While a graduate student at Indiana University and also serving as youth minister at the North Central church in Bloomington, I had an experience I will never forget.
I woke up early on this particular Sunday morning to get to the building in time to drive one of the church buses to pick up neighborhood kids. After driving them safely to the building I taught the teenage Bible class, after which I taught about 70 kids in the children's worship services - then it was back on the bus to drive the kids home.
Driving the bus this Sunday was challenging because of the storm that was quickly coming our way, complete with black sky, strong winds and a heavy rain. After what seemed like an eternity, I returned the children to their homes and made it back home myself in time to work on a project for grad school. My family and I lived in a mobile home in Heatherwood Mobile Home Estates. Actually it was just a trailer, in a scrunched up trailer park, with a yard about the size of a postage stamp, but at least the name of the place was cool.
It was 10:30pm, the storm was raging, the wind was blowing, I was wondering if the roof of our trailer was going to stay on, when the phone rang. A lady asked if lived in the trailer park? "YES!" Was I a preacher? "YES!" She said she lived in the trailer park about five trailers down and across the street that we had never met but she knew who we were.
I asked, "So what can I do for you?" I wasn't ready for her next question. "Will you come to Cincinnati tonight?" Now usually I'm the lovable, friendly person you see occasionally at the local Wal-Mart, but I was tired, had a hard day, it was storming, and Cincinnati was over 3 hours away. So, I said, "No mam, I have no intention of coming to Cincinnati tonight. Why would you ask?"
"My son Tony is in the hospital in Cincinnati, he's going to die tonight and I just wanted a preacher to be with him." In retrospect it wasn't my best question but I found myself asking, "Don't you have your own preacher?"
"YES, we attend...have been attending there for years. So I called my preacher and he said he wasn't going to come. I don't understand it, but he said he would not come."
I called a young man in our church to go with me and within 20 minutes was on the way to Cincinnati. We arrived at the hospital at about 1am, Tony was still alive--barely--and his Jewish doctor was waiting for us.
The doctor called me into the hall and explained that Tony had leukemia, it was in a very painful stage and Tony would be dead before 6 a.m. He had given Tony the maximum dosage of painkillers but it wasn't enough to keep the pain away. "What I want you to do is hold him down to the bed so when the pain hits him he won't flop off the bed and be in worse shape than he is now." When the pain hit him, he would jerk 8-10 inches off the bed.
I called my wife who began calling friends, family and church members in Indiana and Arkansas asking them to pray for Tony. They started praying while my friend and I spent the night holding Tony down on his bed. I often wonder how it looked to the nurses who came in, to see these two big white guys holding this little 8-year-old black kid down on the bed.
We wondered when Tony would take his last breath. We prayed, cried and prayed some more. At 6 a.m sharp the doctor returned and was amazed to find that Tony was not only alive but doing some better. I explained that people in several states were praying and everything was in God's hands to which the doctor replied, " I'm Jewish, but I have to tell you, you Christians have something we don't have. There is no reason Tony should still be alive."
The short story is that six weeks later, Tony walked out of the hospital with his Leukemia in REMISSION. He returned home, went back to school and resumed a normal life. But for the first time in my life, perhaps, I fully understood what REMISSION meant. It meant Tony was going to die. The doctor had written him off. His family was expecting the worst. But Tony came back from sure death and his Leukemia was in REMISSION.
In Acts 2, the very people that crucified Christ were listening to Peter as he explained to them the great sins they had committed in murdering Jesus. After understanding what they had done they cried out, "What shall we do?" In verse 38 Peter said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the REMISSION of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
What was going on here? They were sinners (just as we are sinners) headed for death and hell. But God loved them enough to allow them complete REMISSION of their sins if they would just obey His word. Grace in action!
Tony was facing sure death but God brought him back through the prayers of Christians. He was in REMISSION. Several months later I asked the family if I could study the Bible with them, to show them how REMISSION of sins was the most important concept they would ever understand. After studying Acts 2, Tony and his entire family were baptized into Christ, for the REMISSION of their sins.
REMMISION of sins is a concept worth experiencing, for Tony, his family and also for you and me.
(Lou Butterfield is the pulpit minister of the Remmel church and may be contacted at email@example.com)
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Paul Fritz on Jul 16, 2002
Contributed by William Baeta on May 15, 2004
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘if anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Fa