A few years ago Matt Benton sat alone in a pew at The Village Church with nothing to look forward to that night but a big, empty house. He had recently separated from his fiancee. His plans for the future were broken and out of his control.
Sitting in the pew, Matt felt the need to do just one thing, greater than any other desire. He leaned over and prayed.
Growing up in Tyler, Texas, Matt rarely attended church, and at home he experienced physical and verbal abuse which, by the time he entered junior high, led to his parents' divorce. Years passed, and his built-up anger and resentment started to twist into rage, looking for an outlet.
Matt attempted to numb his pain with drinking and partying, and he ignored the deeper struggle within his soul.
In college he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and thrown in jail. Hate and anger – stemmed from a childhood marred by divorce and abuse – had manifested itself in what should have been a felony, had the accusers not dropped the charges.
On his fourth visit to The Village, Matt had come to church alone, but he left carrying the Holy Spirit in his heart.
When that didn't work, Matt started to chase after women, thinking that he needed a relationship to make him happy. "The book of Ecclesiastes best describes my life and how I continued to chase the wind looking for satisfaction, but I could never find it," said Matt.
During his junior year of college, he started a physical relationship with a girl. They partied and chased the world together, and Matt told her if she ever got pregnant not to tell him. After graduating, they continued to date and became engaged, but not before she confessed to being pregnant and having an abortion.
"The abortion crushed her but not so much me," said Matt. "I felt so numb to everything going on that I couldn't respond. I wanted to hurt for her, but couldn't do anything but think about myself and how I was thankful that I didn't have to support a child."
After that, wealth and money became huge idols in Matt's life: he set financial goals for himself and gained temporary happiness when he fulfilled them. He took a job in Dallas, planned his wedding and bought a house that he hoped to raise a family in. Still, he couldn't find contentment. "My fiancee and I continually fought about little things, and my anger still tended to come out," said Matt. "I was never physically abusive with her, but verbally abusive, yes."
Matt tried to mask his anger with medicine, but it only affected his outward actions, not the deeper heart issue. He and his fiancee continued to argue, and one month from the wedding, Matt told his soon-to-be wife that he didn't think they should get married. "I immediately tried to take back what I said, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make her come back," said Matt.
During the moment Matt thought he was most in control, God adamantly showed him that he was not. "This was the first thing that I felt got out of my circle of control. I couldn't reel it back in, no matter what I did," said Matt.
"I spent the next couple months on my hands and knees, crying but not praying, wondering what the purpose of my life was and why I was even here. I desperately needed something or someone to save me from myself."
A few weeks later, in Granbury, Texas, the Lord began revealing His plan for Matt.
While eating lunch at a local diner with his co-worker, a complete stranger spoke to him. Amid a crowd of people, she smiled and said, "Sir, I feel as though the Lord wants me to tell you that He knows where you are and that He loves you very much and has great plans for you."
Matt left not knowing how to respond. But for some reason, her words about Jesus reverberated within him. He couldn't let go of them.
Tired of hurting and feeling empty, Matt called one of his old party buddies and poured out his life and what was happening to him. His friend told him he had left behind the party scene. He also mentioned The Village Church in Flower Mound and suggested Matt check it out, which he did the following Sunday.
"Listening to Matt Chandler preach the Word of God and how he always brings it back to the gospel, I began to feel a stirring within," said Matt. "I couldn't wait to come back the next Sunday."
Matt's fervent prayer came to him in his fourth visit, during the night he felt compelled to lean over and pray. "I don't believe I had a choice but to pray that night. The desire was so great," said Matt. "As I began to cry to God, I was being saved. I felt the overwhelming presence of God come into my life and immediately transform me from the inside out."
That night Matt had come to church alone, but he left carrying the Holy Spirit in his heart.
Since coming to the Lord, Matt's transformation has been a process. He has continued to wander and stumble through various stages of life, but every time he does, there is a twinge in his soul.
He says this conviction would be overwhelming if wasn't for grace – the same grace that's brought him to where he is today, still a sinner but forgiven through the blood of Christ.