The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” —Psalms 14:1
Everyone who believes in him [Jesus] will have eternal life. —John 3:15 NLT
Fred Rogers’s son Russ was a man who had a deep respect and reverence for life. He took me hunting and fishing in the Sierra Mountains of central California. He came to church a few times. We had a great friendship, but he was not interested in Christ. He said he was an agnostic, like his father Fred. Then Russ went off the deep end, got involved with drugs, divorced his wife, wandered around for a while. I lost contact with him for several years. Then I ran into him when I was fishing Granite Creek, high up in the Sierras. It was like old home week. He was on his honeymoon. He had just married Lois, a beautiful lady, who was a committed Christian. But Russ was still not interested in Christianity. I didn’t see him again for months, until his dad became ill with cancer. We were drawn together around Grandpa Rogers as he made preparations for his home-going. Russ attended the Communion and baptism service we had for Fred. Sometime later, Russ was stricken with cancer. I began visiting with him. We renewed the friendship that had begun eighteen years earlier.
Russ was deeply impressed when his father accepted Christ at age ninety-two, and he saw the peace that Christ brought into Grandpa’s life. Fred had taught his family to be agnostics all their lives, but now Russ and I talked about Christ, eternity, and the abundant life God offers us. He believed in a “great Power in the universe” and had a certain reverence for that Power, but he didn’t believe in a personal God as revealed in Jesus Christ. I shared with Russ about how to invite Jesus into his life and receive eternal life and peace with God. He said he was not ready to make that commitment that day. My phone rang early next morning. It was Russ who said, “Happy Thanksgiving, Sam. After our talk yesterday, I invited Jesus into my life, and I want to be baptized into the Christian religion Sunday in the church baptistery?” I was thrilled! That made one of my best Thanksgivings! The Bible says there is rejoicing in heaven every time a person invites Jesus Christ into his or her life. I baptized Russ and Lois next Sunday.
Russ became a tower of strength to all who knew him, until his coronation day when he stepped into heaven. His relationship with God became the strength that carried him through his suffering with confidence and peace. As I watched him grow in faith during his last few months, I was reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, which I used in his memorial service: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:16–18). When Russ accepted Christ, it was the fruit of many years of intercessory prayer. Later in the evening after Russ’ memorial service, one of his close friends asked Lois how Russ found the peace that Pastor Sam had talked about. She explained the plan of salvation, and he invited Christ into his life. He went home a new person because of intercessory prayer for Russ.
Awesome Lord Jesus, thanks for caring enough to die for people like Russ…and me, too! So we can have abundant and eternal life! Thanks for the intercessory prayer partners who believe, love, care, witness, and pray until…You are able to enter into our inner beings, Transforming Hearts…Transforming Lives! May we always reflect Y our transforming presence as bearers of Y our unconditional love, grace and peace. Amen.
Dr. Sam Bruce; President, Sam & Sandie Bruce Ministries; Pastor, Hope Point Church, Pearl, Mississippi; Online Instructor, Mid-America Christian University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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Scripture quotations marked Phillips are taken from The New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips, 1962 edition, published by Harper Collins.