|Shad Sluiter - Marion, IA|
Real Life Story of Shad Sluiter
Cold. That’s how it feels to stand outside of a soggy stadium late at night. It’s cold waiting for a ride when your team has just lost the third game of the season. It feels even colder when your ride is late and all your friends have gone home. It feels especially cold when you find out you’ve just missed out on something really great. This Friday evening was in mid-October. That coming weekend would have a major impact on my life…
Pretty soon Dad’s car rolled down the wet street.
“Why does he always drive so slow?” I thought. “Doesn’t he know the game ends at 9 o’clock?”
The back of the car opened and I dumped my trombone case inside. I tossed in the wet marching band uniform, closed the lid and then joined Dad. The warm car felt good.
“We lost again,” I said rather disappointedly. “The other guys were pretty good. But we didn’t lose the halftime show! We marched even though it was muddy.”
Dad listened while I talked about the finer points of how a good football team should play.
“Brenda got saved tonight,” he said – totally changing the subject.
Now I was quiet.
Dad was referring to a church service he had attended earlier that evening. Mom and Dad were saved although my sister and I had not followed their path. Being “saved” was an experience with important meaning to him.
The next time I would see Brenda, I knew she would be very a happy person. I could have predicted the conversation we would have. She would say, “Shad, for the first time in my life I am at peace with God. I am ready to die, whenever that may come.”
Although I wasn’t saved, I wanted to be because my parents' life had credibility. The God they believed in answered their prayers, comforted them in their sorrow and gave meaning to their lives. Most important, they weren’t really afraid of anything, not even death. To be perfectly honest, being saved has some pretty attractive benefits.
I wasn’t saved. So Dad’s news about Brenda made the night feel even colder. Something had happened at church that night that would change Brenda forever. But instead, I had chosen to watch my team lose another game. What had I missed?
Sunday was church day for my family. At the Gospel Hall, people simply talked with God and helped each other live a better life God’s way. When they read the Bible they knew that God was telling them absolute promises that would never fail. It also told them how they could be sure of being in heaven. I wanted to know that too.
After the evening service, I chatted with both of the speakers after everyone else had left the evening service. In spite of some nervous misgivings, I said, “Gary, I’d like to be saved. Can we talk?”
“Sure. Let’s sit here.” We found some chairs in the back of the auditorium and the three of us sat down.
“So, why do you want to be saved?” was the first question.
“I want to be in heaven,” I replied.
“Aren’t you going there now?” Gary asked.
“No. I guess not.”
It was hard to admit, but I didn’t have any assurance that I would be in heaven. I knew a lot about the Bible, but it didn’t do anything for me like it did for other people. I paused and looked at the floor.
“Being saved is all about your relationship to God,” Gary replied. “Every time you choose to do something wrong, you not only hurt people, you also hurt God. He gave us his commands. We sometimes choose to break them – that’s sin. God knows every one of your sins. Unfortunately, sin isn’t going to be in heaven. That means if you want to be in heaven, you need to have those sins taken away. That’s what being saved is all about.”
“I think I already knew that,” I said. I thought it over in my mind for at least a minute. Being saved from my sin would make me ready for heaven.
“But how do you know when you’re saved?” I honestly wanted to know.
“Ask yourself this…” he paused. I knew he was going to say something really important, so I waited for his words. “If God were to gather up all your sins and then give them to Jesus so he could take the penalty for them, what would that mean for you? How about heaven?
“I suppose that if Jesus really did take care of my sins, I would be OK.” It made sense even if it didn’t seem fair.
"Well,” one of the men continued. “Is it true? Did God really take care of your sins? Or do you simply wish that he did?”
The last question was one that I couldn’t answer right away so I went home to think some more. Gary put some bookmarks in specific places in the Bible so I could review what we discussed. I opened to the first bookmark as soon as I was alone in my bedroom. Before I read anything, I said out loud to God. “God. I really don’t know how this works. I understand the story about Jesus, but I don’t know how to be saved. Please help me.”
I read the page. It was telling me what God did to Jesus when he died…
"The LORD has laid on him the sin of us all." (1)
“Look at that,” I said out loud to myself. “It says HAS. That means he already did something. God already has taken care of my sins!” Immediately following came an even better thought. “If that is true, then my sins are already gone!” What had been a mystery to me for several years was now perfectly simple. Jesus had taken my sin penalty. I didn’t have to wish that it were true because it was true. God was telling me it was true. I spoke out loud to myself again, “If God said all that, then I am saved.”
I paged through the other bookmarks. Every place that Gary had marked was telling me how I would know I was saved. One place quoted Jesus himself saying,
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (2)
Wow! It was overwhelming to read that. It was true. He said I had eternal life. Even though I didn’t feel saved, I knew I was saved because of God's Word. I just felt tired, but very happy with these words. I finally stopped reading and fell asleep by 3:00 a.m.
On Monday morning when I came to class late, my best friend Marty, asked “What’d you do this weekend?”
“Oh wow!” I said. “Do you have a minute?”
It’s been about 25 years since that evening. A lot has changed. I finished high school, then college, was married, started a job, had two children and met new friends. The one thing that has not changed however is God’s promise. I know I am saved because of what Jesus did for me. Jesus' death makes me safe, God’s words make me sure.
Currently (2006) I am working as a missionary in Hermisillo, Mexico.
(1) Isaiah 53:6
(2) John 5:24
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