Over the years I’ve helped hundreds of people come to faith in Christ. Many of them ridiculed me in the process, sometimes ruthlessly. But I persisted the best I could. I even hated some of them. I know that’s not something I’m supposed to say as a pastor, but it’s what I felt at the time. Some of the people I reached out to treated me like garbage. But somehow I persisted. And do you know what many of those same people told me after they became Christians?
“Thank you for not giving up on me.”
Years ago a woman in our church asked me to visit her dying father in the hospital. For years this man had rejected Christianity and even made fun of me personally. But despite my years of built-up apprehension and animosity toward this man, I went to see him.
When I arrived in his room, I found a diﬀerent man from the one I’d known. Gone was the bravado. Gone was the glare of deﬁance I had seen so many times. Hooked to a dozen wires and monitors, the person who spent a lifetime rejecting his daughter’s attempts to share her faith now lay in cold silence staring out the window.
For some reason, I expected the circumstances of our meeting to have softened his heart. Deathbeds have a way of doing that to people. But as I drilled down in our conversation, I hit the same skeptical bedrock I had before. He gave me the same smirks. Same deﬁance. Same “I’m smarter than God” attitude. My job was done. He was unmoved and unwilling to talk about spiritual matters, so I said a quick prayer and headed for the parking lot. But something wouldn’t allow me to get on that elevator.
This isn’t a game, I thought. This person is headed toward eternal separation from God.
And you’re going to just walk away and leave?
What are you ashamed of?
The elevator door opened, but I didn’t get in.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I turned around, headed back down the hallway, and walked up to his bedside once again.
“I’m not leaving you like this. Not today. Not on my watch.”
He was taken aback.
“Listen, I don’t care that you’ve spent your life making fun of Christians. I don’t care about anything you’ve said or done up to this point. Quite frankly, I think all of that has been a show. I can see it in your eyes. Deep down you want to believe, you just haven’t been willing to humble yourself.”
I spent the next ﬁfteen minutes trying every angle possible to get him to surrender his heart to Christ. No luck. I don’t know what I expected—maybe the gates of heaven to open up and shower angel dust all over the room, I don’t know. All I knew is that this guy’s heart wouldn’t budge.
Then I did something I had never done before.
I begged him.
I literally began begging him to come to Christ.
“Look, is this what you want? I’m begging you, Frank. I’m literally begging you. You’re going to die soon, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, I don’t know when, but it’s soon. I don’t want you to go to hell. I’m begging you to give your life to Christ, right now, this second.”
Then something astonishing happened. His eyes started to water. His lips trembled. Years of skeptical deﬁance melted as he grabbed my hand. And that’s when it happened—he surrendered his heart to Christ.
Right there in that room.
After years of hurling insults at Christians.
And as I stood there, wiping back tears of joy and trying to ﬁgure out how I was going to baptize him with all those wires sticking out of him, he pulled my hand and motioned with his eyes that he wanted to say something.
I leaned over to listen.
And he whispered in my ear, “Thank you for coming back for me.”
As we both sat there, soaking in the magnitude of what was taking place, I started laughing, wiped my eyes, and said, “Frank, after everything you’ve put me through, I don’t know whether I should hug you or sucker punch you.”
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