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Distant Son

The man looked out to sea and thought, at this time in his experience he had many thoughts.

Today as on most days recently he thought of the past and of how life as it unfolded confirmed God’s Word to be true.

Today as he looked seaward he thought of his father as he tried to teach him to swim. ‘Let yourself go and let the water bear you.’ Of course he would not do so. We by nature do not trust anyone, not even our father.  This grieved him, now that his father would never again ask him to trust him, and the mouth that had kissed him to sleep had for many years lay silent beneath the soil.

Our life is as a vapour. The Word itself says that, he thought, but the vapour does not have a soul, but I have a soul! This thought of an undying soul sent a shiver down through his whole being. This turned his thoughts back even further to when the first man of God that he ever knew died.

He told me many good things although I cannot remember anything specific apart from one incident that left an indelible impression on me. He remembered the man earmarking a lamb and washing both his hands and the knife in a puddle. What was the significance of this act? When down through his life he had forgotten things, which were of much greater importance, or were they more important?

He thought of life as an embroidery, as someone else termed it, and concluded that as the good book tells us, God does things in a mysterious way and what He does at certain times might not make much sense to us, but many have testified to the wisdom of the Almighty in doing those things which ultimately highlighted His love for them when they did not discern His presence.

Why did hundreds of men survive an awful war only to perish within a stone's throw of home? Why did this happen? Why did that happen?

All of a sudden he realised that he was questioning Gods motives. This was a fearful thought, after all his rebellion. God had spared him when many others had been removed. He wondered about many things, in the end his head was spinning, his heart was troubled and he sobbed into the biting wind.

This was not the first time he had been racked with sobs. He remembers when he first became aware of the fact that he was going to die and meet God face to face! ‘Will I die tonight dad?’

His father answered in a calculated, reasoned sort of way. ‘Only God knows these things.’ ‘What an answer to give a child! Surely he knew that this was not the way to put a child’s mind at rest?’ 'We received you from God and we are all in His hands.’

Although those words were spoken with more love and wisdom than a child can ever imagine, the wee boy cried himself to sleep.

Then there was that fateful day when the bottom fell out of his life. After news of an accident he heard words that he will never forget. ‘There is no hope of recovery.’

However much those around him denied the fact, the boy knew the truth, and when the one he loved asked him in the most loving yet sparing way to look after his mother and brothers, he had been handed over the mantle of manhood although he was a frightened wee boy and he did not understand.

They did not kiss goodbye although the look his father gave him portrayed a love that could not be taught nor put into words and can only ever be experienced by the object of that love.

He sobbed great sobs that day.

Today was to be the first of many such days when these things that he had heard, and experienced convicted him of his sin and misery. ‘My sitting down, my rising up, behind, before, such knowledge,’ he groaned. Even my thoughts, ‘for in my tongue before I speak, not any word can be; but altogether lo O Lord it is well known to Thee.’ Where could he hide or fly from such a presence?

He could not.

The seagulls circled the bay in what seemed to him a care free fashion. ‘Oh how I wish I was carefree, Oh to be a seagull,’ he said (in all probability audibly).  This deepened his conviction of sin.

Like many others down through the ages he immersed himself more and more in those things that create the great illusion.

Many a Sabbath day while under the preaching of the gospel, He concluded that his life must change. Monday was to usher in reform. In his mind, despite much evidence to the contrary he must contribute to this process. Oh, how many had thought the self same thing?

Monday found him back at the counter of the shop. Lunchtime found him trying to drown his misery at the bar. He could not help himself. Although he was helpless he did not realise how helpless he really was.

He continually went back in his mind to the days of his childhood and concluded that if God had indeed been speaking to him then, the day of salvation had passed him by.

Paradoxically utter fear and total desolation turned to more riotousness to sooth its fever. The ‘prince of this world’ was a murderer from the beginning, and will not concede a soul to the Prince of peace without a fight, despite his head being bruised, he is a cunning and dangerous adversary.

On the night appointed - although the wayward man was unaware of the fact - a great battle was to take place! While under the influence of the ‘water of death’ and inhibitions long gone, he was heard to utter the most fearsome oaths. A young woman who God had foreordained to be present there, challenged him.

‘Do you know where you will open your eyes if you were to die now with such oaths proceeding from your lips?’ To his shame he replied that he did not care. There followed the first of many restless nights, followed by even more restless days.

How futile it is to be a fugitive from the All Seeing Eye!

The monotonous Sabbath of the past now took on a different complexion. Despite having been taught well from his youth, he believed that God would meet him only in church, if indeed he would meet him in mercy at all!

He wanted to go to the local prayer meeting but it had been the long held tradition that anyone appearing at a prayer meeting was more or less publicly announcing that they had been saved. Such was the tradition in the Highlands and Islands.

He pleaded for the strength to attend the prayer meeting. What did it matter what other people thought? He needed to be saved! But why should God listen to him? He could not give himself a reason, however God had promised that whoever would turn to Him in repentance He would in no wise cast out.

On being given the strength to attend the meeting that he thirsted after so much, he drove as far away from his home as was possible.

That moonlit night as he walked down his Island croft, he saw the sheep that had so recently lambed proudly protecting their lambs. He was a great lover of sheep and some would say that the caring of his flock was his great obsession.

Tonight as he sat on the hill he was almost oblivious to them. What he felt that night could never be put into words. If one could imagine being set adrift alone in a vast universe with only utter lost ness as your companion, one would still not comprehend what he experienced.

For the first time in many months he was not aware of a prayer. He acknowledged for probably the only time in his life that he was a Hell deserving sinner, and that he did not deserve to be saved.

Only God knows what happened next.

Looking back he feels that this was the moment when he relinquished the last shred of hope and helplessly collapsed at the feet of the One with whom He had to do.

All he can say is, ‘because Thy mercy toward me in greatness doth excel; and Thou delivered hast my soul out from the lowest hell.’ Again he could in wonder testify,  ‘at morn doth joy arise.’

He has seen Gods goodness in giving him parents who despite not being professing Christians took him to church at an early age, tried to be truthful in answering his questions, and who never looked upon speaking of God as the responsibility of others.

There is an encouragement here for us all to testify of Gods saving power where ever, or to whoever, ‘be instant in season, out of season’ we do not know our own hearts, so how can we know what another is thinking?

Let us hear what God says, ‘the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cans't not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the spirit.’

The whole story is one of the One who had no sin, coming into the world to seek and to save one who was lost. All glory is due to Him and to Him alone ‘not of works lest any man should boast.’ ‘Not unto us Lord, not to us but do thou glory take.’

Let me conclude this account of the restoration of one with whom I have been acquainted for over forty years by asking a question.

‘Are you ready?’

For you know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night. When I asked my acquaintance how I would conclude this account of his journey of discovery he simply said ‘Rachadh mo mhisneach uile air cul mur creidinn maitheas Dhe.’ (Gaelic – translations follows.) ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed the goodness of God in the land of the living’ Psalm 27 verse 13.

Sin does not go away. The devil does not leave the Christian alone for a minute, but the Christian becomes more and more aware that this is a warfare from beginning to end and that there will be days when he or she is more aware of their sinfulness than even before that moment when God came into their lives.

Whatever appointments we cancel in this life we cannot cancel our appointment with God!

We do not know when we MUST meet our Judge. We have all seen loved ones taken away without warning, and loved ones taken ill and rendered unable to speak. Let us all lift our voices to God while we can, and plead for mercy before it is too late.

Sincerity in prayer is essential; prayer is the desire of the heart for something, which we believe, is useful. We must know what our needs are, and we should feel an urgency of having them supplied.

The worst of all diseases

Is light compared with sin

On every part it seizes

But rages most within

It's palsy, plague and fever

And madness all combined

And none but a believer

The least relief can find

The subject of this true story came to know the Saviour of sinners in April 1979. His life has been littered with regrets, backsliding, a Saviour denied on many occasions through lack of faith, friends he has let down when they needed to be upheld, prayers that were never offered when they should have been, people not visited when the Lord desired it and many other examples of first love forgotten, yet despite all those facts the Lord has remained constant in His love to the distant son.

This word of testimony comes with a prayerful desire that many distant sons and daughters come to themselves and return to the Fathers House before it is too late.