Bill Purvis had to be at death’s door before he discovered that everything he was searching for could be found in Jesus Christ. As a teenager, he nearly died when he was stabbed three times by a pimp during an encounter with a prostitute. With his pericardium sac pierced, liver punctured, and jugular vein completely severed, he cried out to Jesus, who miraculously saved his life. In the more than 30 years since that day, he’s become a pastor, leader, and mentor to many.
Bible Gateway interviewed Bill Purvis (@Bill_Purvis) about his book, Make a Break for It: Unleashing the Power of Personal and Spiritual Growth (Zondervan, 2016).
What is the meaning of your book’s title?
Bill Purvis: Make a Break for It is a challenge to pursue God’s destiny for your life. The Bible is filled with examples of people who were called to “make a break for it” to a life of trusting God. From God calling Moses from a burning bush to lead His people, to Jesus calling James and John from their fathers fishing business, or Matthew from the tax office, we see God opening the door of our destiny at certain moments, and when that moment comes, we should make a break for it.
Briefly tell the dramatic circumstances of your first prayer when you were 17 years old and why you said it.
Bill Purvis: I was an aimless boy with no guidance or direction when a young Christian shared the gospel with me. Two weeks later, I picked up a prostitute and was stabbed three times with a butcher knife by her drunken pimp. With my throat cut, a stab wound one-eighth below my heart, and another in my liver, as I lay dying I recalled the words of the Christian witness two weeks prior. Praying and calling out to God not only began a series of miracles to save my life; it radically changed my heart and nature.
What role did the Bible play in your life after you faced death?
Bill Purvis: The first Bible I ever read was a Gideon Bible from the nightstand in the hospital room. I couldn’t get enough of it. Like 1 Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”, I devoured it with an obsession. From that day forward, my preoccupation has been hearing from God through his amazing book.
Why do you ask people to decide if they’re “crabs or chameleons”?
Bill Purvis: In order to make a difference in this world we start with self-examination. A crab has to change if it’s to live. It’s a process called molting, and it must do it over and over to continue to live. A chameleon, on the other hand, only has to live by blending into the surroundings. Philippians 2:15 calls us to “prove yourselves blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as light in the world.” A believer whose primary goal is to blend in, loses their “salt” (effectiveness) and actually creates the problem (losing respect) that they think they are solving (attempting to gain respect with unbelievers).
How should people “dress for destiny”?
Bill Purvis: Just as you wouldn’t leave home without physical clothing from your closet, it’s crucial that we have a “prayer closet” to dress from as well. Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 6:6 when he said, “when you pray, enter into thy closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret, shall reward you openly.” Your prayer closet is where you dress spiritually for the day. It’s where you consider what you’ll need to face the day, whether wisdom, guidance, grace, discernment, your spiritual armor, clothed with love and humility and thanksgiving. Your prayer closet is where you properly dressed for your day.
What is the biblical foundation for your belief that “the way up is down”?
Bill Purvis: God will not bless a prideful heart. He resists; turns his face and favor from pride. The clear teaching and proven examples in Scripture teach us “the way up is down.” For example:
Proverbs 29:23—A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.
Matthew 23:12—Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
James 4:10—Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
What do you hope readers will do when they finish your book?
Bill Purvis: It has a two-fold purpose. First, people are putting it into the hands of people they love who need Jesus. It’s a perfect witnessing tool and conversation starter. Secondly, it’s a simple and practical book showing a Christian how to really grow in their faith, without getting lost in all the religious jargon, verbiage, and useless exercises that sincere believers sometimes experience. It’s a map to Make a Break for It when God’s opportunities come.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and/or the Bible Gateway App?
Bill Purvis: I LOVE Bible Gateway! If you check my laptop history, it’s always the most visited site. It’s the site that saves me time in research and I often use it in my daily devotionals to just read through books of the Bible in various versions. I’m honored that you invited me to do this interview, because I consider you one of my best tools for personal spiritual growth. I recommend this site to everyone!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Bill Purvis: Some of the words that the young witness said to me, two weeks before I was stabbed and left for dead were, “Everything you’re looking for can be found in Jesus” and I would say the same to others. It’s in Jesus that I found forgiveness, peace, love, hope, and my purpose in life. And I know that what he did for this aimless and empty soul, he can do for anyone who comes to him.
Bio: Bill Purvis became pastor at Cascade Hills Church, Columbus, GA, with no salary and only 32 people in the pews on Easter Sunday. He now ministers to over 8,000 people locally and has an international television audience through Trinity Broadcasting Network. Purvis and his wife, Debbie, live in Columbus, Georgia.