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FINDING GOD: Mr. Max Harvell and a God who illuminates

A young high school student walked into a Wednesday night Bible study carrying a burden that could only be lifted by God. There was something different about the church building, there was something in the air he had never experienced before, there was something that drew him there. When the high schooler heard for the first time about the love of Jesus and the gift He gave to all of mankind, he felt as though his eyes were suddenly opened, and he gave his life to Christ. Little did he know that at that same moment, his father, also a new Christian, was praying over him with his own Bible study. Early that next morning a huge shooting star shot across the center of the sky, downward towards the horizon, like a teardrop and the boy’s father knew that God would take care of his son.

Mr. Harvell (2022) pc. Ruby La Bianca

Mr. Max Harvell, Eastern Christian High School gym teacher and coach, reflected on the moment he came to Christ for the first time in high school. Through difficult family situations and his own sins bringing him to a place of desperation, Harvell found God in His perfect timing. He found the God who illuminates. “The moment that I came to Christ was a Wednesday night youth group Bible study,” Harvell says. “That was literally the last place I thought I would be in terms of fitting in. My dad was first starting to go to church so he said to me, ‘Why don’t you just go to Bible study?’ and I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’ because I was still in a searching place. I went and I heard the gospel, and when I went back the next week it just all made sense. I knew who Jesus was and I heard the good news that he saved us, and that’s when it all made sense to me, and I gave my life to Christ that night.” Harvell continued, “The next morning after I got saved, my dad got up super early to go to work and he saw a teardrop shooting star from the center of the sky down as far as he could see. He said it was like a teardrop falling from the sky. He told me later that in that moment he just had a sense that God was telling him I was gonna be okay.”

Mr. Harvell elaborates on his life, “Around the time [the time before salvation] I was going through difficult consequences from my own decisions. Essentially, I had made a lot of mistakes and I was paying the consequences. My life was in such a weird place with school and what I was gonna do and all these things, when my dad started to bring his life to Christ at the same time that I was in a place of searching. Looking back, it was clearly God’s timing that brought it all together.”

“I kind of use a garden analogy when I think about it,” says Harvell, “like how a gardener needs to till the soil to get your heart ready to really receive the seed, so that’s what was happening. My heart was being shaped and molded into being ready to receive the gospel.”

Looking back specifically on the night of salvation, Harvell says, “I remember one youth group leader continuing to bring up what Christ has done for us. The leader then started asking, ‘Is there anybody in here and this is just starting to make sense in your heart, and you’re at the place to give your life to Jesus?’ and it really was making sense to me. I think the Lord was allowing me to see it too, there are a couple of verses that talk about the Lord illuminating your eyes, and I know that’s what He was doing for me,” Harvell shares, “Until the Lord illuminates your eyes to see the goodness in the gospel, it doesn’t matter how many books you read or anything, God has to do that. It’s God’s work. We can’t claim any part of it. If it was just us rationally thinking through the gospel then somehow we would get a sense of pride when in reality it’s all God.”

Harvell reflects on the contrast of entering the church basement unsaved, and leaving that same church basement having come to Jesus: “I suddenly had a sense of peace because I knew that my life was now secure. All the places that I tried to find my identity in, that left me on shaky ground, now didn’t have the final say on who I really was.” Harvell added, “When I heard those foundational truths on who Jesus was and the hope that is found in Him, it gave me a sense of peace and a sense of security. Like, I don’t have to be who everybody else expects me to be, I don't have to find my identity solely in athletics and baseball, which was the biggest thing in my life. ‘That’s not solely who I am anymore. Now I have something bigger. Out of that I found extreme peace and hope.”

Naturally however, the next steps of living out one’s faith, especially in the midst of hardship, is extremely difficult. Young Harvell dealt with many peers suddenly treating him differently, and trying to pull him away from Christ and back to the life he left. Harvell says, “The old group that I grew up with, they didn’t understand what I had processed spiritually so they were confused, asking me like ‘Oh, you don’t do that anymore?’ and just different reactions. Some of my friends just weren’t my friends anymore cause the choices they were making didn’t line up with what I wanted to do.” Harvel elaborates, “There were still areas of my life where I knew I wasn’t living the right way, so I sometimes stumbled back into sin, but at the same time, the Lord was walking with me through that. Over time, the old sin that had given me some sense of pleasure or acceptance started to lose its enticement. Until it was like, ‘That’s not even what I want to do anymore’.”

Speaking more on his experience with peer pressure as a young Christian, Harvell says, “It was tough. For teenagers who have that significant life change and come to Christ, it's probably the hardest thing to do, to uproot from your friends and of the bad choices that you were making and try to plant yourself in a community that’s going to help you grow. I didn’t have that, and I didn’t have that pretty much through college either, even in a Christian environment it was hard to find the people who really desired to grow in Christ.”

Offering advice to young Christians, Harvell says, “Find two or three people, or even just one good friend who has the same mindset and really truly wants to grow in their faith in Christ and push into that. Try your best to set up boundaries against bad influences, like it's okay to be an acquaintance, but if your closest friends are not living lives honoring the Lord, a hard conversation is kind of inevitable. The saying is true that ‘you are a combination of your closest friends’. So, really seek after genuine Christian friends who want to see you grow in your faith too.”

In a final encouragement to EC Students, Mr. Harvell urges, “Keep seeking. Even in moments when you don’t feel like God’s presence is with you, or you’re reading the Bible and you don’t really feel it or sense it, keep pushing into it because the desire will come over time. It’s not always gonna be that obvious or come super quickly, but that desire over time will kick in. Just read the Bible, seek the Lord through His Word and seek a community who grows you in Christ.”


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