Steve Mays’ Life Of Suffering (And how God healed him)

Steve Mays Life of Suffering

We’ve been exploring what the Bible has to say about suffering and right in the middle of this series of blog posts, God did something for Steve Mays, the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay, that I just have to share.

An Improbable Life Of Suffering

Steve’s life was often heavy with suffering. He battled drug addiction as a teenager which led to a series of strange and destructive events while he was still living at home with his father and mother. One time when Steve’s parents came home, as they opened their front door, water gushed out. Steve turned their house into a swimming pool by stuffing towels under the exterior doors and filling the place up with water. They found him in the living room smoking a pencil. He was completely oblivious. Instead of acknowledging the damage he’d done, he talked to them about the show he was watching on TV–but the TV was turned off.

Another time Steve’s parents arrived home to find him fixing a meal for a friend who lived inside the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.

Another time he terrorized his parents by angrily pacing around the house while swinging a machete.

The bewildering thing about Steve’s behavior was that he was a normal kid until junior high school. His parents didn’t know it but during that time in junior high he was molested by one of his teachers. After that his personality went through a dramatic change. He struggled with anger and resentment toward any authority figure, including his parents. But he didn’t feel safe sharing about the abuse he suffered.

His parents did the best they could, but Steve was so crazy they often had to call the police for help. Eventually Steve’s parents lost hope, and they asked him to move out.

But where could a teenager in Steve’s condition go? Where could he live? He eventually found a motorcycle gang willing to take him in. They were much older, in their thirties, and even badder than Steve.

One of the gang members really had it in for him. One time he stuffed a twelve gauge shotgun in Steve’s mouth while other gang members held him down. Another time this same man fired three shots from his 38 pistol at a gas can Steve was sitting on. Luckily, it didn’t explode. Then another time he blew a hole in Steve’s calf. Steve lost blood. He passed out. He woke up in a field. Someone had stuffed rags inside the gaping wound in his leg. The pain was excruciating.

God Intervenes

After they shot up his leg, he didn’t return to live with the gang. Instead he slept on the street, in the gutter, literally. One day when he was asleep in the gutter a couple picked him up. They took him in. They gave him a shower. They fed him. And the woman said something to Steve almost as strange as the rest of his story, she told him she saw Jesus in his eyes. This couple was part of the Calvary Chapel family and through them Steve went to live in a house called Mansion Messiah where he accepted Christ. Immediately Steve’s life changed. He flushed his drugs and threw his gun into the ocean. He really was a new creature in Christ.

Steve went on to become the lead pastor at Calvary Chapel South Bay in Southern California.

More Pain And Suffering (times 5)

He pastored there for years but then a series of back surgeries took him from God’s work for long periods. These back surgeries were brutally painful. I read about them in an excellent book written by Steve about suffering called Overwhelmed by God. He endured the first agonizingly painful back surgery but then was told some screws holding things in place had backed out, so he had to have surgery again. Then after that agonizing surgery it happened again. Then after the third surgery it happened again! And this is just a small part of the story. Over his lifetime Steve has had twenty-seven surgeries in all. Surgery after surgery the pain dragged on and on throughout the years.

God Intervenes Again

Last Monday, September 29, Steve went in for a fifth back surgery. Everything seemed to go according to plan (humanly speaking) and then, at 6:30 AM, Thursday, October 2, Steve Mays died, because of a blood clot.

So what does all this have to do with suffering?

The apostle Paul also led a life of suffering. He was beaten and scourged and shipwrecked and imprisoned, and he was even stoned and left for dead. And this is what Paul said about his life of suffering: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I know many people prayed for God to heal Steve, but you know what? When Steve died he gained. He gained his healing. The ultimate healing any of us can have occurs when we pass over to the other side. Steve Mays will never have another agonizingly painful back surgery for all eternity. Those screws will never back out or break again, because there are no screws. His body will never let him down again. And best of all he lives in the presence of his Savior. Sometimes that’s how God’s healing works. That’s how God worked for Steve.

God did heal Steve Mays, through his death.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23)

You might also like Overwhelmed by God, by Steve Mays–Book Reviewand 10 Life Lessons Learned From Pastor Steve Mays

Edit: I originally learned that Steve’s passing was caused by heart failure at 4:30 AM but later found out that was wrong information. He passed away at 6:30 AM because of a blood clot.


Light of the Word, Pastor Steve’s Testimony

Calvary Chapel South Bay

Chuck Smith, HarvestThe Word for Today, 2010

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Image via Quinn Dombrowski – Creative Commons

16 Comments on “Steve Mays’ Life Of Suffering (And how God healed him)

  1. Pastor Steve was and still is one of my favorite CC pastors. I have been down and out for the past couple of years with two total knee replacements, rehad, PTSD, and other physical problems that almost led me to becoming suicidal. Being forced to be away from work and other outside sources of communication, I turned the radio ON 107.9 FM and found a full course meal 24/7 if I chose to eat the spiritual food! I praise God for Pastor Steve being so open and honest. I too was molested for 12 years by my natural father and natural mother and felt all alone like a POW in my own home growing up. I told teachers, doctors, police, etc. but no one intervened! I hurt in places I cannot even name!!! Pastor Steve’s words, teaching and preaching helped me see ME through God’s eyes. I will be forever grateful and I cannot wait to wrap my arms around his neck and thank him for all his caring and sharing here on earth He was a survivor that went on to THRIVE!!! Stepped on the ole devil’s head on a daily basis and taught all those of us who got the opportunity to sit under his teachings how to do likewise!!! I lift up his wife and family and the church family that miss him so! One fine day… the sweet by and by…we shall meet on that beautiful shore! God Bless, Victoria Jardine-Naranjo

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  6. “Is it good to be in the house of the Lord? Amen.” Is what Pastor Steve used to say every Sunday when he started to preach. I miss him so much, tonight’s service wasn’t the same without him. We love you Pastor Steve, God bless you and may you rejoice with our Lord in paradise. Thank you for introducing me to Jesus Christ.

  7. As I read this in sadness, I was given a sense of Faith that I often received when I attended Calvary. Through his teachings, Pastor Steve allowed me to NEVER feel ashamed and to ALWAYS do what’s right, although it may affect me negatively, as long as It was what God would expect. EVERY time, before Pastor Steve would start the 9am Service, a tear would fall for I was witnessing such a dedicated and disciplined man preparing to share the word of God with us. They were tears of profound admiration. There was no doubt I felt his anointment & I will forever thank him for that. I will miss his teachings, but thankful that I can refer back to my notes, the CD’s and his books. My Love & Continued Prayers to Gail and the Mays Family.

  8. This is not suffering. Mays lived a life in America and had many privileges those in 3rd world countries do not. He had a big house and a 6 figure salary for “pastoring” and not breaking a sweat on his forehead. He had nice cars and ate the finest food money could buy. He hobnobed with the elite of western Christianity. He traveled the world speaking at retreats etc. being treated like CC royalty… Suffering ? How about losing ones head for simply being a Christian. How about watching your children starve to death as there is no food, or watching them die of Ebola or some other disease simply because the water is not clean. No doubt Steve drank bottled water. How about being thrown in jail in Iran for years for preaching the Gospel ….

    • Your comments are sad. Pastor Steve did not create what goes on in world. That is created by pure evil! You obviously did not know Steve. He was a servant of the Lord and of the church. Why begrudge someone who stayed faithful to the end? “You have not because you ask not” a quote from the bible.

    • Your comment proves that you did not know Pastor Steve at all. Of course he suffered and all those who knew him knew that he suffered with his health.

      This is probably one of the most insensitive comments anybody can make during such a difficult time as this. Instead of tearing down the body of Christ, you should be building up.

      • I wonder who you are but this tells me that you do not know pastor Steve AT ALL, so keep your mouth close .Pastor Steve Mays is A GREAT MAN OF GOD,a living testimony of God’s mercy and grace.

    • Very insensitive! That’s why the church where he preached was so huge and always growing and well fed! Because of his faithfulness to God and to the body of Christ. Jesus was first in his life. What have you done with your life regulator? Praying for you. Maybe when you pass away someone will say something nice about you…

  9. I was so blessed by this article Kurt. It gave me fond memories of my pastor. It was a powerful reminder of how God can change a life around for His glory.

    Thank you for putting this together.

    • I’m sorry for your loss Peter, and for the loss of his family and everyone over at Calvary Chapel South Bay. The way God worked in Steve’s life was very inspiring. He’ll be missed.

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