Summary: Just like in the story of Blind Bartemeaus, Jesus has mercy on all who ask.
Have you ever had that feeling that God wants you to do something? Lately, I have had
this feeling that God wants me to tell my story. I don’t know why it was laid upon my
heart to tell it. I guess I really don’t need to know why. Nor do I offer any apology for
doing so. For did not Christ say, “Go home and tell your friends what great things the
Lord has done for you.”? But, in reality, I have been reticent to tell my story, to interject
any part of me into God’s story. It doesn’t seem to be the thing to do in modern
theology. But the apostolic preachers had no such constraint, for their sermons were
full of their own experiences.
I’ve just had this nudge over the last several weeks. But I wanted to make sure that it
was God and not my own ego. So I prayed that God would let me know if this was truly
His will. Night after night, I thought about it and prayed about it, but no answer came. I
could not understand why God would not give me an answer. Then, last Saturday, the
answer came. I could never describe to anyone how I knew, but there was no mistaking
it. I know those of you who have had such experiences in prayer will understand what I
am talking about.
I pray that what I have to say might help one of you and, at the same time, lead me to a
more complete surrender to the will of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Within the
Lectionary reading for this week, I found my answer. You see, the Blind Bartimaeus
story could also be my story.
Blind Bartimaeus, sitting by the side of the road, begging for mercy. We hear his cry,
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” We hear his cry and, quite frankly, it’s just
another beggar on the highway of life. My brothers and sisters in Christ, I know what it’s
like to be on the side of the road. I know what it’s like to have people pass you by like
so much litter on the highway. I know what it’s like to have the rich, the well-educated,
religious folks cross the road rather than interact with you. My brothers and sisters in
Christ, Jesus hears our plea for mercy. But there was a time that I didn’t think so.
You see, I grew up in the poor side of town. I grew up watching my Father drink himself
to death. I grew up in the yelling and the screaming of an alcoholic family. I grew up
watching people make fun of us poor folks. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
I was determined to overcome that beggar’s beginning. I began working a full time job
at 13 because my family didn’t have any money. I worked and I slaved to get my
education. I didn’t want to be a beggar all my life. After high school, I went to USM and
worked 3 part-time jobs to pay for my education. I loved God, but I couldn’t find time for
religion. After all, I had to make it in this cruel world. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy
After college, I went right into the military. I really didn’t have a choice. I got one of
those special invitations to join from my Uncle Sam. I worked hard to become the best
that I could be. I devoured book after book on every subject under the sun. I went in
early and stayed late. I became a master in the art of war. It wasn’t long before I was
known as the best of the best. I was rated in the top 5 percent of my peers. Before long,
I was being groomed for a star.
In 1978, I took command of the largest company in the Army. Three previous
commanders had been fired because they couldn’t handle the pressure. So, the Army
sent me to take command. I was at the top of my craft, a soldier’s soldier. My wife was
6 months pregnant with our third child. I had blessings upon blessings. I loved God, and
I thanked God for my blessings, but I just didn’t have a lot of time for church. I had my
nation and my family counting on me.
It was within this context that I walked into the Doctor’s office on July 7th, 1978. These
are the words that put me back on the side of the road, begging for mercy. “Robert,
you’ve got terminal cancer. We’ve detected the presence of embryonal cell carcinoma
and anaplastic seminoma. You’ve waited too long to seek treatment. There is no cure.