February 4, 2024
Several years ago I read a book authored by a man named David Hansen, titled The Art of Pastoring. The story-line in the book is his day to day routine as he pastored two rural churches in Montana. The theme he threads through each chapter is how to be a parable of Jesus Christ every day. One particular pastime this pastor enjoyed was trout fishing when he had a day off. He would travel up into the mountains and walk a mile or so into the back country to his favorite fishing spot and throw his line in the river and catch trout. He also had to learn how to trap and eliminate the many varieties of vermin that tried to live in his basement and attic.
A friend asked me if I would visit an elderly gentleman who had some serious health issues and had just been diagnosed with cancer. I obliged and a couple days later made the trip out to his house. He met us at the door with a smile and much gratitude. After our initial greeting and small talk in the kitchen he moved us to the living room where we enjoyed hot tea and more conversation. I can’t remember exactly what all we talked about that day, but what I do remember is that he was a very successful businessman but had not fared so well at home. His wife and children had long ago abandoned him and now that his work no longer kept him company, his wealth didn’t mean that much to him.
We chatted about his family and his work and the good old days that were now no more than a memory. He willingly opened up about his insecurities and his fear of death. He showed me a Bible someone had given him, with a neatly hand-written prayer inside the front cover. He read it to me and then set the Bible down on the coffee table. I remember the prayer written in the front was a prayer for him, and it was about finding peace with God. I asked him if he had found peace with God. He said no, he didn’t know how. I explained as best as I could what the Bible says about seeking God and calling out to Him and finding Him, and repentance and forgiveness. He was hoping his good will and acts of kindness would catch God’s attention – but he wasn’t finding much security in that, because in his words, he didn’t know if he had done enough good to outdo the bad. I explained to him that what God really wants from us is to recognize that Jesus is the One who paid the price already for us, having lived a perfect life, He died in our place, and it is by accepting Him that we find favor with God. What we need to do is recognize that no matter how much we do – without Christ it is never enough. He is the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Bible says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
On another occasion, I received a call one evening from a man who was going in for heart surgery the next morning. This man had been an acquaintance of ours for several years. When he called I recognized who he was right away and he explained to me how scared he was going into surgery and wondered what would happen if he didn’t make it. He apologized for not attending church and for bothering me when he knew how busy I was. I assured him he was no bother. As we talked he began to weep quietly out of fear and anxiety. I offered to pray for him right then and there over the phone and he accepted the offer. After I said the Amen, he promised if he got through this, I would see him in church as soon as he was able to attend. He never did attend, but a few years later at his funeral, I learned that his brother accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.
These two incidents got me thinking. In both cases, the individuals were struggling with the cycle of life – life, death, and the hereafter. We know what we see. Our senses do a good job of taking in the world around us. But our senses cannot taste, touch, see, hear, or smell the next life. All we have to go on is what we read in the Bible. The Bible tells us it will be either a wonderful place where there is no death, sorrow, crying or pain. Or, it will be a place of great sorrow and regret and misery. It’s our choice.
God’s goodness is available to each one of us through the Person of Jesus Christ. And the best part is that not only can we have an eternity with Him waiting, but we can have peace in our hearts now – in this life - and we don’t have to be afraid, but we can be secure in the love of God. I cannot explain how this feels, because the Bible says it is a peace that passes all understanding. What I do know is that if you have that peace you know you have it. It’s not something you wonder about.
So, wouldn’t it be better when you reach that crossroad in your life, if you already have a friendship going with the Savior, rather than suddenly trying to get to know Him?
That’s really what we’re doing – trying to show Christ to others – a parable.
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).