The story of Joe: Witnessing a miracle of coming to faith

“A person dying of cancer needs the means of grace that his senses can respond to and enter his heart for faith to hold: the sound of the Word and perhaps that of another Christian’s voice.”  (Martin Galstad)

The power of God’s Word is the source for miracles to happen. One of the greatest miracles is when a soul dead in sin comes alive in faith. They receive the promises God has given in Christ and their life radiates the peace and joy of being a new creation. Though its only through the power of God’s Word that a person comes to faith, God uses messengers to transmit it.

This was the case with my friend, Mark, who recently had the opportunity to share the gospel and witnessed an amazing miracle.

Across from the street from Mark, lived an older couple named Joe and Bev. Whenever they saw each other, a friendly wave and a remark about the weather was a customary greeting. Nothing special. No deep discussions on life and spiritual matters. They were just being friendly neighbors.

Mark’s next door neighbors were good friends of Joe and Bev. During the summer, they regularly enjoyed time in the outdoors and loved to ride their ATV’s in the mountain wilderness of Idaho. It was through their neighbors that they found out that John had terminal lung cancer. The diagnosis came only four to five weeks ago. The doctor gave the bad news that Joe only had about six months to live.

Throughout his life, Joe never stepped inside a church, nor ever opened up a Bible. He was a good, friendly man with a close-knit family, but never had a desire or felt a need to know God. He knew of the historical Christ, but didn’t really know the reasons behind his life, death, and resurrection.

Mark’s next door neighbors were troubled by the news of Joe’s cancer. He asked Mark if he and his wife could accompany him while he went over to visit Joe. The next day, the four of them visited with Joe and Bev and had a nice, friendly chat. Bothered by the fact that they didn’t talk about anything spiritual, Mark felt he needed to talk with Joe again privately. Though scared and full of trepidation, Mark picked up the phone and called. He asked if he could come over and talk about spiritual matters and Joe agreed to the visit.

For the next two hours, Joe peppered Mark with questions about faith and God. Though stricken with cancer, he was in good shape. It didn’t seem that he was on death’s door. He was perplexed how a loving God would allow so much evil in this world. He was puzzled at how God wouldn’t reward him since he lived a good life, a good citizen and kind to others. Mark didn’t try to argue, debate, sell or persuade. When Mark didn’t know the answers to his complex questions regarding life and God’s sovereignty, he was not afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer.”

However, over and over again, Mark told him, “Joe, trying to be good on earth is not good enough for God.” He shared with him the gospel message that Christ came to be righteous for us. There is no way we can save ourselves from eternal punishment as a result of our sins. Only through Christ, and his substitution on the cross can we be declared righteous. By faith in God, by placing our trust in His promises and accepting what Christ has already done for us, can we be declared perfect and fully forgiven. Mark left with him a Bible to read since Joe never owned one before.

This conversation took place on Sunday afternoon, January 13th, 2013.  Two days later, Joe called Mark on the phone. He said, “Mark, come over right away. I have something to tell you.” When Mark arrived, Joe shared with him that he believed in Jesus Christ. Joe said, “It all just came so easily, so obviously. I couldn’t help but believe.”

The power of God's Word

Once thought impossible, Joe received and accepted the good news. He had never been happier or been filled with such joy! He couldn’t believe that he missed out on this joy and peace that he was experiencing throughout his life. With his family gathered around him, they were in shock and disbelief on what they were witnessing. Joe was a changed man.

On Wednesday evening, January 16th, two days after coming to faith in Christ, Joe died from lung cancer at his home. He is in heaven.

But the story doesn’t end here.

On Friday morning, January 18th, Joe’s daughter came over the house and asked if she could visit with Mark and his wife. She asked if he could say a few words at her father’s funeral. Unfortunately, Mark was going to be out of town. Then, she had a very unusual request. Family was flying in from around the country, and she was wondering if he could come over and visit with them.

In the last 48 hours before Joe’s sudden death, the family was amazed at the joy and peace that had transformed over him since his conversation with Mark about Jesus Christ and Joe’s confession of faith. Though his family did not own a Bible and never went to church, Joe kept asking his family members to read the Bible that Mark gave to him out loud. Flabbergasted at this change in their beloved husband and father, the family wanted to learn more about what happened. They wanted to hear the same message that Mark gave to Joe.

Thought feeling terribly inadequate and unprepared, Mark came over to the house and told them the message that he gave to Joe.  His family was still in shock over his quick death. Yet, they listened with rapt attention.

Mark basically told them three things:

1.  The comfort that we have as Christians that we know with 100% certainty that we will be with God in heaven because of what Christ has done, not based on what we have done.

2.  Joe loved you and he knew that he was loved by you.

3. Joe was concerned that he wanted you to have the gospel message.

There is no doubt a miracle happened.  It was not about how good of a “sales” job Mark carried out to convince people to follow Jesus, but relying on the power of God’s Word.  Mark felt like a simple messenger who received a gift in being able to watch the miracle of a person coming to faith unveil before him.

What an amazing experience to be used by God to share an all-important message of saving faith in Jesus Christ.

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