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Chuck Swindoll: Top religious experiences in history

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In his book "Paul, A Man of Grace and Grit", Chuck Swindoll lists some of the most dramatic religious experiences people have had down through history. Swindoll, who has written more than thirty bestsellers, naturally devotes most of his pages to the apostle Paul. Paul, who spent his early years as a terrorist and murderer of followers of Jesus, was transformed by God into the most influential person in the Bible next to Christ himself.

Swindoll says Paul is a great source of hope for everyone on the planet earth because if the self-described "chief of all sinners" can become an instrument of God, then so can anyone else who currently walks the face of the earth.

Paul's story on the road to Damascus is known to many as the Bible says he was blinded and spoken to directly by God. Paul, under the name Saul, was headed toward the current capital of Syria when "suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him: and he fell to the ground, and he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:3-4).

Chuck Colson is another man Swindoll mentions. Colson, who was first infamous for his role in the Watergate scandal as an agent for President Richard Nixon, was sentenced to a federal prison. He was so humiliated about the cameras catching him going into prison that he persuaded his good friend U.S. Congressman Graham Purcell of Wichita Falls, Texas to drive him to a motel. They walked through the motel and then out the back and drove away in a different automobile, thus allowing him to avoid the embarassment of national news cameras being thrust in his face. While in prison Colson became a new man. He experienced a religious transformation and shared scriptures with other people during the remainder of his life. Upon his release, he was active in starting the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. with Congressmen and Senators. He was also involved in the Breakpoint Radio broadcasts which are still active following his death.

Another story Swindoll shares is the transformation of Jim Vaus in Los Angeles. Part of the Mafia underground crime network in the 1940s and working for Mob boss Mickey Cohen, he also worked for the Los Angeles Police Department. After years of living under the constant stress of the double life, he sauntered into a crowd of six thousand people one night who were listening to an evangelist named Billy Graham. After hearing the young preacher's sermon, he knelt weeping in the dust and surrendered his life to Christ.

Of course Martin Luther never persecuted Christians or committed crimes, but while studying theology he had serious doubts as to whether his intellectual pursuits were nothing more than empty academic excercises. At night he would lay on his hard bed in his tiny room, crying, "Oh, my sin, my sin, my sin!"

The turning point in Luther's life was when he read a passage in the Book of Romans which read, "The just shall live by faith." He read and re-read the passage. He realized faith was the key. As long as he had faith he would overcome his fears and guilt.

All his intellectual analysis did not bring him the peace he sought. That one passage led to his conversion to Christianity even though he had many doubts about all the activities of the medieval church at that time. Several denominations were initiated across the world because he read that Scripture.

Swindoll has a real ability to relate the stories of men of faith who were transformed from fears and wrongoings to meaningful lives. Combined with his success at relating ancient history related from the Bible to modern times, he has created a real page turner with this book. Non-believers and believers alike will find this an interesting read.

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