Editors commentary: Death-bed conversion

As a pastor, sometimes there are meetings with people which you dread. Not long ago I was contemplating such a meeting. Years previously a couple had left the church as their marriage was on the brink of breaking up.
We had never really known where Jason stood spiritually. His wife Naomi was a good solid Christian, who had stuck with Jason through sporadic infidelities but had understandably come to the end of her tether with a new affair. There were some pretty tense, not to say bruising, counselling sessions. We elders, who don’t always manage to get everything right, had done our best to remonstrate with Jason but to no avail. We saw no option but for church discipline for him and, in the aftermath, the family had left us.

Phone call
But that was not the end of the story. Just as we were about to go away for some holiday, Jason phoned. Could he come and talk to us? ‘Oh no’, we thought. We had not had contact with him for years. Were we going to be reproached for some kind of pastoral failure from the past? What was this all about? We arranged for him to come and see us after our time away. In the interim the whole thing played on our minds.
Eventually the night of the meeting came. We had prayed much, but my stomach churned as the door-bell rang.
There was Jason. But there was no frown. He seemed relaxed and calm. He came in and sat down and over a pot of tea his story came tumbling out to the glory of God.
His marriage had broken up and his wife had moved to another town. In a backslidden state Jason had drifted right away from the Lord and from church. There had been a divorce. But he and Naomi had stayed in touch. After all the years, and the ups and downs of their marriage, somehow they were still friends and would seek to help and look out for each other when they could.

The peace of God
Then Naomi’s mother, a wonderful old Christian lady, was ill and it became clear that it would not be too long before she died. Jason felt it would be right to visit his ex-mother-in-law. This visit turned out to be quietly momentous. He entered the room where she was. She smiled and her obvious peace in the face of death through her trust in the Lord Jesus Christ was simply overwhelming. Jason did not tell us what was said, but the palpable sense of this Christian lady’s joy in God as she lay on her deathbed impacted him deeply. He could not get it out of his mind. ‘As I left I knew that this was real’, he said, ‘and all these years I had simply been running away from God.’
So it was that later he was led to get down on his knees and with all his heart repent and turn back to Christ. And he had certainly changed. It was not the old Jason we had before us in our sitting room, but a new man. The peace of Christ which he had encountered at his mother-in-law’s deathbed was now clearly in him too. He was now committed to fellowship at another church and he just felt it was right to come and see us and apologise for all the difficulty he had caused us in the past.
Sometimes the Lord surprises us in glorious ways. What I had imagined would be a most difficult evening turned out to be one of the most joyous and spiritually uplifting times we could imagine.

John Benton

This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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