The following is a story I wrote ages ago. It's not written in my usual style. I'm attempting to make it sound as though it were written a hundred years ago. So it comes off a bit corny. But I still like the message of the story.
A wealthy man had an only son. The father was a God-fearing, upright man, but the son was lazy and dissipated and cared for nothing but his own pleasure. Like all fathers, this father was not without faults. Some may have accused him of being too harsh with his son. Some may have accused him of stubbornness, for he would follow any course of action he believed to be right regardless of the consequences to himself and others.
The father's health was failing. As the end of his life neared, he called his son to him one day.
"Son," he said, "I'm an old man and a sick man. I won't be on this earth much longer. I'm not concerned for myself. I'm concerned for you. I know you're deeply in debt. I know the only reason creditors will go on lending to you is because you've led them to expect that you'll have ample funds to repay them once you've inherited my money. I thought it was only fair to give you warning that if things go on as they are, you won't be inheriting any of my money. Unless you change your ways, and give me some evidence that you've sincerely changed, I have every intention of making a new will that will disinherit you. You love money too much, and you love many other things that will only bring you grief, so for your own sake, I can't see my money go toward helping you further along in your destruction. Take heed to what I say because I'm very much in earnest."
His father's words only made the son bitter and angry inwardly, but outwardly he smiled and soothed his father and promised that he would be a different man from then on. But when he left his father, he went on just as he had before. In his heart of hearts, he didn't believe the warning that his father had given him. He knew his father was a determined man, but he had no doubt that in the end even his father would not be able to carry out his intentions. His father loved him deeply, and he knew it.
After a prolonged illness, the father died, and a time was appointed for the reading of the will. Aside from his son, the old man had no near relations, and the son was confident of inheriting everything.
You can imagine his dismay when it was known that the bulk of the money and property was left to various charities except for a sizeable legacy to each of the servants. There was no mention made of the son until the very end of the will.
"And to my son, I leave my most cherished possession," read the lawyer in charge of the estate.
At these words, the son began to take heart. Perhaps there was something to be gained. Perhaps all was not lost. The thought of his debts piling up with no money to pay them had begun to suffocate him.
"Your father wanted me to give you his Bible and this letter," the lawyer said.
The lawyer didn't dare to meet the son's eyes as he handed him the Bible and letter. If he had looked at him, he would have seen the son's face grow deathly pale at first, and then flush the deepest scarlet.
In spite of his shame and disappointment, the son took the Bible and letter and slowly left the room which now belonged to another.
Alone in his rented rooms, he read the letter, hoping against hope that there may be some last word from his father to save his situation -- securities or savings left in his name. The letter was short. It said only, "Please take the Bible and open it to John 3:16. If you read it and believe it, it will be the most precious gift I could give you. Your loving Father."
In a fury, the son crumpled the letter and threw it into the fire.
As time went on, he grew deeper and deeper in debt until no one would advance him anything more. His health refused to bear the weight of deprivation and of the constant pressure from his creditors and of the bitterness he carried in his heart for his father who had, in his mind, reduced him to his present circumstances. He died young, alone, in poverty and with a curse on his lips for his father.
After his death, his few belongings were sorted through for anything of value to pay his debts, and on the very back shelf of his closet was found a Bible. The one who had discovered the Bible fluttered through its pages. There was a piece of paper tucked between the pages of the second and third chapters of John. The piece of paper was a will -- a valid will dated after the will leaving the money to charity. The will found in the Bible was very simple. It left everything to, "My beloved son."
The son was a wealthy man, but he was never able to realize his wealth because of his refusal to obey the simple request his father had left for him.
How many people there are in the world who are like this son! They have a heavenly Father who longs to give them all the riches of salvation and asks only this simple request -- that they, too, would read and believe that God loved them enough to send His Son, Jesus, so that they wouldn't perish but could have eternal life.
This eternal life is a free gift but not an automatic one. Like all gifts, it requires a decision on the part of the receiver. If a gift is never opened, it can't be any use to the one receiving it. Like the will found in the Bible, the Father has provided only one way for us to receive his most precious Gift, and that is simply to believe and accept Him.
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