For many decades friends of mine, Chippy and Cynthia, have been carefully helping Cynthia’s mother, Sheila, to place her trust in the Lord Jesus.

They have explained the gospel to her countless times. They have taken her to church with them almost every week to hear their local minister and many guest speakers preach and teach the gospel of God’s grace.

They have patiently pointed out that no-one is accepted by God on the strength of their own performance, be it religious or moral, but only by grace through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross.

They have lovingly urged Sheila to abandon any thought of trusting in her good life, her religious acts or her moral performance and embrace the forgiveness that Jesus’ death has won.

But it had been to no avail. Sheila stubbornly refused to shift from self-reliance to a simple trust in Jesus and his death for her.

I can remember on at least two occasions, separated by several years, when I was a guest preacher at their local church. Sheila was flanked by her daughter and her son-in-law in the second row, with Chippy repeating to Sheila anything that I said that he thought she hadn’t heard or understood.

Their love, honour, prayers and commitment to helping their frail-aged parent to a saving faith in Jesus was gentle - and relentless.

But Sheila, now in her ninety-ninth year, was unmoved in her insistence that she must contribute to her salvation.

Chippy and Cynthia were beside themselves.

Then, about a month ago, Chippy had an idea. There was another member of their church who was also well into her nineties. He rang Philippa who was Sheila’s junior by four years. 

Would she be willing to have lunch with Sheila and be a fresh voice in explaining that it is by faith in Jesus alone and not our life of good deeds that makes us right with God?

Philippa agreed to try and help. 

Chippy picked her up at the appointed time and on the way to Sheila’s, Philippa began to question why the Lord had kept her on this earth so long especially when her beloved husband of 68 years had gone to glory several years earlier. What purpose could God have in keeping her from the joy of heaven at such an age? 

They arrived at Sheila’s residence, where as a 98 year-old she lives with limited independence and assistance by her family and professional carers. Chippy sent Philippa in on her own and said he would be back in two hours. He left to attend to other business and pray for the encounter.

The 94 year-old and the 98 year-old sat down for lunch together.

Chippy returned and entered his mother in law’s home to be greeted with a broad smile and the words;

Chippy, I have something to tell you. There is nothing in my hand I can bring. It’s simply to the cross I cling.

Speechless, Chippy took a few seconds to comprehend her greeting. After a further session of hugs, tears, prayers and words of reassurance, Chippy and Philippa bade farewell, floated out to the car and drove off.

On the way back to Philippa’s place, among the many things Chippy asked Philippa about the conversation she had had over the previous two hours, he also asked;

    Philippa, do you now understand why God hasn’t taken you to heaven yet and what your purpose still is, here on earth, even as a 94 year-old widow?

With a warm smile and a spark in her eyes, Philippa nodded to express her understanding.

Chippy and Cynthia have hardly missed a day since, reading parts of the Bible, encouraging and rejoicing with Sheila in her new-born faith in the finished work of Jesus for her forgiveness and acceptance into God’s family. Nor have they passed an opportunity sharing with anyone: Christian or not; God’s work of grace in their esteemed, frail, almost 99 year old mother.

I can’t help smiling with a deep sense of joy every time I reflect on this wonderful story of two nonagenarians having lunch together for two hours with the 94 year-old youngster clarifying the gospel to her 98 year old elder. 

And I can’t stop praising God, who by his sovereign grace, has rescued her (at 98) and me (when I was 16) from the kingdom of darkness and bringing us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:13).

And I can’t stop this old, old hymn drifting through my mind:

    Tell me the old, old story, 
        of unseen things above;
    of Jesus and his glory, 
        of Jesus and his love.
    Tell me the story simply, 
        as to a little child,
    for I am weak and weary 
        and helpless and defiled.

Everybody sing . . . . 



Feature photo: Duncan

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