Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 27, 2020
Being in the right place at the right time
Few things in life are more wonderful than being in the right place at the right time. I find it refreshing to recall some of those times in my life and thank God for putting me where I needed to be.
Do I really believe that almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, arranges for his servants to be in a certain place at a certain time? Seems impossible, doesn’t it? After all, there are nearly 8 billion people living on earth today. Well, though it may seem like “a bit of a stretch,” I believe it. I believe it because I have experienced it several times. I will explain.
When our four sons were small, we stopped at a motel in Tarpon Springs, Florida one night during a vacation. The boys had insisted that I find a motel with a swimming pool, so I did, and soon we were all in the pool.
At one point I heard someone say, “What’s wrong with Tim?” I looked around and saw Tim, who was six years old, floating motionless, head down in the water about 15 feet away. The boys said later than I “parted the water” racing to rescue Tim and pull him out of the pool.
Remembering nothing about the procedure for CPR, I turned Tim on his stomach and slapped his back a few times until he began spitting up water. We thought he had drowned but he regained consciousness and began breathing again. God had spared his life. I was in the right place at the right time.
One morning years ago, while driving to the post office, I found myself stopping at the home of a widow in our church. I had not planned to stop. I got out of the car and began walking up the sidewalk toward the woman’s front door. I had no idea why I was going to see her. Before I could reach the door, the woman burst out the door crying, and saying to me, “Thank God you are here! I just received word that my son has been killed in Vietnam!” I shared her grief as best I could and prayed with her. I was stunned as I drove away, realizing that God had put me in the right place at the right time.
Back in the days when Methodists still practiced visitation evangelism, I met and prayed with six men who left the church to go visiting, two by two. As the odd man out, I started to my car to go visiting alone when another man walked up and said, “Pastor, the Lord told me I needed to go visiting with you tonight.”
We got in my car and drove away, not knowing where we might go. I knew my friend had found victory over alcohol addiction so I suggested we go visit Mike, a man with a serious drinking problem. It would be a “cold call,” since we had not called ahead. Before I could ring the doorbell at his home, his wife opened the door and said, “Oh Thank God you’ve come! Mike is in the back, on his knees, praying that someone would come help him!”
My companion witnessed to Mike about how the Lord had helped him stop drinking and find new life in Christ. We prayed with Mike and that night he gave his heart to Jesus and invited Him to help him overcome his addiction. In the months that followed, Mike became a new man in Christ. His decision helped him restore his marriage and regain the respect of his children. I knew that night I was in the right place at the right time.
One night, about midnight, a woman called, waking me up, to tell me that her neighbor was going to kill himself. “I thought you would want to know,” she said, “since he is a member of your church.” I dressed and went to the man’s home, not having ever met him. The door was open but no one responded when I knocked and called out. So, I walked in, speaking loudly, “Is anyone home?”
I found Jim (not his real name) in his bedroom. He was sitting on the side of the bed, a weary, broken man, holding in his lap a 38 revolver. I introduced myself as his pastor. He spoke slowly, like a man without hope. “Preacher, my wife left me for another man. She took both the kids with her. I am an alcoholic. My drinking has destroyed my family. The bank is foreclosing on my home. I’ve lost my job. I have nothing else to live for.”
Nothing in my seminary training had prepared me for such a moment. I decided to keep him talking in the hope that I might think of something to say. He kept talking and after several minutes seemed to have relaxed a bit. Finally, I sat down beside him and promised to come back the next day and help him figure out what to do next. I assured him that God loved him and did not want him to take his own life. Then, ever so gently, I asked him to give me the gun.
He said nothing and did not move. The silence was deafening, until at last, he said, “OK,” and handed me the gun. He agreed to get some much-needed sleep, and I drove home, a fully loaded pistol on the seat beside me. In the months that followed, several men in our church helped him save his home, get his job back, and manage the pain of losing his family. The help and love of those men saved Jim’s life. I knew that night I had been in the right place at the right time.
Leukemia claimed the life of our son David in his third year. For eight long months we watched helplessly as the disease slowly robbed him of life. Finally, during his last night, my wife and I took turns rocking him in a chair beside our bed. About five o’clock, as the morning light was breaking, he died in my arms. I could have been somewhere else, miles away, or sleeping fitfully nearby. But I was there with him, holding him in my arms as he breathed his last breath. Graciously, God had me in the right place at the right time.
Though precarious, and often bewildering, life is precious. And few experiences are more exhilarating than those moments when you know that God has you in the right place at the right time. For such a gift, no one will ever be more grateful than I am. + + +