I want to share a passage from a book I just finished reading called “Edge of Apocalypse” by Tim LaHaye & Craig Parshall.
“You really forced me to up my game,” the pastor said. “But at the same time, hey, I’ve got to admit… some of my shots were flukes. I don’t think I earned my score today, shooting just two strokes behind you. You, on the other hand, really earned your score. You play the game with a tremendous amount of skill. And discipline.”
Joshua smiled as he chewed on his BLT on whole wheat.
Then something occurred to him. He had to say it out loud. “That’s it.”
“What?” Campbell replied.
“The answer to your little riddle. You said that life was dissimilar to the game of golf.”
“Right. So, what’s your answer?”
“I think your point was that it may take discipline and skill to achieve things in life. Obviously. But that somehow those things aren’t enough.”
Paul Campbell stopped eating. He wiped his mouth with his napkin and leaned back.
“I think you’re right.”
But now Joshua wanted the pastor to close the loop. He asked, “So, skill and discipline are not enough… but not enough for what?”
There was silence between the two men. Joshua expected the man sitting across the café table to keep talking. But he didn’t. Finally Joshua had to plow ahead.
“Okay. What about God?”
“As skilled and disciplined and accomplished as you – or anyone, for that matter – might be… regardless of that, it’s not enough to please God.”
“Sounds like He’s hard to please,” Joshua shot back with a chuckle.
The pastor replied simply, “Exactly. God is hard to please. Impossible in fact.”
This surprised Joshua. “Wow, that’s a downer coming from a clergyman. I thought you guys specialized in giving out words of hope.”
“Let’s put it this way: God won’t be pleased with purely human effort as a way to achieve relationship with Him. That’ll never work.”
“The Bible says every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory that we were originally designed for. We all have an inherent sin flaw, and we act on that. That blocks our ability to connect with God.”
“So what’s your solution… to not sin? Act self-righteous? Be pious? Go to church?”
Now Joshua was getting impatient. If there was a problem, then he liked to figure out the solution. Campbell was proposing a tragic problem for the human race, and no solution.
“Then what?” Joshua asked. His voice was loud enough to draw the attention of a group of women eating lunch at a nearby table who turned and looked.
Campbell replied, “Accept the one solution that God’s given us. That’s the only remedy that will work. The only thing that will enable us to have any kind of relationship with Him. To receive forgiveness for sin. Take us out of the enemy camp and put us into friendship with the Creator of the Universe. That’s it. Nothing else will do.”
Joshua was looking for loopholes. “So no multiple options available? Look, if I’m way up in the stratosphere flying at Mach one and I encounter problems with my aircraft, I’m not going to limit myself to one single solution. I’ll try multiple strategies to get control of that airplane.”
“Let’s use a communications model. You’re up in that aircraft. You want to contact the control tower. The radio has to be set on the right frequency. If the tower has only one frequency available, it doesn’t make much sense to say you don’t like that frequency and you’d rather have multiple options…”
“So, what’s the single frequency for God?”
“The Bible makes it crystal clear. The ultimate reason that Jesus came to earth was simple, but pretty mind-blowing. He came to be cruelly tortured and then to die in a Roman crucifixion just outside the city walls in ancient Jerusalem. That’s the only way He could be a sacrifice. The perfect Son of God, offered as a perfect payment for the price of my sin – and yours.”
Joshua was calculating the odds. Something didn’t add up. “There are what… thirteen billion people who’ve lived on this planet, something like that? So how could one man, I don’t care who he is… how could one man’s blood possibly cover the sins of every single person? Couldn’t be done.”
Paul Campbell nodded. “You’re right. Can’t be done.”
Joshua chuckled and sized up the man across the table. “Now you agree with me? What’s the hitch?”
“Because an ordinary man could never die for his own sins, let alone billions of others. But then, that’s the point of those Bible prophecies I was talking about at church. God has given us the guidance from His Word, like landing lights on an airport runway. Pointing the way directly to Jesus as the one and only Savior. God made into man. Fully human, yet fully Divine. Incomprehensible? Yes. But when Jesus was crucified, it was literally the blood of God being shed, which is the only thing that can cleanse the sins of thirteen billion people. Obviously, Josh, God thinks human beings are worth saving. It’s that simple. And that profound. The only thing left is how we respond to that.”
“So here’s my response,” Joshua said. “Some things are worth saving. Right? We can agree on that. In my case I want to save my country. I caught what you were saying last night. In fact, you and I have something else in common, beyond a close golf game I mean.”
“We both realize that this may be the last and best chance we have to stop America from being sucked into a global commune. A place where liberty gets destroyed by redefinition. Our borders start to evaporate. Where we have to ask permission of the international community before we take action to defend ourselves. Where the vision of men like Patrick Henry and George Washington gets erased from the memories of our grandchildren. According to what you said last night, if that happens, it could be the beginning of the end. One long, ugly global nightmare. Well, I’m not just going to sit back and watch it happen.”
“Nations are made up of people. That includes you. So, you may want to consider looking to your own salvation first, Josh. You may be surprised what God has in store for you once you sign onto His team.”
“You want me to do the same kind of spiritual conversion thing that Abby did? Which is fine for her. But what you’re offering me, it’s certainly not the right time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s face it. Right now my life is tied up in a complicated struggle. I’m on a mission. Everything I am and all that I have, everything is going to be devoted to that task. My business interests, my energy. Everything. I appreciate what you’re saying. But I’m on a different road right now. And I’m not stopping till I’ve accomplished the mission.”
Campbell nodded and said. “You mentioned Patrick Henry. Wasn’t he the one who said that God directs the destinies of nations?”
“Sure. But then he rose up, shook his fist at Great Britain, and fought for freedom. I can’t wait for divine intervention, Pastor. I need to act.”
“Just one thought. Something I didn’t get a chance to share last night.”
“God’s the keeper of the timetable. He’s the only one who knows the exact timing of the end. I’ve made the Scriptures my lifelong study. You want to know where the United States is mentioned?”
“So would I. And I’m still looking. Why no clear, specific mention of America? Maybe He simply doesn’t want us to know the fate of our nation in advance. So we can rise to the challenge. Seek His face while there’s still time.”
Sometimes, Jahar, I can’t imagine how you have endured what has been thrust upon you to handle. When I think of the physical pain and lingering affects of your injuries, the loneliness, the boredom, the justified anger you are forced to swallow and never voice or act on, the hurt as people with no right to do so took the witness stand in Boston and said things to you that must have been daggers to your tender heart…
You are clearly chosen by God for a great purpose and I know you will fulfill it one day. But before that day comes, all that remains in you of pride, of religion, of human effort must die and that does not happen easily.
I know, for we all struggle with these things. I am no exception. Though I have known Jesus as my savior and friend for many years, my trust in Him is not what I would like it to be. My ability to receive what He wants to give me freely without making me earn it remains faulty.
I am learning, but my progress is slow. When you grow up in a family where love was conditioned upon performance, you don’t get much exposure to the unconditional way God loves mankind. It feels risky and too easy to believe that the God of the universe just wants to talk to me, ease my hurt, defend me and show me undeserved favor.
This past week I was doing what I often seem to do best, complaining that I had run out of milk and had no money to buy any until my next check. I was on day four of drinking nothing but water with every meal. I was down to my canned goods stash and still had about 4 days to go before payday.
I was telling God how tired I was of things being so challenging financially and I was not being meek in speech… I was not holding back.
He answered me very gently and what He said was a game changer.
All He said, without a trace of scolding in His voice was “I don’t think you’ve ever thanked me for having access to clean drinking water have you?”
His words and the way He said them stopped me cold. I could see images in my mind of people drinking from the same body of water they bathe in, wash dishes in and you name it…
There I was with a bottle of cold water in my hand and all I’d had to do to obtain it was open my refrigerator…
I started crying, overcome with gratitude at the sudden realization that He is taking care of me. I am happy to report I no longer have a problem with drinking water when I run out of milk at the end of the month.
I want to end this letter with a video of a true story that I pray will touch your heart. I know it has certainly touched mine.
And I wish you the blessing of peace tonight Jahar. God is faithful and He is good to those who wait for Him. You’ll see. We both will.