June 15, 2007

The message came via an early morning email a few days ago.
[We] went by and saw my Dad last night; he seems to be in pretty bad shape. I get the impression from him that he is giving up. [He] keeps asking for someone to cut the cords. He realized I was there but what he was saying did not make any sense. My mom said that he was alright Sunday after the operation, but when his blood pressure dropped [he] started to talk almost like you are part of a strange dream he is having. We had Kurtis [grandson] come sing him happy birthday last night as his 70th birthday is today. Just thought I would let you know.
The letter was signed by a close personal friend and frequent attendee of our home church gathering. His father had been battling the cumulative effects of advanced sugar diabetes. His kidneys were failing requiring him to undergo dialysis treatments three times a week, his eyesight was becoming increasingly impaired, and poor circulation had led to stubborn infections on his feet. A few weeks earlier he had suffered the loss of the big toe on his right foot. Now surgeons had just removed his left leg below the knee. I can’t imagine how devastating it must feel to experience your body being dismantled piece by piece and be helpless to do anything in your defense. The fact that this man had given up the fight was no surprise.
For years we had been praying for Walt, not just for his physical healing but also for his spiritual rebirth. To the best of our knowledge Walt had never asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. So when I heard of his deteriorating condition I felt compelled by the Spirit to visit him in the hospital. Throughout that day I prayed that God would give him more time and give me an opportunity to share with him the good news of Jesus Christ.
It was early evening by the time I was able to make it to the hospital where he lay in the intensive care ward. While finding my way through the maze of corridors looking for his room my soul began to be deluged with doubts. It has been years since I have been in his presence; will he even recognize me? Will he be conscious enough to carry on a conversation with me? Will he be able to comprehend what I say? After rejecting Christ for seventy years will he be receptive to the Gospel? Despite my misgivings I surrendered to the Spirit’s leading and upon finding his room took a deep breath and entered.
The room was small even for hospital standards with the main source of light coming from a single window through which the setting sun bathed the cubicle in a warm orange glow. Walt and I were alone save for a Mylar balloon dancing on its string proudly proclaiming, “Happy Birthday.” I was surprised to see no medical tubes or IV’s attached to his body. The instant I walked in his eyes lit up in recognition.
“Hi Walt, I’m Pastor Bill Hoffman,” I began, hoping he would remember me.
“Yes, Bill,” he answered forcefully, “I know who you are. Come on in.”
“How are you doing, Walt,” I asked as I approached his bedside thankful that he seemed awake and alert.
“Oh, I’m not doing so good, Bill,” he responded. “I’m not doing good at all!” Then, after a prolonged sigh, he added, “All I ever wanted was to make it to seventy.”
“Well, you made it,” I announced, sounding like a TV game show host. “Congratulations and happy birthday! But perhaps it’s time to set another goal,” I mused searching for a way to cheer him up. “Seventy-five sounds like a nice number.” Judging from his lack of response I gathered he was in no mood for levity. I opted for another approach. “I’ve sent your name out on our email prayer-chain and people, most of whom you don’t even know, from all over the country are praying for you. Plus, you’ve got a lot of family members who love you very much and are looking forward to seeing you break out of this joint and go back home.”
“That’s nice to hear, thank you,” he said appearing grateful yet less than enthusiastic.
“Walt, if you don’t make it out of this hospital bed, if this is your time to go and meet God, are you okay with that?” I asked, probing for some insight into his relationship with the Lord. “Do you believe God will accept you?”
“I don’t know, Bill,” he answered. “I don’t know.”
“I can help you know,” I proclaimed. Then I proceeded to explain to him what Jesus had done for us by dying in our place and opening up the way into heaven for all those who accept Him as their Lord and Savior. “If you believe in Him you just need to invite Jesus to come into your life…and He will come!”
At this point Walt interrupted me and cried out, “I believe!” “Jesus, come into my life! Jesus, come into my life! Jesus, come into my life!”
As I prayed with him he continued to cry out, “Jesus, come into my life!” Then, after assuring him that he was indeed a citizen of heaven, I anointed him with oil and prayed for his healing. I left the hospital rejoicing in having been given a front-row seat for a miracle from God.
The next morning I learned that Walt had been moved out of ICU and into a regular room. The crisis was over and his physical condition had much improved. I praise God for his salvation and for his resurgent health. The Almighty has shown amazing mercy for an old man who has lived his entire life outside of Christ. How sad it is, however, that Walt may have so little time left to enjoy his new life. And how sad that his own goal for his life was so limited! God’s goal for Walt far surpasses seventy years, or even seventy-five. Indeed, God has eternity in mind for this wounded, weary new saint.
Is Walt so much different than many of us? Haven’t we all placed limits on what God desires for our lives? We limit our good works thinking God can’t really use someone as ungifted and untalented as we appear to be. Yet God’s Word proclaims: We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Eph. 2:10. We limit our witness thinking we are unqualified, unschooled, and ill-prepared to share our faith. Yet God’s Word doesn’t make witnessing an elective activity (Mt. 28:18-20). We limit our Christian growth by paying scant attention to the Word, relying instead on paid professionals to spoon-feed us our weekly rations from the Bible. Yet through Christ we all have equal access to the Father (He. 10:19-22).
We limit our giving (and therefore our receiving) by hording the many blessings God deals out to us. Yet God’s Word says: Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. – Lk. 6:38. We limit our worship by having too many inhibitions, being too self-conscious to allow our heart to be caught up in a passionate embrace of our amazing Lord, or by being too critical of how others might be expressing their love for God. Yet God’s Word advocates a worship that is heartfelt and Spirit-led (Jn. 4:23-24). We limit our relationship with the Lord by cramming our lives so full of less-important matters that we have no time left to pursue the God who proclaims: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. – Jer. 31:3.
We limit our ministries by failing to trust the Holy Spirit to lead relying instead on our seminary training and the latest books on the market. Nor do we believe God actually moves in power today as He once did in the past. Yet God’s Word tells us: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church… – Eph. 3:20-21. We limit how God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and love is shown to others by refusing to believe God actually cares for them in the same way He cares about those who are more like us. And we limit His love for us by refusing to accept that He really cares that much about someone so seemingly insignificant, so obviously unworthy. Yet God’s Word proclaims: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – Jn. 3:16. Yes, we have a nasty habit of placing human boundaries around how we believe God chooses to bless us. Yet God’s Word says: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. – 1Cor. 2:9.
Why would we ever think of limiting God when he promises to freely give us: Life to the full (Jn. 10:10); love that never fails (Ps. 107:1); joy that lasts forever (Is. 35:10); peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7); mercies that never end (Lam. 3:22); hope that does not disappoint (Ro. 5:5); power that is incomparably great (Eph. 1:19); grace greater than our sin (Ro. 5:20); glory that never fades (2Cor. 3:18); treasure that never spoils (Mt. 6:19-20); riches without reservation (Phil. 4:19); righteousness without stain (Eph. 5:27); holiness without blemish (Col 1:22); flesh that never ages (1Cor. 15:53); a body that never dies (Jn. 11:25-26); a world without darkness (Rev. 22:5); a Father who will never forsake us (He. 13:5); a Savior who will never leave us (Mt. 28:20); the Spirit without partiality (Acts 2:17-18); every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Eph. 1:3); and the ever-popular, “all things” (Ro. 8:32).
You can put all these blessings together and file them under the category: Life without limit! This is God’s goal for us. Why should we settle for less? Why on earth (or in heaven for that matter) would anyone ever want to place a limit on what God has freely given us in Christ Jesus?

Bill, a child of God without limit

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