I’ll bet you thought this story might be about Janet, and how I screwed up one of our special days. No; this day, March 6th, marks the anniversary of the start of the one of the toughest transitions of my own life. For it was on this day, in 1974, that my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Even typing these words on the page sends chills through me – bringing back horrible memories that on one hand I would rather forget, while at the same time I try to cling to the fond memories I had with my Dad during his illness.
And as much as I want to tell you all the great things about my Dad, I am compelled to tell you an even more personal story; about my response to the news. You see, Dad’s back had been hurting but that was no different than it had been for years – he always struggled with back trouble. But finally, the pain got so bad the doctor wanted tests, so Dad was hospitalized.
It never even occurred to me that my mother must have been stressed and exhausted. And to complicate things, Janet and I were trying to move from our small apartment to a condo, and we were speaking with Mom and Dad about a loan for a down payment. I looked at his hospital stay as an inconvenience that would soon be over. After all, my last set of finals was starting on the 11th and I would graduate on March 15th. Get the idea? It was all about me. I had just turned 21; I was a young, brash, kid, and the way I acted in those days really bothers me – even now.
So when Mom and Dad called from the hospital to let us know Dad’s diagnosis, the gravity of the situation just didn’t register. What’s more, I was relieved when they told me that they would still lend us money.
What I should have been concerned about was Dad’s spiritual condition. My grandmother told me that Dad had accepted Christ as a young boy, but so had I – and I don’t think I really understood what I was doing – I certainly did not understand the eternal implications of accepting Christ for real. And more than once, I heard Dad say it was a “crock”, and he was talking about religion. But not a word about Christ and Dad’s eternal place in heaven ever passed my lips. And that’s a tragedy. As I think back over the years, I never heard my father encourage me in my faith – ever. The more I learned about Christ, and the acceptance of Him as my Savior, the more I question my Dad’s salvation. I think about it often.
So if I had a “do-over”, I would implore my father to accept Christ’s offer of eternal life with Him. But I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity again – so here it is – plain and simple. Make no mistake – Christ died for you, and for me. His greatest desire is to spend eternity with you. And here’s how you do it – believe in Him. Because John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, and that whosoever believeth in Him shall never die, but have eternal life.” It’s that simple! Because being a good person won’t get you there, and working hard won’t get the job done either. The only way to get to heaven is to accept the free gift of eternal life, because you can’t earn it or buy it. That’s the point – it’s free!
So my prayer today is that, if you have not already done so, you will accept the gift of salvation. It only takes a quick prayer; something like, “Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for my sins. I am a sinner and in need of a Savior – so please come into my life and lead my steps. I accept your offer of eternal life with you. Please help me to strengthen my faith in you and to grow closer to you. Amen.”
If you have already accepted His gift of eternal life, then please be an encouragement to others, re-affirm your own belief and re-dedicate your life to the service of the Lord. Take the risk of trying to draw others into the Kingdom.
And, someday, I hope to see you in heaven. If you get there before I do, please say Hi to my Dad – if he’s there…..