However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.—Acts 20:24
As a magazine journalist, I often am privileged to interview amazing people. I’ve interviewed a billionaire, celebrities, and people who make an incredible difference in our world. Their stories often challenge me to have a greater impact as a believer. But no story has challenged me in the way Brian Smith’s story has.
Brian became an alcoholic and drug addict after losing several family members suddenly in his hometown of New York City. His addictions resulted in homelessness, but his hope was renewed when he won $37,000 in the New York lottery.
The winnings became his ticket to a new life in Orlando, Fla., but his new life was simply the same old life in a new venue. Within two months, he was again homeless, a condition in which he lived for 17 years total.
Crime and addictions often go hand in hand. Brian served jail time after robbing a gas station. Once released, someone from Salvation Army saw him sleeping outside and offered him refuge at the organization’s Adult Rehabilitation Center. In his six-month stay there, he not only got clean and learned life and job skills, but he also surrendered his life to Christ. Afterward, “the same person I had robbed actually hired me.” It turns out the gas station owner was a Christian who believed in redemption.
Since receiving Christ, the 66-year-old has tirelessly served Jesus. He now works full-time at the rehabilitation center and serves another 40 hours a week as a Salvation Army volunteer. His days often start at 7 a.m. and don’t end till 10 or 11 p.m., weekends included.
Each Saturday, Brian does urban outreach ministries in “places I used to hang out. I did my drugs and my drinking in those places. I go into these same places and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Come Christmas season, you can find Brian ringing a bell for the Salvation Army red kettle drive. He stands, often dancing as he plays Christmas music from the local Christian radio station, for as many as 12 hours at a time. He does it with a perpetual smile, often taking time to pray with people who stop to talk with him. “One year it was raining and wet and cold. It doesn’t matter. We’re out there to help other people. God has a way to get you through all kinds of things.”
If you ask him how he does it all, he’ll ask you how he couldn’t. “I’m sharing my life with others who have struggled like myself,” he says. Aside from meeting his own basic needs, Brian has no regard for his own life. He sees himself as God’s hands, feet and mouthpiece—as an unworthy vessel who pours out from the overflow of gratitude in his heart.
I asked Brian what he wants his legacy to be. “I want people to know I was a believer in Jesus Christ. It’s all for Him.” After all, what else matters?
This Christmas season, as we submit our year-end gifts to charities and reflect on the year that has been, let’s take time to evaluate how we live out our faith day to day. How much of what we do is for us? How much is for Him? What is your life worth? What is our Savior worth?
I wish you and yours a joyous Christmas and a happy New Year. More than that, I wish you each one of us a heart that counts ourselves as nothing and Christ as everything.