The Last Chance

by Bill Rudge

Lynne Patton Stewart called the ministry to see if I could visit her ex-husband, Terry (and father to their children, Eric and Kristin) who was in the hospital. He was an atheist and dying of cancer.

Entering Terry’s hospital room, I saw a man who was mere skin and bones. After telling him that I was a chaplain and that Lynne had sent me, he welcomed me. I sat down beside his bed and spoke a few minutes while he ate, slowly chewing each bite. Between bites he responded to my questions with one or two words. When I asked if he would like to talk about eternity he responded, “Not at this time.” But knowing I would probably not see him again as I was leaving on a ministry trip, I asked if I might say something briefly. He nodded a “yes” but seemed distant and disinterested.

I told him that I had spent a lifetime seeking the answers to three questions: First, Is there a God? I assured him that after examining the evidence I was convinced that there was and that both of us will stand before Him when we die. Second, I wanted to know if there were many ways to this God or only one? And I had become convinced that the Bible truly is God’s Word; that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. Third, I wanted to know what this God requires of me. I discovered I must ask His forgiveness and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.

He had stopped eating and was listening intently. He said he had been thinking about these things. He thanked me several times for coming and wanted to continue our conversation. I went on to share illustrations of how we can know Jesus Christ and to assure him that God would forgive him and receive him into His heavenly kingdom – even at this late point in his life. He responded, “I guess God is pulling me up by my bootstraps.” Asking him if he wanted to receive Jesus as his Savior, he said that he did. I prayed a salvation prayer and at the end he said a clear “Amen.” Terry died a little more than a week later.

Isn’t God’s love toward us amazing? Even at the end of his life, God snatched Terry from the fire (Jude 23). What irony that earlier, that very day, I had read the book of Jude. Verses 21 - 25 state:

“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them.... To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen.”