by Nancy Grisham
When someone you love is at the edge of eternity and you are unsure if that person knows Jesus, what do you do?
I recently heard a wonderful story of three sisters whose brother was dying. They didn’t know where he stood spiritually. Here is their story.
My brother and I had always been close. During our teens and college years, we had such good times together. However, the years flew by. My brother lived out of state; we sort of lost contact except for a few visits, mother’s birthdays, and then her funeral. I never saw him living a bad life…just not a spiritual life, but he had a good heart. So, fast forward to this past year. I got a call from my sister who told me that he had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. There was no treatment. Time was short.
I told my sister, “I’m worried that he doesn’t know the saving grace of Jesus.”
On a very long hospital visit, she was helping him get his business issues in order. She had the perfect chance to say, “We have worked on all your financial business, we have talked about your children and other matters, but what about your soul?”
He told her that he was saved.
It took courage for her to ask him that question, because he was very ill. She did not want to upset him. However, she knew that his eternity might be settled right there.
However, even after their conversation, I still wanted to be sure he had trusted Christ. So my other sister and I visited him. I took the four spiritual laws with me and we prayed. I felt I needed to talk with him, because I had not seen enough of his life to give me an indication if He knew Jesus.
Even so, after his death, I have to admit that I still wanted a clear assurance that my brother was in heaven. In God’s goodness, his best friend spent an hour with us, talking about their friendship – fishing, hunting, and them talking about Jesus. It was this conversation that finally gave me peace that my brother really had trusted Jesus. That meant he was in Heaven and we would all be together again!”
These sisters did not settle for assuming their brother trusted Jesus. In great love, they talked with him about his soul. Assurance is so much better than assumption.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, how might you move into the conversation? You might start with a general open-ended question such as, “How can I best help you?” This can be a medical or spiritually directed question. See where your question leads.
Listen carefully. If we want to be heard, we need to listen and move very gently, as the Spirit nudges us. When the time seems right, we might say, “I love you so much and I want us to be in heaven together forever….”
In love, share the story of salvation. If they seem to understand and want to respond, invite them to pray and lead them. Depending upon their response, it may be prayer to receive Christ, an assurance of their salvation prayer, or a prayer of thanks for God’s great love, mercy and forgiveness.
God doesn’t ask you or me to save anybody. We can’t. However, as Christians He does ask us to share what we know. He will help us. When His Spirit whispers, “Now, is the time to begin the conversation,” take the step of faith.
Relax and trust God with every step of the conversation, including the outcome.
When someone is dying, it is said that hearing is the last sense to go. You may find yourself in a situation where your loved ones are not able to interact or they may even be unconscious. Talk with them anyway, as though they were fully aware – they may be. Gently whisper God’s message of love and mercy for them. Encourage them to ask Jesus for His forgiveness and to receive it. Let them know that God hears their heart.
Remember the thief on the cross? He simply said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
Jesus’ response? “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
God’s mercy is big – especially at the edge of eternity.
Nancy Grisham (@nancygrisham) is the author of Thriving: Trusting God for Life to the Fullest. She has been on faculty at Wheaton College, served in the Billy Graham Center, and has been the evangelism pastor in a church of 6,500. Nancy speaks on knowing God and making Him known, through the ministry of Livin’ Ignited. She lives in Colorado, where she enjoys a career in real estate.