For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil,At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant. (Job 14:7-9)
Bill and I went to kindergarten together, though we really didn't know one another at that time. He lived across the street from me, three houses down, but we really didn't get to know one another until we were around ten years old. I remember that day very well, because of the events that led up to us meeting.
I was walking home from school, and as was common a fight broke out between two boys, and a group of kids had gathered to watch it. When I saw the group gathered together, I went over to see what was taking place and saw Bill trying to fight another boy, but the boy was getting the better of him. Even at that time I didn't like seeing somebody getting picked on, and I walked up to the other boy and told him that, if he didn't go home I would beat him up. At that time, in that small school I had a reputation for being willing to fight, and he knew I could beat him so he said a few things, and left.
Bill and I walked home together, and I still remember him crying in shame and me putting my arm around his shoulders to comfort him. It was at that time that we began to be friends, and over the years he became more like a brother to me than just a friend.
Seeing that he lived across the street from me, it was natural for us to start hanging around, and a day didn't go by that he wasn't at my house, or that I wasn't at his. Growing up together, it was natural that we started having girlfriends at the same time. We occasionally double dated, took our girls to the prom, and got in to trouble together. When we were fifteen, we started drinking together. On Washington's birthday, 1966 he and I got arrested for being drunk in public, and alcohol for us became a bit of a problem (especially for me). We started taking drugs together when we were sixteen, and basically wasted our youth on things that harmed us. By the time we were 20, he had begun pulling away from drugs, and from me, because I loved drinking and doing drugs. He got a job, and I would occasionally go to his apartment to get high. He would get "mellow", but I would get wasted and he eventually couldn't handle my craziness.
It was at this time that he started going to church. A friend's mother had been giving studies at her house, and Bill thought that Christianity was the way to go, so he would go with his friend to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa for the studies. It was at this time that he tried to get me to go with him, and after a month or two of asking, I went with him. That is where the gospel was first presented clearly to me, and a few months later, I got saved.
We both were drafted into the military, and because of this we chose to go in on the same day, through what was called a "buddy plan". We went through Basic Training together, but he went Infantry and I didn't have a specialty, so I volunteered for Airborne School while he went through AIT (Advanced Infantry Training). He went through NCOS and became a sergeant, and I went to Ft. Benning, Ga for jump training, and lost contact with him.
When I got out of the Army, Bill and I reconnected but he had walked away from the Lord. I started going to school, met Marie, got married, and had our kids while he remained single and went on to become a police officer. At this time, we lost contact and only occasionally would hear of or from one another. Years would pass by and I would not hear from him, but once in a while I might see him at a wedding or reunion. Fifteen or so years ago we were in the same wedding, and that was the last time I saw him. He told me that he listened to me on the radio sometimes, and that he had even heard me mention his name but that he didn't remember anything that I spoke about. He didn't remember much about going to church, or sharing his faith, or anything that related to faith in God. Just hearing that saddened me deeply, as it was obvious that Bill had never really known the Lord.
Fast forward to two years ago. We had a baptism on the church grounds, and I walked past a guy who made a silly comment to me. I smiled at him, answered, and went to do the baptism. As I was walking back to my office, he was still there and he once again spoke. This time I stopped, because I saw that it was Bill. I invited him into my office, and we began to visit.
He had retired from the police force, and decided to go to the Middle East, contracted to teach police tactics. While there, he came to realize that this just wasn't the place he wanted to be, and while in his tent one night he prayed and pretty much bargained with God by saying if God got him out of there, he (among other things) would come and see me. This is what brought him to our church that night.
From that point on, he and I have been meeting for lunch monthly, with another old friend named Bobby. Bobby loves the Lord, and is now Bill's closest friend, and through his influence Bill came to faith in Jesus. Recently, as Bill, Bobby, and I were having our monthly lunch meeting, Bill told me that he had come to Jesus and I believe him. I cannot help but rejoice, because God's unmatched grace once again has reached out of eternity and touched a lost soul. What especially blesses me is that Bill, who was greatly responsible for me coming to faith in Jesus, after 38 years of forgetting Him was never forgotten by Him. My oldest friend and dearly loved brother has come back to Jesus. And this amplifies the grace of God to me!
Monday, February 10, 2014
Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine (Pr 3:9-10) Many Christians select promises to believe, but only a small percentage believe this one! Perhaps we should, as it truly reveals the provision of God and the reality of our faith!