02 - The Story Behind the Challenge

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
— John 12:24

LOSING EVERYTHING TO FIND IT ALL

My name is Michael Chriswell. The pictures below are from when I was enjoying what many call the good life.  I was married with five children, living in a million-dollar home with all the toys, the travel, a successful business, and I was even being called the next "Zig Ziglar" (motivational speaker), by some.  I was living my dreams, or so I thought.

Left: Just before Zig fell down the stairs in his home, he agreed to start mentoring me.  Right: I teased Zig that I got a kiss from Jean (his wife) and lived to tell about it.

Left: Just before Zig fell down the stairs in his home, he agreed to start mentoring me.  Right: I teased Zig that I got a kiss from Jean (his wife) and lived to tell about it.

After years of practicing the advice of success gurus, I overcame my very ugly childhood and proved I could "make something of myself".  By 2007, my small biz income was $700k and growing at 300% annually.  By early 2008, I seemed to have reached the top of my game, but behind my smile was a growing sense of tension—I had no peace. 

I had become a believer in Jesus Christ back in 1989, but with no one to disciple me, I continued living the way I'd always known.  After I got married, I got more involved in church and then became a busy body “Christian” doing all the churchy stuff.  At the same time, I was striving for success in the business world and after one gigantic failure, I finally hit “the big time”.  And even though I looked like God's little "comeback kid", there was a strong tension beginning to build deep in my soul.

While my business was growing, so was my desire for God and I kept sensing, "You are making progress, but in the wrong direction."  I had been relying on success like a false god and was deriving the majority of my identity and acceptance from it.

On October 30th 2009, the tension reached an 18-month high point. I got on my knees, cried out to God and completely surrendered everything to Him.

Nine months later (to the day) my wife divorced me and took our five children.  I experienced betrayal, non-stop false accusations, slander, parental alienation, business failure, bankruptcy, loss of my best friend, loss of my reputation and all of my money.  I literally lost everything.  Then it got even worse.  As I began to trust and obey God in ways that didn’t fit with human reasoning, most of my family and friends turned against me.  I even ended up homeless for a season.  God was all I had.

All alone and broken, I sought Him with all of my heart, spending three years and thousands of hours studying the Bible and going on long prayer walks in the woods. I begged God to show me His ways and He began guiding me in astonishing ways. One of the first things He began to teach me was the principle of trusting and obeying Him.  Initially, He did a miracle in my divorce, in response to my obeying one of the more difficult teachings of Christ (Mat 5:39).  Soon, I began to wonder what was possible if I obeyed all of the teachings of Jesus. 

I spent the next 18 months, studying, organizing and obeying them.  The more I obeyed the more of His presence and fruit I began to see in my life. It was absolutely incredible! Today, my relationship with Him is truly indescribable, even when I’m suffering through hardship (1 Jn 2:5). Even better, I know that I have still only scratched the surface of knowing and truly walking with God.

I’ve been to the bottom of the pit and Jesus was with me every single step of the way.  Today, I have such joy, peace, hope, and contentment unlike anything I have ever known, even when I thought I "had it all".   God removed the idols from my life and the things I acquired outside of His will.  He then helped me to find my all in Him alone.  Eventually, He even gave me some wonderful promises about the desires of my heart for the second half of my life.  One of those desires is to Help you experience God, and to find life to the full!