“Now I want you to consider seriously what I have been telling you, because it is the most important and urgent of subjects.”
Mike rubbed his temples. He had a headache coming on, and quite honestly, he could have done without the evangelist working himself into a frenzy. Why had he let James and Anna talk him into coming to this stadium? Of course, he’d made them sweat for it – only agreeing to come if they did a month of Karate lessons with him first, so he could laugh at their out-of-condition efforts. Just at this moment, however, it didn’t seem like he’d got the best of the deal after all.
“In a minute I’m going to invite those of you who want to know more of this Jesus to get up out of your seats and to make your way down to the front. When you get here, I’ll lead you in a prayer of surrender – a prayer of turning away from your life of rebellion, and turning to a life of trust in the Lord Jesus.”
Mike groaned inwardly. This was such blatant manipulation. Or rather it should have been. But if he was honest – and he prided himself on how he faced unpleasant truths – there wasn’t any emotionalism, just a dull middle-aged man commending Christianity to them.
“I’m not commending Christianity to you, you know. It’s not about organized religion – nor even, given I’m a Baptist – disorganized religion. No, I’m not interested in that. I’m commending a person … the Son of the Living God. Come to this Jesus, for he invites you to come. Start on a path that will transform your life. It’s a path that each of you must begin yourself, but you travel it in community with the rest of God’s people. It’s one that’s guaranteed to end in ultimate acceptance.’’
Mike shook himself. He kind of got what the preacher was saying. After that spooky way the evangelist had picked up on his thoughts it was difficult not to pay attention to him. Maybe ... just maybe … there was something in what he was going on about.
“So, now is the time. I want you to start that long walk down here. Come down and find life.’’
Hundreds of people across the stadium clattered to their feet.
Mike could feel himself blushing. He was very conscious that James and Anna were sitting beside him. What would they think if he suddenly stood up? They were too nice to mock, but that sort of made it worse.
“So … are you going to miss out because you aren’t prepared to face a little ridicule? Well … you know what … don’t bother coming down here then. The Jesus I preach is looking for those who will be all out for him, who won’t baulk at a little embarrassment. He demands your all, not exempting your pride and dignity. It’s all or nothing.”
Mike stood up. He knew his face was burning, but so what? He joined the people moving forward.
“You know … I thank my God so many of you are responding this evening. You may think it was your decision to come forward … and in many ways it was. But in other ways, the story goes way back. Back before you were invited here tonight. Back even before those who invited you had started praying for you and telling you about Jesus.”
James and Anna flashed into Mike’s head. Had they really prayed for him? What a humbling thought.
“It goes back before various saints you’ve encountered commended Jesus to you through their godly and compassionate lives.”
An image of his old Sunday school teacher sprang to mind this time. He’d always messed about in her class, but he still remembered her fondly. That was one of the reasons that he’d given James a hearing when he’d started going on about Jesus.
“Indeed, it goes back before you were born. Back even before the Son of God hung on a cross for you. Back before time itself began. I tell you … in eternity past your God set his love on you, and wanted you for his own. It has been a long path to this moment – but God has traveled it, managing heaven and earth to bring you here tonight, ready to do business with him. Hallelujah!”
Mike pushed his way to the front, and was the first to bow his head. God had brought him home.
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