THE 11th HOUR
Jesus Did It!
By: Ralph Rodriguez
It was September 4th, 2006 and our family would celebrate my wife Donna's 37th birthday at our home in Allen, Texas. The usual attending 'suspects' would include our three children, my father and his wife, and of course my father-in-law Richard "Dick" Starnes. It was a typical Sunday afternoon at our house, but little did we know that life as we knew it would be turned upside down soon enough.
Dick Starnes was a 61-year-old father of two and grandfather of six children. He was a professional car salesman of 40 years and one of the most rebellious human beings on the planet for the whole 61 years. His enthusiasm for going against the grain would be matched only by his rejection of religion and as he would call them, "religious fanatics."
The so called religious fanatics included anyone trying to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. The interesting thing was that Dick's final job would be filled with professing believers of Jesus Christ and that Dick would often say, "This is the best place I have ever worked and they are religious fanatics like you," speaking to my wife. As I reflected back, I could clearly remember the many times that my wife would pray for her father's salvation and she would tell me, "GOD will save my father, even if it is on his death bed!" Could it be that prayers were being answered all along through a multitude of events that would be carefully orchestrated by GOD himself?
As we celebrated Donna's birthday, we would soon begin to take notice that Dick had lost a considerable amount of weight. Donna would take particular notice and had shown great concern for the health of her father privately.
Several days passed with growing concern. Dick was not one who would openly discuss medical issues and he was also one that would avoid going to the doctor at any cost. Donna would finally press her father to reveal to her that he had been very sick at night for months. It was time for Donna to assert herself as she insisted that her father go to the emergency room. He arrived at the hospital and was quickly admitted. It soon became obvious that Dick would need exploratory surgery to uncover what was causing his growing sickness.
It was Saturday, September 9th at approximately 11 am, when I received the call from Donna. She was much shaken and I could barely understand what she was telling me. "My father has pancreatic cancer and he is not going to live very long!" My heart sunk to the floor because I could feel the sorrow of my wife, and I knew that she would have to be the one to tell him the tragic news. The other variable that I had not considered was that the spiritual time-clock was ticking and his soul was at stake. Donna did not forget and would continue to pray fervently for his salvation.
Dick was released from the hospital on September 26th to go spend his last days at home. He was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and was given one week to ten days to live. During this time my wife would give of herself in the most unselfish way possible. She would stay and care for him day and night. There was no hospice, just her and her father and what would turn out to be the most rewarding time of her life and mine.
During these days, I would come and stay with Dick for six to eight hours while Donna would sleep to catch up from being awake all night with her father. Dick would not fall asleep because of his fear of dying. As I reflect on scriptures, I couldn't help but to think that as an unsaved soul, he was in utter turmoil - becoming increasingly aware that he would die with no hope of salvation and no hope of eternal life.
Of course! Why would you want to fall asleep and die if you thought that there would be nothing after death? With this in mind, I would purposely share the good news of salvation and eternal life with Dick. I would share the gospel periodically and Dick would say, "When you die, you are just like a dog; you just die!"
I remember distinctly feeling that Dick was so hard hearted -- feeling that he would never accept Jesus Christ. That is when I quit pressing him and chose to just love him unconditionally, just like his daughter. Instead of trying to convince him of anything, I would just tell him that I loved him and I would show my love by being there for him.
We shared many discussions in his last days. I would look forward to our newly found friendship and our sure-to-be interesting discussions.
My wife would continue to pray scriptures over him and I would pray at home with the kids. We continued to pray diligently for his salvation. I remember my wife calling me one day and telling me that she prayed all night. She told GOD that she would continue caring for her father in the same manner for five months if it took that long to see his salvation.
It was a Saturday, October 7, 2006 -- I was working about 20 minutes from Dick's home. I really felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me that I should leave that second. Without even locking up, I headed towards Dick's house.
I entered the home and walked into the family room where Dick was lying. I saw Donna. She was quietly sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Dick had lost a good portion of his hearing and could not see very well either. Time was winding down and I knew it because of the calmness that Donna showed while she was sharing the gospel.
I sat quietly and listened for the next 45 minutes. At one point Dick looked over at me and said, "Ralph, for the last five or six days I have been hearing voices. They have been telling me that if I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I am an idiot."
I told Dick, "I know."
Donna then told Dick in the sweetest most caring voice I had ever heard, "You don't have to hear those voices anymore Dad. If you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, the voices will go away."
Finally Dick said, "I am ready." Dick was so weak and was losing so much so fast that he asked Donna to make it simple for him to remember. Donna asked her father to repeat these words: "I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." Her father repeated those words to my utter amazement! Donna and I began to weep tears of joy.
A few moments later Dick asked Donna to get a piece of paper and a pen and said, "In your best hand writing, please write these words for me on the paper: I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior."
After she wrote the words, he asked her to put the paper in his wallet.
There were only two other times I could hear him talk after that moment. One time his religious fanatical Christian boss came over and he asked him to sit down. He asked Donna if she would get his wallet and hand it to his boss. Dick asked his boss to pull the piece of paper out of his wallet and read it aloud. His boss read the paper and was astonished. He looked at his boss and whispered, "And it was my idea." His boss looked at him and said ... "It sure was!"
The last time I heard him talk, I heard him ask Donna for the wallet. She knew that he wanted the paper and gave it to him. She also put his glasses on his head for him.
As he gazed at the paper that was in his left hand ... you could see his right hand moving in a writing motion as if to say that he wanted to write the words himself.
As I reflect back on this time, I see what an awesome GOD we serve. I remember Jesus while hanging on the cross with a life-long criminal in the gospel of Luke 23:42-43:
42: Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
43: Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Jesus accepted him into His eternal kingdom because he was willing to die for Jesus and take the ridicule. That is something to think about.
I can only tell you -- never give up praying for a loved one who has yet acknowledged that the shed blood of Jesus Christ is their assurance to eternal life. Until the last breath ... the battle of prayer for a loved one's soul must never stop.
I made the mistake of thinking that it was over. Fortunately, I serve a most powerful and loving GOD who let me see that it was not over yet.
PLEASE HELP SHARE THE BEST NEWS GOD HAS FOR EVERY PERSON!
"And this gospel of the
died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a witness
unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
(Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).
Consider how many children in "all the nations" have never heard YET what Jesus accomplished for THEM at the cross? PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN!
To help us share the Best News every person needs to hear on this planet, randomly click FOR JESUS on just three (3) of the JESUS DID IT! links below. It will take just a few moments of your time. Please - that's all you are asked to do. God will reward you! (Of course, be highly encouraged to forward one of these video clips to those who may have never heard what Jesus did for them on the cross ... especially young people). Thank you so much!
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