We all have defining moments in our walk with God. As a young 20-something Marine in Vietnam, God taught me some big truths about His ways and how to do life in difficult situations that He still brings daily to my heart and mind.
Unfortunately, in one lesson the Lord Jesus taught me, He had to use a terrible experience to open my eyes with the truth that all I really have in my walk with Him is today.
We were on a difficult patrol one night, and I made a bad decision out of my own physical weakness. It was a breathtaking night. I don’t think even a Colorado night sky could compare to what it looked like in the pitch darkness of the jungle as I saw countless stars dance in the sky.
About that time, a fellow lieutenant named Carl commented on the spectacular scene of that night. “Wow, John! Isn’t that magnificent?”
I replied, “It really is! And you know, that’s what God created.”
Carl answered, “Yeah, you couldn’t look at that and not realize that maybe there’s a God.”
I responded, “There really is a God, Carl, and that God calls each one of those stars by name.”
He said, “Really?”
I said, “Yeah. And did you know that the God who designed these heavens wants to have a relationship with you? He wants to know you in a personal way and wants you to know that He loves you and has a plan for your life.”
Carl paused a second, and then he said enthusiastically, “Man, I would love to know about that!”
That’s when I made a terrible decision. It was late. I knew we would be getting under way at first light and had another hard day’s trek ahead.
So, I said, “I’ll tell you what. It’s getting late. When we get back to base camp in the next couple of days, let’s you and I get together. I’d like to explain to you what the Bible says about how you can have the relationship with God.”
Carl said, “Man, I will look forward to that, John!”
“Great,” I replied, and we shoved off.
The next day, Carl caught a bullet through the throat. When I learned about his death, I was profoundly shaken. I realized that a man had told me he was thirsty for Jesus, the Living Water of life, and I didn’t give him that water. I’d told him I’d do it later. I was tired and thinking more about my own desire for physical rest than Carl’s desire for spiritual life and eternal rest.
Martin Luther is said to have noted that there are two days in life: today and that day. Everything we do today needs to be focused on “that day” when we stand in the presence of Jesus. That night with Carl, I didn’t have much focus on “that day.” My “today” was more about me than giving a cup of water to a thirsty man.
I find many of us are consumed by plans for tomorrow.
“I’ll get committed to Christ tomorrow.”
“I’ll get serious about my faith tomorrow.”
“I’m really going to do what I know my Lord wants me to do tomorrow.”
“I’ll tell Carl about Jesus tomorrow.”
Carl’s death was a real turning point in my walk with Jesus Christ.
The urgency of today is the greatest conqueror of postponed obedience. When God speaks, most of the time He is encouraging us to act.
Most of you will never travel to places of the globe that will encounter life and death situations, but there will be lots of practice in Dallas or wherever God has you. People in Dallas outside of Christ are in need, just like people in places like Vietnam.
John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.