Pastor's Pen: From 'Evel Ways' to finding God
Evel Knievel tasted deeply and richly of worldly treasures and carnal pleasures during his lifetime, earning international fame as a motorcycle stuntman in the 1960s and 70s, whose spectacular misses, often seen on Wide World of Sports, endeared him to the public. His attempt to cross the Snake River Canyon in an ill-fated personal "rocket" in 1974 nearly cost him his life but made him a household name virtually everywhere in the world.
And he cashed in on his fame, living a self-absorbed and unapologetic lifestyle of wine, woman and song.
Sadly, the indulgent lifestyle also meant divorce, struggles with alcohol, an addiction to high-stakes gambling, and bankruptcy once or twice along the way. He suffered a multitude of broken bones during his remarkable career and also lived a broken life, though he wasn't ready to admit it.
Evel Knievel was his own man, if nothing else, and remained stubbornly unrepentant of his fleshly pursuits. In fact, when Evel's ex-wife Linda, who became a devout Christian, spoke to him about his soul, Evel's response was that he didn't want to go to heaven unless it was populated by beautiful women and golf courses. The title of his autobiography was appropriately "Evel Ways."
But Evel's perspective thankfully changed as he got older and his body began to give out. He became frail and lived with pain everyday, a morphine pump inserted in his abdomen to alleviate the suffering.
He knew he was going to die soon from an incurable lung disease. He began to consider his own mortality and the words of his former wife and his daughter, who was also a devout Christian. He started to consider, What will happen to me when I die?
In Psalm 34, verse 8, King David admonishes us to "taste and see that the Lord is good." Those who do, he promises, will put their trust in God as a result of coming to a realization of His goodness. Those who seek the Lord, David goes on to write, will lack no "good thing" in this fallen, broken world.
Evel Knievel had tasted all the "good things" the world had to offer, and they left him unsatisfied and empty, and, in the end, completely unprepared to face his Creator at the time of death. When Evel finally tasted and experienced the love of God, however, even though late in his life, he found an enriching inner fulfillment and for the first time had genuine peace in his heart.
As Evel shared in his testimony, the moment of truth came while he was attending a bike rally in Daytona Beach in March 2007. He was in turmoil emotionally and spiritually, knowing he was going to die soon and knowing he wasn't prepared for eternity.
Earlier in the day, he had reached out by phone to a longtime friend, a man who was a pastor who prayed with him and for him. This brought some consolation but the turmoil in Evel's soul continued. He tried to sleep in his motel room that night but the fierce internal conflict allowed him no rest.
Sometime after midnight, he got up from the bed and literally screamed at the Devil to leave his life. He went out to the balcony of his motel room and right there fell to his knees and cried out to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, asking for forgiveness of his many sins and asking for Jesus to become his Savior. And the very same Jesus whom Evel Knievel had spurned so often came in response to Evel's cries.
Evel Knievel was changed in that instant; he became a different person.
"I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put His arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go," Evel told the congregation during the occasion of his public baptism the following month. "When I said [to the devil], 'Get away from me,' all of a sudden I was just overcome by the Spirit of God Almighty."
Surrendering to Jesus, he continued, made all the difference: "The power of God in Jesus just grabbed me. It just took a hold of me so strong; I can't tell you how strong it was … All of a sudden I just believed in Jesus Christ!"
Evel Knievel's biggest regret at the end of his life was that he did not turn to Jesus earlier.
"Jesus Christ is everything! I know that now," he said. "If I had known that years and years ago, I would have been three times the man I thought I was."
When his eternal spirit slipped from his physical body Nov. 30, 2007, Evel Knievel made one final jump as the angels escorted him from this world into the Presence of the One Who had become his Savior. What a landing he had!