Romans 11:15 – For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (NIV)
My dad was an agnostic for most of his adult life. When I decided to become a preacher, he hit the roof. He thought I was wasting my life and talents, and he would have preferred that I had chosen to become an engineer like him, or a teacher, or an historian.
His battle with God was surprising to me. As a teenager, he had excelled in Bible School and even had "First in the Class" certificates. His knowledge of the Bible was amazing, and throughout my years in seminary, he would deliberately argue with me about the existence of God. In fact, whenever I visited him at home, it would take us only about ten minutes to get into a theological tussle. Any peace that was in the house before I appeared was broken, and I usually left bitter and resentful.
I guess my dad felt let down by God. He had to care for my mom for many years without a break. As her insanity and ill health grew progressively worse, I could see the pain in his eyes and the stress across his face. I finally came to the resolution that when dad berated my beliefs, he was expressing his inward anguish and voicing his struggle with a loving God, who allowed innocent people to suffer.
In the last year of his life, my dad was diagnosed with a stomach cancer, which had progressed too far for treatment. The years had mellowed him, and our relationship was a lot better, even though we were separated by the Atlantic. When the hospice chaplain came to visit him and asked to pray, dad said, "Don't bother, minister. My son John's prayers are all that I need."
A couple of days before he died, we shared a phone call. He didn't want me to come over to Scotland until after he was dead. We talked about many things, and I told him how proud I was of everything that he did for our family. At the end of the conversation, Dad usually said, "Take care of yourself, son." This time, he spoke three precious words, "God bless you."
Those were his final words to me. He had made his peace with God at the very last, and in that acceptance, he was given life from the dead. We never know when the seeds of faith will bear fruit, but we share what we know of God with those we love and cherish, in the hope that one day acceptance of God will come.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, wherever we go today and whomever we meet, give us the courage to fulfill the opportunities that You give us to share our faith. Grant us the ability to express effectively our devotion to You, through our love of one another. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.