His black hooded robe flowed behind him as he strode toward the darkened building with great purpose in his step. There was evil all around him like an aura of hatred and wickedness.
A chill went down her spine, and she suddenly felt so cold. He crept slowly past her; she couldn't breathe. Then, he enticed her to follow him on down the road. She was unaware of his presence not knowing that every step she took could lead to her destruction. He looked back at her with a cold, sinister sneer. If she had seen this, she would’ve been terrified by its intensity. But, he had the power to draw her to him, to make her captive to do his will. Her head was bent low as she moved down the road. She felt heaviness deep in her soul that she could not explain. She'd felt this burden all her life and longed to be free, but she'd given up hope of that long ago.
Lucifer turned and looked at the woman following just steps behind him. He was staring right at her, but she couldn't see him nor could she hear his voice. But, he could convey his messages to her; she could hear his thoughts in her mind. He laughed when he thought how easy it was to lead her astray by his words. She might even think what she'd heard were her own thoughts or maybe they were from God. He gave the woman a hateful look as he thought of his plan to destroy her. Then, he turned around and walked down the path that led to an old building.
Entering the abandoned warehouse was like walking into a tomb. As her eyes were adjusting to the dim light, she could see the fearful, anguished eyes of those with whom she shared this space. They were homeless for many different reasons, yet they all shared the same need for shelter. But, it was not a safe environment in which to live; some of the residents would do anything to get drugs or alcohol.
At that moment, an evil looking man with vile intentions tried to force her to buy the drugs in his hand. Satan rushed to her side urging, “Go ahead. Try them! They'll make you feel good and help you forget about all of your problems.” Julie was tempted, but she knew from experience if she took them her problems would only get worse. She had friends who had dangerous addictions. They seemed desperate to quit but helpless to do so.
When she refused to buy them, the man was livid and suddenly lunged to attack her. In fear for her life, she cried, “God, please help me!” Instantly, a tall figure appeared and seemed to blind the man momentarily so she could move away from him. Then, without a word the man who had rescued her just disappeared. She quickly raced to the door and went out into the night. As she made her escape, she felt her heart pounding and looked back to make sure she wasn't being followed. When she couldn't run anymore, she collapsed against a vacant building and sat down in the dirt. The wind was bitter as she huddled close to the wall wondering what had happened in that warehouse a few moments ago. Did God send an angel to help her escape?
“Why would God care about me?” she cried, “I've made such a mess of my life. What will happen to my baby and me? How are we going to survive?” There was a sickening grin on Lucifer's face; he delighted in all of her suffering.
Just then the baby kicked and with tears streaming down her face, she thought back to a happier, carefree time in her life. She began dating Cameron the last year of high school. He was so cute and fun to be around. She was hanging out with him one day laughing, talking and enjoying their time together, but when it was quiet, caught up in the moment, she chose to give her love away. She hadn't planned for this to happen. She had wanted to wait until marriage, but now she felt sad knowing she had lost something precious. She was changed forever.
It was a rainy spring day when she learned that she was going to have a baby. Cameron seemed to accept the news, and their relationship continued again. She felt overwhelmed and wondered how she’d be a good mother when she was struggling just to provide for herself.
Lucifer tormented her day and night tempting her to have an abortion saying, “You must not go through with this pregnancy! It's not the right time to have a baby. How do you think you're going to take care of it?” She'd heard being a single parent was difficult, and she wished she'd listened to God and waited until she was married to have a family. But, she was expecting now and knew God would not approve of an abortion. She'd read in the Bible in Psalm 139:13-16, that He created each person as a viable human being right from conception. She struggled with her decision, but in the end, she couldn't take her child's life no matter what obstacles she may face.
Her parents though shocked at first wanted her to keep the baby but raise it without Cameron. They'd seen the bruises and tried to warn her she'd be better off without him, but she was in love and knew he'd be a great father. Lucifer had been there all along pleased that she was still with Cameron. He'd often talked to her boyfriend encouraging him to take his anger out on her.
When Cameron proposed, she was so happy and couldn't wait to get married. They eloped and started their new life together in a small basement apartment in the inner city. At first, she was enjoying married life, but then Cameron began drinking more and staying out late. One night he didn't come home at all. When the police arrived, they said Cameron had been in a fight with another patron at the bar he'd visited last night. She was devastated but not surprised when they told her he was dead.
She almost had a miscarriage that night, and this made her more determined than ever to keep going if only for her child. She already loved this baby more than she thought she could. She went to her parents to see if they would help her, but they refused. She found a job in a grocery store but lost it soon after when she became ill from the pregnancy. When she could no longer pay the rent, she was forced to live out on the streets. She never thought this could happen to her. Her life had gotten so out of control! She knew she'd done things that wouldn't please God, and she'd made some choices she'd always regret. Now she'd soon have a baby to raise, and she didn't know how she could do it.
She was choking back tears as she tried to stand up and move away from the building. She'd been sitting for so long she wasn't sure she could get up unassisted. She would not get help from her evil companion; Satan was reveling in her misery. She was startled when she felt something wet on her cheeks. She'd been staring at the hard ground as she trudged along and didn't notice it had started to snow. She could feel the temperature dropping and pulled her worn coat tightly around her. She began to worry about where she would spend the night. She knew she could never go back to the warehouse. It wasn't safe for her or the baby.
Her steps came more slowly as she tried to maneuver through the snow covered street. Then, Julie became dizzy and gave out a cry as she stumbled and fell to the ground. A man shoveling snow outside the local Christian Mission saw what had happened and ran over to help. He reached out his hand to lift her back up while voicing concern for her and her child. Julie assured him she wasn't hurt and gladly agreed to warm up in the Mission. Soon wrapped in a blanket and sipping hot coffee, she thanked everyone for their kindness to her. They were discussing her baby and plans for the future when someone mentioned the Pastor's weekly sermon was about to begin. Julie felt drawn to these people and the love they had shown her, so she asked her new friends if she could join them.
She began to rise from the chair, but Lucifer's words seemed to force her back down. “You must not listen to the Pastor! There's no truth to his words. You'll only be hurt by his lies!” he spat out the words with fiery venom, “You must get out of here right now! Get up! I'll show you the way!” With an evil stare when she would not obey, he followed her into the chapel. She found a seat and was waiting for the Pastor to speak when one of the women she'd met earlier leaned over and asked, “Julie, we know you're having a rough time could we help find housing for you and your baby?” Tears of joy filled her eyes as she nodded and smiled. She had cried out to God for help, and He had answered in a greater way than she could have imagined.
The music started, and she was enjoying it so much she even found herself joining in on some of the songs. As Julie began to relax, she realized how exhausted she was and hoped she'd stay awake during the service. But, she didn't need to be concerned, for she was riveted by what the Pastor had to say.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8. Satan or Lucifer as he was first called was the most beautiful angel God had created, and he had authority over all other angels. However, Satan wanted to be like God; he and other rebellious angels, now called demons or fallen angels, all sinned against God. So, He cast them out of his presence, and they fell “...like lightning from heaven,” it says in Luke 10:18.
“The great dragon... that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan... leads the whole world astray,” it says in Revelation 12:9. Satan is “... the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,” we read in Ephesians 2:2. He's the prince of darkness and wants to destroy us. He hates God and will do everything in his power to keep people from following Him. It says in John 8:44, the devil has “... no truth in him... for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Satan can masquerade as an angel of light and will use any means to entice us to sin.
He tempts us to have impure thoughts when we dwell on inappropriate things we've seen on TV, the Internet or magazines. He brings memories or images to our minds of unwholesome things we've seen in the past. Satan is pleased when we give in to lustful temptations. He attacks us when we're weak, tired or lonely. He knows that's when we're the most vulnerable and open to temptation.
The devil is cunning, wicked and deceitful. He can be very convincing with the messages he sends to us. We need to be on guard against his evil schemes. He tempts us to keep items we haven't paid for, worry instead of trusting God and be lazy instead of accomplishing what God has planned for us to do. Satan loves to divide people and cause derision. He reminds us of hurtful things others have done to us, and he works to destroy the relationships we have with our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. He tempts us to speak rudely or take offense easily at something that's been said to us. Satan will do all he can to prevent us from forgiving others and especially ourselves.
We need to escape from the trap of the devil who has taken us captive to do his will it says, in 2 Timothy 2:26. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” the Bible says in Ephesians 6:12. The devil has limited power in this world, but God is in total control, and one day Satan and his demons will be banished into the lake of fire. We read in Colossians 1:13 that God has “... rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”
If we want to be free from the sin that enslaves us and have God's power to win over Satan we must submit ourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us, it says in James 4:7. When we ask the Lord Jesus to forgive our sins, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Now we have His power to help us resist the attacks of Satan. Julie wanted so much to be free from the burden of sin she'd felt all of her life. She longed to be cleansed and have real peace with God. She was ready to give her life over to Him. She'd made her decision and started to pray. Then Lucifer hissed, “No, you must not surrender to God! He wants to control you. He'll ruin your life!” She'd just learned from the sermon that Satan's a liar, so she called on God for the strength that she needed. She continued to pray, “Dear Jesus, I want...” but then stopped when the labor pains started and would not subside. The nurse at the Mission rushed over to help her and stayed with Julie as they rode to the hospital.
The Doctor determined the birth would be soon, but Julie was losing a lot of blood. They were giving transfusions but weren't sure they could save her. The baby was in distress, so the Doctor decided he would need to do a C-section. He gave Julie a reassuring nod as he went to scrub for surgery. She was weak and very concerned for her child, but there was something she knew she needed to do. She’d waited too long to surrender to God. She had to be free from the bondage of sin that had plagued her since birth. She wanted new life in Christ and a home in heaven waiting for her. She knew she must give her life over to God, so she prayed in a voice that was soft but resolved. “Dear Jesus,” she said, “I'm sorry I've sinned against you. Thank you for dying to take the punishment for my sins. I ask you to forgive me, and I surrender my life to you. Amen.”
As the C-section quickly got under way to try to save the baby's life, Julie spoke a few words, and then she fell silent. At that moment, the alarm on her heart monitor went off, and the Doctor shouted, “She's flat lined! Quick get the paddles!” They worked to revive her while delivering the baby, but Julie wasn’t responding to treatment. They'd given up hope of bringing her back when suddenly the infant gave a loud cry. Something inside of Julie stirred; it was a motherly instinct she could not ignore. To their amazement, she opened her eyes and longingly looked for her child. Holding out the baby to Julie, the doctor smiled and announced, “It's a girl!” The new mother was thrilled as she gazed at her daughter. “What will you call her?” a nurse gently asked. “I'm naming her Hope,” she proudly exclaimed, “I've surrendered myself completely to God and for the first time in my life, I finally have hope!”
The last thing that he remembered before he blacked out was his car spinning out of control on the icy road that cold winter morning. As he slowly regained consciousness, he could hear the paramedics frantically trying to reach him inside the vehicle to treat his injuries. They knew they'd need the “Jaws of Life” to free him from his mangled car. Then one of the medics said, “They'd better hurry! I don't know how much longer the man can hold on!”
When he heard the dire words, he was in shock! He wondered if things were really that bad. He knew his injuries were serious, but could he actually die here on this busy highway? His life was fast-paced and had been that way for so many years that he didn't know how to live any other way. He'd been very ill a few times in his life, but he'd never come this close to death until now.
He felt himself drifting in and out of consciousness. The paramedics were very concerned that he was still trapped in his vehicle. They tried to reassure him that he'd be out of there soon, but he didn’t know if he could wait that long. He knew he'd lost a lot of blood and was going into shock. Now that he might be facing death, he realized he'd never taken the time, never really wanted to think about what would happen to him when he died. He had planned financially for his family, but had he prepared for his eternal destination?
He'd been raised to believe if he was good enough, if he weren’t too sinful, he'd make it into heaven. But, he'd been listening to a radio program in his car just before the accident, and it made him question what he'd been taught. He didn't usually tune into a Christian station, but his wife had left it on when she borrowed his car yesterday. His hand reached for the radio so that he could turn to his favorite station, but his interest was piqued when he heard the Pastor say, “There isn't anything we can do to earn our way into heaven being good won't get us there, the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8,9.
In Romans 3:23, it says, we've all sinned, and this separates us from a Holy God. If we haven't confessed our sins to God before we die, we can't go to heaven. Sadly, we'll go to a terrible place of punishment called hell.”
The pastor continued, “God loves us so much, and He wants us to live with Him forever in heaven, so He sent His only Son to die for us. Jesus took the full punishment for our sins on Himself as He hung on the cross suffering in ways we'll never understand. If we ask God to forgive our sins, we're no longer separated from Him and one day we'll see Jesus in heaven. We can't do anything to earn our way there; the Bible says it's a gift of God.” He'd received many gifts in his life. He didn't remember what most of them were now, but this gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins would last forever.
He began to think about the relationship he had with God. He knew he'd spent his life living only for himself never doing anything to please the Lord. He was sure if he were to die right now, he wouldn't be going to heaven. But, was he willing to confess his sins and let God be in control of his life?
He was trying to come to a decision when he heard a voice call out, “They've cut him out of the car. Let's move! We need to get him onto the stretcher!” They started to lift him when pain gripped his chest, and he felt himself fall into a darkened abyss. As he regained consciousness, he heard the medics say, “We have his heart going again, but he's bleeding profusely from the gash in his leg. I'm not sure he's going to make it!”
“Could I really die today?” he wondered, “I thought I had more time to decide if I should surrender myself to God or choose to spend my life without Him. Am I prepared to go to hell if I die?” The Pastor said it's a place of utter darkness and desolation. There's no love or joy in hell only sadness, crying, and despair. But, Heaven is a place where there's no sin, no pain or tears, only perfect love, peace and joy that will never end. “What I'm excited about the most,” the Pastor said, “is knowing that in heaven, I'll see Jesus face to face.” “Everyone who has prayed to have their sins forgiven will be going to heaven,” he thought, “including my wife and kids. I'm the only one in my family who won't be going there someday.”
The paramedics looked worried as they worked diligently to try to control the bleeding in his leg. “This is it!” he thought, “What a rude awakening. I never thought I would die this young!” Realizing he might go at any moment, he decided to give his life to God. He wanted to feel real peace inside and be free from the guilt of all his sin. He knew that whether he survived or not, he wanted his life to be right with God. He was sorry he hadn't surrendered to Him years ago, but he was going to do so now.
He closed his eyes and prayed aloud although it was getting hard to breathe and talking was becoming difficult. “Dear Jesus,” he said, “I know I have sinned. I've spent my life wandering far from you, and I want to come home. I ask for your forgiveness, and I give my life to you.” He opened his eyes and smiled. He felt a peace wash over him that was unlike anything he'd ever known. He thought of how excited his wife would be when she heard he'd finally given his life to Jesus. He was thinking about how he'd tell her when his heart stopped beating. The medics tried feverishly to revive him, but he was gone. His body lay on the cold stretcher, but his soul soared instantly to heaven.
The paramedics, bystanders, and emergency workers all stared in shocked disbelief. Then a car raced up to the scene. A woman got out of the vehicle and rushed over to where the paramedics were standing. “Is my husband okay?” she asked, her voice full of emotion. No one wanted to answer her. Then, she noticed a body draped with a white sheet lying near a crumpled car. She hurried over to the vehicle and stared anxiously at the lifeless form lying on the stretcher. She turned and looked at the officer waiting nearby silently pleading with him to give her the answer she so desperately wanted. His eyes showed concern as he lifted the sheet from her husband's face. She started crying and called out, “Oh Paul! I can't believe it! If only you'd given your life to Jesus, then I'd be with you someday in heaven.” Heartbroken, she fell to her knees beside him crying softly now.
Then, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looked up, and though her vision was blurred by her tears, she saw a man look at her compassionately and say, “I'm one of the medics that took care of your husband. I'm also a Christian, and I want you to know that just before he died, I heard your husband confess his sins to God and give his life to Him.” She was shocked for a moment. Then she slowly smiled tears of joy now flowing down her face. She would miss Paul terribly, but she was thrilled to know she would see him again in heaven someday.
Elijah was afraid and running for his life. The Queen had sent him a message saying she wanted him dead. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel worshiped the pagan god Baal, and they led the Israelites into this heathen practice. Earlier that day, Elijah went to see King Ahab to tell him to gather together the prophets of Baal and Asherah and meet him on Mount Carmel. Elijah instructed the heathen prophets to build a stone altar, lay a bull on the stones and call on their god to set fire to the sacrifice. Elijah told the people to prepare his altar and pour 12 large jars of water onto the offering and the wood. Then, Elijah began to pray and said, “The god who answers by fire, He is God.”
Elijah and the followers of Baal prepared their altars and cried out to their gods. All day long the heathen prophets prayed, danced and even cut themselves to try to get his attention. Baal did not respond, but God answered when Elijah called out to Him in prayer. Fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, and soil and even licked up the water that filled a trench they had dug around the base of the altar. When the Israelites saw this, they fell to the ground and cried, “The LORD He is God!” It must have been amazing to witness God's power and majesty that day.
Then, God told Elijah to have the prophets of Baal killed because of their disobedience to God. When King Ahab heard this, he raced home and told the Queen all that had transpired. She was furious and sent a message to Elijah warning him that by this time tomorrow he'd be dead! Elijah was terrified when he heard the Queen's words. He took off running and traveled to a desert a day’s walk from Beersheba. He saw a broom tree there and sat down under its shade praying, “I've had enough Lord. I want to die.” Elijah laid down under the tree and fell asleep. An angel sent by the Lord woke him to give him food and water; he was revived. He left and traveled 40 more days until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. He found a cave there and went inside for the night.
God spoke to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have worked hard for you, God. The Israelites have turned against you. I am the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me too.” Then, God showed Himself to Elijah not in a mighty wind or an earthquake nor in the fire he sent on the mountain that day. God spoke to him in a gentle whisper and asked him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” In fear and despair, Elijah cried out to God reminding Him that despite all his hard work the Israelites had rebelled against Him and now there was a plot to take his life! He was concerned there would be no one left to carry on God's work if he was gone. God told Elijah to return to Beersheba. Then, He surprised him with the news that there were 7,000 men in Israel who were not worshiping Baal. Elijah was not alone in serving God.
In this passage from 1 Kings 18 and 19, God showed His great power and glory when He sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice and everything around it. But, now Elijah was on the run from a vengeful Queen. He was exhausted, hungry and felt like he was all alone. Elijah thought he was the only prophet of God left in Israel.
He finally stopped running and settled in a cave for the night. God spoke to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God wanted him to know He was sovereign and would protect him from his enemies. He did not need to run away. Elijah had just experienced an amazing miracle on Mount Carmel, but he did not trust that the God who set the sacrifice ablaze was the same God who could protect and guide him now.
Could God be saying to you, “What are you doing here?” It might make you question how you've gotten to this place in your life. You feel like you're just barely making it through the day, and you don't have the time or energy to be involved in a ministry. God knows how you feel, and He understands how many responsibilities you have every day. If there's something Gods wants you to do, He will help you find the time and give you the strength you need to accomplish His work. It says in Philippians 1:6, “... He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
You might already be in God's will doing what He has asked you to do. But, what if God has more He wants you to achieve. Maybe you've been involved in a ministry you thought was right for you. You believed it was where God wanted you to serve. But lately, you've been hearing from God that He has a different work for you to do. You can easily settle into a routine and be involved in things you think would please God but be totally missing His will for you.
It's never too late to obey God. God is waiting, longing for you to come to Him in complete submission, and ask Him what His plan is for your life. He delights in answering prayer. Maybe you feel the Lord is asking you, “What are you doing here?” You think you've gotten off course; you're not in the center of His will. It's never too late to obey God. You can surrender your life to Him maybe for the first time or in a new way today. It will be a decision you'll never regret.
The ambulance raced toward the Trauma Center, its' flashing lights alerting drivers of their dire circumstances. Despite the skilled efforts of the paramedics, if they didn't get to the hospital soon, they knew this man was going to die. Suddenly, he gasped for breath, and his heart beat one last time. While medics fervently tried to revive him, the man felt his soul leaving his body. He was shocked to see his lifeless form below him, as his spirit quickly ascended into the heavens. His body looked small as earth faded from view, and he broke through the clouds and knew he was home.
It is so peaceful and serene here, Luke thought, as he took in his new surroundings. He could not have imagined a place this perfect and wanted to live in Heaven forever. Luke sighed contentedly and realized all the pain, anxiety, and depression he'd been experiencing had just disappeared. An indescribable joy welled up inside him, and he knew it would never fade away. A brilliant light illuminated the Heavens, as the glory of God filled the celestial city. The grass was a lush, flawless carpet, like an emerald sea beneath a picturesque sky. Species of trees both familiar and new stood majestic and strong in the pristine air. Luke saw beautiful flowers in fields and displays, in more colors than he'd ever seen on the earth. He heard music so glorious that he longed to join in the chorus to worship and praise the great King of Kings.
Then, Jesus, the Son of God, appeared. His face was as radiant as the sun, and His clothes were gleaming white. He walked with such nobility and confidence that Luke knew he was in the presence of royalty. The Lord was so humble and kind though Luke felt drawn to Him and fell to his knees to worship his King. Jesus smiled at Luke, as He raised him to his feet, gently calling him by name. Luke was overwhelmed by the intensity of the love he felt coming from his Savior. It was pure, powerful and unconditional and he was sure he'd never experienced anything like this in his life. Jesus knew all the things he'd ever done, but had forgiven him and loved him in a far greater way than he could even fathom. He was trying to formulate the words to express his gratitude when he looked up and saw a tall angelic being walking towards him with a small girl at his side. As they drew closer, he was thrilled to see it was his four-year-old niece Lily who had died in a drunk driving accident two months earlier.
Lily's face lit up when she saw Jesus and her uncle up ahead, and she hurried over and gave them each a warm hug. Luke was overcome with joy and cried out, “Lily! It's so good to see you again!” She quickly responded, “It's good to see you too, Uncle Luke!” He looked around in awe and exclaimed, “Heaven's even more amazing than I thought it would be!” Lily nodded her head in agreement, and Luke realized there was no verbal response she could give that could accurately convey what she was thinking. She had so much to communicate to Luke, but it wasn't always with words. He was aware of everyone's thoughts and could read what was on Lily's mind. Luke knew Lily was full of joy living in Heaven with Jesus. She reveled in His love for her and was excited to spend eternity with Him. Lily's countenance was bright, as she gazed up at Jesus, and the look of pure love she saw on His face made her feel well-loved and secure in His care. Luke no longer questioned why God took Lily the day of the accident. He now understood God's decision was loving and wise, and He was working it all out for good.
Jesus invited Luke to go for a walk, and they talked about many things. Lily was skipping ahead of them, enjoying the colorful flowers along the path. Luke couldn't believe the Creator of the universe, his Savior, who had died to take the punishment for his sins, wanted to spend time with Him. Luke wasn't sure how long they were talking, but he did not want it to end. Then Jesus told Luke he had more work to do and asked if he would go back to complete it. He longed to stay with Jesus in Heaven but trusted He knew what was best.
When it was time for Luke to leave, Lily ran over to say goodbye. “Lily, I'll see you when I return,” Luke said tenderly. “I will be waiting,” Lily promised, and with her voice full of excitement said, “When you come back do you want me to show you some of the animals?” “I'd love that, Lily,” Luke said with a grin, “We're going to have a lot of fun together!” Then Jesus gave Luke a final embrace saying, “I want you to remember how much I love you, and I will always be with you!”
Luke's spirit returned to his body, and his monitors came alive. A paramedic shouted, “He's got a pulse! His heart rhythm's normal, and his vitals are good, but he is not responsive. We need to get him to the emergency room!” When the ambulance delivered Luke to the hospital, the Doctor determined he had a fractured right hip and shoulder. He had several lacerations and minor contusions, but the most significant crisis he was facing was a traumatic brain injury which had rendered him unconscious. Luke was transferred to the ICU, where they could carefully monitor his condition. His family kept constant vigil by his hospital bed, waiting and praying that he would recover.
One late afternoon, Luke opened his eyes and saw his wife, Ashley, holding his hand. She saw he was conscious and cried, “Luke, you're awake!” Then she fervently thanked God for sparing his life. His brother Matt was elated and rushed to his side, saying, “Hey, Luke. I'm so glad you're back! We didn't know if you were going to make it!” At that moment, Luke's physician entered the room and stared in disbelief at his patient who was alert and talking for the first time in three weeks. “We didn't hold out much hope for your recovery,” his Doctor stated, “Do you know what happened to you?” Luke frowned as the memories of that fateful day came flooding back to his mind.
They all looked at him with concern in their eyes as he recalled, “I was racing down the side of the highway with the other riders in our bike club, that morning. We had just completed our race, and I was crossing the street as I made my way home, when a car came barreling through a red light and sent me flying through the air to the hard pavement below. I was in excruciating pain and started to remove my helmet when someone told me to lie very still until the paramedics arrived. Then I must've blacked out because the next thing I remember was my spirit rising above my body through the roof of an ambulance, as I watched two EMTs giving me CPR on the way to the hospital.”
The room got deathly quiet as they all tried to process what he'd just said. They were astonished at what had transpired, and listened carefully as he continued, “I know this seems hard to believe, and I don't understand it myself, but I saw Jesus up in Heaven while the medics worked to revive me.” His family was eager to learn what had happened, so Luke closed his eyes and pictured himself back in paradise in the presence of his wonderful Savior. He tried to relay what he had experienced but knew he could never adequately express it. Then Luke smiled, as he shared the exciting news he saw Lily in Heaven too! They were ecstatic to know she was with Jesus, and Luke had been with her a short time ago. Her parents peppered Luke with questions about his encounter with her. As he began to describe the details of their time together, a light came to their eyes that had not been there since the day of the accident. They were amazed at how God had orchestrated these circumstances to give them hope in knowing they have a future with Lily. Then the room filled with celebration and praise to God for allowing them to see a glimpse of Heaven. They knew their child was alive and well and safe in the arms of Jesus. The Doctor was intrigued by what Luke had said, and as he left to see other patients, he mumbled as he exited the door, “I really need to get back to church!”
Matt was rejoicing over all God had done when his heart began to feel burdened. He knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to him, so he confided in his wife Christy, then approached his brother's bedside and said, “I'm so relieved you're okay, Luke. I didn't want to lose you too! Since you're feeling a little better, do you mind if I leave for a while? There's something I need to take care of at home.” “Sure, go ahead,” Luke said, “You've already spent way too much time here, I'm sure.”
Matt left the hospital feeling so overwhelmed by the events of the last few months that when he finally arrived home, he pushed open the door and collapsed in a chair. Tears flowed, as he released the pent-up emotions he'd been holding onto for far too long. The memory of his terrible accident played over and over in his mind relentlessly. He had been driving his daughter to her friend's house, when a speeding truck, disregarded a stop sign and crashed into the side of the car where Lily was seated. Matt survived with minor injuries, but his only child had died. Then his brother awoke from a coma to say he'd been to Heaven and saw Lily with Jesus. Matt was reeling from all that had happened and needed to talk to God, but resentment had been building inside him, and he didn't feel he could pray. God had taken Lily before she had a chance to grow up, and he didn't think that was fair!
In the midst of all his turmoil, he was trying to work through his grief, but rage was simmering in his heart against the man who had killed his child. Matt couldn't comprehend how this man could drive when he was intoxicated, knowing how dangerous it could be for himself and others. God didn't want Ben to drink and drive and harm his little girl, but in His infinite wisdom, He allowed it to occur. He realized if he ever doubted God's love for him when things didn't work out the way he thought they should, he needed to remember the brutal death Jesus suffered on the cross so He could pay for his sin. Matt loved Lily very much, and he would always miss her, but he knew his faithful God loved her more than he did. He may not understand why this happened until he went to Heaven, but he was going to trust his omniscient God, whose ways are always perfect.
Matt knelt to repent of the sinful attitude he'd had towards God since Lily died. While he was praying, God gently said, “You're asking me to forgive you, but have you done the same for Ben?” Matt was taken aback and wondered why he should be the one to forgive when this drunk driver had caused the death of his child. He knew he needed God's help to be free from the animosity he had against Ben. Matt recalled the Bible verse in Matthew 6:15 that says, if you refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive you. He wanted peace in his heart and release from the bitterness he had towards this man. God knew what it was like to lose a child, he thought. He willingly allowed his only Son to be crucified for our salvation.
Matt had taken Jesus as his Savior many years ago. His sins were forgiven and thought he'd surrendered his life fully to God, but now realized he needed to let God take control of the situation with Lily. “Dear Jesus,” he prayed, “thank you for loving me even though I don't deserve it. I am sorry for the anger and hatred I have towards Ben, and I choose to forgive him for causing Lily's death. Lord, I want to know your will for my life, and I ask for your direction. Please guide me in Your path for me, and I will follow where You lead. In Jesus name, Amen.” When he finished praying, Matt took a deep breath and slowly began to smile. Waves of peace washed over his soul, as his relationship with God had now been restored. He was still grieving the loss of his daughter but was confident one day he would see her in Heaven. Matt spent some time talking to God and listening to what He had to say. When the Lord spoke to him, he rose to his feet, grabbed his keys, and headed for the door. He contacted his wife to tell her where God was leading and drove to his destination in obedience to Him.
Matt could feel deep despair and misery as he entered the cold, bleak structure. He felt compassion when he saw the look of hopelessness in the eyes of many visitors and those who were there involuntarily. He was led into a stark room and sat down on a cold metal chair facing a glass window. An anxious-looking young man in an orange uniform was seated directly across from him. The two men simultaneously reached for the phones that were on the wall beside them and began an awkward conversation. Matt stared at the man whose face had been vividly etched into his memory several months ago when he'd seen him in the courtroom sitting beside his defense attorney. He pled guilty to the charge of vehicular manslaughter in the death of a four-year-old child named Lily.
"Hello,” Matt said soberly, initiating the conversation. "Mr. Shepherd,” replied Ben nervously," I never thought I'd see you here.” “It has been difficult since Lily was killed,” Matt acknowledged. Ben winced as he nodded and said, “I have a little girl myself, and I'd be devastated if anything happened to her.” “My family has been suffering since we lost our daughter, and I've been so angry at you for causing her death,” Matt admitted, “but I had a long talk with the Lord yesterday, confessed my sin and asked Him to make me into the man He wants me to be. God sent me here to give you a message, so I drove all night to deliver it to you.” Ben's eyes widened, as he slid forward in his chair, nervously waiting to hear what he would say next.
Matt paused for a moment, then humbly continued, “I came here today to say I forgive you for causing the accident that took Lily from me. I was struggling to come to this decision, but I realized if Jesus can ask His Father to forgive those who crucified Him, I can do the same for you.” Ben was shocked at what he'd heard. He'd been longing to hear those words, but never thought he would. Ben protested, “I am the one who needs to ask for your forgiveness. I am so sorry for what I have done. My family kept telling me I shouldn't drink and drive, but I wouldn't listen to them, and now they won't even speak to me. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself for causing the death of your daughter, Matt. I've made the biggest mistake of my life, and there's nothing I can do to change it.” Ben hung his head, saying, “I feel hopeless and all alone. I have so much guilt and regret for what I've done, and it just eats away at me.”
Matt asked the Lord for His compassion and wisdom to know what he should share with Ben. “Satan is the one who wants to steal your joy and keep you defeated,” Matt said, “He doesn't want you to forgive yourself, but with the power of God, you can win this battle and find a peace that defies human understanding. Even if you have wronged someone and they will not forgive you, God can give you perfect peace if you give your life to Him. Ben, there's nothing we can do God can't forgive because His grace will pardon and cleanse any sin. You can become a child of God if you confess your sins to Him and make Him Lord of your life. You will no longer be separated from God but will be purified from your sin and ready to meet the Lord in Heaven someday. He'll give you a purpose for living and power to overcome any temptation you may face. You can be an example of God's grace to your family and the people around you. He can give you all you need to fulfill His will for your life.”
Ben knew he'd made a mess of his life and couldn't live with the guilt and shame any longer, so without hesitation, he bowed his head, and Matt joined him in prayer. With a partition between them, the two men petitioned their Creator to hear Ben's cry, “Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross and rose again. I'm sorry, Lord, for all my sin. I surrender myself to You, and I ask You to take control of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.” Ben was in a place with bars and chains, but he'd never felt so free in all his life.
Matt smiled, and with a faraway look in his eyes said, “We are going to see Lily again!” Ben looked confused until Matt told him about his brother's accident and miraculous journey to Heaven, where he saw his Savior and had a joyful reunion with his niece. “Then Jesus asked Luke if he would return,” Matt said, “so he could tell others how much God loved them.” Ben was stunned at first, trying to take it all in. He'd read about Heaven in the Bible and knew it was real. The thought that Lily was already with Jesus, enjoying eternity with Him, caused his heart to sing, and he praised the Lord for His loving kindness to them. He turned to Matt, and with tears in his eyes said, “I'm thrilled to know Luke saw Lily in Heaven. I can't imagine the joy you feel in knowing your child is with Jesus. I've caused you and your family so much pain, but I'm glad that you'll see Lily again. I will never be able to thank you for offering me forgiveness and hope at the darkest point of my life.” “I am extending the same grace to you the Lord has given to me,” Matt said sincerely.
Then, a guard came and told him visiting hours were over. Matt promised he would return and walked out of the prison with peace in his heart, knowing God was pleased he had forgiven Ben. Matt prayed for strength to persevere until God called him home, and knew He'd give him courage for the trials yet to come. Matt was excited when he thought of the joyous celebration they would have someday when his family would be reunited with Lily, and they'd be with Jesus in Heaven forever.