So, a week went by and everyday Michael would ask me. Two weeks went by and everyday Michael would ask me. Three weeks went by and finally I said, “Ok God, here’s the deal. It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m on my way home from church. If General Butch Neal is standing in his yard when I come down my drive, well, I’ll know you want me to go talk to him. If he’s not outside, I’ll know that I don’t need to talk to General Butch Neal and all is well in Mudville. I drove all the way past General Neal’s house, got all the way past his house and was just praising God there was no General Neal. Until I pulled in my driveway and that sap-sucker stood up from behind a bush. I said, “Why did you have to look back? You were home. You’d made it.”
So I went in, changed my clothes and sauntered up the street to talk to General Butch Neal, second in Command in Desert Storm, had commanded literally thousands of troops. I stood in his driveway. He saw me coming. He was backing out and I said, “I’ll catch you later Butch.” He said, “No, no, no, you said earlier, a few weeks ago, you wanted to talk about something. What’s going on?” And I said, “Well, General Neal, let me tell you, there is a little boy that loves you with all his heart.” I said, “General, this kid loves you so very much that a couple weeks ago he was here and he asked you a question. He said something like, General if you were to die, would you go to heaven?”
I said, “You see, general, Michael’s only 8-years old—by the way, this was August and September Michael would be gone—but he knows that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is thee most important thing in life. It’s more important than money. It’s more important than career. It’s more important than race, than color, than sex, than the place you live, than the status that you gain in life, than the children you bear, the children you father. It’s more important than anything you’ll do, General, is to know that when you die, which at last check everybody had done, you’re going to spend eternity with God. You see, General, the bible says it’s appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgement. The question is General, where are you going to spend eternity, heaven or hell? General, I can’t explain to you why God one day came to his son Jesus and said, ‘Jesus, here’s the plan. Somebody’s got pay for their sins and you’re the only one. You’re the perfect lamb. You are the one that can take away the sins of the world. If you would be willing to go down there and live a life—that someday they’ll beat you and torture you and nail you to a cross and you will shed your blood—if you, my son Jesus, would be willing to do that, all of those kids at Clemson could one day spend eternity with us. It’s the only way.’”
How in the world could God give up his son? I can remember standing on Michael’s grave all by myself and saying, “God, nobody knows how I feel. God, nobody knows how I feel.” And in that still small voice, God said to me, “I do. I remember the day I stood at my son’s grave and because I stood at my son’s grave, you one day will see your son again.” I want you so desperately to meet my son Michael that I can’t begin to tell you but more important than you folks meeting my son Michael is meeting Jesus Christ. If you’ve never met Jesus, you’ll never meet Michael. The bible says in Hebrews 12:1 that we are encompassed by such a great cloud of witnesses. I believe even now that Michael is standing at the windows of heaven looking down, looking upon this crowd, cheering for his dad.
I went through the plan of salvation with Butch Neal and Butch looked at me and he said, “You know son, I want you to know something. In Vietnam, in a foxhole one day I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.” I said, “Well let me ask you a question General, why’d you make me go through all this?” He said, “Because I’m a General and I wanted to see if you could do it. I wanted to see if you were man enough to tell me that Jesus Christ loved me. I wanted to see if you were man enough to be man enough as an 8-year old kid was. I wanted to see if you had in you what your kid had in him.” And he said, “And, I’m glad to see you do.”
Just before I go, I want to tell you one more quick story. My wife and I, I had built us another new home and I was trying to do things that would keep my wife from losing her mind. The recession didn’t stop. The banks didn’t, you know, give up on me and they continued to beat on me but I continued to work my way through it. But I would come home night after night and I would see that my poor wife was losing her mind. You see, I had plenty of distractions to try to keep a business alive but she didn’t. And I’d come home night after night, I could see she’d been crying again all day and I said to her, “Honey, is there anything I can do to help you? Is there anything I can do?” She’d say, “Big daddy, the hole in my heart is so big that I want to crawl inside it and die.” And she was dying literally of a broken heart. I said, “God, you’ve got to do something.”
We started talking about maybe adopting a child. My wife couldn’t have anymore children. So we went to foster care and we did this and we did that and nothing seemed to help. Some friends of ours in the White House had known of our situation and had contacted a doctor in Boston. He had agreed to come to Washington, D.C. and would examine my wife if she wanted to be examined to see if there was anything he could do to help her. This guy comes in and he says—he was about this tall and about this wide and he was about 80-years old and he talked like this—he said, “How you folks doing? Oh, gosh, what’s wrong with you? Are you trying to have a baby? You can’t have no more babies? They call me. I’m retired. I don’t know what I can do for you. [snores] Let me examine her.” I thought, “God.” I said, “Ok, go ahead.” So he comes out. They go have the exam and do whatever those people do and they come out and he said, “You know what? Ha! Ha!” I said, “What?” He said, “I think I can put her back together again.” I said, “You do?” He said, “Yeah.”
So we arranged for my wife to check into Women’s hospital and have this operation, about a 12 hour operation. About half way through the operation, this guy comes out of the operating room all decked out and he’s going, “Hey, come here, come here, come here.” I said, “What?” He said, “Look at this.” 8 x 10 color glossies of my wife’s insides. I said, “Who cares doc? Aren’t you supposed to be in there?” “Ah,” he says, “She doesn’t even know I’m gone.” I said, “Well, I do, get in there!” So about 4 or 5 hours later he comes out again. He goes [claps], “All done.” I said, “Well, [claps] what does that mean?” He said, “I’ll tell you what that means. On either side of your wife’s fallopian tubes, there was a space about this big on either side where there was nothing. And I just went in there and I wove back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…” I’m looking at this guy and going, what is he talking about? And he said, “And where there was nothing, now there is something. And your wife has a 5% chance of getting pregnant. I’ve done my job now, boy, you go home and do yours.” I knew what that was! I said, “Come on baby, it’s time to go to work.”
And so we worked and we worked and we worked. I’d get a phone call, “It’s time to work.” I’ve got to go; my wife’s calling me right now. I’d be in the middle of a meeting. She’d say, “The iron is hot.” And big daddy would go home and strike the iron. And listen, my wife got pregnant. And three months later she lost it and I thought, literally, she would die. I mean, I thought when we rushed her to the hospital that she would never come home again. I walked outside the hospital room that night; I looked up in the sky. I remember Enoch wrestled with God. I said, “God, I’ll make you a deal. If you’re man enough to come down here right now, I’m man enough to fight you. ‘Cause I’m ready to pop you right in the face. I’ve had all I can take. She’s had all she can take and that’s enough. God, I no I can’t whip you but I’d really like to take a swing.”
Three months later, my wife got pregnant again. And, you know, we’re really nervous, really nervous, really nervous. But 6 months after that God gave us Kristen and this little child, who is 3-years old, saved our lives and our marriage and our home.
Folks, I don’t know tonight if you’ve ever accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. I don’t know where you are. I don’t know if maybe tonight some have you have kind of fallen off the wayside, but as I begin to close tonight I want to just draw one little analogy. You know, in Jude 22 the bible says, “And of some, having compassion and making a difference.” I want to be very honest with you. This past weekend no human being alive was praying harder for the Clemson basketball team than I was. The last thing I wanted Clemson to do was to play tonight. I didn’t want to have to go up against your basketball team and I didn’t want you to have to make that decision as to where to be because, quite frankly, it would have been a tough decision. That’s when I started off, I said in Job, multitude multitude, many, many, many in the valley of decision.
You know, tomorrow night when those guys take the floor, that floor is 94 feet long and 54 feet wide, 4700 square feet. A lot of interesting observations you can make about a basketball court. Look at the sidelines tomorrow night when you watch the game. There are a lot of things going on in the sidelines. People taking pictures, people keeping score, people running up and down, trainers taping people, coaches making decisions, players patting their feet, fans in the stands, fans on the sidelines. All kinds of things going on on the sidelines. Not one thing that goes on in the sidelines makes a difference in that game. The only thing that makes a difference in the game are those that are in it.
And gang, I want to tell you something, I don’t know where you are in this game of life but if you’re on the sidelines, you’re not making any difference. There’s 4700 square feet out there and there’s only going to be 10 players. That’s a lot of room. The first thing they’ll notice when they walk out on that court is they’re not alone. And the first that will happen to you the first time you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, or when you decide, “Hey, you know God, I’ve been a Christian. I am a Christian but right now, God, I’m not really living the way I should and I really kind of want to dedicate myself. And God, you know, maybe I’ll have to do this again in a few more months but, man, God I really need your power and I really want your power. I really want to make a difference and I really want to count. I really want to do something God and I really want to get off the bench God and I really want to get in the game God and, by the way, God if you’ll give me the ball, I’ll even take a shot.”
Nobody scores without the ball. You can look right, you can be right, you can have the prettiest uniform, you can have the nicest hair, you can have the best lines, the best sound-bites for the media but none of that makes a difference until you get on the court. You know, I’ve been on the court for quite a while. One thing I have learned on the court is I make mistakes. I’ve had the whistle blown on me a number of times. I’ve even had a few technical fouls but, gang, when you join Jesus’ team, you don’t get thrown out and you’re not off the team.
I want to close in a word of prayer and I want to challenge you tonight to figure out whose team you are on. Could you actually get on the field? Could you get on the court if someone called you and said, “Hey, I want you to go and tell so and so about Jesus.” “Well, I couldn’t tell so and so about Jesus. I don’t even know about Jesus.” Could we give you the ball? Could we look at you and say, listen man, this time is running out. There’s only a few seconds left. We don’t know for sure. We can’t see the clock but we know for sure it’s running out and we need you to take the last shot. Could you take the last shot? Could Jesus Christ look at you and say, “Hey man, I need you to take the shot.”
Tonight he said to Chadwick, “Hey man, I need you to go down to Clemson and rip that scar in your heart off one more time. I need you to take the shot tonight.” I said, “O, God, I don’t want to do that.” He said, “Listen man, I need you to take the shot.” And gang, I’m telling you Jesus is saying the same thing to you. The same thing he says to me he’s saying to you. I want you to take the shot. Bow your head with me.
Heavenly Father, as I come to you and just close in prayer here. God, as usual, I don’t feel like I’ve done the job that you want done. God, it’s so hard for me to talk about some of these things. God you know how much I miss Michael. God, you know everyday of my life I hear “Daddy, can I please go with you?” God, you know everyday of my life I hear “Daddy, I love you.” And God, the only thing that could keep me possibly going is the blessed hope of knowing that I have Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and that one day, absolutely for sure, I will see my son again. God, I want these folks to see your son. God, I can’t believe in a crowd this size that somebody in here has never trusted you as their personal Lord and Savior. God I would pray right now.
Young people, listen to me as I close in this prayer. If you would like for me to include you in this final prayer, to ask Jesus in to your heart, right there in the chapel of your heart. Nobody will come to you, nobody will bother you. This is between you and God. If you would like for me to include you in this prayer to ask Jesus in to your heart, if you would slip your hand up right now I will include you in my heart. I see that hand. I see that hand. I see that hand. I see that hand. Yes, I see your hands. You can take them down. Yes, I see that hand. If you would just pray—yes, I see that hand—this prayer:
Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I am asking you to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins. And God, as best I know how, I am giving you my heart and I am receiving your free gift of eternal life. Thank you Jesus for dying for me.
And you know there’s another group of folks out here that maybe could say, “You know, big daddy, I am on the team but I want to do more for Jesus. There’s somebody in my family, there’s somebody in my dorm, there’s somebody in my neighborhood, there’s somebody in my hall, there’s some very specific person that God has laid on my heart that I want to share the gospel with. And I wish you would pray with me right now that I would have the opportunity and have the guts to share my faith with them.” Is there somebody here who wants that? Just raise your hand. Hands all over this room. Thank you, you can take them down.
God, I pray for these kids’ hearts, God, for their willingness, God, for your Holy Spirit’s power in their lives. God, I pray for my neighbor Don, who I know that you have laid on my heart for me to have the boldness and the gumption and the guts to sit down with him and, God, to share with him the blessed news of eternal life. God, I thank you for this place tonight. I thank you for these kids’ attentiveness. God, I thank you for giving me my wife and children. God, I thank you for a son for 8 years. It means more to me than life itself to know that I’ll see him again. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
All kids are a gift from God, but this little girl came special delivery. I appreciate you letting me be with you tonight. God bless you.
I hope you enjoyed listening to my life story. I would like to take a few more minutes to share with you as to how you can continue on your spiritual journey. First of all, begin by reading God’s word daily and start with the gospel of John. Number two, attend a bible-teaching church on a regular basis. And pray and be open and honest with God. And then, take the initiative to tell others about your decision to follow Jesus Christ, how you decided to get into the game.
But maybe you have been listening and you’re not quite ready to get in to the game. Maybe you haven’t made that commitment. I challenge you to read the New Testament portion of the bible and I encourage you to talk to someone about the questions that you have regarding Jesus Christ. Thank you for your time and God bless you on your spiritual journey.