He found his way back to the revival site early. It was just getting dusk about six when he pulled onto the lot. As he got out of his car Robert motioned to him from inside the tent and made a sign for John to meet him behind the tent out of sight of the others. John didn’t walk into the tent, going instead around the parameter to the rear where Robert was waiting.
“Need to talk to you a minute, Johnny.”
Robert leaned back, and drew open the canvas to show John something, “You see that blonde there in front, over by the choir area?”
John leaned forward and Patty was in the front of the area in her robes talking to some of the ladies in the choir. “Yeah, that’s Patty. I ate with her yesterday when we ate at the fellowship lunch.”
“Robert put the canvas back in place, “Well she ain’t feeling very social right now. Ever since she got here she’s been yakking to whoever will listen to her about you!”
John reopened the flap. Patty was talking very fast to one of the older ladies in the choir. The senior woman’s head was bobbing up and down in total agreement with whatever Patty was putting out. John closed the flap.
“What’ll I do?”
Robert looked John in the eye. “Johnny, I don’t need to ask, but I’m going to, not because I think you are in sin, but because I want a straight answer about your friend at the other church.”
“You don’t have to ask, Bob. I have never, and I will never disgrace my Lord with such an action. Sharon is probably the most holy woman I’ve ever met. She epitomizes what I think the Holy Scriptures tell us a Christian woman should be. Bob, I wouldn’t even make an offhand remark about her.”
Robert put his hand on John’s shoulder, “Then I stand behind you one hundred percent! John, this is only one stop out of many in our career of bringing the Lord to people. I am not going to let one gossipy woman tear down years of good work on both our parts. Also, if you want to go and see a lady at a different church, or pray with her, or have dinner with her, you will not hear anything about it from either Pat or I.” The old preacher smiled, “Pat was just worried about the girl being about to cook.”
They laughed. Robert reached out and put both of his hands on John’s shoulders, “Lord Jesus, defend our brother John in the midst of this battle. Give him the words to say, and the heart to hold to the words. Give him the whole armor of God. Don’t allow the selfishness of simple minded people stand in way of your work. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen!”
John responded, “Amen,” and went out to sit in the front row.
Pat came in from the other side of the tent near the ladies area and met Robert. John saw them confer a few moments, and then Robert went up onto the stage and began straight away his first tune of the evening. As John listened to Robert’s voice he began to boil inside about what was going on. Patty was standing in position on the choir’s bleachers smiling at him. He smiled back, but he wanted to drag her off of there, and take her around back to ask her just what she was up to. He kept trying to be understanding, but each time he’d calm down again the anger would surge back as if it had a life of its own.
He opened his New International to the opening verses of Luke, chapter sixteen. “You know, everyone always thinks that the Christian life is one of an easy ride. Just option for Jesus and all the trains will run on time. But you know what I’ve found out? In my thirty-two years, I’ve seen Christians take more beatings, more abuse, loose more, hurt more than any of their secular neighbors. Jesus told us to forget about ourselves, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’ Did we understand what he meant?”
“He meant that Satan never sleeps. He has an ongoing debate with God that he can’t afford to lose, and he knows that his time is short. Any way he can he will attack, because if he can keep one,” he held up one finger to emphasis the point, and kept it there for a minute, “. . . one soul from coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, well, that’s a victory for him. And what I’m going to talk about tonight is something that’s going to shock you. I’m going to say something that is going to ‘blow you away!’ It is simply this. The opposition, the people of this world, the people who do not know Jesus. . . are smarter and quicker, and better equip than the Christian man or woman.”
He pause for effect. The crowd was quiet for a bit. “Turn in your Bibles to Luke, chapter sixteen, right at the first and read with me. I’m reading from the New International, but it’s stated pretty much the same in all the versions.”
He waited for the crowd to find the passage and then he began, “Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ The manager said to himself, ‘what shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg. . . I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil, ‘ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take you bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat, ‘ he replied. He told him, ‘Take you bill and make it eight hundred.’ The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”1
John closed his Bible. “They’re smarter than us folks. They can outmaneuver us at every turn, ’cause they’re crafty! The unsaved can say anything they want to say and make it sound believable. The children of the light? They just take it on the chin most of the time. Paul tells us to ‘put on the mind of Christ.’
1 Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
What is the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is the trait that will turn the other cheek. The mind of Christ will let them spit right in your face. They can gossip, and you just have to let it go. Don’t give it the dignity of an answer.”
“Paul had the mind of Christ. And, because of this he was kept from his ministry for many years, while people who thought that they knew him ran their mouths and talked about him, and said all manner of things about Paul. But folks, where were they when Paul knelt down before the executioner? He reminds us in Second Timothy, ‘only Luke is with me. . . ‘ All the people, with all the words, and all the good gossip, just left Paul to die alone.”
John could see Robert from the corner of his eye. He knew his friend was wondering how he was going to tie this all in to the “Highway to Hell” theme he’d been following on the first two nights. He continued, “I’ll bet you wonder where all this is heading. You’re asking, ‘Brother John, how does this have anything to do with your Highway to Hell?’ Well folks, the Highway to Hell is a symbolic highway. It is not a physical highway. It is not like this road out behind me here. Why if it was, I’d just go out there, and park cars across it and stop people from going down it. No, the highway to hell is here.” He put his right hand on his heart.
“Jesus tells us that what comes out of a man makes him unclean. What comes out of a man is words. Clever words. Words of worldly people. Why, worldly people can even use the Bible to make a point, and make it all sound like the truth. Christian folk don’t have clever words, or schemes, because they have what?” He paused for an answer, but he knew they would
just listen, “They have the ‘Mind of Christ. No, the Highway to Hell is right here,” he tapped his chest, “and it is paved with,” he turned his Bible to Galatians, “. . . sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like, and all other things that are not fruits of the Holy Spirit. ‘Know them by their fruits,’ the Master told us. ‘Know them by their fruits.”
“Yes. You can pull off of that road outside here. You can turn into the parking lot. You can come into the tent. You can come right down front here, and you can pray until the cows come home, but if you have deceitfulness in your heart, and do not let the Lord Jesus have control of your life then brothers and sisters you are still on the Highway to Hell only now you’re going faster than you were when you acted like you was pulling off.”
“Reform your lives. I don’t care what you think of me, or Robert over there, or the man or woman sitting next to you, or anyone else, the only thing that matters is to let Jesus Christ into your heart tonight, right now! Right here! Praise God! Praise God!”
The choir broke into “Let Us Gather By the River,” and John went down in front of the stage to pray with the people who were finding their way down. The amount of people was exceptional tonight. John prayed with one after another. They all had some bit of “owning up” to do about someone they’d offended, or someone they’d hurt in some way. He prayed with all who came to him, telling each one that Jesus loved them, and that it would all be fine now.
The amount of tears always got to John. He genuinely loved to see people turn to Jesus for consolation. Only now did he notice that he’d completely forgotten about Patty and her stories, what ever they may have been.
He finished the final prayer of the evening, started cleaning up with Robert.
“You got plans for tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I’m going on a picnic with Sharon.”
“Good! You did well tonight. I never seen better. I was beginning to worry about you, but when you ended it all yelling, ‘Praise God, Praise God,’ well, I knew you still had the spirit.”
John smiled, “That’s what it really was Bob. I think that moment was about as close as I’ve ever come to talking in tongues.”
Robert hugged him, and he and Pat went back to the hotel.
The Butcher Shop