Sam Collier and his twin sister were born into poverty to a 21-year-old mother who already had three kids she struggled to feed. She made a difficult decision and chose to give him and his sister up for adoption. When they were just 2 months old, the twins were adopted by loving and encouraging parents who raised them in the church. When Sam was 25, his dad convinced him and his sister to go on the Steve Harvey show to try to find their birth mother. Not expecting to hear back, they reached out, and before they knew it, they were sitting on Steve’s couch on TV. After having told them that the crew had been unsuccessful, Steve Harvey dramatically announced that they found both birth mother and siblings, and he called the whole biological family out onto the set.
When asked how being adopted impacted how he saw himself, Sam said his parents made the twins’ adoption a “cool thing.” They normalized it and used it to help illustrate the gospel in their lives. As he and his sister tried to find their place in the world, their “parents did a lot of the work for them.” They helped direct Sam to develop the things in his life they identified as “special and budding.” When Sam was in middle school, he and his friends loved basketball and dreamed of playing professionally. His mom, however, noticing his love of performing and entertaining, encouraged him to consider attending a performing arts high school. He was immediately opposed to the idea, but she encouraged him to give it a try, and if he didn’t like it, he could go back to his old school. Sam ended up loving it, and he credits his mom’s early recognition of his gifts and passions as giving him a glimpse into why he was created.
In interviews, Sam identifies two different points in his life as “rock bottom”; the first one led to his salvation. When he was 16, he struggled with pornography and promiscuity. Then, he said, all at once, “everything being done in the dark came into the light.” Rather than punish him, his parents used “tough love,” told him that he knew what he needed to do, and left him alone to handle it with God. As Sam describes his “resurrection experience,” he said that the Lord came to him and said, “You can’t serve two masters.” He prayed his “salvation prayer without a band and without a preacher,” surrendering his desires to God’s will for his life. Over the matter of just a few days, Sam’s life completely turned around, and people at school didn’t recognize him.
Sam’s second “rock bottom” occurred when he was an adult and attending a church that, as Sam describes it, taught passion but not principles. “It was a very dark time, and the gospel didn’t make sense to me. [I was] running after the wins that everyone else had for me, that the preacher had for me,” Sam said. “I was doing everything right, but I still felt like I was losing.” He began to ask the Lord what true winning looked like, and he realized that he had to work out his own salvation, rather than going by a pastor-centric gospel. He continued, “[Your] faith shouldn’t come from the pastor or your small group. Who God is should be discovered between you and the Holy Spirit.” Toward that end, “winning is not a destination, it is a state of mind. Salvation is the door to the kingdom, [but] it is just the door.” The challenge is that we are not trained to think that way: the destination is always the goal for us—paychecks, gold medals, final grades. However, in Sam’s words, at the deepest level, we are all striving for a relationship with God, even if we don’t realize it. Is He with me? Is He pleased with me? Is He for me? Because God’s blessings will never be enough for us. “What is most satisfying is what God is teaching me along the way,” Sam said. “True peace comes from abiding” in the Lord, rather than striving for what we think He wants us to do. True winning is a living and active relationship with the Lord like Adam and Eve had with God before the fall in Eden, and along the way, God invites us to join Him in His work, rather than us inviting Him to bless ours.
As he processed those things, Sam joked, “Maybe that will be my next book!” His first book, Find Your Voice, was published in April of 2018. It was written to help young adults, leaders, and high school students as they lead and are influenced by others so that they can use their voice and tell their story well. “God leaves clues everywhere for you to find your purpose,” says Sam. “But we make it harder than it has to be, and that’s how the enemy wants it.” This happens in two common ways: we either believe the lie that our gift is too common and too easy, or we hate our gift and run away from the ministry we see before us. If you ever see another believer and think, “How come their life is so effective for the gospel?” Sam says that it may be “because they have surrendered to their gift and you have not.” If you feel like you haven’t found your voice or your purpose yet, consider if you are overthinking it, and look for the ways God has gifted you. If you feel that “everyone can do this; it’s not special,” dismiss those lies, and maybe you will discover your voice in the process.
Today, among many other things, Sam runs a media platform called A Greater Story, with a podcast “for people living in the greater story about what persevering in God’s story looks like.” He says that “when your story connects to God’s story, it leads to a greater story.” His passion is “helping people discover, construct, and launch into their unique, God-given purpose.” Sam Collier will be the speaker for Disciple Now 2019, January 18-20, and he will be preaching at all three worship services on Sunday, January 20. I invite you to mark your calendars, and if you are a junior high or high school student, register to be there that weekend at fbcstarkville.com/events.