in Him. It made sense to me, so there, in a California Pizza Kitchen, I accepted Christ as my savior.

“But, as soon as I was back in Chicago, I acted the same way as before – same habits, same sin. I accepted Christ as my savior, but I didn’t know how to apply this truth to my daily life. Once again, I was seeking validation from the world and other people. I felt like I was living a double life.

“Things started to get even messier when a friend wanted to start a Bible study, and I agreed to help him lead. I was preaching about God on Monday nights but was living the opposite on the weekends. I was even stealing sermons online and using them as if they were my own thoughts. I was a total hypocrite.

“When I started listening to messages from The Porch online, I heard the speaker encourage people who felt stuck in sin to change their ‘playmates and playgrounds.’ Even though there was visible growth of the ministry we were leading, conviction from my dishonesty made me feel like I hit rock bottom. I knew I finally had to commit my entire life to Christ. Instead of going to the bar on Wednesday nights, I went to church. I changed my friends and where I spent my time so I could grow in my relationship with the Lord.

“My life had taken a full 180-degree turn. Months later, when I graduated college, I helped start a young adults ministry at my local church. It was amazing to see all that God did in that city and what He did in my own heart. When I committed everything to Jesus, He really did change my entire life (James 4:8-10).

“After many prayers and asking God to give me a way to know Him and the Bible more, I had an opportunity to attend the Watermark Institute in Dallas. It was crazy to think that one of my first experiences with church is now where I would be serving and learning. The Lord was redeeming even this part of my life.

“For so long I thought that if I did good things, God would reward me, but pressure was released as I understood the reality of God’s grace. As Christians, one of our purposes in life is to ‘leave a rock in the shoe’ of everyone we interact with, so they see glimpses of God’s goodness. I want to stand out so people question, ‘Why does he serve his family this way? Why does he forgive? Why does he have joy?’ Now, I can point to Christ in all of my actions. A works-based religion, like Buddhism, can be so tiring if you’re constantly working for perfection, but a true relationship with Christ highlights and glorifies the One who is perfect: Jesus.”