Defying Defeat

“For a poor skinny kid from Birmingham, Alabama, who felt like a zero, a nothing with no ambition, my opportunities have been amazing! By all that is logical, I should never have been born and should have died on at least two other occasions. Yet here I am, still blessed with a wonderful life and serving the Lord the best way I know how.”

For years Pastor James Jones has provided leadership in his local church; community, state, and national conventions; and around the world. Yet, few know of his challenging beginnings and the multiple ways he has defied defeat.

Feeling Defeat

Defying Defeat-James Jones childhood

“My early life was far from pretty.” His mother tried to abort him. In no uncertain terms, she let him know he was unwanted. When he was five, his parents divorced, and she left. Because his father’s work often took him out of town, Jones and his two sisters went to a church-sponsored boarding school.

At age seven, he contracted diphtheria. Not expected to live, he again defied the odds. Good came from that health scare. His parents reunited, and his mother became a Christian soon after.

But the damage prevailed. Haunted by lingering feelings of rejection, certain no one loved him, Jones found acceptance in a gang. In his eleven-year-old mind, joining made more sense than receiving regular beatings and losing his paper route money.

“Out with the guys one night a strange feeling came over me. Certain I needed to get away, I pretended to be sick. Before I made it home my two buddies, attempting to steal a car, shot the owner and landed in jail. For the longest time when I passed a jail I felt worthless, believing that’s where I should be.”

Overcoming Defeat

Defying Defeat-James Jones young adult

This inferiority complex continued until his junior year in high school. The persistent efforts of one person led him to a relationship with God. Both his sense of worth and life direction changed. “God took away those negative feelings.” His mother also told him she was proud of him and glad her abortion attempt failed.     

Defying Defeat-church in Kolpino, Russia

Prior to graduation, God called Jones to preach, and he began his ministry in college. He has led mission teams to several countries. In Russia shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, his team distributed 2,000 Bibles in a single day. “I never experienced such hunger for the word of God or such a desperate desire for hope.” He helped erect a church building in Kolpino, Russia. That church ministry continues to expand.

In Kenya, Jones found himself at the wrong end of a Maasai warrior’s spear. “I’ll be honest; I thought I was a goner!”  Yet before the day passed, Jones led that warrior and two others to faith in Jesus. “The spear of that Maasai brother now hangs in my study as a reminder of God’s marvelous work.”

Defying Defeat

Jones recalled the joy of leading his father to the Lord shortly before his father died. Yet he can’t remember their ever telling one another, “I love you.” “I told him then, more than once, but I’m unsure if he could hear.”

“People desperately need love. But we can’t stop at loving them. We must tell them we love them and God loves them!”

 “God had a plan and purpose for my life, as he does for each of us.”

Diana Derringer

Diana Derringer is an award-winning writer and author of Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary: 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Hundreds of her articles, devotions, dramas, planning guides, Bible studies, and poems appear in more than 40 publications, including several anthologies. In addition, Diana writes radio drama for Christ to the World Ministries. Her adventures as a social worker, adjunct professor, youth Sunday school teacher, and friendship family for international university students supply a constant flow of writing ideas. For a free copy of Diana’s “Words of Hope for Days That Hurt” and her weekly Words, Wit, and Wisdom: Life Lessons from English Expressions, join her mailing list at

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  1. Did not know about Pastor Jones young life history he now is always joyful and promoting the wonderful plan of salvation so thankful the harvesters were sent to him and his family he has been very fruitful and I know the Lord will say well done my good and faithful servant

  2. Love this man of God, who baptized all our children, that has become,e family to us! He and Martha are two very special people!

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