Jon Gordon: With Jesus, He takes your soul pain. He takes your burden. I believe in a God that would actually want to do it for me and would want to take that. You believe it, and you receive it, and He takes it from you.
Depend on God and He Will Carry Your Burden: Jon Gordon & Andrew F. Carter – Episode #303
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Life as a journey is almost cliche now, but there’s a reason why the metaphor persists. Journeys are difficult. We fight through injuries, claw our way to the tops of mountains, and endure the elements. We enjoy the completion of one segment only to find another looming ahead with its own set of obstacles. Journeys are visions of life’s failures and triumphs that emphasize the importance of keeping on.
Our guests this week share how they’ve persisted and how Jesus has carried their burdens with them on their journeys. Jon Gordon overcame a negativity learned from childhood to become a highly sought after motivational speaker. But even with his success, he felt empty, and his search for meaning led him to an unlikely source who told him that Jesus could take his soul pain away from him. Andrew F. Carter grew up in a family plagued with drugs, alcohol, and instability. After being in and out of jail multiple times, Andrew turned to Jesus long enough to be called to the ministry, but then he had what he calls “a Jonah moment” when he ran the other direction. Eventually, he found his way back to that calling as a social media influencer on platforms like TikTok and YouTube where he shares the gospel with millions. For both Jon and Andrew, life has been a journey that’s best done with Jesus.
Let’s start with Jon’s story.
Jon: I grew up in a Jewish-Italian family. My mom is Jewish, my dad was Italian Catholic: a lot of food, a lot of guilt, a lot of wine, a lot of whining. So it wasn’t the most positive household, very loving, but my dad was one of the most negative people on the planet. He was a New York City police officer, undercover narcotics. So he was shot a few times. He wasn’t very positive.
And so I struggled with positivity growing up, and in my late twenties so much so that my wife, she had enough of my negativity. She said, “I love you, but I’m not going to spend my life with someone who makes me so miserable. You need to change.”
I was thirty-one years old, two small children—stressed, fearful, negative—lost my job during the dot-com crash. I don’t know what our future holds. How am I going to pay the bills? Definitely the scariest time of my life, and I was crumbling from the inside out. I had no faith, and I really didn’t know who I was. I was so young and immature with two small children and it was a wake-up call for me. It was really a great ultimatum, like, All right, she’s going to leave. I love her. I want to stay married. I’ve got to change. And that began this journey of becoming a more positive person.
So I started to research ways that I could be more positive. This was during the emerging field of positive psychology. And I read that you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time. So I started to practice gratitude. I started these “thank-you walks” where, while you’re walking, you say what you’re thankful for. And those walks of gratitude also turn into walks of prayer. And so it was during those walks where I would start to say, “God, please help me, God, God show me the way, just help me.” And I just started to pray prayers.
“I started these thank you walks where while you’re walking, you say what you’re thankful for. And those walks of gratitude also turn into walks of prayer.” – Jon Gordon
Looking for Signs That Jesus is Real
Again, I wasn’t a believer at the time, but I always had this feeling that there was a God and that God cared about me and God was interested in my life and what I was doing. So I did feel this personal connection.
Friends started to give me sermons and things to read, and Daniel Dekker, who works with me to this day, he had been involved in the church and really a strong believer gave me some sermons from a guy named Erwin McManus. And I read Erwin’s—actually listened to his sermon. Erwin is a pastor of Mosaic in L.A. And I listened to his sermon, “Why I Followed Jesus.” And it just really spoke to me. For the first time, I felt His essence. I felt a connection to Him for the first time in my life. I can’t explain it. It was spiritual. It was beyond comprehension. But I felt it listening to Erwin’s sermon, it brought Jesus to life for me. And I remember thinking, Okay, maybe there is something to this Jesus, I’m open. I said, “God, show me the science, God, just show me the signs. If there is something to this Jesus if He is who he said He is, just show me the signs. I’m open.” And I started to look to see if any signs came my way.
So at that time, I’m now speaking and I started down the road of a motivational speaker. I started to give talks and it’s so funny because I’m giving these talks and people would come up to me and say, “Hey, you know, are you a believer?”
I’d say, like, “A believer in what?”
And they’re like “A believer in God. You believe in Jesus.”
I’d say, “Well, no, not really.”
But for them, they said, “Oh, yes, you are. I see it in you.”
And other times people would come up to me and say, “Have you been saved? I know you’ve been saved.”
I’m like, “No, I don’t need saving. I’m good.” People were seeing it in me before I saw it in myself.
But at this point right now I’m on this journey, I’m seeking, I’m speaking. And when I said, “God, show me the signs,” I’m going down to Orlando to speak. I’m driving in my car and I’m looking to the left. And I turned to the right and there was a sign that said, “Jesus is the answer.” And that happened like three or four times, different places, different times. Everywhere I looked, I would see signs that say “Jesus is the answer” or “Got Jesus?” or you name it, and it just would show up. It was incredible how it happened so many times. And so I would see these signs and like, Okay, I’m seeing these signs, like I asked God, “Show me the sign” and now I’m seeing these signs. So this is really wild.
I went to an energy healer because I was having problems with my stomach and my colon and a lot of issues, a lot of health challenges. So I said, “Don, I’ve seen all these signs that say Jesus is the answer. What do you make of that?”
He said, “Well, you know, I’m a Buddhist. But with Jesus, He takes your soul pain. He takes your burden.”
When he said that, it really got my attention and he said, “All you do is believe and receive. You believe it, and you receive it, and He takes it from you.” And it was wild because I walked out of there going, I believe in a God that would actually want to take my burden, want to take my soul pain. He said, “The burden of sin—that’s what Christians call it, but I call it soul pain.”
“I believe in a God that would actually want to take my burden, want to take my soul pain.” – Jon Gordon
I believe in a God that would actually want to do it for me and would want to take that and it made so much sense to me once he explained it that way. That was just amazing, so I walked out of there, I said, “Okay, I’m going to give this Jesus a shot.” I said, “God, I don’t have all the answers, but just strengthen my faith.”
Jon Follows the Signs to Christ
All these things just culminated in me saying, “Okay, I’m going to surrender.” And I realized that I needed a Savior because I couldn’t save myself. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t about my power. It was about transferring my power to the Creator of the universe. And when I surrender, I give Him my power. It’s the great exchange. He gives me greater power. He gives me abundance. He gives me life. Right? And so He changes everything. And so for me, it was like earth-shattering. It was life-changing. Who I am now was fundamentally so different from who I was because of this faith, because of this change, because of the surrender and just saying, “Okay, God, I surrender, save me.”
“I needed a Savior because I couldn’t save myself. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t about my power. It was about transferring my power to the Creator of the universe.” – Jon Gordon
That’s part of the journey of how I came to Christ, how I definitely accepted Him. And the coolest thing was I sent Erwin McManus an email about the experience and I didn’t really know him, but I just sent him this email. A week later, I’m listening to his podcast because he was one of the first people doing podcasts and sermons like way back when, this was 2006 or 2007. And he’s reading my email to his audience and saying, “Hey, here’s a guy in Florida who found Jesus through a Buddhist energy healer. Most people think you have to find it in a church. It doesn’t always work that way. God will use all ways and all means to reach you and connect you and to find the lost.” And it was pretty cool because God used this guy, Don, who passed away a couple of years ago, to speak truth into me in His own way.
Measuring Leadership Against Jesus’ Standards of Leading
We know that God has a plan, God has a purpose for everyone. For me, I’m meant to be in the marketplace. And so I need to speak secular language. And when I’m with companies and businesses, I’m talking about vision. I’m talking about purpose. I’m talking about optimism and belief. I do weave in faith. I talk about building great relationships. It’s so funny because my main work is the power of positive leadership. The Energy Bus is my most popular book. Then there’s the power of positive leadership. When I wrote this book, I measured it against Jesus, the way He led. And every principle in there is how Jesus leads. It’s just not using His language. It’s love and accountability. It’s building relationships, its vision, its belief. Jesus believes in people more than they believe in themselves.
“Jesus believes in people more than they believe in themselves.” – Jon Gordon
Look what He did with His disciples. And so I measured against His leadership, and I did not put it into the book if it wasn’t a principle that also embodied Jesus’s leadership. So when I’m out there, I’m sharing how He led in a way, but I’m not talking about Jesus. I’m talking about the power of positive leadership. But what happens is that I’m out there talking and I share examples. People do then start to follow me. And as they started to follow me on social media and Instagram and Twitter, I am more bold with my faith, especially on Sundays. I will always share, you know, something that’s really important to me from a faith standpoint. And then from there, people might want to explore more.
So that’s how I navigate in terms of I go to give these talks and I want to be respectful of who they are, their organization, their business, and I’m there speaking. But I’m not denying myself or denying God by talking. I’m sharing the essence of who I am. I’m doing what God has called me to do. And I know that He’s using me to speak life to these people, to encourage these people, to give them some light and some hope for the future. And then from there, they want more and they’re interested in more. They seek more.
I think people need more of that to understand God’s love. And there are people to talk about God’s punishment and all that, but they need to understand Jesus and Jesus came to forgive. He came to love. He didn’t come to condemn the world. And so once you understand that love, I think it makes you want to know more.
“Jesus came to forgive. He came to love. He didn’t come to condemn the world. And so once you understand that love, I think it makes you want to know more.” – Jon Gordon
A Time for Truth
I just wrote The Garden, and The Garden came out in the spring during the pandemic. And this is my first sort of faith-based fable that I knew I had to write.
God came to unite, right? He sent Jesus here to unite humanity back to God, to restore, to redeem what was lost, what was broken in the garden. And that is real unity, wholeness, oneness that that we are meant to have in that relationship with our Creator. So I had to put that in there. And I did. And I was like, Man, alright, there’s no turning back. Here you go. But it’s pretty cool.
I put a warning page in the beginning of the book as an introduction: “This is not like my other books.” We even promoted it with a warning label. We shared the truth: “This is Jon’s faith that he’s sharing in this book. We want you to know that.” The book comes out and it’s a number-one Wall Street Journal bestseller. It’s amazing when you honor God, He will honor the work. And it has impacted so many people already in its short amount of time being out to help people win the battle of their mind, their heart, their soul for what they’re going through. And so it’s a sweet story. It’s really special. And people said it really spoke to their soul.
You know what? People need more encouragement today. They need more hope. They need more light. It’s what Jesus came to do. It’s what we need. We need the good news. And so I love Jesus Calling, by the way. I have read all the books and they speak to me in so many ways. They strengthen your faith.
“People need more encouragement today. They need more hope. They need more light. It’s what Jesus came to do.” – Jon Gordon
And you know what? It’s funny because there are people in the world that will criticize and say, “Well, you’re not sharing this enough. You’re not giving the hard news. It’s all fluff. It’s all positive.” And I believe that those people who are criticizing need to understand that they’re not God and that God has a greater plan and God is using people in different ways. And you have to understand what His calling for you is. And if God calls me to be overt and to be bold, I will be bold.
Narrator: To learn more about Jon Gordon, or to purchase his latest book, The Garden: A Spiritual Fable About Ways To Overcome Fear, Anxiety, & Stress, visit jongordon.com.
Stay tuned to Andrew F. Carter’s story after a brief message.
Jesus Calling App: inspiration on the go!
Read devotions and Scriptures, purchase products, take notes, and so much more.
The app is available for purchase on both Apple and Android. Download it today!
Narrator: Our next guest is Andrew F. Carter, a pastor and social media influencer. Though his childhood set him up for a turbulent cycle of drugs, prison, and street fights, his story also includes moments of success: overcoming drugs, earning multiple college degrees, and running a successful business. Unfortunately, Andrew’s deep sense of emptiness, brought on by his childhood trauma, kept him going to dark places for escape.
In the aftermath of a low season, Andrew recorded a short TikTok video of the different things God had taken him through. Hundreds of people responded saying things like, “If you can go through these things and still be there smiling, I can too.” Now Andrew is talking regularly to his nearly one million followers, sharing insight on the importance of not giving up on God because He hasn’t given up on us.
Andrew: I had to grow up really quick, and my entire family is riddled with drug addiction, prison stints, and abuse. So it wasn’t anything that I wasn’t used to. So at the age of eleven, I had lost one uncle to an overdose. My other uncle had spent seventy-five percent of his life in prison, in and out of jail. My grandmother struggled with alcohol abuse at one point. So the environment that I grew up in was filled with drugs and alcohol and partying and sex and all of those things. It was just kind of the norm. At eleven years old, I did have a pretty good understanding of, you know, This isn’t good.
Repeating the Family Cycle
As a kid, I believe that a lot of us just emulate our environment. We see and we imitate, so “monkey see, monkey do” in a sense. That’s what they were doing. And at that young age, that was the exact same path that I set out on.
And at seventeen years old, I was introduced to Jesus. I was trying to date this girl, I was chasing after her. And her brother said that if I wanted to date his sister, I had to be a Christian. Up until that point, church was something that I went to occasionally, maybe on Easter, maybe at Christmas. I knew we would have a play at school and there was a little baby in the manger. And in my mind, Jesus was as real as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. And so I just said, “Yeah, man, I’ll accept Jesus.” And from that moment forward, God has had His hand in my life.
From that moment, now there was this consciousness. And I can now recognize that it was the Holy Spirit saying, “That’s wrong. That’s wrong.” Did I listen? Absolutely not. I continued doing what I was doing. But now there was this heaviness.
So after that, I ended up getting the same girl I was talking about, I got her pregnant. Not having a father in my life, I never wanted a kid to go through that, and so I made the decision to marry her. Now, it wasn’t necessarily out of love. It was more like, This is what a man is supposed to do. And so our relationship, we were eighteen and nineteen years old. We were just kids. And so we jumped the broom, got married, and started a family. I was there raising my son, trying to do my absolute best. But behind the scenes, man, I was still smoking weed. I was still drinking, partying, going out, still fighting, still selling drugs. I made that decision, but I hadn’t taken the steps in the right direction to actually repent and change my life.
I would sit in jail for thirty days, and I would kind of thumb through the Bible. I think this is what I got to do. And then I’d get out and the pull of the world would take me back. And so I’d be off doing the same thing immediately after, and it was just this cycle. It was a cycle.
Running from a Calling
So at about twenty-two years old, maybe twenty-three, I spent six months in jail. And at this point I believe I had my second son. And when I got out, I just said, “I’m done, I really need this change.” So I got into a good church and this church was extremely hands-on. We were there six days a week. There were two services on Sunday and they were different sermons. Monday was men group, Tuesday was outreach, Wednesday was a service, you know, it was involved.
So at this church, we have a revival every couple of months, and an evangelist would come into town and it would be maybe three, four, or five, maybe a week of different sermons. Well, we had a seven day revival. And the evangelist who was coming to this revival was known across our church as somebody who prophesied over individuals. So at the end of each night, he’ll call somebody up, he’ll speak into their life.
My prayer was that he would call me up there and give me, like, a financial blessing. I have two kids. I’m working in a factory. I just want an increase in finances. That’s all I want. Like, Lord, I’ve been faithful. I’m doing good. That’s not what happened. He called me up on the seventh night, the very last night of revival. I thought I was going to miss my blessing. And he says, “Andrew, you have words of gold. You have been called to ministry, and you’re going to speak to millions of people about Jesus.”
And at that moment, I thought he was crazy. I thought he lost his mind. And I was so disappointed because first off, this was 2003, 2004. I didn’t have millions of followers. I had MySpace at the time, and I had like thirteen people, which were all family members. So when he said millions of people, I thought he was crazy. Like, I don’t understand how I’m going to speak to millions of people. And plus, there was nothing about finances and blessing, what I was actually looking for.
So to be completely honest, two, three weeks went by and I ended up leaving the church. I walked out.
You know, things were tight financially. And I made a decision to go back to school. And my pastor wasn’t with it. And he said, “No, that’s not it.” He warned me, he said, “You’ve been called to ministry. You’ve got to trust God. You’ve got to stick with it, He’s going to pull through.”
And I said, “No, sir, the bills are real, and I’m out of here.”
And I left the church and I went on to complete two college degrees. I played college basketball while I was away. So by the opinion of the world, I was succeeding. I had overcome being a statistic and just following in my family’s footsteps. I graduated, had two degrees. I opened a gym and ran that for about six months and things were looking good.
But I had created this picture, this Instagram-worthy picture. It was a highlight reel of what life looked like. But behind the scenes, I was very broken. I was empty. I wasn’t in a good place whatsoever. And that led up to me getting in trouble and going to prison for eighteen months.
That was the biggest, longest time that I’ve ever done. And during that time, I lost everything. I lost my gym, all of these things that I had worked so hard for to achieve, these accolades and achievements, lost it all.
Getting Back to Wholeness and Purpose
So after I got out of prison, I spent the first year just trying to rebuild my life because I had gone from running a gym, making six figures, having a family, to I’m just a single guy.
After a year, I just felt like I was on the same track of where I was before prison. I just kind of felt myself spiraling back into that same cycle. And a friend of mine, we were doing a podcast, and I would do the fitness and nutrition and she would bring to the table her own perspective. But she would always sprinkle in her faith. She would always talk about Jesus.
And I pulled her aside one day and I was like, “You know that it’s not good to talk about your faith or politics when we’re talking about business.”
And she said, “If people want to unfollow me because I follow Jesus, then they’re not meant to hear what I’m saying.”
And I was just like, “That’s actually a really good point.” And having that faith background, I was like, “I need to start praying. I need to start opening my Bible.”
I remember how whole I felt and purpose-driven, even though I didn’t want to go into ministry, I wanted to see. And so that kind of started me back into reading my Word. And I started going back to church and getting a better understanding and finding my way back home.
So after coming back to God and working on my own walk, I found myself a plan that I had and this vision that I had, it just fell through. It wasn’t God’s will. It wasn’t a part of His plan and purpose for my life. And I was really lost. I was just kind of at the end of my rope. I was like, What am I doing with my life? What is it?
And so my kids at the time had talked me into getting TikTok, of all things. TikTok, an app for kids, essentially. And so the first couple of months I look back and it was just me and them, we’re dancing, we’re having a good time, you know, we’re just playing around. But at the end of one of these nights, my kids weren’t with me. I was dealing with my situation and I said, “You know what? I’m going to film a video and I’m going to post it.” And it was me sharing my testimony, a fifteen-second video. And I didn’t speak. I didn’t say one word in this video. All I did was point at boxes, there was four or five boxes—and the box said things that God has taken me through. And then I pointed at a box that said divorce, a box that said foster care, a box that said prison, and then a box that said everything else that I struggle with or something like that. And I posted it and then I went to bed and that was it. That night I went to bed with 200 followers, and the next morning I woke up and there were 15,000 followers. So this video, while I went to bed, had went viral.
This is the first time that I’ve really bared my soul and shared my life instead of just being funny and cute and dancing around my kids. And I read a couple of messages and they were just like, “Man, this is inspiring. Thank you for your transparency, love the honesty.” And one message said, “I was going to kill myself last night. Knowing that you’ve gone through those things and are still here with a smile on your face gave me hope, because I’ve gone through all of those.”
At that moment, I just got chills. I just started crying, and it was just like the Holy Spirit coming over me, like, This is what you were called to do. You have words of gold. You’ve been called to ministry, and you’re going to speak to millions of people, all three of those things. And at that moment, I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
“It was just like the Holy Spirit coming over me, like, This is what you were called to do. You have words of gold. You’ve been called to ministry, and you’re going to speak to millions of people, all three of those things. And at that moment, I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing. ” – Andrew F. Carter
Taking a Lesson from Jonah
You look at Jonah and he’s called to go to Nineveh and to do what he’s supposed to do. Then he’s like, “No!” and he runs. Where does he end up? He ends up in the belly of a whale. And when he’s in there, what does he realize? He realized he had better go to Nineveh. And so I know that that’s not about me, it’s not my story. But I can relate to the fact, you know, I’m called to ministry and I say, “No, I’m going to run.” My run was longer than three days, it was over a decade of sitting in the belly of a whale. But on the other side of that, it’s just like, Okay, I get it, God. You’re going to have your way in me. And so it’s better for me to give you my surrender. Yes.
And to go after that, because that’s where true life—again I say this after experiencing all of those things and achieving those things and having all of those things that everybody’s chasing after, I got those, like, I had a chance to get those. After having them in my hands, it’s just like, Yuck, this is what I’ve been chasing? It’s not worth it. God, cleanse me. I’m sorry that I chased after these things. I’m sorry that I took it here. It’s disgusting. Cleanse me and please allow me back in and I’ll do whatever You say.
All of the things that I thought would bring me happiness—the money, the travel, the girls, all of those things that I thought would bring me true happiness—they failed to fulfill. They failed to satisfy. I achieved those. As far as man’s concerned, in our opinion in this world, I’ve done all of those things. And so after doing them, I just was like, Man, it’s not what I thought it was. All of these things that I thought I missed out on or that were things that were holding me back or I wasn’t getting to experience, I went out and did them. And nothing compares. I was so fulfilled, I was so satisfied, so on fire and driven when I was actually serving God, when I was walking in the purpose that He had for me.
“All of the things that I thought would bring me happiness—the money, the travel, the girls, all of those things that I thought would bring me true happiness—they failed to fulfill. . . . I was so fulfilled, I was so satisfied, so on fire and driven when I was actually serving God, when I was walking in the purpose that He had for me.” – Andrew F. Carter
Narrator: Andrew wraps up his time with us by reading a passage from Jesus Calling and giving us a few closing thoughts.
Andrew: January 18th:
I AM LEADING YOU ALONG THE HIGH ROAD, but there are descents as well as ascents. In the distance you see snow-covered peaks glistening in brilliant sunlight. Your longing to reach those peaks is good, but you must not take shortcuts. Your assignment is to follow Me, allowing Me to direct your path. Let the heights beckon you onward, but stay close to Me.
Learn to trust Me when things go “wrong.” Disruptions to your routine highlight your dependence on Me. Trusting acceptance of trials brings blessings that far outweigh them all. Walk hand in hand with Me through this day. I have lovingly planned every inch of the way. Trust does not falter when the path becomes rocky and steep. Breathe deep draughts of My Presence, and hold tightly to My hand. Together we can make it!
I’ve tried to make it on my own. I’ve tried to do things my way. I’ve taken the wheel. I thought I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and I clawed and fought my way to the top, only to lose it all. And I realized that in my weakness, God is my strength. Christ is my strength. In my weakness and in those moments, He reveals Himself. I know that with God and with Christ, I can do anything that’s a part of His plan and His will. And it just reminds me that my need and dependence on God is great. It’s so great. And I pray that I stay humble, and I pray that I don’t ever get to that point where I think that I can do this without Him or on my own.
“I’ve tried to do things my way. I’ve taken the wheel. I thought I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and I clawed and fought my way to the top, only to lose it all. And I realized that in my weakness, God is my strength.” – Andrew F. Carter
If you’d like to hear more stories about depending on God and giving Him our burdens, check out our interview with American Idol alumni Dave Pittman.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with former Chicago news anchor and author Dianne Derby. Dianne shares about conversations she would have every Tuesday with Jim Downing, one of the oldest survivors of Pearl Harbor, and how she learned what a true hero looks like.
Dianne Derby: I remember asking him about being a hero. And he turned that conversation quickly around to everyone else. And it was so captivating because here he was in this major, major event at Pearl Harbor. And yet he was turning the focus on to the heroes of today. He said, “We only had to endure the bombs for a little while. The heroes today are up against that every day.”