Summary: We have to take seriously the judgment texts in the New Testament, but temper them with the parable of the fig tree. God goes to extraordinary lengths so that as many as possible can be saved. God says, "Give it one more year."

God Doesn’t Give Up Easily

October 16, 2005

Luke 13:6-9

Sam was a sad, small little boy and had lived a life that no one, especially someone so young, should have to endure. He had been the greatest joy his mother had known. She saw the sun rise and set in his eyes. But then, she had fallen ill with a rare, fatal disease.

She had gotten sick when he was in kindergarten and died the summer before his first grade year. His once bright eyes grew dull and lifeless. He was too young to really understand death, only that he felt terribly alone.

He had never met his father and so had been shuffled between assorted aunts and uncles. He wore hand-me-down clothes and became the target of cruel taunts of his classmates. He withdrew into himself.

When he wasn’t sullen and withdrawn, he was a behavior problem, often rude and belligerent. His grades suffered and he performed far below his grade level. By the time he reached fourth grade, he had developed a reputation among the teachers as a child who just couldn’t learn.

There were three fourth-grade classes in the school. There was Dave Klepper, a young man in his first year of teaching. Then there was Mrs. Abbott. Rumor had it that she had been a fine teacher at one time, but now, after thirty-five years in the classroom, she was burned out and just getting by until her retirement in two years.

The principal knew that there was no choice other than Amanda Stewart. She had proven that she had a special way with kids and so was given many of the most difficult students. Sometimes she got a little tired of it, but she really did have the best interests of the children in her heart.

This, after all, was why she entered teaching the profession in the first place…to make a difference in the lives of children. When she thought clearly about it, she realized that the principal had great confidence in her abilities and so, she considered it a compliment to be trusted with big jobs.

The first day of school was a preview of things to come. Sam called her a bad name before lunch. He tore a page out of his math book. He got into a fight on the playground. Even Mrs. Stewart wondered what in the world she was going to do with this kid.

Somehow, they made it through the first semester. Sam showed little progress. His academics were far below grade level and his behavior hadn’t improved much. But she decided that she wouldn’t give up on him.

She made it a practice to touch Sam several times a day…a pat on the back when he achieved even a small victory…holding his hand as they walked out to recess…giving him a hug as he left school on Friday afternoon.

When her class had their Christmas party, all the students gathered around Mrs. Stewart to present her with their presents. There were small bottles of cologne, pretty Christmas candles, coffee cans full of cookies and candy, and ornaments for her Christmas tree.

She opened Sam’s gift and found an old, cheap bracelet…the kind you get on the sale table at the Dollar Store. It was silver…or at least had been silver at one time…now it was an interesting shade of green. Several of the rhinestones had been lost.

When she unwrapped it, there was a split second when she didn’t know what to do or say. But she told Sam how pretty it was and put in on her wrist. When they returned after Christmas break, Mrs. Stewart had Sam’s bracelet on her wrist. In fact, she wore it every day for the rest of the year.

By the time the school year was over, Sam had made some progress in his academics and his behavior. In the middle of June, he moved to another state to live with another relative and Mrs. Stewart lost track of him.

Eight years later, a note came in the mail. It read simply, “I’m graduating from High School and just wanted you to know.” It was signed…Sam.

Four years later, she received another note in the mail, again with a simple message, “I’m graduating from college and just wanted you to know”…Sam. Four more years passed. A note arrived in the mail, “In two weeks, I will be graduating from Medical School and just wanted you to know”…Sam.

Two years after that, one more note came. “Dear Mrs. Stewart, I have met a wonderful woman while in my residency and we have decided to get married. You know my own mother died while I was very young. I would be honored if you would be able to attend the wedding and sit where she would have sat. Because of you, your patience, your kindness, and love I learned that I am not a hopeless failure. Through you, I learned t.hat I was important.” Sam.

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