It has been a couple of weeks since Zig Ziglar died. Since then I have continued to see postings and reminders of the impact he has had on so many. I want to add to the tribute.
I grew up in a small town in East Texas and didn’t get out much, and I grew up in a family that was pretty conservative and was raised by a father who was demanding and critical. I was the youngest of three children, raised in the shadow of an older brother, who was better than me at just about everything.
Though going to Church was a significant part of my life, my faith experience was not all that different. I grew up in a church that was very sectarian in regards to other churches. It did its best to criticize and isolate itself from others who did not believe exactly as they did. Needless to say, I wasn’t encouraged to enjoy the fellowship of the broader Christian community, because in the mind of my denomination, there was no broader Christian community. If you were not of their brand, you were not “truly” Christian. It still amazes me how honest, studious, Christian people can maintain such a sectarian belief, especially after a thorough search of God’s Word and understanding of God’s Grace.
In addition, gaining approval from God was not much different than gaining approval from my dad. If I didn’t behave properly, there would be no relationship at all. If I did behave, the best I could hope for is to stay out of trouble. I can remember the one time in my life that my dad expressed his gratitude, appreciation or approval for anything that I contributed to the family. As a youngster, I tried hopelessly to recreate that experience. Experiencing failure there, I transferred my efforts to gaining God’s approval, where I hoped to serve Him in such a manner as to hear him say “Well done” some day. As you can imagine, growing up like this didn’t do a lot for my self-confidence. However, it did put me on a quest to know God as he is revealed in Scripture.
That is where Zig Ziglar came is. I have never met him, but have heard him speak and read his words hundreds of times, sometimes on tape and a couple of times in person. When I was in my early twenties, I studied the Bible two years and set off to Canada to help plant a church in my denomination. There, I met a young man who was a realtor in British Columbia, who generously shared with me a set of Zig’s How to Stay Motivated tapes. There were a couple of things that caught my attention in those tapes. Here was an authentic, God fearing man, who seemed to love God, and seemed so full of life, joy and optimism, and he was not a part of my denomination. Could he actually be a Christian? On top of that he shared practical principles that changed my life, one of which continues to motivate me: “You are who you are and what you are because of what you have put into your mind, and you can change who you are and what you are by changing what goes into your mind.” Could it really be possible for me to believe differently about myself and all the things I had grown to believe about God? Is it possible that this man was truly a Christian and honest in pursuit of God’s Word. Is it possible that God really did love and value me, regardless of what family history or my religion had told me? Is it possible that this teaching, which I had been warned to be no more than “pop psychology” contained more truth than much of what I had been taught?
I committed to dig into the Word to learn the truth. I really wanted to know what the “good news” was; what it meant to “rejoice in the Lord”; what a “light burden and easy yoke” was all about; what “no condemnation” meant; what it meant for a man like Paul who seemed to already know Christ to say he “wants to know Christ and the power of his rising”; what it meant to experience the continuous cleansing from sin to someone like me who continues to struggle with the sinful nature; what it meant to understand that I am a child of God, a joint heir with Christ, and filled with his Spirit as a guarantee of what is to come; what it meant to be God’s chosen, and dearly loved. It took some time and numerous other experiences and encounters with people like Zig Ziglar, but I eventually did come to understand the awesome power of God’s grace and to embrace Zig Ziglar and thousands of others like him as brothers in Christ.
My path led me away from the church planting experience which I loved so much. As you can imagine, my denomination had little patience for one who came to believe as I did. They cut off my financial support, and I was left to depend solely on Christ. That was a little scary. I confess that I frequentlylean on my own strength more than I lean on His, but he is still working to extract that fear from me.
Through specific answer to prayer, God directed me to serve Him in corporate America, where for all intents and purposes, I became a public speaker and trainer to some of the largest companies in the world, including Fortune’s #1, Wal-Mart. When I was serving them as a representative of their Associate assistance and counseling program, I traveled the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, speaking, training and helping people find hope in hopeless situations. I was fortunate enough to be in a company that was led by a whole lot of Christian people, including Sam Walton. And the company I represented was founded by a dear Christian friend. We were group of Christian counselors providing a variety of helpful services and resources for living for employees of these great companies.
I’ll give Zig Ziglar and God credit for helping me be able to be an effective public speaker. I mean, I needed all the help I could get. I was member of the church’s youth group that the pastor could never get to stand up and help lead the youth led services. I will also give him credit for how to be a living witness, by simply sharing my story. And early on in this journey, I followed his example of committing to being a witness for Christ wherever and whenever God gave me a platform to speak.
I thank God for Zig Ziglar and the many godly Christian leaders I have met since that time, who have impacted my life in a similar manner. Mr. Ziglar, you will be missed, but your influence and testimony lives on. Thank you.