The young pastor shifted his Bible in his hand and fumbled with the shiny gold band on his left ring finger. He glanced at the older woman sitting in the fake leather chair next to her husband’s hospital bed. The silence dragged on, until finally she turned to him, that same peaceful expression on her face.
“Go ahead, Pastor. Milo can hear you.”
He prayed quickly and silently as he inched closer to the bed, clearing his throat.
“Uh, Mr. Johnson? Can you hear me, sir? My name is John Baxter, and I’ve come to visit you. Your wife suggested that you might like the company.”
The old man’s hand moved, and his eyes snapped open. Baxter was amazed at the life that was still left in his cancer-eaten body.
“I hear you, young man. Or should I call you Reverend? I know you took over the leadership of the church a few months ago. I’ve never been much for going to church, except maybe on Christmas and Easter. And there was our wedding day, but that was before Mitzi here found Jesus. I’ve never had much time for Him myself.”
He looked at his wife then, and the pastor’s eyes followed. Her head bowed in prayer. She seemed oblivious to what was going on around her.
“I know, sir. That’s sort of why I’m here. Your wife asked me to come. She was hoping I could talk to you about giving your life to Christ.”
“Talk me into it, you mean? No, young man. I’m afraid I’m way past that now. I’ve done my own thing for so long; I don’t think God is interested in my soul anymore.”
“No, sir. I don’t agree with that at all, and I don’t think God would agree with it, either. It’s never too late to be saved. I want to share a story with you, if I may?”
The old man nodded, and Baxter told him about the thief on the cross who professed his belief in Christ with his dying breath.
“Luke 23:43 (NIV) says: Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise,’” the pastor concluded. “You see? It’s never too late to come to God. All you have to do is believe and profess that belief in Him and acknowledge that what Jesus did on the cross that day was for you, and because he rose from the grave, all who believe in Him can have eternal life, as well. This is what the Bible promises. This is what your wife has been trying to share with you for the past forty years.”
The man looked at his wife again. Baxter saw a tear in the corner of his eye, and he thanked God for opening the man’s heart. Mrs. Johnson still bowed in prayer, but Baxter noticed she had pulled out a handkerchief and was wringing it in her hands. Mr. Johnson swallowed.
“You’re right about that, pastor. Mitzi has been telling me everything she’s learned in church for as long as I can remember. Every morning before breakfast, and every night before bed, she sits there, reading the Bible and praying. She has begged and pleaded with me for years to turn away from my old stubborn self and turn to God. For all these years, I have resisted, but I don’t want to resist anymore. If God will still have me, I would love to come home to Him.”
“He’ll have you, Mr. Johnson! Absolutely!”
Baxter took the man’s hand, knelt by his bedside, and led him in prayer. When they finished, Mrs. Johnson raised her head to see her husband’s face beaming with new life and hope. She ran to him and hugged him, and they both wept for joy.
Within minutes, Mr. Johnson weakened, and the heart monitor blared mercilessly. Doctors and nurses rushed in, but it was no use. Mrs. Johnson and Pastor Baker heard the news from the hallway.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Johnson.”
“Why?” the widow smiled up through her tears. “You were there to celebrate his spiritual birthday with us. I’ve been praying for this longer than you’ve been alive. God has done a marvelous thing today. Praise God!”
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