Zachery Tims had led what he admits was a "messed-up life." But he left that behind and devoted his life to preaching, telling millions that "it's never too late" to start over.
His testimony of a changed life, after a bout with drugs and gangs, was reflected in the name of the church he started – New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla. – and told in his 2006 book It's Never Too Late: How a teenage criminal found his divine destiny and became an entrepreneur and pastor of a thriving church with a global ministry.
The Baltimore, Md., native became a popular charismatic preacher, leading the 8,000-strong church for 15 years. His messages have been broadcast to over 100 million homes daily through radio and television.
The church expanded this year to the east side of Orlando.
But his ministering came to an end Friday when his body was discovered in a Times Square hotel room. He was 42.
A maintenance worker found Tims lying on his back between the bedroom and living room area, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Police found an envelope with a white powdery substance inside his pocket.
The cause of his death has yet to be determined.
Tims' testimony as a former drug addict who got himself involved in criminal activities in the past is recounted in his memoir It's Never Too Late.
"At the age of 14 I shot a man and tried to kill him. I was locked up till I was 16. I was a drug addict till I was 19," he summed up during a July 12 broadcast on TBN.
But God, he said, took him out of the gutter.
"I'm a living witness [that] it is never too late," he stressed.
Tims, an only child, was raised by a single mom in the Baltimore projects. His parents had divorced when he was nine. His father was a detective with the Baltimore Police Department but he spent more time in the bar than at home, Tims wrote in his memoir.
He began to build relationships with gang members and drug dealers who thrived in his neighborhood. Later, he found himself in front of a Baltimore judge who called him a "menace to society."
As stated on his website, however, Tims was "miraculously saved, instantly delivered from drug addiction, and called into ministry."
As a preacher, Tims often spoke about battles with the devil and empowered congregants and other listeners to overcome.
"Tell the devil this is the last time you're going to have me. I'm going across to the other side!" he said in his TBN broadcast last month.
"We're going to walk through the Red Sea ... your enemy's going to try and chase you but he's never going to catch up with you."
Following news of his death, condolences have poured in on Twitter and Facebook.
Bishop T.D. Jakes tweeted, "DEEPLY saddened to hear of the passing of Pastor Tims @ztims ...praying for his family and church."
Jakes is among several pastors who have influenced Tims in his ministry. Other leaders who have impacted Tims include Apostle Fred Price of Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, A.R. Bernard who founded Christian Cultural Center, Pastor Benny Hinn, Pastor Paula White, and Noel Jones from Southern California.
Tims' YouTube channel, where his sermons can be viewed, was also flooded with condolences and prayers from well-wishers.
"R.I.P you will be missed!" commented Alicialovecraz7.
Nanaslittleblessing posted, "To Live in Christ to die is Gain...my heartfelt condolences to the family of Pastor Tims. I watched this man of God on TBN and was always blessed and encouraged by the way he allowed the Lord to use him. To the family I pray God will comfort your heart with peace in knowing he's with Jesus."
A statement by New Destiny Christian Center is expected to be released Monday night.