A few years ago a pastor brought a troubled man to me for counselling. When I asked him about his problem, he replied, ‘I want to serve the Lord but I am having a terrible time.’
‘What seems to be hindering you?’ I asked.
‘Everything and everybody, it seems,’ he said.
‘Let’s get down to particulars,’ I insisted.
‘I have a smoking problem. I know I shouldn’t be smoking. It is harmful to me and a blight on my testimony, but I am having a hard time giving it up. Then there is my wife. She thinks I am a fanatic and she says if I insist on living a Christian life, she is going to leave me. She wants to have some fun, and I don’t want to go back into that kind of life; but I don’t want to lose my wife.
Then there’s my business partner. He is not a Christian and we are having a conflict over some unethical business deals he wants to pull. He says I am holding back the business with my stupid morals and if I don’t shape up he is going to force me out.
Then, last week I was down in Tucson in a restaurant feeling sorry for myself and this young divorcee approached me. She liked me and made some obvious suggestions and approaches. I almost fell into what she was proposing. But, I don’t want to live like that. I’m just in a terrible mess.’
‘You surely are,’ I said, ‘but maybe I can help you get some things settled. It seems to me you have about four options here. You can only take one of them so you may as well eliminate the other three. Let’s find out which ones you can take and which ones you cannot and then see what we have left. Here is your first option. You can walk out that door the same way you came in with nothing changed and nothing settled. Can you do that?’
‘I don’t want to.’
‘But can you?’
‘If I had not wanted help I would not have come here.’
‘But can you leave without it? Are you willing to walk out of here the same way you came in? Can you do that? Can you go on living the way you are now? Think about it. Because if you can, you will. There is no use of me wrangling around here with you for two or three hours only to have you refuse to do what you must and leave the same way you came in. If you can do that, then go ahead and do it now. Let’s not waste anymore time.’
He looked at me, saw I meant it, thought about it a bit and then said, ‘No, I can’t do that. I have got to have some help. I cannot live any longer the way I am. Something has to be settled.’
‘Then we can eliminate that option. It no longer exists. Something has to be settled before you leave here tonight. Now we have only three left. Here is your second option: Forget about being a Christian and serving the Lord. Put the thought of it out of your mind and go ahead and do what you like. If you want to smoke, stop feeling guilty about it and puff away. If your wife wants you to go out and get drunk and raise hell with her, go ahead. If your partner wants to pull some fast deals that can make you rich and won’t get you in jail, go to it. Take advantage of anybody you can, make as much money as you can, do what you like and live it up. If you see that divorcee again, take her up on the proposition. Whatever you feel like doing, help yourself.’
He stared at me incredulously. ‘Can you do that?’ I asked.
He shook his head, ‘No, I can’t do that. I can’t live that way.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Think about it now, and settle it. If you can do that then you ought to go ahead because you will sooner or later. But if you can’t, then settle it in your mind that you can’t and forget about it. It’s no use you ever thinking about it anymore. It is an utter impossibility.’
‘I can’t do that.’
‘All right, that eliminates two options and two more are left. Here is your third one: Go home. If you do not have one at home, stop off at a pawn shop and pick yourself up a pistol. Get out in the yard so that you won’t make a mess in the house for someone to clean up, take good aim so that you don’t miss and put a bullet in your brain.’
He jerked his head back and stared at me. ‘I can’t do that. I’d go to hell.’
‘Probably so,’ I said, ‘but at least you wouldn’t have to live in this mess till you get there.’
‘No, I can’t do that.’
‘Then it looks like you have only one course left. Follow the Lord. Obey Him. If your wife leaves you, follow the Lord. If you lose your business and all your money, follow the Lord. If it costs you all your pleasures, follow the Lord. You really don’t have any other option. You cannot do anything else. Live, die, swim or sink, you must follow Him.’
He thought awhile, then lifted his head and slowly as the truth began to dawn upon him, a relieved smile spread across his worried face. ‘That’s right isn’t it? It’s really very simple. He is my only hope of life. There is nothing else to do.’
I prayed with him, shook his hand and dismissed the meeting. Nearly two years later I was back in the same city and this man came to the meeting. His wife was with him, clinging to his arm. They had been, it seemed, through the greatest difficulties. His faith had been tried in the fire. The devil had exhausted his resources in his attempt to shake him from the commitment he made that night. But when he had left that counselling session, he was a single-minded man with only one place to go. His eyes were steadfastly fixed upon God as his deliverer. He and his wife both wore the broad sweet smiles of a victory that endures. They had learned indeed that faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Such as these can give unerring testimony that God is indeed worthy of our trust.
No matter what one goes through, if he or she wants God above all things, they must cleave to the Lord regardless of everything.
– Conrad Murrell