A Faith That is Fully Alive

Written by Ken Norton
Student Ministries Community Life Pastor


“Explain the word on your shirt, ‘alive’.”

These were the first words Steve Gillen spoke after I walked into the cold waters of Lake Michigan. Willow North Shore had encouraged me to reconnect with Jesus and I was ready to come out of the water living out a faith that was fully alive.

I explained to Steve that I was in the midst of a season where my faith felt like a dream that had slowly faded away. I had left high school on fire for God, telling my congregation on a youth-led Sunday that I was going to be a bright beacon in a dark world. Pretty catchy, right? That dark world would soon envelop my life, and I accepted it willingly. That’s how joining the military works. A few signatures and you’re immediately thrown into a new world with a fast-paced tempo, high expectations, and a tiresome attitude from a decade-long war.

My faith would begin to dissolve and I would soon buy into the lies the world was offering. Times for Bible study turned into hanging with the guys. Sunday mornings quickly became a time to recover from the night prior. My prayer life evaporated into a mindset of “I can do this on my own.” Four years later, I found myself feeling completely alone and desperately searching for something to hold onto. I had exhausted myself trying on different identities to please those around me, living in a way that the world would deem “alive,” but it never offered true fulfillment to my soul.

Finding myself in this dark valley and at the end of my enlistment, I left the military and moved to Chicago with my uncle and his family, who graciously accepted me into their home. They had been attending Willow North Shore for some time, and God had used the church to change their lives – it seemed logical for me to try it out, too. I quickly realized that I needed to realign my heart with Jesus and apply His desires and purposes to my life.

From there, everything changed.  A short time later, I walked down the stairs from my seat in the old CHA auditorium – row M seat 3 – and made my way to the stage where I would have a conversation about declaring my faith in Jesus.

What I have learned on this journey is that every single one of us is desperately searching for something to fulfill the deep longings of our soul. What I now know to be true is that what the world offers will never satisfy. Only Jesus has that power. That is one of the joys of our faith. God offers this gift openly and without reservation to every single one of His children. It doesn’t matter if you are currently stuck in the dark depths or if you are on your way out. It doesn’t matter if you have stepped away from faith and are filled with deep guilt and shame. Jesus is what your heart will always search for. Go to Him.

The Bible teaches that when you find this truth, the next step is baptism, a chance to publicly declare that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Yes, you will get wet. Yes, it will be cold. Yes, it will take an act of faith. But don’t let your momentary discomfort deter you from the command God has set before you. Baptism is your chance to plant your flag in the ground and declare to the world who is at the forefront of your life.

The best part? You are not alone. This congregation gets to cheer you on and praise God for all that He is doing in your life and in this church. Baptism Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year, because it gives me a glimpse of what Heaven must be like: a diverse community celebrating faith, pointing everything in their life back to Jesus. Don’t miss the chance to be truly alive in Him.


Written by Ken Norton
Student Ministries Community Life Pastor

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