I once encountered a man I knew at a local convenience store. When we stepped outside together, he told me he would soon come to church. He said he had been a Christian a long time and used to be very faithful to the church I served at the time. But, he had quit the church for a reason he did not explain to me.
Sure enough, he soon came to a worship service. As he departed, he told me that he wanted to rededicate his life to the Lord. I encouraged him not to put it off very long.
The following week, he came to the altar during the invitation. After a time of personal prayer, he addressed the congregation openly. He admitted he had sinned and strayed away from the Lord. He most definitely felt that the Lord was giving him one opportunity to get right spiritually. He asked for God’s forgiveness, and he asked the church to forgive him, too.
There was great rejoicing in the church that night.
The timing of the man’s repentance was impeccable, for, about five weeks later, he unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Although his death was a shocker, it was also an eye-brow raiser. God had given the man grace, because God stirred the realization and value of availing opportunity.
God reminds us in His Word to turn to Him while He is near. Says the Scripture, “Seek you the Lord while He may be found. Call you upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord. He will have mercy upon him from our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
This example of a man getting right with God at God’s urging reminds us of several comforting truths about how God works to bring His children back into fellowship. First, it reminds us that each believer is the object of God’s undivided attention. When a Christian falls out of fellowship, God loves them enough to be fully aware of the straying. He misses us immediately.
Second, it reminds us that each Christian is the subject of God’s tireless effort. God is willing to do what it takes to get our attention. His methods are mighty as He deals with us.
Third, it reminds us that each Christian is the recipient of God’s loving touch. God chastises in love. He never deals with us to the extent we truly deserve, for He is merciful and gracious. Remember that Prophet Habakkuk called out on God that in wrath remember mercy.
Fourth, it reminds us that each Christian is the beneficiary of God’s beneficent spiritual restoration. When God draws wayward saints back to spiritual fellowship, He does not publicly scathe us for what we did. Rather, he delights in our response to His call for repentance.
Fifth, it reminds us that each Christian is the focus of God’s joy. When one is spiritually restored, the Lord is pleased with the result. Jesus said, “…Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repents…”
Is God urging you to get right with Him? Look—-it does not take much to get dead. Life is short, and life is uncertain. Eternity fixes forever our decisions concerning God.
But, while God is a God of judgment, He first approaches us with mercy and grace before causing us to stand in judgment. He gives us opportunity to get right with Him because He is sensitive to how weak and frail we are spiritually. He is not hateful, but He is loving and fully willing to forgive.
I told the family at the funeral, “It was his providential return to God that lifts us above the loss, that raises us from ashes, that delivers us from the tempest, that places the drooping sadness of our hands into the security of the Savior’s strong arms. It would not have been that way had he not gotten right with the Lord.”
Get right with God while there is opportunity.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.