You candidly shared that during a part of your life, you considered yourself dropping out by choice (with no purpose) while living in a shack and struggling with substance abuse. How did God save you?
I more likely would have described myself as pursuing freedom from conformity aided by substance abuse instead of “struggling” with something I found menacing. It continued in a shack at the edge of the woods outside Tuscaloosa for some years, doing drugs every day, until one bright, sunny morning, a thought came to my mind. “There must be a deeper purpose to life because this can’t be it. It must not be physical gratification. I’ve tried that. It must be spiritual.” At that moment, the only reasonable option was seemingly to abandon drugs and other selfishly motivated activities and try to find God. My thought was, “God, I want to know You.” I can’t explain this except to assume that perhaps God looked down and decided maybe He could find some use for this wretched man. That began a five-month quest to “know God,” culminating in a salvation encounter with Jesus Christ on January 16, 1976. I can only attribute this coming to my senses to the relentless prayers of my dear mother, who I am told used to say, “If that boy ever gets saved, there’s hope for anybody.”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) What does the verse mean to you?
Along with John 3:16, it is God’s best news for mankind.
Through your renewed faith in God, you turned your life in another direction and became a practicing attorney. Was the profession a spiritual calling?
In the following months after that night in January of 1976, I found a small loving body of believers. It became clear that this new life demanded coming out of the woods and using my legal training to serve God. I found an office to rent from another attorney. I had only $150 to my name. Many opportunities and blessings followed.
How do you consider your law practice a ministry to others?
It seems to me that every Christian’s secular vocation includes a ministry focus on advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I began to see the law as a calling to serve others and the profession. Lawyers often see people when they are facing great tragedies and their most pressing needs. I found that being vigilant and discovering ways to meet those needs provides opportunities to share the gift of salvation and care beyond simply addressing legal issues. Advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ and attempting to bring truth and justice to every situation and, where possible, reconciliation to fractured relationships became my goal. My law practice consists mainly of litigation and mediation, and I have witnessed amazing results when prayer and scriptural principles are aligned with legal problems.
“God, I want to know you.” These are the words you spoke to Him through prayer, but you had no interest in the Christian faith at the time. Why?
Before I became a Christian, I rebelled against many traditional values and perspectives, as did many others in those times. Christianity was just part of that. I did not have any animosity toward Christianity. It just did not seem to be the answer.
You grew up in a loving home; however, you had challenges when exposed to negative influences. How has prayer and meditation helped you in some of the darkest moments of your life?
I blame no one for my choices. Before becoming a Christian, I sometimes prayed for extrication from the consequences of my bad decisions. I now see the storms of life as challenges that test my commitment to trusting God. Often faced with challenges, I cry out as David did in Psalm 25, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust.” Also, meditating on Romans 8:35-39 brings assurance that God’s love never leaves us. God gifted me with the ability to memorize scripture, and I discovered that meditation is the best medicine for the mind and soul. When taken in large doses, it sustains through the challenges and storms of life. All we need is in the Bible, if we will be faithful to use it.
What advice would you give someone searching to be spiritually redeemed?
Decide to follow Jesus. First, decide to believe the gospel, or you will never understand. Many seekers want to understand God and faith before they trust the gospel, but it doesn’t work that way. To the seeker, I say, “Come. Believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, lived a sinless life, and was crucified to save sinners. Believe in Him. Repent of your sins and make Him your Lord and Savior.” (John 8:12, 28. John 3:17- 21) The appearance of Jesus Christ in the world compels man to step into the light or to choose to forever remain in darkness.
When you started reading the Bible, it was hard to put down. What was your epiphany moment to continue to study the word?
My epiphany event was receiving Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and diving into the Bible as recommended immediately following my salvation. The truth is, quite unexpectedly, it captured me. For weeks even months, I read the Bible seven to eight hours a day. I couldn’t put it down. I was a dry sponge, and I can’t explain it. My mind began a process of radical transformation. I am convinced that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, and along with Jesus Christ, is God’s greatest gift to man.
Douglas McElvy is a practicing attorney in Montgomery, AL, and a graduate of The University of Alabama. He is married and has five children and twelve grandchildren.