How the Presence of Jesus Turned a Slave into a Pastor
Pastor Dave Leopold shares how Jesus redeemed him from the bondage of life-dominating sin and describes how he developed his own relationship with God.
Pastor Dave, as we start to explore your story and what you've learned about Jesus, can you share a bit about your younger years and then how you met the Lord?
Three or four years before I met the Lord, I was very lost, even though I grew up in a Christian home. I did a lot of drugs—a lot of psychedelic drugs which messed up my mind very bad and made me very unstable, fearful, insecure, and full of anxiety. So when I came to Christ, I had a lot to deal with. It was the drugs and the evil that I had gotten involved that pushed me back to God, because I was faced with the stark reality of evil and demonic influence. It was so real that it the Lord used it to push me back to him. I lost control of my life and of my mind, and I was so full of fear that I couldn't even function. So I came running back to Jesus, and he supplied the right people and the right situation so that I could turn back to him.
Overall, where has your life gone since that point?
Well, the main thing is that, in the scripture, it says that He's our rock and our fortress, and in another place it says He's a very present help in trouble. And one of the things I'm most thankful for is His help in my basic life in those areas. I found that the presence of Jesus very much stabilized me and took away a lot of my fears. It was definitely a process; I've had a lot of trouble, a lot of anxiety, and lots of insecurity that I have had to suffer through. And just a lot of selfishness from the life I lived. And the Lord led me very young into marriage—led me to a woman that I've been married to for 43 years. And that rock, Jesus, really helped me to be a good husband. I have a family, four children, and Jesus was a tremendous help to me to be a good father. I am eternally grateful for God's help in that way, because I was so unstable that I could have never been in a relationship or been a father without the help of God.
He also led me into ministry. I didn't try to get into the ministry, but it just happened as I sought to walk closely with Jesus and sought to familiarize myself with the Word of God and spent a lot of time there. It just happened that I ended up in ministry and have had the opportunity to share Jesus with others.
You mentioned the "struggles" you've had as you've experienced growth and change from the time you were saved. Can you elaborate?
Well, it was just the presence of God in my life that helped me get through. I had severe fear and anxiety problems from the drugs I did and the occultish things that I was into. I had a hunger for the mind of Christ. In Philippians 2, the Bible says that we've been given the mind of Christ, and He tells us, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." That mind is a very humble and lowly mind. Scripture talks about how that mind "doesn't seek its own" and "doesn't seek vain glory" or "just its own things" but it seeks for others and isn't worried about its own reputation. The Lord gave me a real hunger for that lowly mind and that wonderful presence of Jesus that is that sweet lowliness of God and abiding there and living there with Him.
Scripture says, "Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." It talks a lot about peace, and Jesus said he was "meek and lowly at heart" and if we would come to him that we would find "rest for our souls." And it's the personal presence of Jesus that has rescued me and stood by me and helped me throughout my life at different stages when some of the stuff from the past would come against me in spurts. I had another bad bout with it about 25 years ago when I had cancer and my children were little. And that brought on other problems and bouts and struggles inside at different times throughout my life. But it's the presence of Jesus, the mind of Christ, and the rest of God. It's a very, very real thing. It's a real substance. Jesus and His presence are very real. And it's calming and it's settling. And he's there—there in a very real way—when we need him most.
Now, after all these years of walking with Jesus, would you say your experience is very different from how it was at the beginning?
Yes, it's vastly different. I was dysfunctional and had very severe anxiety when I was around people. I never knew when things were going to pop up. And there was just demonic oppression in my mind, and so on. And the Lord allowed at different times in my life for me to be tried and allowed it to crop back up here and there. But today, I'm a completely different person than I was in those early days. Though life isn't without trials—and sometimes severe ones—the Lord has made a vast difference inside of me and in my mind and in my ability to be comfortable with people and really love people and give to them. So I'm very, very grateful for the little things—the personal things: Jesus, and my family, and my wife, my children, my friends. But also I'm grateful that He's enabled me and allowed me to give back to others from what I've learned of the Word of God...and what I've experienced of the word of God.
Do you have any word of encouragement or advice to someone who's not as far along as you are in their relationship with Jesus?
I suppose the best advice I know that I could give would be to spend a lot of time in the presence of God. And spend a lot of time in His Word. Sometimes people look at a seeking life as kind of a life of work. They say that you don't have to work to be right with God. And I agree with that. But the seeking life isn't a life of works; it's a life of exposure. It's like exposing yourself to the sun. The sun does all the work, but you have to get out in it. And getting a suntan isn't anything you can brag about. Nobody says, "Oh, just look at how good I look after I laid out in the sun for nine hours and drank all that lemonade!" But you have to expose yourself to the Lord, and He changes us "from glory to glory," just like the scripture says. John said, "When we see Him, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." And we can see Him daily and change; we can be in His presence daily. And you know, I was taught when I came to the Lord at Teen Challenge by having godly people around me who were older than me. And I saw how they prayed and how they sought God and came into the presence of God. I got a great hunger to do that, and so I spent many hours with the Lord. And I didn't always feel a lot. Sometimes I did, but I came into God's presence a lot, and I spent a lot of time there.
And I also made it my goal to really become familiar with the whole Bible, and I memorized a lot of scripture. I started memorizing chapters and then the smaller books. And I just kept memorizing scripture and familiarizing myself with it. And by that exposure to the Lord—just getting into his presence and Word—it molded my mind and molded my heart, and I received revelation. Not anything special, but the revelation that will come to anyone who spends a lot of time in the Word of God and spends a lot of time in the presence of God. It just happens. So I think that my advice would be very simple: expose yourself to the presence of God every way you can: personally, corporately, being in church with God's people. And expose yourself every chance you have to God's Word. Make it your goal in life to become familiar with the whole Bible. That was my goal. I had no desire to be in ministry—especially the kind I'm in today! But I ended up there because I familiarized myself with the Bible and with the presence of God. The Lord can use you if you get to know him.
This excerpt is from our podcast episode, “A Christmas Podcast (by People who Met Jesus), Episode #327”.
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