Contend Earnestly: The Phone Call

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Phone Call

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me.
Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have bransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.
Psalm 31:1-5

Most of us know these verses and we call upon the Lord in our times of trouble. Some of these troubles are bigger than others, but nevertheless we know our God cares and comforts, therefore hears His people’s cry. The interesting thing is how God rescues and how God leads and guides. Most of the time He uses His own people to rescue His own and we see this in Moses, Joshua, Gideon and many other biblical figures. The children cry out, “Rescue us!” and Lord answers, through people to rescue and guide. Personally, I never thought I would be used to be someone’s Moses: until that call came.

This story is not one of myself bragging or a presentation of my greatness, it is actually just the opposite, it shows my foolishness and pride.

I had received two collect phone calls from a prison down in California asking for the wrong name, so I would just tell the operator that the prisoner had the wrong number. I did this TWICE, and then the third came. I finally thought, “Maybe these calls are coming from the Lord.” I took the third phone call from the prisoner and he said, “hello, my name is John, is (so and so there)?” I told him that he had the wrong number and we exchanged pleasantries.

Have you ever had the urging or the Spirit of the Lord speak for you? Not some mystical experience, but the experience where you felt that you were saying and doing things that were completely abnormal for you? We learn that the Spirit will guide us into understanding, but this was no normal guiding or prompting. So this is the story of the call, that happened that summer day, two years ago.

I simply told the man, “I did not take your call to tell you that you had the wrong number. I took the call to speak to you about your soul.” I walked through Christ loving this dear man and what Christ did for his sins and John, the prisoner, told me, “I am saved, but I have been doubting my salvation and even my life while I have been jail.” According to John he had been taken to jail for an offense that he did not commit. The police took him in handcuffs while he came out of church with no warning of any kind. He went on to explain that while he has been in jail there has been no contact from that church in any way, even though he tried to contact them, they wanted no part of him and his sinful ways. John then continued to tell me that since he had been in jail, his father and mother completely abandoned him and his sister robbed him and sold all of his belongings. He admitted, “I am ready to die.” He told me that one of his cellmates had just committed suicide, and he felt that it might be the best alternative.

I asked John, “Do you believe in God?” He said that he did and I simply responded that God had him call the wrong number three times for a reason. God, I said to John, has inclined His ear to you. He is going to guide you and He is going to lead you, and He is going to do this through me. We spoke for sometime that day and I didn’t get off the phone with him until he promised that he would go and pray, and understand that this was his opportunity to see mighty things come from the Lord. As we ended with prayer I got his address and also some telephone numbers for some of the friends that he wanted me to contact and then the obvious question came.

John implored, “Why are you doing this?” He said he didn’t understand why a complete stranger, since his own family and church abandoned him, would want to, or care anything for him. I told him simply, “John, if it were left up to me, I would hang up on you and never talk to you again. If it were up to me I would have never even taken your call (which I did twice, he laughed), but Jesus Christ lives in me, and He has put the care of His sheep in the hands of some shepherds here on earth. John, Jesus has put the care of you in my hands. How can I say no?”

John almost started crying and said that he was starting to lose faith in God, because all of God’s people had abandoned him in the past and only saw him as a crook with no hope. He thanked me again, even though I told him not to thank me but to thank God, for if it were left up to me, the phone call would have never happened.

As time went on, John and I were able to exchange letters and more phone calls. John’s life continued to spiral downward in prison. He had another friend in prison kill himself and depression started to hit John harder and harder. I continued to send him Bible studies and letters and he continued to send me Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Fourth of July cards. I was able to speak to him about Paul and his time in prisons and how Paul continued to praise God through his time there no matter the circumstances.

John continued to write and revealed to me that he literally had lost all hope and that phone call was it. That phone call was the last time that he would hope in God. He told me that as we spoke that day and as he continued to get the letters and cards in the mail that his hope in God and God’s people had been restored. I just thought and told John:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
2 Corinthians 2:14

God used me, even though I was stubborn, to save a man’s life. Amazing Grace.

The scary question is how many “phone calls” do we receive a day that we do not answer? There are many out in the world struggling with faith, struggling with life and we continue to do our daily routine not wanting to be disturbed. The day that I took this phone call, I was having a BBQ at my house with friends. When I took that call, my world stopped and I stayed outside while the others were inside wondering where I was. God interrupted my day, how dare Him! I have heard that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for tomorrow.

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Matthew 9:36,37

How many people do we see distressed and dispirited, and have no compassion for? May God open our eyes to the people.

John is now out of prison as of about a month ago. He is in a half way house and we are awaiting the time that they will allow us to get together to finally meet. John was so loving in his letters, always asking how my children were, and asking and praying for my wife and myself. John hardly ever asked for anything but he just wanted to know that there was a God who comforts, who guides, who is the strength and who will lead. God did all this through me. I am amazed every time I think of it, knowing if it were left up to me, I would have continued to BBQ and ignored the phone call once more.

May we all know the God that comforted John in his time of need.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; Why are you 1in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
Psalm 42:1,2,11


erik raymond said...

WOW!! What an awesome story. I am greatly encouraged today through this brother. How great of God to interrupt you in such a way!

“I did not take your call to tell you that you had the wrong number. I took the call to speak to you about your soul.”

Amen brother. May God continue to encourage you and others through you.

thank you for sharing this.


Jake said...

Thanks for sharing this Seth, really cool story. Reminds me of the Cowper line: "God works in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform."

Seth McBee said...

Erik and Jake...thanks for the encouragement...

If God can work through me and my hard head, He can definitely, and does, work in mysterious ways.

Reforming Baptist said...


I almost cried.

Thanks for obeying the Spirit, in fact, while i was reading your blog yesterday, the Holy Spirit prompted me to witness to one of my coworkers. I didn't really know how to bring up the topic so i asked God to help me find a way. A few minutes later, the guy brings up the sudden deaths of a couple of people in the company, and whaalaa! I was able to ask him the $1million question: "If that were to happen to you today....would you go to heaven?" ....and that opened the opportunity up right there. HE didn't get saved, but he is starting to understand the gospel...i'll pray that God will allow me to continue talking to him and his heart will be turned to Christ.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I cried when I read it. I felt my soul nodd in John's response. I am humbled and in awe to see that God blessed both of you that way. Thank you for sharing, i feel both blessed and encouraged.

Seth McBee said...

William and anon...thanks for the encouragement...and William that is great that God gave you an opening to share with someone...amazing how God works.

Again, how many "phone calls" do we miss every day? Who knows...but I am sure it is more than we can imagine.

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