Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ZEST (10/01/15)
- TITLE: The Redemption of Bill McClendon
By Cindy Duncan
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The news spread through the little church within seconds. “He’s here,” the people whispered, as “Thank you, Jesus” echoed across the sanctuary. He was first spotted in the parking lot, but before he reached the front door, they all knew he was there. Bill McClendon had come to church.
Bill was married to one of the church’s most faithful members, but in the past it had been an unequally yoked marriage. She was a fervent Christian, a prayer warrior, a worker for the Lord. He, on the other hand, was a nice enough fellow, but wanted nothing to do with God. Many a preacher had attempted to sway him to their side, but Bill would not budge.
Bill’s stubbornness concerning the maker and redeemer of his soul could have been more fully understood if one were to have examined his upbringing. He was abandoned as a baby and raised in an orphanage. He never knew the love of a parent, so how could he have understood the love of God? When he turned seventeen, he walked away from the only home he’d ever known, lied about his age, and joined the military.
In the military, Bill learned about war and death. He watched his friends die beside him, and convinced himself that a loving God would not allow such horrific happenings. He learned to drown his nightmares in alcohol, and in encounters with women who were lacking in morals.
Upon returning home from the war, Bill got married, and took a job as a car salesman. With the job came many stresses and temptations, none of which were beneficial to his marriage. His wife asked him multiple times to join her at church, but her requests were always denied. She invited over many a preacher to reason with Bill, but he would only argue with them. Then one day, when Bill was seventy-eight years old, he became ill, and was sent to the hospital.
It was in the hospital that Bill came face to face with his own immortality. One would think that he would have had this encounter in the war, but maybe he had the youthful idea that he would live forever back then. Perhaps age and life had now convinced him otherwise. Regardless of the reason, Bill listened attentively as yet another church member gave him the gospel, the plan for his redemption and his pathway to eternal life.
This time he accepted Jesus as his Savior, and trusted him to forgive all his many sins. The change was immediate, and it was a study in contrasts. Everyone saw it. His hopelessness in the hospital gave way to a determination to go home and attend church with his wife.
And attend church he did. He was there every service. His enthusiasm was contagious. He encouraged the young girl that sang, jokingly offering to be her agent. He went to the altar often, dragging his portable oxygen tank behind him, and leading others to join him. He invited everyone who crossed his path to come to church, and pleaded with young people to not waste their time in worldly pursuits as he had done. He encouraged his pastor, and uplifted his fellow congregants. He insisted on being baptized, temporarily removing his oxygen tubes in order to do so. He was a burst of flavor infused into a comparatively bland church.
The little church only had Bill for a few years, for he became ill again, this time going home to a better place. Time pales in comparison with intensity, though, and members of the church who were fortunate enough to witness his years there will never forget him. They loved and admired him, but at the same time many felt a tinge of conviction while watching him.
For what did Bill get that they didn’t? He received the same Savior, the same forgiveness, and the same eternal life. Yet they had long ago abandoned the excitement that came with such gifts.
Shortly after Bill’s death, the people of the church talked about how different the church was without him. It was obvious to them what the problem was, and they were honest enough to admit it. They called for a group prayer at the altar, and begged God to restore unto them the joy of their salvation.
With that prayer, the little church was forever changed.
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