It was at 6:00 p.m. 35 years ago this evening that my father died. I have been thinking about that June 2nd, in 1978, all day today – it just seems odd to me how fast the years are adding up since my Dad passed away. Dad had been suffering from bone cancer and had been hospitalized more than a week earlier. He had been in remission more than 4 years, but something about him seemed different – and sure enough, when they ran tests, it was discovered that the meds were no longer working and he once again had active cancer.
He was faced with a tough decision – either know for sure that he would die within a month – or try an experimental drug that would either put him back in remission or would kill him in 7 days. He chose the treatment and, sure enough, he was dead exactly 7 days later. I had visited him in the hospital that afternoon and it was apparent to me that he was getting weaker. I decided to head home and pick up Janet, planning to return to the hospital that evening around dinner time. I arrived home – than Janet and I headed back to the hospital. We were driving north on the tollway – 294 – from our home in Downers Grove when this wave swept over me that we no longer needed to hurry – somehow I just knew that Dad had died.
This was way before the era of cell phones so we continued on to Lutheran General and as we got off the elevator, we were told that the end had come at the exact instant I felt that strange wave sweep over me. I know that it’s tough to believe, but I have a witness to these events – I had actually turned to Janet and let her know that Dad had died when we were on that tollway less than thirty minutes earlier.
While I could go on and on about the details of that day, a Friday, and the following several days including Dad’s funeral on Monday, June 5th, the point of my post this evening is to discuss a question that has haunted me for 35 years now. Was my father “saved?” Is he in heaven – or not… Grandma had shared with me that all three of her sons had professed a belief in Jesus when they were younger, but Dad never seemed to “act” like he was saved. He dropped us off at church when he didn’t feel like attending, although he did spend a number of years in the Open Hearth Class – an adult discussion group at the Methodist Church we grew up in. And when my brothers and I pointed out that it wasn’t fair for us to have to go to church if he didn’t, he disregarded our argument and we had to go anyway.
His language could be course and he renounced religion at every turn. I never heard him profess a belief in Christ and even though Grandma told me he was “saved” Dad never did anything to lead me to believe that was the case. So did he renounce God? Or was he too young when he professed his belief? After all, Grandma was something of a hard core believer and Dad certainly said that he had been raised exposed to the faith. So he was knowledgable, but I don’t recall any time in my life that he demonstrated a model of Christian behavior for his children to follow. Of course, I have to allow that perhaps Dad believed in God but just didn’t share that with us…
Moreover, this was way before Janet and I became so dedicated to a Christ centered life. That means that I never really asked Dad questions about why he didn’t talk to us about Jesus or try to get us to deepen our faith. If Dad was still alive now, you can bet that I would be all over him to profess a belief in the Savior. I would cite Scripture and try to answer questions he might have about what it means to follow Christ. And I would try to convince him at every turn that true happiness comes from a deep relationship with Jesus and His Father. But I never took advantage of that chance when Dad was alive. I don’t think I really knew enough to try and convince him.
I don’t suffer guilt over my lack of ability to preach the Gospel back then, but I sure wish that I had been raised in such a way that would have prompted me to draw my father closer to the Father. But this side of heaven, I’ll never know the answer to the questions that I have – I guess that will have to wait. However, I now take every chance I can to make sure that people know that I am a believer and I don’t tend to be shy about sharing my faith with others. That’s not always the most popular thing to do, but that’s okay.
The verse for tonight is the most famous verse in the Bible – the foundational verse of the Christian faith – John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him shall never die, but have everlasting life.” It’s that simple to have eternal life – believe. My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God wants you to take every chance you get to make people aware of the kingdom of God. My prayer is that God sends the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of as many people as possible so that they may experience the joy of knowing that they will have an eternity with Christ. And just perhaps, someday I may see my Father in heaven. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…