Minister Isaac Akinyombo of Nigeria, while preaching in a Canadian congregation, told the story of a lady in his country that got converted and wanted to be part of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. There was a little problem, however: she intended to dance at her mother’s funeral and she was told that the church in Nigeria considered that to be a sin.
Her mother wasn’t dead yet, mind you, or anywhere near to being dead. But in their culture it is terribly important to follow all the right procedures at a funeral so that the spirit of the departed one can find rest and not return to trouble the living. It is not just dancing, but that is a major part and it involves serious non-Christian beliefs about death and the life hereafter.
This young lady could not face opting out of the tradition which her family would expect of her. So she said, “OK, I will wait until my mother dies and I will dance at her funeral, then I will come to the church.” Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it? There would be lots of time, she was young, her mother was old.
Brother Isaac paused momentarily, then sadly added, “The poor lady died before her mother did.” Time was not on her side after all.
I attended a small town school here in Saskatchewan, about an hour and a half from where I now live. I graduated from high school at the age of 17. Four of my fellow students died over the next four years.
One was driving way too fast in a snow storm and rear ended a semi. He had been drinking, but even when we are sober it’s easy to make foolish choice in the reduced visibility of a snow storm. I recall a time when I had been visiting my future wife and was making the return journey to the town where I worked. The semi in front of me was driving way to slow and I pulled out to pass. I got about halfway past when I saw headlights coming toward me through the swirling snow. I hit the brakes, hard, and got back into my lane just in time to let the oncoming semi go by. From there on I contentedly followed the semi in front of me.
Another young man was helping his father dig trenches for water and sewer lines to their house. They were digging deep trenches, entirely by hand, a wall collapsed on him and his life was over.
Another boy wanted to escape the flat Canadian prairies and see the world, so he enlisted in the US Navy. He went through training and specialized in radio communications. The day finally came when he boarded an aircraft carrier and departed on his dream of seeing the world. A day out from land an electrical problem caused a fire in the communications cabin and he died.
Then there was a young lady, only 9 or 10 days younger than me. She was a slim, active, clean-living young lady, a preacher’s daughter. There was no advance warning that anything was wrong, yet she suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 21.
Nevertheless, we still tend to think that we have all the time in the world to consider God’s call and decide what to do about it. Of course there are cases of people getting converted late in life. One of those, a lady who was born again at the age of 90, was asked what was the greatest sin she ever committed. Without hesitation she responded, “Refusing the call of God when I was 17.”
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7