South Carolina megachurch Pastor John Gray returned to the pulpit Sunday after he was hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism last month, thanking God for keeping him from a death that had been "scheduled in Hell."
On July 7, the 49-year-old pastor stood "in need of a miracle" after being admitted to the cardiac care unit of a local hospital after dealing with chest pain for a month. Gray had suffered a rare and very severe saddle pulmonary embolism, a term used to describe when a blood clot gets lodged at the intersection where the main pulmonary artery branches into the lungs.
The condition could lead to sudden hemodynamic collapse and death. At times, Gray was "unable to move," and his oxygen fell well below the normal mark. After his wife, Aventer, encouraged his congregation to pray, Gray was released from the hospital after over a week.
This past Sunday, as the pastor took to the stage at his church to preach a sermon for the first time since his sick leave, his congregation immediately burst into a roar of cheering and applause.
"It's been close to two months since I've stood here. … And I'm not the same; which was the purpose of the season," John Gray said at the start of the Aug. 14 sermon preached at the Greenville-based church.
In a prayer before his sermon, Gray suggested that he has developed a better perspective on God's protection and on God's constant interference in life affairs to protect His followers from the plots and schemes of Satan, who "comes to steal, kill and destroy."
Additionally, Gray noted that "the devil cannot do anything in our lives without express permission from God."
He shared that God "will not allow demonic things to happen to [His] children unless it's meant to be for [their] good."
"People used to say a lot; 'the devil should have killed me when he had the chance.' I actually mean it. And he missed," Gray said.
"I'm not just talking about me. I'm talking about you. He missed. You and I should have been cut off, but he missed."
Doctors told Gray that if the blood clot deviated in any way, he could have died.
"No words. … Lives flipped in a moment. … All I know is Jehovah Rapha; … He becomes what we need when we need it," wrote Aventer Gray in an Aug. 13 Instagram post, giving credit to the Lord for her husband's recovery using the Hebrew words for "the God that heals."
Aventer Gray reportedly sat in the front row, teary-eyed on Sunday as her husband preached.
"Lord Jesus, get the glory from this moment in a way that you never have before. And I thank you for bringing me back to this place. It was not guaranteed. It was at one point highly unlikely that I would be carrying or holding a mic again," John Gray said in another prayer in front of his congregation on Sunday.
"What was scheduled in Hell, [was] for me to be in a [coffin], … but I'm on this platform right here because You willed it to be so. And for this and every other blessing, I say thank you," he continued.
"And to the people of God that have prayed and interceded, pushed and fought and cried and literally banged on the doors of Heaven and was like: 'Lord, not him, not now and not from this,' Thank you."