A Spiritual Question
By Web Ruble
Web writes: "Being an uncredentialed but nevertheless sometimes a personal Christian counselor, I was mortified recently when one of my lifelong friends died and entered the afterlife perhaps without having ever professed his belief in Jesus Christ."
Nothing magic happens at moments like this. Or it seldom does.
However, 'tis worth a try. I'm perplexed. A fireside (well, a lunchroom) chat with the Rev. Allen Mathews should pop me back into a spiritual comfort zone.
I had always relied on myself and my abilities. For instance, years ago I had been on the college wrestling team and I noticed when I lacked diligence and didn't work hard because I thought there was not enough glory being a collegiate bone-bender, I didn't do well.
So every time I lost a match that I had believed I should've won, I retreated to the drafting pit. 'Twas time to get back to hard work. I knew that I was strictly a defensive wrestler. I never truly went to the work mat to learn the basics on being an offensive one.
No wonder my performance was mediocre.
Ted on the other hand, almost always did well.
I knew in my heart that quite often a good offense is a good defense. In other words, let the other guy worry about what I was going to do next so he would have to adjust to defend it. That way, I would be in charge.
I have since learned that God is in charge. If I listen to Him, things do go better. Or at least I have a better feeling about myself. Because He would see to it that I did work hard, and assume the right attitude.
Being on the right side of God . . . that is, knowing that I am doing exactly what God would have me do, even though I could see no immediate tangible benefits, is nevertheless a huge comfort. Those of us - with varying abilities and histories -- must give our heart and mind to Jesus if we are to have a splendid afterlife -- with Him.
That's why I was so terribly upset this week when my friend Ted Jones - a slightly better wrestler and hard worker who had unabashed faith in his own ability -- dropped dead of a heart attack.
Ted was fun to be around. He had been a rounder. Since we graduated from college four years ago, plus a three-year stint in the army, his way of life would be to work diligently until 5 p.m. and then adjourn to Frescotti's, or Maxi's, or the Quarter To Two Tavern. He'd never talk about his faith. Only once did he acknowledge that there might be a God. A true rarity. It happened just after 9/11 when at a club board meeting I decided we should have prayer beforehand, while holding hands around a conference table.
That's the only time that I remember him even mentioning God.
Now he was gone! He was not a believer, at least not a professed one. And he has gone into the after life having never professed belief in Jesus Christ. Or at least not that I know of.
What a monumental tragedy! Terrible.
I say that because in all ways he was such a good, fun-loving, do-just-about-anything-for-you person. He had a good heart and loved people (at least as far as I knew). Moreover, most of the time he had good things to say about nearly everyone.
Yet . . .
Well, the Rev. Mr. Mathews -- my former roommate at college and a man of the cloth as we his friends called him - strode into the company lunchroom. He spotted me and did a soft shoe across the area -- he always walked with a joyful spring in his step - to sit opposite me at the table. After a certain amount of whooping, back slapping and other greetings, we settled into mortal conversation about what was on my (alleged) mind.
He listened. I poured out my soul.
"How could it be?" I asked. "Certainly such a good person as Ted would be welcome in heaven even if he hadn't professed belief in Jesus Christ while on earth. Just look at all the good he has done for his fellow man and the joy he has brought them."
A long silence.
" . . .Well, are you sure he was not a believer?" Rev. Mathews asked.
"I really don't know," I said. "However, I never heard him say so. I never even heard him mention God's existence . . .except that one time. Oh, I am really upset."
"Hmmmm," drawled Rev. Mathews.
"I don't know what to do," I said. "I am distraught. "Perhaps I should pray constantly for his salvation."
"It certainly wouldn't hurt," Rev. Mathews said. "But perhaps you should also pray in a different direction -- for yourself."
"You know what Christ told his disciples - go throughout the world and spread the gospel," Rev. Mathews said. "Did you do that? Did you tell him about Jesus' love, and why it is important to acknowledge Him, the son of God?"
"Well, I tried to discuss the gospel a couple of times, but NO! I really didn't bear down. I didn't bug him about it. I guess in that case - and in some other cases including certain members of my own family -- I have always been afraid of losing family members and friends or chasing folk away so that they'll never listen to words about Jesus again. It's as if I've been a little wishy washy and embarrassed about being a Christian. That's the way it appears it was in my parents' generation. I think my priorities were and are a little screwed."
"True. They might be. But at least you recognize it," Rev. Mathews said. "That's certainly a step in the right direction.
"Go ahead, pray for his salvation, and beg God's forgiveness for not bringing Ted to Christ. Go, do that, and sin no more. You'll feel a lot better. Remember God loves you."
(© 2012 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)