Who would’ve thought that an atheist, who was a bunny killer by 5, an alcoholic by 15, a drug addict by 17, and a clinical sociopath by 18, would find God and start a multimillion-dollar software company.
Bob Williamson credits his turnabout from junkie to entrepreneur to Jesus, he told The Christian Post.
Before Christ, life for the now 64-year-old businessman was far from God, and if he ever thought about God, he was angry. After all, how can a loving God allow so much pain in his life?
Williamson knows the hypocrisy of the church. His parents were both Christians and attended church, and of course took him and his brother along. The church was tiny but full of hypocrisy, he said.
“The church had the worst pastors; they were either drunk or chasing women in the church and the churches were always fighting. And then you had an ignorant guy just screaming and yelling. The whole thing was a huge turnoff. As soon as I got old enough when I didn’t have to go I didn’t go.”
Religion was never truly important. To him, the whole concept seemed just ridiculous, especially with his wide knowledge on the subject after reading various books against it. By then, he was an atheist. Ever since he could remember, he only slept about three to four hours a day, leaving him to find comfort in books – a habit he planned to use as ammunition against Christianity later in life.
He left home by 17 and lived on the streets where he did almost every drug imaginable, he said. His first attempt to join the military failed after getting into a fight and getting court marshaled where he was sent to be reevaluated by a psychiatrist.
“He diagnosed me as being as a sociopath. They told me I didn’t have a conscience and that it was incurable so they were going to discharge me from the service because of that,” he recalled.
After his release, Williamson was arrested for heroin possession but was released on a technicality.
During his stay in New Orleans, he decided to try witchcraft, a practice he proved to be successful in.
“I believed in Satan then, I had had a lot of success at casting spells on people and they worked. I actually saw it with my own eyes.
He left the practice after he succeeded conjuring up demons on the river, an action he regretted, he said. According to witchcraft, the river is supposed to give the person more power.
“I tried to conjure up a demon one time and it scared me so badly that I got out of witchcraft.”
Because he had been in a bar fight and nearly killed a man, the police were looking for him. So he decided to go to Atlanta. Two weeks after his arrival, he had a head on collision that almost took him to his death bed.
During his time in the hospital, Williamson befriended an African-American nurse. Because he had always been an insomniac and a voracious reader, he asked her to bring him books during his hospitalization.
“She would go to the library and bring them to me. The librarian started sending me a list of all the bestselling books in the world and I would check out the ones that I wanted to read and I kept noticing that the Bible was the bestselling book in the world. So I decided to read it, not to become a Christian but to disprove it.
“I thought that if there was a God, He was mean and I didn’t want to do anything with Him because my life up to that point had been a total disaster and I blamed God.”
He began reading the Old Testament and found it “incredibly boring.” He remembers thinking of Genesis as an interesting book but told himself he wouldn’t read it anymore.
After his first attempt to read the Bible, the nurse gave her a copy of her personal Bible where he noticed underlined verses in the New Testament.
“I started reading it again and the more I read I found that Jesus Christ was nothing like what I had always thought. He was very compassionate, loving and he cared about people who were down and out.”
Williamson continued, “I became enamored with him and all that type of interesting things in the Gospels. But when I got to Philippians 4:13 (I can do all this through him who gives me strength), well I slammed it shut and called for my nurse.
“I told her ‘your Bible is nothing but a lie.’ I showed her the verse and I said ‘I am a hardcore drug addict and less than 2 percent of whoever puts a needle in their arm ever gets out of that alive. I had all kinds of friends die. I've seen people commit suicide including my brother; I committed arm robbery.’”
“She put her hands on her hips and said ‘Jesus is God and he can do anything He wants to do and He can change your sorry tail.’”
He testified, “Since then I believed the Bible was the word of God” and he never touched drugs or alcohol again.
When he left the hospital, he fell in love with his now wife for over 40 years, whom he had three sons with.
Of course, the new Christian found life difficult. Without a college degree or money he decided to start working in menial jobs at a paint factory.
In his early twenties he decided that the only way out of his situation was to work harder than anyone else, which meant arriving early at work and leaving late.
He eventually got promoted eight times and saved the company a substantial amount of money. He began looking into the paint business and took a $1,000 loan and began his own company in the basement, Wildlife Artist Supply in 1977.
“Everyone told me I was crazy and made fun of me but I kept thinking ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.’”
There weren't any airbrush paints available at that time so he came out with his own formulation and in six months his business proved to be a technological breakthrough, turning into a multimillion dollar entity.
But by 1988 he sold his business due to debt he was unaware of at the time.
Disillusioned by the industry, he decided to look into other alternatives. He then looked into selling systems to school lunchrooms. The company, Horizon, eventually went from having three employees to 173 and $26 million.
In 2008, he sold his company for $75 million in cash and closed it shortly before the stock market crashed, something he credits God for. Because he’s not one to sit around and retire he decided to build Honey Lake Plantation, a spa and resort in Greenville, Fla.
He recently published his autobiography, Miracle on Lucky Street.
Despite monetary success, to Williamson, success cannot be found in a bank account or great accomplishments. “Success is finding peace and joy and happiness in your life and that can only come from God but it's available to anyone who wants it. I think you can do anything through Christ but it has to be something that He wants you to do.”
Reflecting over his life, he’s amazed and it’s almost hard to believe that he had changed into a completely different person.
“When I was 5 years old I killed my pet rabbit. I still find it hard to believe that I changed this much. You wouldn’t recognize me.”