The 116 Life Ep. 64: “Abiding in Christ” with Sam Rivera

In this episode of the 116 Life host Ace Harris interviews gifted musician Sam Rivera about his challenging upbringing as a preacher’s kid, facing judgment within his church community, and his subsequent estrangement from the church. From church hurt and self-harm to his personal encounter with God, Sam’s story will inspire you. Here are some highlights from their conversation.

Growing Up with Expectations

Sam’s story begins in Portland, Oregon, where he was raised as a preacher’s kid—a role that came with heavy expectations and a spotlight that often felt way too intense. Sam faced harsh scrutiny within his church community, which he found very overwhelming. “There was a lot of pressure to be perfect,” Sam reflects, acknowledging how criticism from an early age profoundly influenced his perspective on faith.

A Defining Moment

A particular incident remains etched in Sam’s memory: he led worship in jeans and sang in Spanish, choices that attracted severe public rebuke. “I remember feeling publicly chastised and humiliated,” he shares. This event was a turning point, creating a rift between Sam and the church, leading him to question his faith.

The Struggle with Church Hurt

Sam’s path diverged as he struggled with church hurt, resulting in a rebellious phase marked by tattoos and self-harm. The rejection from his church community left deep wounds, and for a time, Sam distanced himself from the church, seeking validation from people rather than a connection with God.

Reconnecting with Faith

Sam’s return to faith was gradual, but a meaningful encounter with a worship song by Todd Delaney sparked a healing process. He came to understand that his faith should be based on a personal relationship with God and his calling to minister through music. “I had to reevaluate my understanding of faith and church,” he states.

The 116 Life: Embracing Christian R&B

Sam’s musical evolution is essential to his testimony. Adopting a Christian R&B style, he gained confidence and felt a sense of duty to lead the genre in a positive direction. His music became a conduit for healing and self-expression, challenging the negative influences in the music industry while remaining true to his principles.

Message of Encouragement

Sam’s narrative is one of triumph over adversity and the reclamation of identity in Christ. His experiences, though filled with challenges, have prepared him to uplift others facing similar trials. “I hope my journey can encourage others,” he asserts, highlighting the significance of cultivating an authentic relationship with God rather than seeking others’ approval.

Sam Rivera’s story is a poignant reminder that faith and purpose can be fortified through life’s trials. His transition from church hurt to healing and from doubt to confident musical expression is a source of inspiration for anyone seeking to reconnect with faith and purpose. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on the show and you’re experience. Let’s encourage one another.

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116 life ep 64 sam rivera alt pic 1  sam solo
Sam showing his scars/tatoos
116 life ep 64 alt pic 2 Ace Harris (Sam Rivera interview)
Reach Records SVP over A&R, Ace Harris
116 Life ep 64 alt pic 3 Ace Harris and Sam Rivera
Ace and Sam


Loss and Grief (00:00:20) Sam discusses the loss of his grandmother and the impact on his small family.

Music and Faith (00:03:23) Sam talks about being a psalmist, his experiences with depression, and his journey as a preacher’s kid.

Entry into Music (00:04:31) Sam shares how his older brother introduced him to music and his first experience in a studio.

Influence of Lecrae (00:06:33) Sam recounts attending a Lecrae concert and how it influenced his desire to pursue music.

Transition to Singing (00:09:51) Sam shares how he initially wanted to be a rapper but eventually started singing, driven partly by personal experiences.

Worship and Faith (00:13:08) Sam discusses his transition to singing faith-based music and his journey as a worship leader.

Struggles in Church (00:17:44) Sam reflects on a church event where he faced criticism for his attire, leading to a shift in his view of church and faith.

Rebellion and Church Hurt (00:19:43) Sam discusses feeling rejected by the church community, leading to rebellious behavior and self-harm.

Family Reaction to Tattoos (00:20:13) Sam recounts getting tattoos at a young age and the negative reactions from his family, particularly his parents.

Understanding Church Hurt (00:21:24) Sam shares his evolving perspective on church hurt, emphasizing the importance of building a personal relationship with God.

Overcoming Self-Harm (00:23:07) Sam describes his struggles with self-harm and the process of finding healing and forgiveness.

Renewed Faith and Relationship with God (00:25:13) Sam reflects on the role of prayer, family, and personal growth in restoring his faith and deepening his relationship with God.

Impact of Music and Fame (00:32:08) Sam discusses the impact of his music and the challenges of dealing with fame and praise.

Confidence in Christian R&B (00:38:26) Sam expresses confidence in the Christian R&B genre and discusses the responsibility of leading the space with integrity.

The bieber comparison (00:40:52) Sam Rivera discusses being compared to Justin Bieber and how it has influenced his music.

Developing a unique sound (00:42:18) Sam Rivera and Ace Harris talk about the importance of distinguishing oneself while being compared to other artists.

Maintaining cultural distinction (00:44:04) Sam Rivera explains the significance of maintaining his West Coast sound and its impact on his audience.

Singing in Spanish (00:46:05) Sam Rivera discusses his experiences singing in Spanish and his plans for future Spanish songs.

Dying to oneself (00:47:00) Sam Rivera shares his thoughts on the importance of dying to oneself and its impact on his faith and art.

Related Radio Show: 116 Life