Last Minute Changes

It was Thursday night, two days before I was to leave for three weeks of Bible teaching in Colorado, The phone rang. It was my friend Larry  on the line with a frantic plea to speak at the Labor Day youth conference in North Carolina—starting Friday evening! The other speaker had withdrawn for personal reasons at the last minute. They were desperate since 120 young people were expected. The topic had already been selected and advertized.

I told him I was heading to Colorado. Couldn’t I see if I could come a few days later, he wondered? I said I’d call but didn’t want to inconvenience the folks in Colorado. So I hung up with Larry and rang up Rich, my contact in the Rocky Mountain State.

“Well, to tell you the truth, brother,” Rich drawled, “it would be a bit awkward. We’ve invited quite a few unsaved and it would be hard to call them all and cancel for…” Suddenly the phone connection was cut.

It took a few minutes to reconnect. When Rich came back on, he said, “You know, brother, I’ve had a minute to reconsider. This could be the only opportunity the saints here have to invest in the young people of North Carolina. So go ahead. We’ll adjust things here and see you in a few days.” Grace in action!

Who’s In Charge?

I called Larry back and gave him the news. But then the challenge was getting a flight with only a few hours to spare. This was Labor Day weekend and it was already late Thursday night. I had to get to Buffalo, fly to Greensboro, and then drive to the camp—and be there for supper! I called the airline (North Central in those days). The lady on the line began to check the flights. Nope. Nope. Nope. She eliminated them one by one. Then, checking the last option, she exclaimed, “Oh sir, you’re in luck! There’s one seat left!”

“Not luck, ma’am,” I said. “I happen to know the Air Traffic Controller.”

“You do?”

“Yes, the Lord, I mean. He controls everything.”

She chuckled and added, “Well, He’s working for you tonight!”

Awake, Thou that Sleepest

I spent all night long preparing since, as I told you, the topic had already been selected and advertised. So I was exhausted when the taxi arrived to take me to the airport. Although I always prayed and asked the Lord for opportunities to witness enroute, I planned on sleeping in the cab and then witnessing on the plane. My plans, not God’s. I put my head back to sleep.

The cabbie had other ideas. “Where you headed?” he asked pleasantly.

“North Carolina.” Just the facts, nothing more. Sleep!

“What do you do for a living?” Now at this point I had two options. If I said ‘Teacher,’ I usually was left some wiggle room and could keep the conversation going. If I said ‘Preacher’ that would pretty much bring the discussion to a screeching halt. So I said, “Preacher.”

“A preacher?” he queried. “You look pretty young for that. How old are you?” When I told him (I think I was in my mid-twenties somewhere), he said, “You’re pretty young for that, aren’t you?”

“How old are you?” I was trying to shut down the small talk and figured asking people their age is a pretty good way to do it. I could feel the sleep floating in like a sea fog.

“Fifty,” he replied.

Flippantly I said, “So does life begin at 50?” No idea why I said that.

“It hasn’t begun for me yet,” he responded. “Does your Bible have the answer?”

My tiredness vanished as I began to share with him the way of salvation. As I quoted scriptures to him, he suddenly pulled the car to the shoulder. We had just pulled on to the Queen Elizabeth Highway. He put his head on the steering wheel, and began to pray. “Lord, You knew I needed this. I’m ready for all you want to do for me. Thank You, Jesus, for what you did to save a pathetic case like me.”

I wasn’t ready for that. After all, I still had some more verses to read him! But he was sure ready.

Back on the road, his joy was evident as I shared with him the blessings of being in Christ. As Paul said to Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” That was certainly an “in season” time; the fruit was ripe and ready.

The Scene Changes

We still had two more passengers to pick up at a hotel in Niagara Falls. They were staying at the fancy Old Stone Inn and had intended on flying out that day on their company’s corporate jet. But, like me, their plans had been changed at the last minute. They had been bumped by some higher-ups, and weren’t happy to be flying commercial with the “great unwashed.” They threw their bags in the trunk and then threw themselves in the back seat. I saw the warning: Danger: Do Not Touch.

But the taxi driver, joyful in his new-found faith, didn’t notice. We hadn’t even pulled out of the parking lot when he turned and addressed the two grumps. “You boys religious?”

I could feel the icicles hanging on their reply. No. Not at all. And included in the response, Don’t even think of bringing up such a topic with us, especially now, especially today. But the driver didn’t get it.

“Well, this guy here,” he nodded in my direction where I sat beside him, “he says he’s not religious, but he sure knows the Bible! Tell us some more!” he grinned at me. Definitely an “out of season” situation. Silence gripped my throat like two clammy hands.

Finally, “Gentlemen,” I began, “I assume you aren’t interested in hearing about God this morning.”

No. Not at all. Mumble. Mumble. Grumble. Silence.

“I understand you weren’t planning on being in this taxi today. Is that right?”

One word answer: “Yes.” Translation: Did you have to remind us?

“Well, I wasn’t supposed to be in this car, either. But my plans were changed in the middle of the night. So maybe God put us together for a reason this morning. Maybe you aren’t at all interested in hearing this, but some day you may be desperate to know what I’m going to tell you, so if I were you, I’d listen real carefully.”

As I went over God’s plan of salvation for the second time that morning, I had an enthusiastic cheerleader beside me. Everything I said was followed by him slapping the steering wheel and saying something like, “Isn’t that amazing, guys?!”

Not a word came from the back seat all the way to the airport. Not even when they got out of the car, grabbed their bags and stalked off. I prayed for them. No idea what happened to them. I assume an out-of-season situation is a time when there is little hope of fruit at the time. But whether in season or out of season, we are to “preach the Word” anyway and leave the results with God. Perhaps the cabby and I will meet these two men again—on our flight out of here.