Give Families Hope
$5 Million Match! Double your gift for struggling families!
Yes, I will give families hope this Christmas!

Wiki Banner Script

Focus on the Family Broadcast

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Softening a Crusty Heart

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Softening a Crusty Heart

Lt. Colonel Don Coble was once a hardened military man who tried to escape his inner misery through overwork and alcoholism, and in the process made life agonizing for his family. Today, he offers encouragement as he describes how God changed his heart and transformed him into a new creation.
Original Air Date: April 7, 1987

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Lt. Colonel Don Coble was once a hardened military man who tried to escape his inner misery through overwork and alcoholism, and in the process made life agonizing for his family. Today, he offers encouragement as he describes how God changed his heart and transformed him into a new creation.
Original Air Date: April 7, 1987

Episode Transcript

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, a hard-working, hard-drinking military man explains his life before Christ.

Excerpt:

Lieutenant Colonel Don Coble: And I was there working very hard, and didn’t have time at all for my family; I just kind of used them. I didn’t really have time. I hadn’t told my wife I loved her since I conned the preacher into marrying us. And I didn’t love her. I had affection for her; I had lust after her.

End of Excerpt

John: Well, that’s a brutally honest assessment of a life without love. And, uh, we have more today from Lieutenant Colonel Don Coble on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, today is Veteran’s Day, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than to hear this story of redemption from Don Coble, who spent many years in the U.S. military. He went in as a private, and he came out as a Lieutenant Colonel. He served a couple of tours in Vietnam and was decorated repeatedly for his service there. Don left the military in the early 1970s and was a pastor for 25 years. He says, “The Army taught me how to kill men; Jesus Christ taught me how to love them.” And that’s awesome, isn’t it?

John: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: That’s a big change and we’ll let Don tell us how that happened.

John: Well, here he is now, Lieutenant Colonel and Pastor Don Coble, speaking at Forest Home Conference Center near Los Angeles, a number of years ago.

Don: I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. In fact, I was born on a little farm down in southern Missouri. We was about seven miles north of Arkansas. And they used to accuse us of having one leg shorter than the other from walking around on them hills.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: But there were 12 of us kids in our family. My dad usually called the roll when we’d come to supper.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: But, uh, we had a – had a lot of fun down there, as I was growing up as a youngster. We didn’t have a whole lot as far as material things, but, uh, I really loved my dad. And my dad always took time for me, always. He took time for all the kids and he taught me a lot of things.

When I was 13-years-old, my dad dropped dead of a heart attack. And we’d made a lot of plans together and that wasn’t in it. And I really loved that man. And I didn’t have him anymore. And it took me about six months before I could come to grips with that. I just – it just absolutely destroyed me and then I got angry and I felt cheated and I got angry at the world. And so, I struck out in rebellion. Nobody led me into sin. There wasn’t any wrong crowd that come and got me. I built the wrong crowd and went and got others. And I really went into some bad things and – and, uh, really broke my mother’s heart and – and just struck out at the world.

We didn’t do anything as far as vicious, but just a lot of dumb things. We were – had a little home-brew project down in the gym.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And, uh, the principal didn’t think a lot of that…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: So, I got expelled with some other fellas, and, uh, so then I got into a group that was even worse than that. And – and things really got bad and – and finally I got old enough, why a good friend of mine decided that maybe I ought to try the service. He was the deputy sheriff.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And, uh, so, I went in the service. Got on the Greyhound bus and I was sizing everybody up to see what was going on. We got on down there to the place where they was gonna to do basic training on us. And, uh, I was sizing guys up and there was a fella out there hollering to everybody, line up and fall in and all that and uh, I had this young fella carrying my bags and we was horsing around. You know, I was playing the role of the big gunner. And this fellow come over and said, “Young man, did you hear me? I said, `Fall in.’” I said, “I’ll be there in a minute.” He hit me and I hit the ground.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: I was looking up at that fellow and he was – he was a good-sized fellow, about an 18-and-a-half inch neck.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And he picked me up and put me in the line there. And – and, uh, he got in front of us and he said, “Men, I want to tell you something.” He said, “I’ll be your mother, your father, your girlfriend, your chaplain. I’m everything to you.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And I believed him.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: So, I tried to pay attention and I – I went on about my business there in the Army, but it really took ahold of me. And I – it was the dynamic that I needed – discipline. My father, the disciplinarian. My dad never begged us or coerced or anything. He just spoke once and if we didn’t respond, we were usually in a heap over at the side somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And you don’t have to roll across the living room more than about twice…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: You can – you can train a monkey.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And I – I had missed a lot of that and so, I appreciated this sergeant that became my D.I. And he taught me a lot of things, a lot of things. And one thing he taught me is shut my mouth.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And got on into the service and really tried to make something of myself. And after my first hitch, I thought, “Well, that’s it. I’ve taught them about all I can here. And I guess I better…”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: “…Go on back.” So, I went on back home. And, uh, lot of folks knew I was coming and everything, the old gang and everything, and when I got off the bus, there was my dear friend.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And so, me and the deputy got in his car and we went down to…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: …Went down and had some coffee. And he said, “You know, Don, we’ve cleaned up a lot of the places around here in the three years.” And he went on to tell me a lot of things and convinced me that I really wasn’t needed there any longer.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: So, I decided the best thing for me to do was get back in the service, so I did.

And I hadn’t been in – back in long and I was a sergeant then and, uh – and the company commander called me in and said, “We’re sending you to OCS.” I said, “No, I don’t want to go.” He said, “I didn’t ask you that. You’re going to OCS.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: It’s pretty difficult to argue when you’re standing at attention.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: They had a quota system in them days and, uh, you just met your quota, so I was one of the quotas. So, I went on to OCS. And I wouldn’t go through that school again for brigadier general.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: I wrote my momma and asked her to get me out, and she said, “No way.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: Said, “You made it, you live with it,” and I finally got out and got my commission. And then I went on back home on furlough and spied this little girl that I’d tried to date. In fact, she was a church person. And, uh, she – her family was church people. They weren’t saved. They had a lot of religion, a lot of ritual, but nothing real.

She thought, “Well, I’ll go ahead and marry this fellow. I’ll change him, get him squared straight away.” You know, and so, we got married and – and she made the tactical mistake of thinking that she was gonna change me.

I was a heavy drinker by then. And I – I was really a workaholic; I worked very hard. And I volunteered for a lot of things, and it some of it was kind of dumb, and some of it was a little dangerous, I didn’t do anything to write home about, don’t misunderstand me there, there’s only one John Wayne…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: …But, uh, she tried to change me and it wasn’t very long ’till I had – I had pulled her down to where I was living. And I – I worked real hard during the week and drank real hard on the weekends. And that was my life. We worked hard and played hard. And, uh, our marriage, after the new wore off, uh, which wasn’t too long, really started going from bad to worse. And we had serious problems. And we didn’t know who to turn to, we didn’t know what to do. And her religion wasn’t making it, and, uh, it was just downhill. And, uh, we finally had two boys, we’d gone around the world, we’d done a lot of things together, and nothing made it. And there wasn’t anything that satisfied, I just, I felt empty inside, but I had too much pride to tell my wife really what was wrong with me, or anything else.

And, uh, so one day I was at the Command General Staff College. I’d gone to Vietnam and, uh – and had survived that and came back and was promoted again and went to Command General Staff College. And I was there working very hard, wanting to make very good and the commandant’s list and the top 10 percent of the class.

And didn’t have time at all for my family; I just kind of used them. I didn’t really have time. I hadn’t told my wife I loved her since I conned the preacher into marrying us. And I didn’t love her. I had affection for her; I had lust after her. She met a part of my life that I – I needed companionship in, but I didn’t love her. I didn’t know how to love, because I wore a great big mask. You see, I loved my dad – desperately. And as a result of that, when I lost him, I couldn’t get hurt again.

And so, I put on a big mask and a big front. And I went back to Vietnam again and this time I had a little more rank. And she – before I had gone to Vietnam this last time, she had tried to commit suicide. Praise God she was unsuccessful. And the neighbor then, a few days after the trauma wore off, came over and presented Jesus Christ in a real way and she got saved.

Audience: Amen.

Don: And she tried to tell me about her faith and her Lord, and I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t have time for Jesus. And the tougher I was, the kinder and gentler she came to me. And just freaked me out. The meaner I’d get, the better she’d get. And she didn’t rant and rave anymore, and throw things, and curse things, and holler and carry on. She’d go in the other room and pray. And she’d have some friends praying. Everybody’s praying.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: I thought, “This is weird, man! Something going on here.” So, I thought, “Well, if this woman’s really got something real, I’m gonna lay it on her, ’cause I don’t’ believe it is.” And I did, and I really got tough with her. And she hung in there.

One day she said, “Don’t you think maybe you ought to get your kids to Sunday school?” I allowed, “Yeah, I probably ought to do that and it’s probably good for the career. I’m getting close to general and I ought to have everything squared away.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: So, I went downtown and a little-bitty church and got down there and went in and, uh, something scared me right away. There were some men in the church. Now I’d been in and out of churches quite a bit. I used to date young girls. Their folks had never told them about guys like me. Going to church was real easy, no problem. And I’d see a lot of women, see a man up there behind the thing and a lot of women, some retired fellow, maybe, giving out bulletins and a real nice fellow, but I didn’t see the – the ruggedness of manhood that I had been trained was a man. I didn’t see any men standing for their – their faith. And so, when I walked in this little church and here were two big dudes that reminded me of that D.I. that had put me through it.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And they said, “Welcome. How are you?” One of them almost broke my hand. The other one dislocated my shoulder!

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And it really bothered me. “Well, these guys are men. What are they doing in a church?”

John: You’re listening to Vietnam veteran and Lieutenant Colonel Don Coble on Focus on the Family and we have a CD of this entire presentation. We’re making that available as our thank you gift when you donate generously to the ministry of Focus on the Family. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate and request that CD online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and hear more now from Don Coble.

Don: So, I went over and sat down with my family and everybody there. And in came this choir and this fellow white hair, crew cut, with a great big Bible in his hand. They come in and – and the choir did their thing. And he opened the book and got up and started to preach. And he said, “Open up to John.” And everybody was rustling, and I looked around and every one of them men had a Bible. I’d never seen that before. And pretty soon, I was sitting there and one of these fellows came over and plop and there was a Bible in my hand now!

(LAUGHTER)

Don: I was about halfway through the service before my son said, “Turn it over! Turn it over!”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And I was sweating, miserable. That guy was talking about Jesus Christ paying the price for my sin and all my phoniness and all my rottenness already paid for, all that debt already canceled. And it scared me, and it made me miserable. And I got up and left. And after a while, I was out there smoking. I looked like Kaiser Steel, it just…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: …Miserable. I thought I’d have to get better to die. And finally, she came out. Everybody come out. I got in the car, laid some rubber out and went back to the fort. I said, “That man’s crazy. Don’t ever ask me to go back down here again.” In the past, she would have been on me like ugly on an ape.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: She just said, “Yes, dear. Fine.” That made me madder…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: …And I just commenced cussing and ranting and raving. And I finally shut up when my children started crying.

I was miserable that week. I was sick. That guy was crazy. He kept saying something about Pilate, a fella by the name of Pilate and they was hanging Jesus on the cross. And he told the crowd, “What are you going to do with this Jesus who is called Christ?” And that kept waking me up at night. And I’d hear that, “What shall I do with Jesus that’s called Christ?” I couldn’t get that out of my mind. “What do you do with Jesus who is called Christ?” And all week long it just bugged me and – and just tore my guts out and I was miserable.

Went in and started fixing breakfast. The family come in and said, “What are you doing, Dad?” I said, “I’m getting breakfast.” They said, “How come?” I said, “We’re going to church.” I looked around, like who?

(LAUGHTER)

Don: Man, I didn’t want to go to church. That’s the last place I wanted to go. I couldn’t help myself. My wife didn’t say, “Well, I told you so. I knew we’d get you.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: She never said any of that. She just said, “Hey, that – that’s fine, Honey, if that’s what you’d like to do” and that made me angry and…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: We ate, and I went down there, and we even beat the preacher to the church. I was sitting there, and that voice kept telling me, “Coble, you dumb guy. Get out of here. Get out of here.” It was about a foot or so from my hand to the keys and I didn’t have the power to turn the key on. I couldn’t move my hand. I couldn’t leave. I wanted to leave; I couldn’t. Finally the preacher come.

And I thought I was the only guy in there and I was miserable. My tie got all tight and I was sweating. I undid my tie. I did the best I could to get up and I couldn’t do it. And he said that Jesus Christ was the bridge between me and God…

Audience: Amen.

Don: …And that all the religion in the world wouldn’t get me right with God. And if I didn’t have Christ, I was going to hell, because the Bible said that you can’t get into heaven unless you’re holy. Well, I knew that ruled me out, because I wasn’t holy. I’d lived a lie so long I believed it myself. He went on and preached and I don’t remember a lot of the other things he said. But then he went on and he said, “What are you going to do with this Jesus who is called the Christ?” And that triggered what had been inside my head for a week. And he said, “If you want to get your heart right with God, I ask you to come right now, because if you’re not serious enough about it to do it publicly, then it’s another lie.”

And I got up there and here’s this old fellow up there. He said, “What do you want, young man?” I said, “I want to do what you said.” He said, “What is that?”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: He made it awful hard on me.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: I said, “I want to get right with God. I – I want to have Jesus.” I didn’t know what to say. He said, “You want to be saved?” I said “Yes, sir, I do.” He said, “Are you willing to put Jesus Christ in control of your life?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He said, “Then on that basis, let’s go to Calvary.” And we knelt right there while they were singing “Amazing Grace” and I asked Christ into my heart; it was a fantastic experience. Got home, ran and looked in the mirror.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: I looked the same. I thought something was gonna change on me, everything would be new, and all kind of things, and I looked the same. And I thought, “That guy sold me a bill of goods.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: And my wife asked me what the problem was, and I told her, “I don’t look any different.” She said, “It’s inside, Darling. It’s inside. Jesus is inside.” And then she started sharing with me and then I – I felt it was all right.

And so, we got down to business. And I – first thing God did is take away my X-rated mouth. And I had to fish for words and – and everything and it was kind of weird. I’d be in a little circle of people and everybody’d be talking that talk and I’d try not to talk that talk and then pretty soon, they’d quiet down. And it was kind of weird, because I wasn’t talking that talk and they’d start stumbling around. We’d all be stumbling around a little…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: …Trying to talk to one another.

And then God worked on the booze angle. I had a private bar in my home and about $300 worth of booze, kept it stocked. And I thought, “Well, Lord, all right, I’ll – I’ll give that up and I’ll give it to my neighbor.” And the Lord just seemed to tell me, “Well, if it ain’t good for you, it ain’t good for him.”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: So, I started pouring it down the sink. And my wife came in from grocery shopping and seen me pouring all this booze down. And we got happy in the Lord, commenced crying. We both just poured all that booze down.

(LAUGHTER)

Don: Quart after quart of it. I know the garbage man that next Monday said, “Well, he did it again!”

(LAUGHTER)

Don: But God delivered me.

And then God did something fantastic. He gave me a love for my woman. I’d never experienced it before. It was fantastic; I loved her just like she was. I was so thankful for that woman. And I couldn’t tell her enough how much I loved her. It just was just overwhelming. And I loved my kids, but I didn’t love my kids until I went through a deep water with them. I was one of them kind of guys that made a federal case out of most everything. And when I told my children to be home 9 o’clock, it didn’t mean one minute after. You could come in five minutes early and wouldn’t be penalized too hard for that, but…

(LAUGHTER)

Don: …Don’t ever be late! And I told my oldest son, “You be home 9 o’clock.” He came in about 10 minutes after. And I was out in the garage and he came in and he said, “I’m sorry I’m late, Dad.” And I reached over and backhanded that boy and knocked him off his bike and over into the wall. There was blood running down his mouth and he said, “Daddy, I love you.” And I fell to my knees and I asked forgiveness from God and of that boy and through that, Jesus taught me to love. Stop condemning and ridiculing. And I praise God for the love that He’s given me. And then I – I started growing. And I expected too much, too soon

Pretty soon my life became a roller coaster: up down, all around. And I was losing my peace; I was losing my joy. And then I noticed the old mask started coming and trying to get back on me. And I was comparing myself with other people. And I found that, that’s wrong.

And I searched the Word of God and…and the thing that kept coming into my mind was, “What shall I do with this Jesus who is called Christ?” And I kept remembering that and remembering that. And I started searching the Word of God. And I found out in these blessed Scriptures that there is a plan to be God’s man.

Jesus said in John the 12th chapter, “I tell you the truth. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life and this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me and where I am, my servant, also, will be. And My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” I had to die to self. “What are you gonna do with this Jesus who is called Christ, Don Coble?” I had to die to self. I had to die to my own desires.

You see, I’d used the Lord kind of like an overcoat. When things got bad and the weather turned foul, I put Him on. But when the sunshine come out, I hung Him back up on the peg and went on my way. I had to make a decision.

If you’re here today and you don’t know Him in a living, personal, real way, my dear friend, I don’t believe that you are one of His, because the Bible says you have to have fruit – fruit. And Jesus said that there isn’t any fruit that comes from a thorn bush. And I found in my own life that until He was the Lord of all, He wasn’t Lord at all. What are you gonna do with this Jesus who is called the Christ?

Where do you stand with your wife, fellows? God’s got the power to heal your marriage. I don’t care what’s wrong. We were headed for divorce court. My wife tried to kill herself. I don’t care what it is; Jesus Christ has got the power if you’ve got the desire, but it has to start with you. The security of your whole family rests on you. What a glorious privilege that is. God wants all of us; that’s all He wants.

If you’re here today and you don’t know Him as your personal Savior, I’m going ask you today, don’t get caught up in some religion. You can have ritual running out your ears, but unless you have the real thing, your life won’t be changed. Where do you stand with your wife? Where do you stand with your children? All of these dynamics of becoming God’s man is simply getting our priorities together: the Lord Jesus Christ, my woman, my children and everything else. And when I get those out of order, I’m going down.

But when I keep those in order, looking to Jesus, what God does is put it together, one brick at a time. And God wants to put your life together on this mountain one brick at a time. I don’t care what’s your problem. God loves you and He wants all of you, that you may experience all of Him.

John: Ah, well, what a moving, emotional message by Lieutenant Colonel Don Coble today on Focus on the Family. And, Jim, I so appreciated how transparent he was about how much he personally needed Jesus Christ. Something all of us need to assess. And I think someone listening today was likely destined to hear Don’s story.

Jim: I’m sure you’re right, John, and I’d like to speak directly to that person right now, because this is a very important moment, one that could have an impact for all of eternity. And here’s the big question – the same one that haunted Don -“What will you do with this Jesus, who is called the Christ?”

John: Hmm.

Jim: It doesn’t matter if you’re in a position of power and influence, like Don was, or if you are experiencing humble circumstances. There comes a time when you need to decide whether you’re going to bow or buck that question. And I hope some of you have decided to bend your knee and bow before the throne of grace. And, most importantly, to acknowledge the free gift of salvation that God offers us through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. I know there are folks listening right now who are contemplating that message and that question.

John: Well, that’s our prayer here and it’s a free offer. It’s a gift that Christ gave us. He took that punishment on Himself when He died on the cross and there’s absolutely nothing we can do to earn His forgiveness. He took care of it. In 1 John 1 it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Jim: What a bargain! I mean, exchanging our darkest deeds for the holiness of Christ. I don’t understand why anyone would turn their back on God, but some do. But right now, I believe that somebody is ready to accept that free gift. So, pray with me if you’re in that spot. Lord Jesus Christ, I agree that I am a sinner. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I repent and turn away from my past mistakes. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen. And if you prayed that prayer with me, let me just say, “Well done! Welcome to the family of God! If we don’t meet in this life, I’ll look forward to meeting you in heaven soon.”

John: Hmm. And I hope you’ll reach out and let us know if you prayed along with Jim. Um, I’m sure, Jim, at least one person, if not hundreds, in audience have prayed along with you. And let me mention here that Don Coble passed away in 2018 at the age of 81. He’s already…

Jim: Yep.

John: …Waiting for us in heaven.

Jim: Well, our hearts go out to his wife Jackie, and his kids and grandkids. I’m sure they miss him very much. But they also have that assurance of heaven, knowing that Don is with the Lord. And I hope some of our listeners did pray with me, so that they now have that hope of heaven as well.

John: Hm. And if you did pray or you’d like to know more about heaven and about Christ, go ahead and reach out to us. We have a free booklet. It’s downloadable or we can send a copy to you. It’s called Coming Home. And it’s got a great explanation of the Christian life. And, uh, you’ll find that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or when you call 800-A-FAMILY. And, uh, there might be somebody who comes to mind that you think really needs to hear this message from Don Coble. I’ll encourage you to request the CD from us so you can share this message with them. We’re making that available when you donate a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today to help support our efforts to share the love of Christ around the world. Next time, you’ll learn how to help your family focus on Jesus, fun and family this holiday season.

Teaser:

Mrs. Becky Kiser: The Gospel narrative would not be true without Jesus coming at Christmastime. We celebrate His coming instead of what our culture is doing is celebrating people.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Recent Episodes

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Showing Kindness and Generosity to Others

Be inspired to help others as you hear stories from some Focus on the Family listeners who reflect on a time in their lives when someone went out of the way to provide a miracle in their moment of need.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Celebrating the Miracle of Thanksgiving

Best-selling author Eric Metaxas tells the incredible story of the history of Thanksgiving, focusing on Squanto, a Native American man of faith who was called by God to help the Pilgrims in their hardships.

You May Also Like

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

A Legacy of Music and Trusting the Lord

Popular Christian vocalist Larnelle Harris reflects on his five-decade music career, sharing the valuable life lessons he’s learned about putting his family first, allowing God to redeem a troubled past, recognizing those who’ve sacrificed for his benefit, and faithfully adhering to biblical principles amidst all the opportunities that have come his way.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Accepting Your Imperfect Life

Amy Carroll explains how listeners can find freedom from self-imposed and unrealistic standards of perfection in a discussion based on her book, Breaking Up With Perfect: Kiss Perfection Goodbye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You.