Monday, 17th May 2021
Don’t Give Up
Pastor Soong Kok Kee
Luke 23: 39-43 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
We see here two opposite responses to our Lord from the two thieves who were crucified next to Him: One blasphemed, the other believed. We indeed rejoice over the conversion of the one, and Christ’s words to him: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”. What blessed mercy and grace our Lord had for those who truly repent – even at “the eleventh hour”.
One such person was Lester Ezzell who was on death row in Florida. When his former Sunday School teacher Curtis Oakes traveled 750 miles to visit him in prison, Lester said, “You don’t give up, do you?” Though Lester still wouldn’t listen to the gospel, Curtis gave him a New Testament and urged him to read it.
Later, Lester wrote several letters to Curtis. The first one brought news of his conversion. His final letter in early 1957 read: “By the time you receive this, my life will have been taken. I will have paid for the wrong I have done. But I want you to know this – with that little Testament, and by the grace of God, I have led 47 people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I just want to thank you for not giving up on me. See you in heaven!”
When we witness to others about our Lord Jesus Christ, some may not repent until late in their life, maybe like that thief on the cross, very late, at the “eleventh hour” by the grace of God. But our responsibility, nevertheless, is to keep on sharing and witnessing the wonderful saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – we just have to leave the rest to the mighty hands of our Lord. So let’s never give up on anyone.
One time I was asked to speak at the Wake service of an unbeliever. His whole family were all Christians serving faithfully in a church I once pastored – wife, sisters-in-law, all his children, nephews and nieces. He had been coming to our church on Good Fridays, Easters, Christmases and many evangelistic services through the years but had never made a public profession of his faith. That morning, he had a fatal motor bike accident and passed away. At his Wake service, I said although to the best of our knowledge, he had never made a public profession, but having been to church all these years and having heard the gospel so many times, who knows by the grace of God, maybe at his last breath, like that thief on the cross he may have called upon the Lord – we just have to leave his salvation to the mercy and grace of our Lord.
Martin Luther once said, when he gets to heaven, there will be 3 surprises waiting for him. One is, he will meet people he never expects to be there, second he will not meet people he expects to be there, and the third surprise is that he finds himself in heaven!
So my dear brothers and sisters, one of our greatest joy and desire as a Christian is to see all our family members, relatives, loved ones, friends and the whole world at large to be with us when we get to heaven one day. So, like that Sunday School teacher Curtis, don’t ever give up on anyone – keep on praying and sharing with them at every opportunity the good news of salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t give up!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know our greatest joy and desire is for all our family members – spouse, parents, children, siblings, relatives, colleagues and friends to be with us one day in heaven for ever and ever to enjoy together all that you have prepared for us. You know too Lord we have been praying for them for many years. Soften their hearts Lord and reveal Yourself to them in a mighty way so that they will indeed know that You are the Creator God who sent your one and only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our salvation. In Jesus Precious Name we pray AMEN.
我们在这里看到被钉在十字架上的两个强盗对我们的主有两种截然不同的反应：一种是亵渎上帝，另一种是相信上帝。我们确实为那一个人的悔改以及基督对他说的话而欢喜：“今日你要同我在乐园里了”。我们的主对那些真正悔改的人有何等的怜悯和恩典 – 即使是在 “最后一刻” 也是如此。
莱斯特·埃塞尔(Lester Ezzell)就是这样一个人，当时他在佛罗里达的死囚牢房中。当他以前的主日学校老师柯蒂斯·奥克斯长途跋涉750英里去监狱探望他时，莱斯特说：“你不放弃，对吗？” 尽管莱斯特依然不愿听福音，柯蒂斯仍给了他一本 “新约”，并敦促他阅读。
后来，莱斯特给柯蒂斯写了几封信。第一封信带来了他归信主的消息。他在1957年初的最后一封信中写道： “当您收到这封信时，我的生命已经结束了。我将为我所犯下的错付出代价，但我想让您知道 – 藉着那一小本圣经，在上帝的恩典下，我带领了47人获得了耶稣基督的救赎。我只想感谢您没有放弃我。天堂见！”
当我们向其他人见证我们的主耶稣基督时，有些人可能要到晚年才悔改，也许就像那在十字架上的盗贼，在上帝的恩典下，在 “最后一刻”，很迟才悔改。然而，我们的责任是继续分享和见证我们主耶稣基督的奇妙救赎恩典 – 我们只需要将其余的交给我们主大能的手；所以，让我们永远不放弃任何人。
有一次，我被邀请在一个非基督徒的吊唁仪式上讲道。他全家都是基督徒，在我曾经牧养的教会忠心地服事 – 妻子、嫂子、他所有的孩子、侄子和侄女。这些年来，他在耶稣受难节、复活节、圣诞节和许多布道聚会中都会来我们的教会，但从来没有把他的信仰公之于众。那天早上，他发生了一起致命的摩托车意外，去世了。在他的吊唁仪式上，我说，虽然据我们所知，他从来没有公开承认相信耶稣，但这么多年来他一直去教会，听过了很多遍福音，说不定靠着上帝的恩典，也许是在他生命的最后一刻，他就像那在十字架上的强盗一般呼求上帝 – 我们只能把他的救恩交给我们主的怜悯和恩典。
因此，我亲爱的兄弟姐妹们，身为基督徒，我们最大的喜悦和渴望之一就是当有一天我们到天堂时，看到我们所有的家人、亲友和整个世界，都与我们在一起。因此，就像那主日学老师柯蒂斯一样，永远不要放弃任何人 – 继续祈祷，抓住每一个机会与他们分享我们主耶稣基督救赎的好消息。不要放弃!
祷告 ：亲爱的主，祢知道我们最大的喜悦和渴望是我们所有的家庭成员 – 配偶、父母、孩子、兄弟姐妹、亲戚、同事和朋友，有一天会在天堂与我们永远在一起，永远享受祢为我们准备的一切。主啊，祢也知道，我们已经为他们祈祷了很多年。主啊，求软化他们的心，以祢大能的方式向他们展示祢自己，以便他们确实知道祢是创造主，并差遣了祢独一的儿子耶稣基督为我们的救赎而死在十字架上。我们奉主耶稣宝贵的名祈祷，阿们。