Whenever I think of her, I nearly always see her looking at me through the blazing flames of Hell. She isn’t saying anything but in her eyes I see her question, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
While I was attending Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs Colorado, I had the opportunity to work as a Youth Director at a “Mainline” church. Many would label this church as very liberal, certainly not a place where you would find an evangelical, holiness Christian! I took the position, however, believing that it would be good experience for me while I was in school preparing for the ministry. I thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to share the Gospel message of God’s love since the church’s Executive Council told me that they wanted their teenagers to learn the Bible; this in spite of the fact that one of the officers of the church unhesitatingly declared, “we don’t get saved here.”
Just to give you an idea of how “liberal” this particular church was, the pastor who had just left before we arrived had been known for teaching reincarnation. The pastor who was there while I was, both denied the existence of a real Satan or Devil as well as reminded me that there are many roads up the mountain to God; while we’ve chosen Christianity, others have chosen other paths equally “good.” Needless to say, you didn’t hear any evangelistic appeals from the pulpit.
Still, my time at this church turned out to be an eternally successful one. We drew in teens from the community who had never been in church before. They were learning more about the Bible and the God revealed in it. And, despite the declaration against “getting saved,” we had teenagers who did just that and testified to their lives being changed.
Ministry within the youth group was great and we were integrating them into the larger church with involvement in worship and a teen choir. Still, while my family was in attendance at every worship service and became friends with many of the members, we felt that our evangelical persuasion kept us at arm’s length.
One Sunday morning this feeling revealed itself to me more than it ever had before, but the separation wasn’t being enforced by them but by me.
This particular Sunday morning as the pastor was sharing the needs in the church before the pastoral prayer, he mentioned one particular woman who was in the hospital, her cancer having progressed dramatically. This woman and her husband were active in the church and my wife and I experienced a modest friendship with them.
As the pastor mentioned her name I heard God speak to me in a way that I had never heard before and only occasionally since. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but it was just as clear as though it was.
God very clearly told me to go visit that woman in the hospital and tell her about Jesus, invite her to accept Him as her Savior.
I couldn’t believe what God was asking me to do! The excuses started rolling out in my mind: I barely knew her, it would be so awkward to visit her in the hospital. I was just the Youth Director, that wasn’t my place. I had been told that they didn’t “get saved” at that church, how could I suggest it? I imagined the pastor scolding me for over stepping my bounds and bringing what I believed into that hospital room ignoring what they believed.
I convinced myself. I didn’t go. I disobeyed God.
Once that Sunday morning service was over, having produced what I believed was a solid case against God’s request, I didn’t think much more about it. That is, until the next Sunday.
The pastor was again sharing the needs of the congregation before prayer, but this time the request wasn’t for that woman but for her grieving family.
She had died that week.
Suddenly, all of the excuses that I had made for not going to see her and sharing Jesus with her seemed so ludicrous. I realized that God had a plan for her to hear the Gospel one more time before she died and that plan included me, but I refused to participate in it. Rather, I chose to disobey His command to go. Since that Sunday, I haven’t been able to escape the thought that my disobedience may have caused her to wind up in Hell.
This event in my life is not just something I just remember, it is something that I am tormented by. The sight of her looking at me through the blazing flames of Hell asking me through the pain in her eyes, “Why didn’t you tell me?” continues to torment me to this day.
Now, I know the comfort that I would attempt to offer someone in my shoes, were I their pastor. I would assure them that God likely had a plan “b” in case I didn’t follow His call. I would remind them that likely she had previously had the opportunity to receive Christ, that God is faithful in that way. I would contend that it was her sins and rejection of Jesus that would land her in Hell, not my disobedience. I know all of these things, but they don’t bring me comfort because I was the one who disobeyed God that day. I was the one who possibly prevented her from hearing about Jesus one more time before she died. I was the one who God had asked to go.
Whenever I am tormented by this memory, my prayer is always that God had sent someone else to her, that she had another opportunity despite my disobedience. I also pray that God would help me to never let that happen again, that He would give me the strength, courage and words to go and speak to someone when He says to go.
I share this story not so that you would feel sorry for me. I don’t even share it as a therapeutic exercise. I share it so that maybe you can learn from my mistake –no, my disobedience– so that you would not have to endure the torment that I have (and likely that she has).
I encourage you not to delay if God nudges you to speak to someone about Jesus.
I challenge you to see others through the eyes of God so that you might see their needs, then reach out to them to help meet those needs.
I plead with you to be obedient when God calls on you, when He points someone out to you to speak to. Obey Him. Your obedience may not only free you from being tormented for years as I have been, but may also bring a new soul into the Kingdom of God.
Photo credits: face in flame- http://imageshack.us/f/824/manflames.jpg/; hospital visit- http://www.lourdes.com/ patient-guide/visiting-hours
Oh wow. I didn’t know that story. Thanks for sharing it. It spoke to me.
It’s very shocking to me how many Christian Churches have given up on the gospel for something more New Age! My husband and I have been searching for a church that STILL preaches Jesus and having a lot of trouble finding one. It’s very easy in this culture to feel like a fool for believing in a real Satan, but by taking Jesus out of the churches Satan’s done a great job for his side. Great story. I think we’ve all done that a few times–hesitating or defying God’s nudges. Wonder what ever happened to Jonah?