Our church’s preacher’s message was about why God allows anyone to walk away from him. He used Timothy II, fourth chapter to develop his message. I found it interesting he answered this question biblically, yet never mentioned the doctrinal Tulip that often creates heated exchanges and disrupts any opportunity to focus upon the most important reason for the answer for this profound question.
In the fall of 1958, I entered college as a freshman at Phillips University on a basketball scholarship. It was my first time away from my loving parents and four other siblings. Though the university had a reputation for its Divinity School, and its stated mission was to graduate students with a Liberal Arts degree and with biblical knowledge that would change the world for God. I soon discovered I was a ‘babe’ in the woods.
While most of the students seemed to have a real commitment to Christ, a few, I was one, were different and they stood out like a sore thumb after a couple of whacks with a hammer. While my buddies and I sought the solace of the local pool hall, this boy/man/child, from Missouri, Bob Dunn, was different. He walked his talk about the Bible and Jesus. It seemed all he did was study (he was an honor scholar), write, and read his Bible. He often ended up a part of our conversation, derogatory in nature, for we wondered what made him tick.
At different times, he invited us, me to stay and talk about the Bible. My freshman year I didn’t accept his invitations. During the summer, he stayed on campus, and I also spent time on campus. We would practice basketball drills, shoot around, and talk about our futures. I didn’t have a clue; Bob was going to be a doctor.
In reflection, I was one of a million Christian cowards, as nearly all young people, who have been reared in a Christian home are when it comes to demonstrating they are sold out on Christ. Secretly, I admired him. I wished I had his love for the Bible and his incredible faith. Everything about his life shouted:” I’m God’s man! Other than my church attendance at the students required twice a week chapel, and when home, my attendance with my family at our home church, little could distinguish me as “God’s man.”
Bob was bold with his witness amongst our team, and he often used scripture to make a point. He wasn’t the official Captain or one of the acknowledged ‘leaders’ of our team, but he was the most respected. As an old man, I know now it was because he had what we all needed and wanted, a righteous relationship with Jesus. The things of the world did not motivate him; but the mark off excellence to achieve great things for God’s glory did.
As the aged Apostle Paul lived out his last few days on earth, living in a prison listening for the Roman Executioner’s footsteps, he urged Timothy to hurry to his rescue. He needed certain things to ease his life and his mind. He wanted his coat for the cold nights in the cell, he wanted to see John Mark again, and he wanted his scrolls and parchment papers (we would refer to them as our Bible). In his remarks to Timothy, he noted that his once faithful worker in the ministry, Demas, left him. He said he did so because he ‘loved the world’.
Why does God allow Pilgrims to walk away? A popular movie had a very ‘catchy’ line in it…”Love never has to say I’m sorry.” This is the maladjusted world’s muddled emotional solution to this sin-sick world’s problem of handling a messy life. Pilgrims can ‘one-up’ them using biblical truth. “Ture love demands freedom.”
The analogy I have taught Pilgrims concerning why God allows you to walk away, is about you understanding how God’s plan of salvation works in his economy. If your neighborhood had a ‘bully’ who terrorized the kids, and you were faithful to him and followed his instructions, and you even allowed others to know you recognized him as your leader, if something happened and he was removed from the neighborhood, would your allegiance remain? No! Why? You agreed to support him so you didn’t suffer physical and emotional harm. When the threat was removed, so was your loyalty. The world outside your neighborhood may have thought you were a true friend of the bully, but you knew it was a lie.
God loves Pilgrims so much he is willing to allow them to change their minds and walk away from a once devout faith in his love. He knows if he has to be a ‘bully’ to keep you in his neighborhood gang, your expressed love for him is worthless. His great love is manifest only when you choose not to walk away. His love is then adorned in spiritual freedom.
Paul’s call to send John Mark to him is a significant call. It was young John Mark that chose to join Paul and Barnabas’ ministry, and midway the mission, he left and returned home. Barnabas wanted to give him a ‘second’ chance as they began another missionary journey. Paul wouldn’t hear of it; Barnabas and Paul ended their work together over the acceptance or rejection of John Mark. Reading between the lines, evidently, John Mark returned to the ministry and found favor with Paul. He walked away; he chose to return.
Little is known about Demas. It is significant that Paul names him in his last letter to Timothy, because he chose to leave his post. He left it for a specific reason: he loved the world.
A few years ago, our college basketball team held a 50th.Anniversary celebration. About half of our team came, with our wives, to celebrate. It was a grand time. When I met Bob, we hugged and it was like time hadn’t touched our relationship. I introduced my wife to him, and he introduced his wife, a dazzling looking much younger woman, to us. We agreed to dine together for the evening’s planned events.
The evening’s festivities was structured around talking about each player’s life so all could get ‘caught up’ on our lives. We knew this would be the last time would be together. We laughed and shed a few tears, as our lives unfolded before us.
My speech was about this accidental basketball player. I never played basketball until my junior year in high school. God intervened in my life because I grew six inches during the summer of my sophomore year. In April, I was a non-descript boy, with red hair; In September, I was the tallest boy in school. With the mentoring of my best buddy, who was named on Mac Donald’s first All American High School Basketball team the year after I graduated, and the privilege to play for the most noted Basketball Coach in Oklahoma’s history, and an incredible work ethic, in eighteen months I moved from the last man on the Junior Varsity team to honorable mention All-State in basketball my senior year. The team laughed at my story, our coach agreed, and then I shifted gears.
Many were surprised to know I was a minster. I began to talk about the people that influenced my life from the team. I gave most of the kudos to Bob Dunn. I talked about his incredible mature faith in Jesus, and how I secretly wished I had it. I talked about our private conversations about how he was going to become a doctor and serve God’s kingdom. Bob seemed very embarrassed and I detected he was acting nervous. He glanced at his wife several times during my speech.
Afterwards, his wife came up and thanked me for the kind words about Bob. “He’s changed,” she said. Her remarked piqued my curiosity. “What do you mean, ‘He’s changed,’ I asked. “Bob doesn’t believe in God,” she replied. I looked into her eyes for a few seconds. “Bob’s an atheist?” In a whisper, “Yes,” she said. I laughed. “You’re joshing me, right? Bob Dunn could never be an unbeliever,” I stated. Tears welled up in her eyes, “I wished you were right. Perhaps, he will listen to you, Ranny,” she said, as her voice cracked with emotion.
Stunned beyond belief, I sought out Bob. In a few minutes, we were in a too heated exchange about his walking away from his faith. I asked him why? He said “Science taught him there is no God.” I didn’t reply for a few seconds. “Who taught Science there is no God?” I asked. He became defensive, our debate ended up with expressions of hurt and frustrations. I suppose I didn’t handle Bob any better than Paul handled John Mark on that first Missionary Journey.
The preacher’s message caused me emotional trauma as I couldn’t keep from the bitter/sweet reminisce of two college boys making different choices about God’s love. For many years, I thought my foundation was made of sand. Until I was sixty-five, I thought Bob’s was made of rock. As I will continue to miss Bob in heaven, one day, I must reconcile myself to the truth, one chose to come nearer and find love that will last for an eternity; one chose to ‘walk away’ and will find torment for an eternity.
Bob’s wife told me he was a highly respected surgeon, but in the last few years he had suffered major heart problems, and he wasn’t practicing medicine. Bob had been a noted and highly respected doctor, until his heart failed. He had been named as one of America’s finest by the medical profession. He lived well and enjoyed the baubles wealth provides. None of those things are wrong, but Bob allowed the world’s trappings to put a wedge between him and his faith. He became a book of James descriptive man, a double minded man blown by the winds of self-professed enlightened people who are little more that vapid windbags clucking about things none have true wisdom of.
Pilgrims, are you still in love with God? Does his only son, Jesus’ sacrifice thrill you? When you listen to Gospel music that announces his glory and praises his power and authority, does it give you goose-bumps? Are you thinking about choosing to walk away? Perhaps, you are ‘drifting’, and you are choosing to be tantalized by the seductive lure of sins plethora of pleasures that will take you from safe harbor as you drift, into the shark infested waters where Satan is waiting to sink your life-raft and devour you whole.
When it first happened, I’m sure Demas was unaware he was drifting. After Bob left college and entered Medical School, I’m sure he wasn’t aware he was drifting…until Satan confused his mind, changed the purpose of his goals, and probably challenged his ‘spiritual manhood’. He accepted the challenge and lost the war.
Pilgrims, don’t forget that the Devil is a crafty fellow. His game is rigged. When you think you are strong, he wins; when you think you are weak, he wins. Clothed in the grace of Christ is the only place he doesn’t win. Demas walked away, will you?
As I totter on into old age, my heart still holds out hope for Bob to become another John Mark. The most wonderful thing about our God is that his love is so unbounding and filled with a never ending reservoir of forgiveness, even though a Pilgrim may have ‘walked away’, you can always return. I pray that my friend Bob Dunn chooses to be another John Mark.
Pilgrims… are you praying for my books to find success? Pilgrims…are you using your social media to help me ‘send out the word’ about my new books? You can download it on Kindle. When I asked God to have a million readers for my books, do you think I‘ve asked the impossible? Next week, the biggest shopping day of the year will happen on the internet, will you add my books to your ‘gift list’?