God brought Larry Wheeler to nothing so He could introduce him to everything he ever wanted

Larry Wheeler can personally testify to the highs and lows life can bring. 

He didn’t have much growing up, he says, which motivated him to go straight to work in the oil fields after graduating high school. In those fields, he found hard work, long days, and eventually, a six-figure income. He drove $80,000 trucks—sometimes buying more than one in a year—and had enough money to give his family the life he envisioned.

A life of plenty. The high life.

Though his job paid well, it exacted a high cost in return. Larry often spent weeks at a time away in the fields—a hard fact of life for a new family with a young child. The distance in miles was matched by an emotional void that opened between him and his wife, Mary. Years of infidelity followed.

A sinkhole began to hollow Larry out from the inside, devouring not only the life he had worked so hard to build, but his soul. Looking to fill the emptiness, he spent faster than he could earn. He used alcohol and drugs to numb the painful darkness enveloping his heart and mind. 

Financial problems inevitably arrived. He was going to lose his house. He was going to lose his trucks. His family was floundering. He felt like everything was slipping away—and now, as he sat at home alone one night, thoughts of ending his own life entered his mind.

It was the lowest of the lows. 

“That was the moment I realized that as much as I tried to control everything, I didn’t have control of anything,” Larry said. “That was actually the night I was going to end it all. I came to the point of crying out—in the middle of the night—to God.” 

Having survived a restless night, Larry opened his eyes the next day not realizing God was about to respond to his cries for help. It started with a phone call.

Larry Wheeler, pictured on the left with his wife, Mary, and their two sons, Tripp (in hat) and Tuff, sought satisfaction in the wrong things until God got his attention. (At Right) Wheeler, left, is seen with Judd Frazier, who baptized him. SUBMITTED PHOTO

‘It was almost like God was telling me to do it’

It was April 2021 and Charles Wheeler woke up on a mission. No, he woke up with a burden. Easter Sunday was about a week away, so he picked up his phone and, one by one over the next 15 minutes, called each of his three adult children—all of whom were distant from the Lord. 

The conversations were short, stern, and to the point.

“I don’t ask much of you, and I’ve never tried to interfere with your life,” he said to his son, Larry. “But I’m not askin’—you need to be in church for Easter.”

“All right, whatever,” Larry responded.

End of call. 

The conversation caught Larry off guard. It felt random, out of nowhere, he thought, but was it? When Larry looked inside the church growing up, all he saw was a gathering of people he couldn’t relate to. But over the years, he recalled several encounters he felt God used to remind him of His presence. A couple years ago, Larry was completely unscathed after pulling a man out of a fully engulfed house fire. Several years before that, he had a spiritual conversation with a man he was buying a horse trailer from. 

“Do you go to church?” the man asked.

“No sir,” Larry replied, “I don’t need church.”

“Well, maybe that’s true,” the man said, “but who’s to say the church don’t need you?”

Those memories came flooding back after the phone call from his father.

“I think my dad telling me I needed to be at church made me realize, ‘OK, you need to quit being so hard-headed and just do it,’” Larry said. “Here I was the night before asking God to help me, so when my dad said it, it was almost like God was telling me to do it.”

Two days later, Mary came home after the couple’s latest separation.

“Hey,” Larry said to her, “we gotta be at church this Sunday.”

“I realized that as much as I tried to control everything, I didn’t have control of anything. That was actually the night I was going to end it all. I came to the point of crying out—in the middle of the night—to God.”

‘Are you Charlie’s son?’

Judd Frazier was having the kind of morning every pastor can relate to. The details, he says, don’t matter much now, but let’s just say it was a tough morning. Getting your heart and head right to deliver a sermon on those kinds of mornings is difficult enough; when they fall on Easter Sunday, the pressure can feel overwhelming. 

Even so, Frazier said knew he needed to be faithful to preach the gospel to all those who would gather that morning at First Baptist Church in Fruitvale. Among those expected in attendance was Larry Wheeler—a man for whom Frazier and Charles, one of the church’s deacons, had prayed many times.  

Sure enough, Larry and Mary walked in before the service and took a seat near Charles. Frazier proceeded to preach his passage from 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ….”

When Frazier finished, he felt like his sermon didn’t connect. Once the invitation began, he sat down and began praying: “Lord, I butchered this. I’m so sorry.” When he opened his eyes and looked up, he was surprised: Larry was at the altar, doubled over on both knees and weeping uncontrollably.

Frazier shot up from his seat and knelt down next to Larry. 

“Are you Charlie’s son?” Frazier asked. Larry shook his head in the affirmative. 

“Larry, we’ve been praying for you by name for a couple of weeks,” Frazier continued. “Brother, you need to give your life to Jesus.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Larry sobbed, “but I know I need that because I don’t have what you just [preached] about. My life is a mess and I can’t fix it anymore.”

Larry surrendered his life to Jesus that day and was baptized the next month. Mary—who had made a profession of faith earlier in life before struggling in her faith—recommitted her life to the Lord, as well, and she and Larry began a process of healing and forgiveness that continues to this day. 

In the months that followed, Frazier and Larry would meet weekly, studying the Bible and talking about how Jesus can overcome any obstacle in the lives of His followers. It’s not a perfect life, Larry says, but an abundant one.

A life of plenty. The high life.

“My life, it’s been up and down, but man, I’ve just steadily been climbing up,” Larry said. “It’s like Jesus is slowly pulling me out of a pit, and I just give Him all the glory for that. His love is real. His grace—when He says, ‘My grace is sufficient’—it is.”

“My life, it’s been up and down, but man, I’ve just steadily been climbing up. It’s like Jesus is slowly pulling me out of a pit, and I just give Him all the glory for that.”

Man on fire

Frazier was at his home on a Friday night not too long ago when a pipe burst. A city employee arrived after hours with his wife to assess the damage, and the three eventually struck up a conversation. Before long, the city employee’s wife realized she recognized Frazier.

“Wait, are you Larry Wheeler’s pastor?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I am,” he said with a bemused chuckle, “but how do you know Larry?”

“Well, I work at a bank in Van, and he has come in and evangelized almost everybody in the lobby several times. He’s asked every one of us in the bank if we’re saved and about our testimonies. He shares the gospel with people every time he comes in there.”

A few weeks later, Frazier had just pulled into a drive thru for a late-night bite after church on a Wednesday when his phone rang. It was after 10 p.m., and the name on the caller ID was one he quickly recognized: Larry Wheeler.

These are the kinds of after-hours calls that can make a pastor’s heart skip a beat, and Frazier’s was no different. “Uh oh,” he thought. “I wonder what’s wrong.”

When Frazier answered, he was greeted by Wheeler’s voice, full of excitement. “Pastor, I just called you to let you know I just led someone to the Lord,” Wheeler said. 

“He was so excited,” Frazier recalled. “That man is just on fire for the Lord.”

Digital Editor
Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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