Summary: The Ashley Smith story illustrates the power of a purpose driven life. It can be ours too.

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Living with Purpose

Romans 8:28; 29-39

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

Introduction: Ashley Smith never suspected that she would ever have to spend a night like that! Not in her worst nightmare! How do you prepare for being assaulted by an escaped murderer, threatened with a loaded gun, and held hostage in your own home for hours? You can¡¦t! Or can you!

At first the police wondered if Brian Nichols ended up at Ashley¡¦s house because he knew her. They even thought she might be an accomplice. She wasn¡¦t. The two had never met before. Then it must have been an accident or mere coincidence that brought together the twenty-six year old single mom and the subject of Georgia¡¦s biggest manhunt. That¡¦s what most everybody concluded. Not Ashley. She¡¦s convinced this was no coincidence. It was providence. She says it was part of God¡¦s purpose for her life. You have probably heard about Ashley¡¦s story. Just in case you haven¡¦t heard the best part, let me tell you the rest.

Ashley had just moved into her Duluth, Georgia apartment two days before. Duluth is a suburb just northeast of Atlanta. On Friday night (March 11, 2005), she stayed up late to finish unpacking. About 2 a.m. she made a trip to a nearby convenience store. As she returned, a man stepped out of a parked truck and shoved a gun into her side.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked. She didn¡¦t. He was wearing a ski parka and a ball cap. He removed the cap, showing his shaved head. She recognized Brian Nichols. His face had been all over the television news since he had overpowered a guard at the Fulton County Courthouse that morning. In his escape, he had shot and killed a judge, a court reporter, and a deputy. At the time, Ashley didn¡¦t know that he had also killed one other man and beaten two more.

Nichols forced Ashley into the apartment. He drug her to the bathroom and placed her in the tub. He kept the gun on her. ¡§I am not going to hurt you,¡¨ he said. She didn¡¦t believe him. Who would have?

He warned her not to scream. "If you scream, the police will come. There will be a hostage situation. I’ll have to kill you and kill myself." He seemed calm as he told her this. Just in case she tried anything, Nichols wrapped her hands and feet with masking tape. He then lifted her from the tub and carried her into the bedroom. He bound her with more tape, an electrical cord, and some curtains. With her secure, he took a shower and found some fresh clothes to wear.

This was just the latest installment of a rough life for Ashley. Four years before her husband had been murdered, leaving her with a young daughter to raise on her own. As a teenager, she was frequently in trouble. Once she was arrested for shoplifting and placed on probation for a year. Later came arrests for drunken driving, speeding, and battery. Ashley had lived a tough life. But somewhere along the line God had begun a work in her. When all this happened, she was working two jobs and completing a medical assistant course just to try to make a better life for herself and her daughter.

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