Colonel Harlan Sanders’ Christian Experience
While living in Louisville, Kentucky I was privileged to meet Colonel Harlan Sanders and discuss with him his spiritual condition. He told me he was a Christian and how wonderfully God had blessed him. In addition to his conversation with me, he gave some of the experiences of his life and his Christian experience written to be used for the glory of God.
Harlan Sanders had put several years of back-breaking work into a small motel and restaurant business. The state decided to move the highway seven miles away and this left him high and dry, facing economic strangulation at age sixty-five. Instead of giving up, he loaded his car with what he could salvage by way of capital and started out to sell his franchise idea, which today bears his name and picture from coast to coast.
His father died when he was five. He says, looking back, “I did the cooking, and Mom did sewing for the neighbors, When I was seven I baked my first bread. I cared for the two youngest while mother worked.”
His mother was a God-fearing woman. “We went to Sunday School every Sunday regardless of weather. We walked there and back two and a half miles.” At ten Sanders was working as a hired hand for a neighbor farmer. At 11 he hired out to an elderly German at $4.00 a month. Every evening there were cows to milk, sixteen of them, seven days a week.
At 40 he had tried his hand at blacksmithing, running ferryboats, railroading and selling. He reached a decision and that was, folks had to eat. He had not had much time for formal education. After he got up into the millions he quoted Will Rogers and said, “I don’t know what all these college graduates are going to do for jobs if we eighth grade failures don’t take care of them.” He likes to say, “The Lord kept me on earth either to use me or punish me.”
He tells of various accidents in which he was connected, yet he always escaped. After he had gained wealth and fame the Colonel was asked to be a delegate for his church and to attend a conference in Australia. During the trip he turned to his companions and remarked, “If this plane goes down, you fellows will go to heaven and I’ll go to hell. I hope I can find the peace of soul I need at this conference.”
He did not find that peace in Australia. Back home he was paying tithes. He was particular about that. He learned at age 75 that tithing would not take you to heaven. He had always been the preacher’s friend. He helped many churches in their financial struggles, he had heard thousands of sermons. Yet he didn’t know the Lord. You can be in the church and be lost, just ask Col. Sanders.
He enjoyed giving scholarships. Yet, he never sent a boy or girl to college who smoked or drank. All his life he tried to live by principles of decency, hard work, patriotism, and a high standard of morality. It was not enough. There was a void inside. An unanswered question with him was; “How could a man know that his sins had really been forgiven?”
While attending a service in Louisville and showing concern about his condition he was asked to bow and pray, asking God to forgive him, to have mercy upon him. Suddenly the Colonel lifted his head and the pastor related, “He looked at me and said it was the first time in his life he had ever experienced the presence of Christ within his heart.”
Colonel Sanders’ testimony was, “You can join the church, you can serve on committees, you can be baptized and receive communion, you can become superintendent of the Sunday School, and not be saved. I know, it happened in my life. I needed to know something deep within my soul. There is an inner experience, a new birth, that brings peace. Morality and good works cannot accomplish it, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.”
So, after age 75, Colonel Harlan Sanders, a millionaire, found out that money, good works, good living, church membership, etc., would not save his soul and prepare him for heaven, that it took the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit bringing about the new birth to give him peace of soul and prepare him for eternity. This is just what Jesus told the Jewish doctor in John 3.
I trust this testimony will help someone somewhere, I’m glad I had the privilege to talk to Colonel Sanders and hear him with my own ears tell what God had done for him.