Well I took my friend with me and we drove out in my Volkswagen. We took about three days and we partied all the way out. We had a good time. We were happy. We got on that campus and I saw people standing around holding hands, plucking guitars, singing about Jesus. I was totally embarrassed; I was humiliated, I wanted out of there. I didn’t want no part of it.
Something went wrong inside of me. I couldn’t stand being there all of a sudden. I went up to the man who was registering over 1000 young people and I said, “Now what am I supposed to do with my clinic because I have to get back.” And he said, “Pete, just bear with her, she’ll be here, your friend will be there. I said, “Ok.”
I stayed there three days and for three days I heard about Jesus Christ. I heard everything there was about Him. What He did and why He did it; why He came here. And three days later Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade, gave an invitation much like Billy Graham does; a simple message of Christ. Many hundreds of young people went forward.
You see my friend was just like me. We partied. We did everything. I was a little bit more…probably evil than he was. But I can tell you this, at that moment he jumped up; he had tears in his eyes. And I looked at him and I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Pete, you don’t understand. I’ve just given my life to Christ. I’m going forward.” I grabbed him by the arm and tried to steal his salvation away. I said, “Sit down. You’re embarrassing me.” He pulled away and he said, “You don’t understand.” And he went forward.
I rejected Christ that day. I didn’t want no part of it. I said, “I don’t have time for you Christ. My goals are set. I’ve gotten my scholarship. And from here on I’m going to the pros. I’m going to make my million dollars. I’m going to get my ring. And then I’ll have time for you. You see Lord, the priority is me then you.”
And I went home back to LSU (Louisiana State University) and I do what I did. And I still hold some 40 or 50 basketball records. That was over 44 points a game. Back during that time, that was a lot of points. It was amazing the popularity that just kept coming into my life. Everything, I had it all right then and there. In fact, in 1970 I signed the largest contract in the history of sports. It only lasted about thirty days, but it went into the Guinness book of records and then some soccer player got more money than me.
But I had realized a dream. I remember sitting there at a press conference with Howard Cosell and forty-two microphones in front of me and saying, “I’ve arrived.” I’ve arrived. Now all I need is that ring. When I get that ring, my happiness, everything in life, total success will come my way. I will be happy the rest of my days on earth. That’s what I said on the outside. That’s what I kept telling myself. But starting from the very first time I took that sip, my life got gradually worse and worse.
I became very despondent, even as a sixteen-year-old. I began asking myself questions. When I got into college and I would do things that I didn’t understand why I would do them. And of course I would resolute them away. “I’ll never do that again. Never again.” And three days later I would. I hated myself. On the outside, most people, they saw ‘Pistol Pete.’ They saw a person on every type of magazine—on Sports Illustrated; the cover four out of five times.
There was no where that I could go back in the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s where someone wasn’t clamoring to be around me or praise me or tell me how great I was. It was amazing—all during the ‘70’s I searched. Searched for what? I searched for what I thought was happiness. To make a survival for me in the NBA, because I wasn’t very well liked; especially signing that type of contract with a lot of veterans who were making a lot, lot less.
I took up karate for almost four-and-a-half years. And from karate I got into different religions, into Hinduism and reincarnation. I adopted those beliefs for a while, but then it left away. I got into transcendental meditation. Into astroplaning. Into chanting. Into fringes of the occult. I got heavily into UFO’s. I read everything I could on UFO’s. Every book that every good-for-nothing had ever wrote. I adopted that belief into my life, knowing that one day someone would come down from another planet and everything would be great.
I became a radical nutritionist in 1976. I didn’t have no degree. I experimented on myself. I became a vegetarian for three years, a macrobiotic for one year. I got life-extending drugs from Eastern Europe because you see, I wanted to live to be 150-years-old. But then all of a sudden, I began thinking, “What happens after 150?” I begin pondering the question ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Is this all there is to life?’
Oh, on the outside I had everything. But on the inside, I was despondent. I had rejected Christ when I was 19 and had gone back into the wilderness. And from the time I rejected Him, all I did was gripe, groan, and grumble. Just like the Jews did in the wilderness, when they would not enter into the hand of God, His rest. There was no difference. I was in the wilderness. And I hated it. I could not find peace.
In 1980 I quit basketball out of immaturity, out of pride. I didn’t need to quit. The last game I ever played, with the Boston Celtics, that year was the green-white game prior to exhibition season. I scored 38 points that night I quit. That year they went on to win the world championship.
I was very bitter. I was so bitter; I divorced myself from everything in basketball. I gave away every basketball thing I had. I didn’t even have a pair of tennis shoes. I never wanted to touch a basketball again and for two years I never did.
I stayed in my house most of the time. I changed my numbers. Nobody could get in touch with me. I tried to fill my life with things that I thought would make me happy. I said, “I know what I’ll do.” We had our first son, Jason. I said, “Jason will make me happy. I’ll pour my life into Jason and Jackie now. I’ll become Father of the Year.”
I used to get puzzles for Jason. 6- and 8-year-old puzzles. And for an hour or two a day, he was only one-year-old, I would place his hand in the puzzle. I wanted to make him a creative genius because I read a book that you could do that. I said, “Well I’m no intellectual. Maybe this is where happiness is because I sure haven’t found it.”
Since I was 7 years old, people have told me the way of the world is excess. Get as much as you can. Get, get, get, get, get… Get to the top; whether you’re a CEO or you own your own company or you’re a star, what the world calls a superstar. You see Pete, once you get all of that, once you have all the money, once you have your big houses, your cars, your boats. Once you have the power; then you can sit back by your pool. You can twinkle your toes in the water, with your drink in hand and say, “What a life.”
Well friends, I did that. And I was so miserable. I was so miserable. I would take my Porsche and drive it 135 or 140 miles/hour across the Pontia train bridge. And so many times suicide came into my thoughts. All I had to do was just turn the wheels just ten degrees and it would be history. Everybody would say, “What an accident. Isn’t it terrible what happened to Pistol Pete.” But I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have the guts. And I praise God I didn’t.
God. I’m only here because God has intervened in my life, just like He’s intervened in yours. When I lay on a parking lot, one day, after being beaten with black jacks when I was 19-years-old, from behind. And a girl came up to me and I was all bloody in my own puddle of blood and I lay there all semi-unconscious. And she took a hand gun and she placed it on my mouth right in my lips. She cupped the trigger and she said, “Pistol Pete, you’re dead.”
And I remember thinking in my mind, “Shoot. Fire. I won’t have anything to worry about. It will just be peace. I’ll be gone. That will be it—wiped out.” But God intervened. And the gun didn’t go off.
When I hit a parked car going 55 miles an hour because I was drunk one night when I was twenty years old. They had to beat the windshield out to get me out of the car. I got out with very few scratches. The car was demolished. They said, “Pete, you’re the most luckiest man I’ve ever seen.” I said, “You don’t understand, I got to play pro-ball.”
God intervened so many other times in my life I could spend two hours here just telling you. It’s amazing. In 1982, I would have been pondering this question of my existence in life. I really did. I was so unhappy. I couldn’t find pleasure in my family or anything, but for a temporary fleeting moment.
And one night I went to bed in 1982 in November. And it was 12 o’clock. It was like any other day, any other night. I watched TV. Sit around, mope, grumble; living in my $300,000 house. My kid was already asleep and so was Jackie and I went to bed too. I laid there. I could not go to sleep.
It was almost as if toothpicks were in my eyes because all of a sudden things started coming up in my mind. Things that I had done to people; things that I had done to myself; the abuses I had made towards people and myself; the rebellion against my dad and my mother and other people; the rebellion of respect against respect and authority.
Everything kept coming. I didn’t understand it. It had never been like this before. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was driving me nuts. I was up all night. I tossed. I turned. I couldn’t get away from it. And finally at 5:40am, while morning it was still dark, I cried out in my spirit to a God I did not know—my wife was next to me unsaved also—but asleep. I said, “Oh God, can you save me. Can you save me? Can you forgive me for the things I’ve done?” Can you—I didn’t know anything about it, I had never read the Bible. I said, “God if you don’t save me I won’t be around here in a week.”
And as I was going off the bed, all of a sudden I reflected back to when my friend received Christ back some 17 years before. And I remember a simple little prayer that was said—not the exact prayer—just asking for forgiveness; believing that Jesus Christ died; believing that he rose; and ask him to come into my life. As I was rolling off the bed—I don’t have no theological background. All I know is Jesus—As I was rolling off the bed, the Lord spoke to me and he spoke to me audibly and he said, “Be strong with thine own heart.”
It reverberated through my room. In fact it shocked me so much, that I woke my wife up. I shook her. She got up. She said, “What’s happened? What’s wrong?” I could not see. I said, “Jackie did you hear what the Lord said? Did you hear it? He said, ‘Be strong with thine own heart.’ Jackie,” I said, “I’m going to be saved! I know it!” Jackie had been with me through so many different adopted beliefs that she just kind of shook her head and laid her head back on the pillow.
I rolled off the bed, in tears, I was a spiritually broken man; I had nowhere else to go. I had come to the flat ball. There was nothing else I could do that could ever, ever do anything for me. I asked Christ in my life that morning. He came into my life, no feeling, just fact. He came in and since that day my life has been changed so much that I can’t even begin to tell you.
You see change that came into my life was Jesus Christ. It was Christ who changed me. Money did not change me. Money will buy you everything, but happiness. It will pay your fare to every place but heaven. I used to carry $3,000 to $5,000 around in cash everywhere around. I used to go down to the French quarter on Bourbon Street. One day I was there, one night I was there, totally inebriated. A little shoe-shine kid was there and he said, “Shoe-shine?” And I said, “Sure, give me a shine.” He gave me a shine, and I gave him $300. The kid said, “Excuse me sir, do you think you’ll be back this way again this week?”
Money won’t do it. Material things—I had everything I had ever wanted. I lived in a $300,000 house on a lake. I had a condo on the ocean. I traveled wherever I wanted to go. I could go wherever I wanted to go. I could vacation wherever I wanted to. I could do what I wanted to. I had every car—I’ve driven every car from Rolls Royces to BMWs to Mercedes to Porsches to Cadillacs. Everything I’ve ever wanted—I would just buy it. But it never satisfied me.
I tried pleasure. Pleasure will satisfy—sure it will. There is pleasure in sin. There is no doubt about it. If there was no pleasure in sin, no one would do it. But it is so fleeting, so temporary. And it builds upon itself.
Religion. Religion didn’t change me. Not man’s religion. You see in the name of religion Jesus Christ was place upon that cross. He was crucified.
Fame, popularity, prestige—I had it. Power—I had that. It didn’t change me. It didn’t change me. I tried to tell myself that it would change me. But when I look in the mirror, people, it was still me—I was no better than anybody else. It’s just a label that society puts on someone. God didn’t call us to be superstars; He called us to be servants. He didn’t call us to be successful; He called us to be faithful. Love, the love of Christ—that’s where it is.
You see the greatest evil that was ever committed in the history of this world was when Jesus Christ was placed upon that cross. That was the greatest evil—and yet, God took that greatest evil when He turned it into a redemptive good. Can’t you see? I can. That if He can take that love, if love can go to the cross and suffer where it suffered, then it can go wherever you are suffering right now. You may be financially bankrupt or about to be; you may have some difficult disease or illness; your wife may have left you; your husband may have ran out on you; you may be divorced—It does not matter, if love can go to the cross it can go to your circumstance, if you allow Him to come in.
Love. Love. There was a Chinese doctor. During the war he walked from town to town. He was bombed out. He finally came to his home town. He walked in. He was a Christian doctor. He looked at his house—it was nothing but a shell. He looked for his family, and he found all of them, all sixteen members. They were dead—Corpses. They died of Bubonic Plague. Do you know what he said? He said this, “We Christians know no discouragement. We can take it. We will show the non-Christians the way.” That was the first statement out of his mouth. He had the first requirement of love—that is to take it and to take it without discouragement. How else is the world going to know that you are in Christ?
You see, you can be in Christianity and not be in Christ. You can go to church for the next 100 years and not be in Christ. You can do everything you want to do, all of the good works you think you are doing, and not be in Christ. There is nothing you can buy, nothing you can purchase because it is a free gift. A free gift of God.
You know, right now if it was possible, if I could do this, we’ll just pretend for a second, but as you sat down at your table today and you have an envelope there, what if there was another envelope under it and it had your name on it and I said right now, “Open that envelope.” And you open that envelope and inside was a cashier’s check for $1 million—made out to you. Not a check—cashier’s, man that’s cash. Now, I mean, right now I can see how you would spend it. You’re thinking about the will’s attorney—“I can get all this. I can get all that. I can do this. I can do that. I can give it all to the church. I’ll give it all to my pastor. I’ll give it to that needy family. I’ll get these. I’ll do this. I’ll do that.” You’ll take the $1 million.
I told that to 17,000 students at Duke University. Not one of them said they would give it back. It would be stupid if you give it back—it’s free. And yet for some 2000 years God has been trying to give you, who are out there without Him, eternal life free. You can’t buy it, you can’t purchase it, you can’t do anything for it. Do you realize that God is an unconditional God? Not a conditional God. Do you realize that God’s love for you is so great that there is nothing that you can do to extract any more love from Him. And there is nothing you can do to extract any more love. He hates your sin, but He loves you and me.
I remember, after my Daddy passed away that night. He passed away at 6:30pm; His last breath—I was there. I was in shock—I couldn’t believe the last breath my Dad took. He died of respiratory depression—he drowned. He took that last breath—it was like every bit of oxygen in the room he was trying to grasp. His human body was trying to stay alive. And a verse came to me—Psalms, “Man is like a mere breath. His days like a passing shadow.”
Friends, it’s so quick. I stood outside that night and I looked up at the stars. And I saw countless thousands of stars. And I was crying and I said, “Oh God, I am so powerless without you. I am nothing without you. I love you.” Can we have still heart? And in the book of Psalms, it talks about Him. Science today says there is 100 billion stars in our galaxy and there is over 10 billion other galaxies with 100 billion other stars. I can’t comprehend that. Neither can you, but God can. Because in Psalms He says He has counted them all and has a name for each one. I can’t comprehend that. Not with my finite little stupid brain. There’s no way. You either believe it or you don’t—it’s that simple. You’re either in Christ or you’re out of Christ. You either have life or you have death. That’s not me—that’s Him.
You know, my whole life I strived after one thing—the ring. The ring; I thought that would bring me happiness. Everything in our lives can be turned either for evil or for good. Last night I was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, as the youngest professional ever to be entered into the Hall. There’s only 161 rings like this in the world. There is my name on it. And it has the Hall of Fame. You know what verse came to me when I received this ring? This one: Matthew 16:26, “For what will a man be profited if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Friends, what upon this earth is worth the loss of your soul? Where is your brash ring today? More money? More power? More things? You’re living a lie if it is. You see the world says—and even the Christian world says this. That’s what’s so confusing to so many. The Christian world says this—a lot of it—the essence of this life is happiness and rewards. They’re wrong. The essence of the Christian life is joy and peace—joy that’s unspeakable. Actually, I’m explaining to you the joy that I have amidst all the pain I have. I can’t tell you the joy that I have. The peace that I have is lasting and permanent.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled or let it be fearful.” You know what type of peace that is? It’s a peace that if the fiery hell was right here on this earth right now, I could walk right through it and have peace because of Jesus.
I would like to say in close with a little story. You know someone once said that money will buy you a fine dog, but only love will make it wag its tail. Love. Last year, running is the craze in America for the last 10 years and last year out in Colorado there was a 10K run. All the runners were there—hundreds of runners. They were waiting for the gun to go off and up came a little kid—black kid—in a wheelchair with no arms and no legs, being pushed by a little Hispanic kid. They were way back in the pack and the race started and he started pushing his friend. At the end of the race, all the eyes were focused on the winners of the race. As they broke through the tape and as they felt great—as they said, “Yes, it’s me!” And the cameras were there and interviews were taking place down a hundred yards from the finish line because they did not finish last. With the little Hispanic kid—he stopped the chair at 100 yards, he took the seatbelt off of his friend, he picked him up in his arms and he started walking towards the finish line. 50 yards from the finish line he put him down on the road—the cement. He got down with him and they both crawled across that finish line with no hoopla.
You see friends, that’s called love—that’s called witnessing. And that’s what we in Christ need to share with people who don’t know. Could you all please just bow your heads for a few minutes.
The Bible says very clearly—Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father, but through me.” Jesus said, “Behold I stand at your door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into Him.” He will come into you right where you are sitting—right now. Don’t look at me—don’t look at me, don’t even think about me. I’m nobody, Jesus Christ is everything.
You don’t have to be at a Billy Graham crusade, you don’t have to be in church. It can be just like I was. It can be anywhere you want—if that is in fact what you want. But He will open that door—He will come in if you just invite him. I would like to give everybody in here who does not know Christ. If you’re not ashamed that you know Christ 100 percent here today, you can cement that relationship—right now, right where you are. I know without a doubt 100 percent I am assured of my salvation. There is no doubt, not one within my mind. I know. There were times before that I did not. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you can diminish it.
I’m just simply going to ask that you repeat a prayer that I’m going to lift up to the Lord. You can say it in your heart. You can say it silently right where you are. But don’t say it; don’t repeat it unless you want to know Him. Because the most greatest privilege of this life is to know Him.
“Father. Thank-you for sending your son to pay the penalty for my sin. Right now Lord, I am naked before you. For you only look at my heart. I ask you right now Lord to forgive my son. And I know Lord that as you forgive my sin—that sin that you forgave; that you went to the cross for—is from past, present, and future. I believe that rose from the dead. And right now I ask you Jesus to come into my life. I thank you for coming into my life. Make me Lord, that person that you want me to become. Amen.”
I want you to know that if you said that prayer. If you said it seriously. I want you to know that if you confessed it, that if you believe in your heart that you are saved this day forever. No one can ever take that away from you. And I only ask this, that you go to a Bible-believing church, read your Bible. For you see, physically we must eat or we weaken ourselves and dry up. Spiritually if you’re not in the word of God, your soul will dry up and temptation will become even greater to you.
You see the Bible says in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone therefore who confesses me before men, I will confess him before the Father who is in heaven. And whoever shall deny me before men, I will deny him before the Father who is in heaven.” You can’t be a secret admirer of Christ and you shouldn’t want to be. There’ nothing to be embarrassed about. To have eternal life sure isn’t going to go against the grain, but that’s your public commitment.
I want all of you to know, from the bottom of my heart, I am so happy I came. I am so happy that so many of you prayed for me from the time of my Dad’s illness and being with the Lord and for the pain that I am having. I thank you for those prayers. The reason I am here is because of your prayers. God answered them. God bless all of you. Thank-you.
Once again, this is John Lotts. Just like in basketball, you have to know the simple drills to do well. In Christianity you have to practice several simple drills to enjoy your walk with God. Let me suggest that if you prayed that prayer with Pete, you need to do the following: pray or talk openly and honestly with God, attend a Bible-teaching church on a regular basis, and read God’s word—the Bible—daily. Take the initiative to tell others about your decision to follow Jesus. There could very well be someone you know that would appreciate hearing Pete’s story. Life story tapes are passed around many offices, neighborhoods, and among family members. So if you enjoyed the tape/message, please pass it on.