In 1970, Zig Ziglar shifted gears, moved into overdrive and sought new heights to scale. After all, he had finished second in national sales in an organization with over 7,000 sales people and first in another with over 3,000. Today, as a motivational teacher and trainer, Zig Ziglar is again number one. He is rated by his peers as well as audiences everywhere as one of the best and most versatile. Eight of his ten books have reached bestseller lists as soon as they were published. His appearances on the Today show, the Phil Donahue Show, CBS’s 60 Minutes, and ABC’s 20/20 have given him world wide recognition. His appearance on the Hour of Power and the 700 Club have given us a unique glimpse of his personal life and faith. Happily over-married to the “red head,” whom he lovingly calls “Sugar-baby”, he is a committed family man. He is an avid jogger, and an enthusiastic golfer. And when Zig Ziglar was ten days old –well, let’s have Zig tell that story himself:
Today I’m going to be sharing with you my spiritual journey. Interestingly enough, it started when I was ten days old. I died that day. Ten days earlier the doctor had delivered me to my mother and said, “You have a perfectly healthy baby boy.” Ten days later, he laid me on the bed and said to my mother, “He is no more.”
My grandmother reached down and picked up this lifeless body. And they said she started talking to me. But you of course know that she was not talking to me, she was talking to her heavenly father. She was pleading for my life. God responded to that prayer, and obviously I did survive.
As a child, I watched a widowed mother who lost her husband who left her with six children too small to work –there were twelve of us, all told. She lost her daughter just a few days later. And so it was a pretty tough childhood. I watched –I watched my mother’s incredible faith.
Now, as a child every week we were in church. As a matter of fact, Mrs. L.S. Jones from down the street drove an old Dodge. And she would come in front of our house and sound her horn and I can see my mother to this day as she would do two things simultaneously: She would reach over and pick up her navy blue hat and put it on the bun on the back of her head (her long hair was rolled up), and she would reach and get her head pin and in the same motion she would put it all together and say, “Let’s go, boys.” And I’m telling you, we headed for the car. It never occurred to us to not go. We didn’t think we had a choice. And reflecting on it, we didn’t have a choice. It was clearly understood: we were going to church.
On Sunday evening we went to what the Baptist call, you know, BYPU in those days. And as boys we thought BYPU stood for “Buy your preacher’s underwear.” I mean, that’s why we were there. We were in church on Sunday night. We were in prayer meeting on Wednesday night. When the church doors opened, we were there.
On a number of occasions –and incidentally I was baptized when I was twelve years old. I was as lost as a human being could get. I don’t know why I was baptized. I don’t know whether it was because my mother wanted me to, the preacher expected me too, or all of my buddies were being baptized. All I know is, I was baptized.
I well remember one evening. I did a lot of my work at night in those days. I was in the cookware business, putting on demonstrations. I was coming in late one night from, I believe, Lancaster South Carolina (we lived in Columbia, a little town called Dent, just outside of Columbia). And I remember that evening turning left, right there at Dent, crossing the railroad tracks and turning right –I remember that.
The next thing I remembered I was being flagged down by the military police in Fort Jackson. I had driven straight for about six miles, I had turned left and the military police said I passed the outpost doing somewhere between 50 and 60 mph. I was so deep up into the Fort Jackson complex that they literally had to lead me out. I was absolutely lost.
Now there are a lot of people who will say, “Well, you know, you weren’t really asleep.” But when I got home that night the Redhead said to me, “Honey, I was praying unusually hard for you tonight.” And those who would say, “You know you didn’t really go to sleep.” But I’m totally convinced that not only was I sound asleep, but I had the greatest chauffeur that any human being could ever have. God sent my angel, and he was driving that car. And he drove it beautifully.
Now you would have thought that with something like that, that at that point I would really make my commitment to Christ. But you see, I wanted to have some fun in life. I wanted to be successful. I wanted to make a lot of money. And obviously, Christians just don’t do those things. I mean, let’s face it –Christians go around with long faces and short pocketbooks– now, everybody knows that. That was the image; that was the picture that I had of my own.
But on July the 4th, 1972, thanks to an elderly black lady, who spent the weekend in our home –we learned that number one she was scripturally inaccurate. She claimed to be an angel, claimed to be a faith healer, claimed to be a prophet –we discovered she was none of those things. But there were two things we absolutely knew. Number one, she loved the Lord. And she loved me.
She walked into our home talking about Christ. She walked out of our home talking about Christ. And all during that weekend, all she talked about was Jesus Christ. My savior came into my life in a very real way that weekend. I’ve always been grateful that she was not prejudiced. Now almost immediately, my picture of being a Christian totally changed.
You know, I tell folks today, Christians ought to be kind of like the story of the Mama skunk and the Baby skunks going by the paper mill. How many of you have ever been close to a paper mill? Okay, you’ll get the drift of this. One of the babies kind of sniffed the air and filled his nostrils with that pungent paper mill odor and said, “Mama, what on earth is that?” Well, the Mama skunk filled her nostrils with that pungent paper mill odor and said, “I don’t know, but we sure got to get some of it!”
Now, you know, I believe –I believe that when people are Christians that somebody ought to have some way of knowing they are Christians. You know, you don’t walk around looking like the cruise director for the Titanic—I mean, that is not my picture of what knowing Christ is all about. No, and I don’t believe that either, that you’re always grinning so wide you could eat a banana sideways –I don’t believe that is in the picture either.
But there’s an absolute joy that comes from knowing Christ that you will not experience anywhere else. When you know Christ, things are absolutely different. Christ manifested Himself in so many different ways almost immediately. It was almost as if He were saying, “Now I’ve let you fool around forty-five years of your life. Now I’ve got some things I want you to do, so I’m going to remove any doubt from your mind that your salvation is real.”
Now I want to give you a little warning. Different people have different salvation experiences. Yours might be totally different from mine. You see, for mine, there was no “magic moment” on that weekend. I do not remember one minute being lost and the next minute being saved. But when I awakened on that Monday morning, I knew beyond any reasonable doubt that Christ was in my heart, that I’d made my commitment to Him –that I was a totally different human being.
Now the first thing I did on that morning was I went to my cabinet –now I was, at that time, a casual, social drinker. Now when I say “casual, social” I mean a maximum of three times a month and that was unusual. But in those days they used to give you the little small bottles on an airplane when you flew. If you didn’t drink on the plane they’d give you two of them. I had a cabinet full of those things. I don’t know if any of you remember seeing that airline movie where one of the flight attendants opened her closet and there were hundreds of those little bottles like mine. I had a case of champagne somebody had given to me. I had several other bottles and when I opened my cabinet door that morning I then headed for the sink with every one of those bottles and I dumped them down. No, now I don’t believe drinking is going to send you to hell. I really don’t. I don’t believe smoking will –with smoking you smell like you’ve been there in advance. But anyhow –and you will get there quicker, you know, and so forth.
But you see, you don’t go to hell because of what you do –you go to hell because of what you don’t. And that simply is, believe. And I want to tell you now God used my son, who was seven years old, as a harassment committee of one to make absolutely certain that I walked a straight and narrow path. I well remember our anniversary that November after I committed my life to Christ. We went out to a restaurant that was owned by the Redhead’s hair-dresser. And he knew it was our anniversary –we got there and he gave us a bottle of wine.
Now I knew about my commitment that “never again.” But I did not have the courage at that point to say to him, “No, we don’t drink.” And so the Redhead and I had a sample of that wine. I got home and that seven-year-old boy said to me, “Dad, did you drink any wine or anything?” And I said, “Yes, I did, son.” And if I lived to be a thousand I’d never forget his exact words. He looked right at me and softly said, “Dad, I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am in you.”
I looked at my boy and I said, “Son, I’m going to make you a promise: If you’ll forgive Dad this time, I promise you for the rest of my life I will never have to ask you to forgive me again.” And I’ve kept that promise. Not in my strength, but in His.
After I was saved, I well remember, I was out in my swimming pool. I was looking up into the heavens. Really, I was praising God, and as I lay there I said, “God I know you put this whole big, beautiful universe together and I know that one of these days you’re going to take it down.” And at that precise moment, a star fell. God, I felt so close to, was speaking to me, “You’re absolutely right boy, and don’t you ever forget it.” And I never have.
A few days later I had some time off. We decided to go down on a little trip. We drove down to Corpus Christi. And we spent a day there and then decided to go over to San Antonio. And as we headed to San Antonio my son said, “Dad, give me a Bible story.” Well, you’ve got to understand that here’s a boy whose dad had not been taken him to church, who has not been reading him the Bible, and had not been praying with him.
You see, when we moved to Dallas in August of 1968 from Columbia, South Carolina, we didn’t have any friends here. Nobody to say, “Well, let’s go to church.” Now in Columbia and other places we always had friends and always went to church, and we went to church because that was the thing to do. On several occasions, as I said earlier, I almost made a commitment. But now we come to Dallas, and no friends –and Sunday was the only day I had! I mean, you know, I want to do something for myself. And so we didn’t go to church.
And now my boy says, “Dad, give me a Bible story.” Well, fortunately, having been raised in the church I knew some Bible stories so I gave him one and he said, “Give me another one, Dad.” I gave him another one. “Give me another one, Dad.” I gave him another one. He said, “Give me another one, Dad.” And about that time I was beginning to run out. And I said, “Well, boy, when we get to San Antonio I’ll get the book out and I’ll give you more stories.”
We got to San Antonio, checked in, went up to about the umpteenth floor and as the bellman set the bag down he said, “Okay Dad, get the book out and give me a story.” I got the book out and I did remember enough about the Bible. I went to the book of Exodus so I could get me a continuance story there. And I read, and finally I said, “Boy, I’m hungry. We got to go get something to eat.” And he said, “Okay, Dad. We’ll take it up when we get back.” Well we went to dinner and we came in, and the minute we walked in he said, “Okay, Dad. Get the book out and give me some more stories.”
I read until I absolutely got sleepy. I said, “Boy, I got to go to sleep.” He said, “Okay, Dad. We’ll take it up tomorrow.” We got up the next day, we were going to drive back to Dallas and normally I drive. But as we headed for the car he said, “Dad, I’ll tell you what. Let’s let Mom drive. You get the book out; I want you to give me a story.” God really was using him. You see, when you take that move toward God, you’ll find He’s already headed in your direction; He’s been waiting for you all of your life.