I asked him what he needed prayer for. He said, "I just want to make sure I have a home with God when I die." It was one of the most genuine requests I've ever heard. I think "Jimmy" probably has some sort of learning disability, but I'm not sure. It may just be a different speech pattern. We've had very brief conversations in passing at various times, but I've never prayed with him, or had dialogue like this. I just looked into his eyes and smiled for a few seconds. He continued...
"I believe in Jesus. My mom and my wife died a while back. But I still trust in Jesus. I didn't stop believing. God has been good with me. I just want things to be right between me and God." As we stood under a bridge on a windy Fall evening, I thought to myself, this man is closer to Heaven than He knows.
As I think back on that conversation I am reminded of a couple of stories from Scripture...
One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?” “This is the most important,” Jesus answered: Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. 33 And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to question Him any longer. (Mark 12:28-34)
Jesus told the man, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." I would like to think that everyone is close to the Kingdom of God, but some seem to be running away from it as fast as they can, and others have simply drifted away from it. Others are deep into it. But there are some who are moving closer and closer to it. They are not far. They are asking the right questions. They are seeking Jesus. They are intelligently approaching and answering the most important topics and questions. They are not far from the kingdom of God.
There is also this story from the ministry of Paul...
Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:
TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him. But others said, “We’d like to hear from you again about this.” (Acts 17:22-32)
Paul is speaking to pagan people and says that people were created to "seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist... for we are also His offspring." We are to search for God, even though He is not far from us. That may be a word for you today. God is not far from you.
We may feel like we are lost and abandoned, but God is never far from us... even if we are far from Him. As long as we are engaging our mind and spirit toward the things of God, we will be nearing Heaven, even when we feel like we don't know where we are. The enemy would have you think that you are without hope and nowhere near home. But just as the 'prodigal son', in making our way home, we find that the Father is running to meet us with every step we take toward Him.
I prayed with "Jimmy". I asked God to give him the desires of his heart in regard to knowing God more fully and having assurance of eternity. I asked the Lord to honor his faith during the difficult losses in his life. I asked Him to continue building Jimmy's home in Heaven, and also to build his life here and now so that he will grow into the spiritual man God intended from the beginning. The more I prayed, the more Jimmy hugged me. After we were done, he looked at me and smiled. It didn't seem he wanted to leave. I know I didn't.
God put "Jimmy" in my life last night to remind me that regardless of how we feel, when we are pursuing God, we are not far from the kingdom, and God is not far from us. I want you to know the same thing today.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.