Faith Relationships

Real Change Can Happen

Somewhere about age ten, I started to realize there was this other world of grown-up talk that was drastically different than my boyish world of playing under the swingset with my Matchbox cars or riding bike. Frankly, that grown-up talk scared me. Is that what was coming?  If so, I didn’t want it!  

My World Was Changing

At about age twelve, I realized this grown-up world was coming whether I liked it or not. My stomach ached. I worried about what would happen to me. The Sunday before Christmas that year, our church put on its annual Christmas program. I, along with a few of my sixth-grade buddies, borrowed our dads’ robes and played the parts of shepherds and wise men. I felt too old for this, but yet still wanted the mystery of Christmas and all the presents waiting for me at home!

That night, my next younger sister, Christine and I asked our mom to tell us the Christmas story again. She did and in the process told us about Easter; why Christ came and why He died and rose again. My sin was piling up increasingly the older I got. All those lies and fighting with my sisters was mounting a huge GUILTY verdict in my heart. That, coupled with some new strange feelings inside my body, and some not so nice thoughts about girls, was starting to bother me, a lot!  “So, what happens if we don’t believe in Jesus?”  I asked my mom. Lying on my top bunk, my face nearly in line with hers, she said some bone-chilling words. “There is only one way to deal with sin; through Jesus.”  “And if I don’t?” my twelve-year-old voice quivered.  “Hell.”  Talk about scaring the heebie-jeebies out of a boy! After she turned off the light, I pulled my cover over my entire body and kneeling in my bunk, I desperately asked Jesus into my life. I repeated it countless times cause there was no way I wanted to go to hell!

It’s All in How You Hear Things

With all due respect and love for my mom, she wasn’t at all trying to scare me into salvation. That’s totally on twelve-year-old me. Without my mom sharing us the Gospel, who knows if I would ever have heard it? After all, I attended church like clockwork. I learned good moral standards, for which me being a firstborn rule keeper was right up my alley. But, hearing about the Gospel, about the death and resurrection of Jesus for my sin? Maybe it was preached, but at least by the age of twelve, I hadn’t understood it.

Don’t Blame Jesus

Even amidst my nervous salvation experience, there was one verse that was a slam dunk for my decision. John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  When Jesus, who is fully God, says he is the only way to God the Father, then no one can convince me otherwise. There is a cognitive, doctrinal aspect of the Gospel that everyone needs to know. The Gospel is both all about truth and at the same time all about relationship. What I totally missed at age twelve was the relational part of the Gospel. In my middle school brain, I was now saved and could keep doing whatever I wanted to do. Which, at that age is a risky thing!  By age fifteen, I was negotiating with my parents how little I could go to church. Just enough to keep my salvation in effect but nothing more. 

Crisis at 16!

Sometimes, God has to grab our attention! Without going into all the details, (you can read more about it in my book, Mentoring Warriors), a good friend of mine, Kevin, was killed in a car-train accident. He and five others were killed instantly when their station wagon was t-boned by a freight train. Sixteen-year-olds are not supposed to die! The long and the short of it is God grabbed my heart at a funeral for six. “I want a relationship with you, David.” It was as clear as if you were talking to me right now. Things finally clicked. God didn’t just want to save me, He wanted to change me.

Writing the Gospel Story

And so began the journey of what’s become multiple decades of walking with Jesus, through both the thick and thin of life. Through the joys and adventures as well as the horrific and gut-wrenching. 

“Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?”  James 4:5 ESV


Due to the global crisis, Easter is going to be a bit different this year. No large gatherings more than 10. No festivities at the local church. And yet, there is something you can do this Easter that will radically change your life as nothing else can.

  1. Repent. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Stop playing the winless game of trying harder to be good enough for God. Your sin will never be removed without the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m sure my confession of sin at age twelve wasn’t’ the greatest way to repent, but to this very day, I am convinced my soul was redeemed for eternity. The trajectory of my eternal destiny was altered for good.
  2. Let God Father You.  At a recent Wild at Heart Men’s Boot Camp event, I was introduced to this concept of being fathered by God. Reality is, since my crisis at age 16, being fathered by God has been at the forefront of my identity with Him. I may only now be using that term (fathered by God), but it is the relationship side of the Gospel that has sustained me and is still changing me.

Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus Christ. Someday, one day, you will have to come to grips with your eternal destiny. Will it be a willing surrender to Jesus through repentance and trust, or will you go to your deathbed living only for yourself with no regard for God to father you?

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” 

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.