Albit Rodriguez had it all or so he thought. He had “become some sort of warlord complete with the 4G’s: guns, goons, gold, and girls.” He thought he was “on top of the world” but today when he looks back to that life, he considers it like “quicksand” which included addictions and suicidal thoughts. “I was already in the sewer,” he says.
But God intervened. A sudden disaster made the prodigal turn back home. When Albit chose to give the mess to Jesus, the mess became His message of redemption and grace. After an encounter with Jesus, washing in God’s Word, and spiritual mentoring, the prodigal became a follower of Jesus Christ. This caused him to have a mind change, a heart change, a life change, a marriage change, a family change, a community change… as he sought to follow what God prescribes in His Word.
Twenty years out of the prodigal life, Albit the Rescued has become servant of God, The Rescuer, helping others to leave the prodigal lifestyle. He is now pastor of CCF (Christ’s Commission Fellowship) Makati. His wife, Gina, and their four children serve in its different ministries. From the ruins, God revealed a blessing in disguise of Albit’s wilderness experience that has given him the compassion and heart for those who are stuck in the shoes he once filled.
Pastor Albit talks about the journey out of “the sewer” towards the most fulfilling life of all. Here, he gives us glimpses of God’s story in his life which demonstrates the power of Jesus to transform lives. With Him, nothing is impossible.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What was your life like before you came to know Christ?
ALBIT (A): My life before Christ was basically a very self-centered one. My main objective was to enjoy life to the fullest, to accumulate as much wealth and to give in to all my selfish desires. After I met the Lord and got to know Christ in a very personal way, it was a major change. First of all, it was really a time of surrender. My mindset changed entirely. Of course, transformation takes time. It’s difficult to let go of everything, just like that, it’s a process. But it starts with a decision which has to be a whole-hearted one. So when I finally surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, my mindset was “Alright Lord, You win. From now on, I will do it Your way. But You will need to help me because I do not have the strength to fight my weaknesses.”
BITS: How about after you came to know Christ?
A: I don’t want anyone to think I’m already good, I still have flaws. But God allowed me to be changed from a total wreck of a person, a wretched man to what might be considered an acceptable model of godliness to follow.
BITS: What factors led you to know Christ?
A: In the ’80’s, I experienced financial success for several years. I became proud and felt I could do anything I wanted. But after a period of time, I experienced a sudden downturn until I reached a point of bankruptcy. I realized the Lord brought me to that point of surrender wherein I had nowhere else to go but Him. I knew the Lord in my mind…but even so, if it doesn’t go deep in your heart, it’s just head knowledge. There will be no life change. Knowing Him in the heart involves genuine surrender… when you surrender your life to the Lord, it involves Him replacing yourself as the lord or boss of your life. When you surrender your life to the Lord, you surrender your right to do anything you want and subject yourself to the Lord and to His word. That’s what I mean by “He is the Lord of your life”.
BITS: Do you think that a person needs a tragedy in order for his heart to be open to the Lord?
A: God works in us in a unique way. Some people who are more obedient, perhaps God doesn’t bring them to such a horrible wilderness experience. God allows difficult situations in our lives depending on what we need to be transformed, to grow, to be taught. In my case, I was a very rebellious, proud type of person; that’s why God had to allow extreme situations in my life to break me. If you have a proud spirit, He will break you; the harder you are, the more force He will use because ultimately, God will win.
BITS: So the more rebellious need more grave circumstances?
A: More pain perhaps.
BITS: Until then, perhaps, establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ might not happen without perceiving the need for God?
A: It’s a very, very natural human desire to exercise your own rights and often, many of us are very protective over those rights and when they’re violated, we manifest our anger and displeasure. In 1Cor 10:13, it tells us that we are not given a temptation that we are not able to bear. God is like a tailor who makes a coat exactly to the size of the individual. He designs the experiences, trials that an individual must go through in a unique way to suit that individual. That individual still has the God-given right to say yes or no. In my case when I have trials and I say, “I don’t want to respond in a godly way. I want to respond in a rebellious way.” What happens is the trial is extended. Then God turns on the heat until finally He breaks your spirit. God was already sending me specific signals meant to make me repent from my iniquity. But I held on to my pride and I said, “No! You give me what I want first and THEN I will change.” But it doesn’t work that way. God wants us first to repent and THEN… that’s why we go back to “Seek ye first His kingdom and righteousness then all these things will be added unto you.” My biggest mistake was I thought I could twist the arm of God. I realized that’s never gonna happen.
Q: If you know someone who is living that prodigal life, what would you do?
A: It all boils down to sharing the gospel because if the person does not have Christ in his heart, it will be extremely difficult… impossible for that person to change. The reason why people can change is because the Spirit of God is already in them and working through them. Without Jesus Christ, then the Spirit of God is not there; therefore, there is no supernatural strength and power so we are left to our own natural strength which is very limited.
BITS: What if the prodigal is someone who already has accepted Jesus Christ in their life?
A: If he’s already a believer, He must be dealt with in love and with Scripture and counseling. If he’s in ministry, he has to step down from any leadership position. If he responds humbly, he will be restored relatively quickly but if he responds in pride, there’s a possibility that he may never be restored.
BITS: In your life, was there someone who was drawing you towards the Lord?
A: Yes, I have one person in my life who I’m so grateful to—my mentor—who stuck it out with us through thick or thin, who never gave up.
BITS: After you surrendered to the Lord, was it a straight climb or was it staggered?
A: When it happened to me, I was at my lowest point. I was already contemplating on killing myself. That’s how despair-filled my life was. I was worse than bankrupt. I was ready to give up on everything. When I genuinely surrendered and asked the Lord to rescue me, I would have to say it was a gradual rise, slow but sure. Not quick. What God gave me was the peace and tranquility in my heart that I craved so much. As a result of that, by His grace, I was able to stop all my addictions: alcoholism, womanizing, drugs. That alone was a major boost in my life. I experienced that boost and then it was gradual.
BITS: During that slow steady journey, was there a spiritual mentor to walk you through or walk with you?
A: I always had someone I could talk to. My discipler was always there. A lot of times he was also busy but there were also other brothers that I could call when I needed.
BITS: What if a person decided to live a new life and there were no spiritual mentors to help him along?
A: Very difficult…because God created us for community. There are no Christian lone rangers so to speak. For me, it’s very essential that when somebody is being restored, that there be brethren that make themselves available for counsel, prayer, mentoring.
BITS: For someone who doesn’t yet know Christ who is in a similar situation as your old life, what message can you share?
A: There is no better life than one that is fully committed to the Lord. I think every human being is after the same things: joy, peace, and all these things. We try to obtain these with relationships, material things, milestones that we attempt to accomplish for recognition, acclaim, and whatever else we believe we are seeking to reach that point of fulfillment. But once you reach that milestone in your life, there’s still that empty feeling. You think it’s because you still need to aspire for more. What I can say is that aspiring for more success or whatever will not really fill that empty feeling inside of us.
BITS: For someone who knows the Word and has received Christ already but is walking in disobedience, what message can you share?
A: In my case, I lived a very sinful life. I was addicted to a lot of vices. Sometimes you know deep in your heart you want to stop already and that you’re not doing the right thing. In my case, I felt trapped, didn’t know how to get out of it. It seemed at that point, God was such an abstract, distant element but in reality, He’s not. He’s right beside you. All you need to do is to acknowledge and open your heart to Him and He will surely begin to interact with you and show you the way out of your predicament.
BITS: Was it easy to leave the old life?
A: Definitely not. It takes supernatural strength. I attribute that strength to the Almighty God. Without Him, I would never have gotten out of my habits, compulsions, addictions.
BITS: In your personal or counseling experiences, does a “prodigal” desire to leave the old life but has a hard time doing so or does it feel like it’s too good to leave? What are the real struggles that a person in that situation faces?
A: You can’t really generalize but basically we all have similar reasons. It’s a mixed emotion type of thing. You have the pros, you have the cons. You enjoy it but there’s that nagging guilt that comes with doing these things. Specially if you have a family. You come home and see your family, you feel dirty, like you have betrayed them but at the same time a part of you says “As long as I feed them and they still see me, that’s good enough. What I do outside the home is my business. That’s none of their concern.” It’s really a confusing state. You try to justify it. At the same time you feel bad about it. There’s really no peace. The bottomline is it’s not a situation I want to go back to. I’m very, very grateful to God for having rescued me out of that.
BITS: What factors do you think lead a person to start living that kind of life?
A: In my case, my father had a drinking problem although he was not a womanizer. Seeing him get intoxicated gave me the signals that hey, this is not a bad thing. This is a manly, macho way to be. That’s how I grew up with friends and relatives who would say that if you could drink a bottle of Scotch you were somebody. If you couldn’t, you were some kind of a weakling. If you’re already drinking, the next step is women, then violence.
BITS: Is there a way for young people to avoid it?
A: Yes, most definitely. At CCF[Christ’s Commission Fellowship] Makati, we give special attention to our next generation..our youth. From pre-school age all the way up to young adult stage. We provide them with events, venues, groups that would cater to their need for social activities in a God-centered way. Of course we don’t have a 100% batting average but generally speaking, when there are God-centered, church-oriented activities geared for young people to give them a venue to have social activities, a lot of these problems can be avoided.
BITS: What are the factors that will help a person leave the prodigal life?
A: The person needs to obtain a personal relationship with Christ because taking it from my experience, there really is no way to leave the worldly lifestyle. Let’s face it we live in this world prone to enjoying these worldly activities that somehow lead us to the wrong path. The only way that we can walk the line of godliness and truth, is by first of all obtaining Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and savior and cultivating our intimate relationship with Him by daily communications, prayer, reading, meditating on his word, attending Sunday worship service and other Christ-centered events.The desires for the worldly things will diminish over time and be replaced by new desires. Those new desires are directly involved with our personal walk with Jesus Christ.
BITS: Did you talk to your children about what happened? If yes, how did you explain the situation to them? How do you think it impacted them?
A: By God’s grace, I was able to talk to my children long after. It was about eighteen to twenty years ago that I left the sinful lifestyle. During that time my children were still very small. For some reason, the Lord shielded them from trauma. It’s a miracle how that happened. As they grew up, I explained to them what kind of life their father had been living. My son, he remembered seeing me intoxicated. But God shielded them and they were not affected too much. That’s another item for me to thank Him for. Generally, my children were blessed when I told them about my life and how God has been changing me. It impacted them positively as manifested by they themselves having fully surrendered their lives to the Lord as well.
BITS: How do you advise your children about marriage?
A: I always laugh when I think of this because I’ve always been very up front with my children about sex, dating, marriage. We have an agreement among ourselves that my children do not engage in recreational dating so when they date, specially if it’s just one-on-one (which they don’t except for my son), the suitor is expected to sit down with me and I ask him “What are your intentions?” I’ve been, by God’s grace, given the privilege to allow him to pursue my daughter. As far as we’re concerned, the end goal is marriage because we believe that there is no godly purpose to dating except if it’s headed towards God’s design of courtship and ultimately, marriage. Of course, I advise them about purity which is very essential not to put themselves in a situation where they will fall into sin. Nobody is beyond reproach nor temptation specially when it comes to lust. The bible tells us to flee from immorality. That’s a crucial aspect of what we teach them.
BITS: Do you have a message you would like to share with young men? How about a message for husbands?
A: My message is very simple. It’s not revolutionary. It’s a time-tested principle in life which, by God’s grace, I’ve been trying to apply faithfully to my own life. It’s to seek God first, His righteousness. The Lord promises that as long as you do that—prioritize Him above everything you do, every moment of your life—then the Lord will bless you and provide for all your needs. I have seen it work in my life and the lives of many, many brethren in the faith. You can’t go wrong.
BITS: How did you evolve in your role as spiritual head of the family?
A: The bible is an incredible manual of life. it has all the principles that you could possibly have to be able to live a good life. When I say “good”, I mean godly, joyful, peaceful…everything a human being genuinely desires. In the bible it talks about the roles of husband, wife, children, etc. If you follow the precepts in God’s word, you can not go wrong. Like for example for a man, for a husband, you’re taught to be a leader but the kind of leader we are taught to be is a servant- leader. We are taught to be a lover to cherish and to nourish our wives, take care of our children, bring them up in godly instruction, to discipline them in a loving way. It’s all there for all these roles. The bible is very complete and you just can not go wrong by obeying whatever it tells you to do.
BITS: What do you think is the most important thing for a father to do?
A: To spend time with his children to teach them about the Lord, about the Lord’s word, to mentor them, to basically get very involved in their life— in a non-suffocating — but to really develop a very deep and loving relationship with his children because if you don’t have that, you can’t really influence them and lead them to the Lord.
BITS: Do you think what you do as a husband is for your children as well?
A: Yes! I believe so. There’s no more stabilizing factor for a child than to see his parents love one another. I think it makes a child very secure.
BITS: Looking at your old life from where you are now, what comes to mind?
A: Gratitude more than anything else. There are times when I wake up in the morning. I may be tired or anxious or sad. I always counter that by remembering what God has done for me. He rescued me from the sewer. I was headed for the sewer. I was already in the sewer actually but He pulled me out. For the rest of my life, I have nothing but gratitude to the Lord. I substantiate my gratitude by recommitting my life to Him, getting closer to Him, becoming more obedient and Christ like, serving Him for whatever time I have left on this earth.
BITS: Now you’re the shepherd, leading people to Christ. What if that person comes to a point when the person doesn’t want the help.
A: You have to respect that because you can never force your way. You can pray for that person. Ultimately, it’s still the decision of the individual. He has to want it.
BITS: How would you pray for prodigals?
A: I pray that the Lord open their heart and mind to truth, salvation, for them to humble themselves, to repent, to accept Jesus as their own personal Lord and Savior, for them to grow in the knowledge and faith in the Lord and in His word, to seek help to be convicted by the Spirit of their sinful lifestyle, to change, to grow and mature towards Christlikeness
Here is the anniversary video of CCF Makati under the leadership of Pastor Albit Rodriguez:
Pastor Albit’s Message: Staying On Track