The story is an old one. I have heard it many times. Others who preach have also heard it often. Yet, whenever I am confronted with it, it is still disheartening. I wish I could harden myself to it -- but I simply cannot.
It was related to me again recently and, I have to tell you, it put me in a funk. The story? The man on the phone was a Christian. It seems he had attended services and Bible classes as a youth. His parents had taught him the Truth and made sure he was present whenever the church assembled. As a youth his tender heart was touched by the gospel and he obeyed it. He was eager to serve the Lord and grow closer to him. But, sadly, soon that enthusiasm waned. As he grew older as a teen and then a young adult, the pleasures of this world enticed him and, as Demas, he forsook the Lord because he developed a love for this present world (2 Tim. 4:10).
While in apostasy, he married and started a family. A son came along. A son whom he loved and who was his pride and joy. A son upon whom he rained blessings and gifts. There was nothing he would not give or do for him. Nothing, that is, except what his parents had done for him -- "bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).
The voice on the phone was breaking with emotion. The man paused, collected himself, and then continued with his story.
After his son had finished college and went out on his own, he said his mother, the son's grandmother, became ill and needed special care. She moved in with her son so he could attend to her needs. She, in spite of her infirmities, was determined to remain faithful to the Lord. She asked her son to take her to the services of the local church. He did. Worried about her well-being while there, he decided that instead of just taking her, he would go with her to make sure she would be all right. Surely, he thought, he could endure it for her sake.
He felt uncomfortable sitting there. Yes he had sat in pews many times but that had been long ago. He had not frequented a church building since before he was married. Yet, in a strange way, there was a familiarity and a feeling of belonging. At each service he grew more interested in what was going on, more comfortable with his surroundings but more uncomfortable with himself. He finally realized he needed to come back to the Lord. He, to the surprise and joy of his elderly mother, answered the invitation and, with tears, penitently told the preacher how sorry he was for his years of neglect. Prayer was offered and he was restored to his Lord and Savior.
How wonderful he felt. "How great to get my life back on track," he thought. He sensed a peace that he had not experienced in years.
He now attended services with glee. He avariciously read his Bible daily. He started telling everyone about what he had done, how it had made him feel and how they could have that same joy and peace that he was experiencing. He told his son what had happened and invited him to come to services.
But the son would have nothing to do with it. He had his own life now. He had the responsibilities of job and family and he had neither time for nor interest in such things. His father was heartbroken. He repeatedly tried to get his son interested in his spirituality all to no avail. Finally his son let him know very plainly that he did not want to discuss the matter again.
So that is why his father called me. His son lives in our city and he thought maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do what he could not -- get his son to listen to his need for the gospel and Christ.
I am always happy for opportunities to relate the gospel to people but sometimes I know, even before I talk to them, my efforts will be, if not futile, at least difficult. I had patiently listened to this man relate his story and pour out his heart to me. I took his son's name and address and told him I would contact him and invite him to services. I took the man's phone number so that I could call him back and tell him what had transpired with his son. But, sadly, I already knew what would happen.
The father was already so low I did not want to add to his sadness. Also, it seemed that I was, at least in his mind, his last hope and I did not want to dash what little hope he had. But I knew that the years when his son could have been easily touched by the gospel were past. They were the formative years when he was under his father's control when his father neglected to teach him the ways of the Lord and set a proper example before him. Yes, the gospel still has its power to convert but not in a heart that is hardened to it or in a person who sees no need for it.
The father still loves his son very much. He continually prays that his son will see the need to obey Christ but every day he faces the reality that the chances of that happening grow slimmer. And, in anguish, he realizes he must share the blame because of his neglect. Yes, the Lord has forgiven his sins but he lives daily with the consequences of those sins. And he agonizes over the lost opportunities he had to teach his son as his godly parents had taught him.
Parents, remember that when you sin and when you neglect your service as Christians, you are impacting the lives of your children. Do not let your neglect contribute to your children being lost. Live up to your God-given duty and properly train your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Do not let this sad story be repeated in the story of your life.