Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Missed Blessing

Be ready, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of man is coming.”
Jesus, in Matthew 24:44

One day about forty years ago, brother Earl Pittman and I were traveling in his truck to visit some of the saints we knew.  We did this often and enjoyed it.  This day as we rode along, we were singing songs, praising God, and talking excitedly about the things of the Spirit when, all of a sudden, the Spirit fell on me and I heard myself say, “We’re going to have a visitor from the Lord tomorrow!”  We were both surprised, but pleased, and since there was nothing to do about it then, we continued our trip toward ours friends’ houses.
At that time, I was living in a very old and run-down house we had purchased.  Every day, it seemed, I worked on that house to rescue it from the grave.  The day after my trip with Earl to see our friends, I was working to patch the floor where I had torn out a crumbling fireplace.  I worked through the morning, and in the afternoon, I heard that “still, small voice” several times tell me, “It’s time to stop now.”  But I pushed on.  There was a lot to do.
Finally, late in the afternoon, I put my tools down and went to get cleaned up.  As I was getting out of the shower, I heard a knock at the front door.  I remembered what I had said the day before.  “The visitor from the Lord!” I thought, and rushed to get dry and dressed.  I rushed to the front door.  No one was there.  I ran out to the sidewalk in front of our house and looked in both directions.  No one.  “How could he have gotten away so fast?” I wondered.  It didn’t strike me until I was writing this line that I didn’t think to look up.  That is where the visitor had come from.  As it was, I stood there, feeling very bad.  Why had I not listened to the tender voice of Jesus, telling me it was time to stop working on that old house?
There is an old hymn that exhorts us to “take time to be holy.”  We all have projects to finish and responsibilities to meet.  But when God offers us a blessing, we would be wise to make time for it.  Jesus said that the cares of this life can choke out the word of God in our lives, that is, earthly responsibilities can rob us of blessings we would receive if we only made time in our busy schedules for Jesus.  Be wise.  Attending to important things, necessary things in this world, can rob us of blessings the Lord sends our way, blessings received only by those who have put their tools down and are waiting on the Lord.


Some years ago, Jesus gave me a brief vision in which he taught me what salvation is.  In the vision, I saw him with me, with his arm around my shoulder.  He had gently turned me away from this world and was leading me in the other direction – forever.  It was sad to think of never even looking back to see my wife and children one more time, or the places of my childhood, or the sweet friends in the Lord that I knew.  It was just Jesus, a little taller than myself in the vision, and me, walking away from it all forever.  How would they all do in their lives?  What would happen to them, and how would they respond?  Jesus was asking me to think only of the eternal things to which he was taking me.
At the time, having learned that salvation is the end of our faith, as Peter said (1Pet. 1:9), and that we must endure to the end to receive salvation, as Jesus said (Mt. 24:13), I assumed that Jesus was teaching me how it will feel at the end of my life when I must go to receive my reward from God.  I am sure I will feel some sadness at leaving the ones who love me and whom I love; in fact, I feel that now, just thinking about it.  But I think that was not his point, and I have only now realized it.
I was sitting in my recliner, remembering how my father lived his life, wondering how I could explain it to someone, when that brief vision of Jesus and me came to mind.  “That’s it!” I thought to myself. “That is how he lived!”
Our eternal salvation is at the end, but our journey starts now, when Jesus comes to us and turns us away, not just from the sinfulness of this world, but also from the people and things in this world that we love.  There is joy in having our hearts turned from sin, but sorrow in having our hearts turned from people and places we love to make room for God to be first in our hearts.  This is what Jesus was getting at when he said, “He who loves his life shall lose it, and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life” (Jn. 12:25).  And he made that truth more personal when he said to his disciples, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:37–39). 
When Jesus comes and puts his arm around your shoulder to turn you away from this world and your life in it, he is handing you your cross.  Go with him and bear it; look steadfastly to God for guidance, not to your wife, or your children, your friends, or your own mind.  It’s the only way to do what is truly right, for others and for yourself.  And if you do that with Jesus, in not too long a time, you and they will be glad that you chose the road of salvation instead of following them.