Commander Dave carefully checked the door numbers as he walked down the hallway at the hospital. "Letís see, 517, 519, 521; oops, too far! Oh, thereís 520 across the hall.
The door was already partially opened. He peeked around it trying to see in. He didnít want to awaken Chad if he was asleep.
The door badly needed to be oiled, and if Chad had been asleep, he was awake now.
"Oh itís you," said Chad, sleepily, "Hello."
"Well, you look a little better than last night. Your dad was really shaken up when you passed out by the road."
"Yeah, it was weird how that happened. My leg hurt so badly, the surge of pain just knocked me unconscious. Really, I wish they had just left me unconscious. Then, I wouldnít have had to feel the pain."
"I understand they are going to operate on your broken leg tomorrow."
"Yes. In fact, the anesthesiologist has already talked to me. Did you know that people sometimes die under anesthesia?"
"Yep, itís a risk, albeit a minor one. Iím sure that didnít scare you."
"Okay, I know where youíre headed with this. Save your breath. The pastor has already been by to talk to me. He wants keep me out of hell."
"Sounds reasonable to me. But, Christianity is more than just avoiding hell."
"You guys wonít give up, will you. Face it, Commander Dave, Iím not worth the trouble. Iím never going to be like those good little Ranger kids who read their Bibles and really care what the preacher says. Iím sure youíre hoping that Iíll change, but itís never going to happen. Even if I were to try to change, Iíd just let you down again."
"So? What difference would it make if you did let me down, again. Listen, dude, I didnít agree to serve as a Rangers commander just to shepherd a bunch a squeaky clean, perfect kids. I joined so that I could point kids to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Sure, through Jesus you can escape all the terrors of hell and have a really cool home in heaven, but itís more than that. Jesus shows us how to live happy lives, now."
"Get real, Commander Dave. I could never be happy as a Christian. Itís just not me. Besides that, Iíve already let everyone down, and believe me, theyíre not going to forget it. Iíve always been a rotten kid, itís just a lot more obvious than it used to be. Iím not the so-called good kid who got caught. Iím the bad kid who got what he had coming to him.
"I guess you know I almost got Buzzy in trouble."
"Yes, I know."
"Buzzyís a good kid. He doesnít need to hanging out with guys like me. I donít blame you for not letting me hang out with him anymore. I wouldnít want bad kids around my kid, either."
"Chad, I really donít care whether you are a good kid or a bad kid. God compares our righteousness, even at its best, to filthy, bloody rags. The only righteousness that God accepts is that of his son, Jesus Christ. The only way to be safe from the wrath of God is to be in Jesus."
"So? What good is that going to do me, now? Why should God be interested in me, anyway? Iíve poked fun at Christians. Iíve cursed. Iíve destroyed my reputation. Iíve insulted God by ignoring him. Iím telling you, itís over."
"Chad, the Bible says that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 sheep safely in the fold. Think about the parable of the prodigal son. Think about how the father rejoiced when his son returned. You know what, his son had been living with the pigs and eating pig food. He probably smelled a lot like you after you met that skunk."
"Oh yeah, sorry about that."
"Thatís okay Chad, it did help us to get you moved through the emergency room a little faster," Commander Dave laughed.
Chad smiled, but only briefly. Then, he looked away from Commander Dave towards his window. "Commander Dave, what if Iím not one of the people God is looking for?"
"Iím not sure what you mean, Chad."
"What I mean is, you know, people who become Christians and stick with it, donít they start out differently?"
"Iím still not sure what youíre trying to say."
"I guess what Iím trying to ask is, what if Iím not one of the elect, one of those chosen by God for conversion?"
"Ah, thereís a question I havenít had to deal with in a long time." Replied Commander Dave.
"Iíve never heard anything about it in our church," said Chad. "Does our church believe in election?"
"Sure, they have to because itís in the Bible. All people who believe that the Bible is the word of God deal with the issues of election and predestination. But they do differ on how they define it. One group called the Arminians, most but not all Pentecostals are Arminians, believes that God chose the elect, those who would be converted, based on something he foreknew about them. Another group, usually called Calvinists, also believes that God chose those who would be converted. But they stop short of saying that it is based on some good that God saw in the person. In their view, the reasons are known only to God."
"Well, Commander Dave, doesnít that bother you? What if you arenít one of the elect? What if you spend your whole life trying to walk that straight and narrow way, only to find at the end that youíre excluded."
"Thatís a good question, Chad. When it comes to election, Iím faced with the reality that I canít look at you or any other person and say whether heís elect or not. But, I know this, that God keeps his promises. I cling, with all my might, to those promises where God says that if I turn away from my sins and turn to Jesus Christ, I have eternal life. And, if I have eternal life, I have to be one of the elect. What about you, Chad, do you believe that God keeps his promises?"
"I guess I have no reason to believe differently."
"Good, letís look at some of those promises. Look at John 6:37."
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
"Chad, who do you think Jesus is talking about, Ďall that the Father giveth me.í"
"Is that the elect?" asked Chad.
"Sure it is. And what do they all do?"
"It sounds like they all come to Jesus."
"Exactly, Chad. And how does God respond to them?"
"He doesnít cast any of them out. But, that still leaves the question, what if someone who is not elect comes to Jesus?"
"Thatís a good question. Letís look at John 6:44."
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
"So, Chad, does anyone who is not elect ever come to Jesus."
"According to the verse, no. But how can that be true? I said the sinnerís prayer. But Iím not a Christian now."
"I see your confusion there. The key is in understanding what it really means to come to Jesus. Coming to Jesus doesnít mean receiving him as your good buddy. It means receiving him as the Lord of your life and heart. Itís much more than just believing he exists. Even the demons believe that. Itís more than just asking him to come into your heart. Many people who asked Jesus to come into their heart and who prayed a prayer off the back of a track still live like the world. These are people who wanted Jesus as Savior but didnít want him as Lord. Man tends to emphasize saying the right words, but God looks at the heart. In fact, it is the result of God changing the heart that makes a person turn away from his sin and turn to Jesus. God works a miracle in the heart of the person. This is how God draws him."
"Well, guess what, Commander Dave," said Chad, bitterly, "God never changed my heart, so I canít come to him. Right, isnít that what you just said?"
"No, wrong. What are you going to do, Chad, wait around until you get some kind of warm fuzzy feeling that God is working in you. A thousand times no. God never tells us to wait for a feeling or an impression. He tells us to repent and believe the gospel. And, by the way, how do you know that God is not working in you, even now?"
"Because I feel so rotten, thatís why. I donít feel like a Christian. I feel evil."
"Youíre sick, Commander Dave."
"Sick nothing, Iím excited. How are you going to understand how much you need Jesus if God doesnít open your eyes to how sinful and rotten you are. You know youíre sinful and rotten. Thatís great, weíre halfway there. Just come to God, just like you are, admit you are sinful and rotten, and ask him to forgive you. Really mean it. Then, say goodbye to your sins and your old life and trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord."
Chad shook his head doubtfully. "But what if I do this and return to my old ways."
"Chad, itís a serious thing if you turn away. But God doesnít sit around waiting on you to mess up. As soon as you become a Christian The Holy Spirit moves inside of you and begins cleaning out the junk. You wonít be on your own."
"It sounds too good to be true."
"Listen Chad, isnít it possible that God has preserved you for this. Think about it; you could have been killed in Tommyís car. What if he hadnít pulled over to let you out. You could have died out in the woods when you broke your leg. This is your moment with God."
"Commander Dave, I know I sound argumentative, but I really do want to believe what you are saying. For the first time in my life, I really want to have peace with God and know that I have eternal life. I guess Iím just scared."
"Chad, somethingís happened to you; I can see it."
"Do you really think so?"
"Think about it. Just a few days ago, it didnít bother you that you were a sinner. Remember when you said at the park, on your way to the volleyball game, how you wanted to spend some time on the wild side. Are you ready, now, to trade in the wild side for Godís side?"
"Sure, right now, but what if I go back?"
"You keep asking that," complained Commander Dave. "Really, Chad, I think you are going to be like my buddy Dannyís old mule. Do you remember the mule Danny brought for the nativity scene?"
"Sure, he worked out great!"
"Yes, he did. But he started out belonging to Farmer Ted Jones, who lives across the road from Danny. The mule was very stubborn, and Farmer Jones could never get any use out of him. He wouldnít pull a plow. He wasnít gentle or friendly, so the kids couldnít play with him; he couldnít be trusted around the children. And, he wouldnít carry anything on his back. All he did was eat and try to get out of the fence.
"Farmer Jones wasted a lot of time catching that old mule and putting him back in the fence. Certainly, he tried to make the fence more secure. But, that old mule was very clever; he always found an escape. Then, one day Farmer Jones just gave up. ĎI hope the coyotes eat him, he said.í
"Danny saw the mule one afternoon as he was driving by in his truck. He was grazing in an old creek bed. Being a good neighbor, Danny stopped by to talk to Farmer Jones and offered to help him catch the mule. But, Farmer Jones just shook his head.
"Danny, if you can catch him, heís yours," said Farmer Jones.
"Really, Danny didnít have much need for a mule, but he hated to turn down a free animal. So, he caught him and brought him home. What Danny didnít know, was that while the mule was in the creek bed, it got into some old toxic industrial chemicals that made it go blind.
"Danny had no trouble bringing the mule home. Indeed, from that point on, the mule followed Danny wherever he went. In fact, Danny could be all the way across the pasture, but if the mule heard his voice, he would come. Then, he would nudge up close to Danny."
Chad nodded. "So, thatís why the mule was so gentle at the nativity scene. He was blind and depended on us."
"Thatís right Chad. Youíre like that mule. Up until now youíve followed the voice of your own sinful heart, wherever it led you. Are you ready to turn away from living for yourself and follow Jesus?"
"Iím worse than that old mule, Commander Dave. If Jesus will have me, I will serve him for the rest of my life. When I got in trouble for stealing, it was funny at first, how all the church people complained that I was the good kid who got caught. But, I guess I really did get caught. God caught me."
"Thatís right; praise God!" exclaimed Commander Dave.
"Commander, if God will have me, all I want to do, now, is find myself held tightly in his hands forever. Please pray that God will help me to be faithful, to not turn back."
"Oh Chad, he will. He will because God keeps his promises. Here is one from Philippians 1:6:"
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
They prayed together. Chad asked Jesus to forgive him and received Him as Lord and Savior. His prayer consisted of those heartfelt words of gratitude, expressed by those who truly understand their own sinfulness and who know how much they have been forgiven.
When it was over Commander Dave smiled and said, "Congratulations."
"For what?" asked Chad, surprised.
"For being elected."
Chad smiled. "Commander Dave, I guess Iíll never know why."
"Thatís the way itís supposed to be, Chad. You never know why you were elected, but you spend the rest of your life being grateful for it."
Commander Dave gave Chad some scriptures to encourage him. Then he left for the park. He was very anxious to try for the two-mile run, again.
He had just gotten through the first mile when the kids returned, the kids with whom he had shared the gospel a few days before. He wanted to run so badly that he was very tempted to ignore them. But he couldnít, and they looked like they wanted to talk.
"Hey, Mister, would you tell us another story?" It was the oldest of the three, Brock.
Commander Dave smiled. "Sure, letís go over there and sit under the tree. Itís too hot to be out in the sun. Last one down is a salamander."
Commander Dave, as expected, wound up being the salamander. But it was a small price to pay for getting the kids seated quickly. He gazed across the grass towards the sandy area where Chad had played volleyball, where Chad had conveyed his intentions to spend some time on the wild side.
"Once upon a time," Commander Dave began. "There was an old mule. He was a stubborn old mule, but God loved himÖ"