Toward the latter part of 1988, Lena Reynolds did not feel well. She had to be taken to the hospital. They found she had pneumonia. On the third day of her hospitalization she went into coma for three months! Her condition deteriorated steadily until one night they could not find her pulse at all. The physician in charge realized she was dying. The nearest of kin were summoned to her bedside. She was unconscious.
Many years ago, Buford and Lena Reynolds were my wife’s neighbors. Lena often heard my wife Ann sharing about the Lord. Lena said, “Ann has such a living relationship with the Lord that it awakened in my heart the desire to know and enjoy the Savior as she did. It was Ann that got me started to pray and seek the Lord until He made Himself real to me and I realized that Jesus Christ truly was my Savior and Lord!” First Buford and then Lena were born again. Eventually Buford died and Lena moved away. Ann and I went to live out of state and in Brazil. After we returned to Virginia, we visited Lena who was now living in Brookneal, not too far away from us. Great was our joy because of her evident growth in grace.
Some time went by before we heard of her again. Phoning her one day, we found out she had just recently been released to go home after a prolonged hospitalization. It was then she shared with us her amazing experience.
She told us that toward the end of 1988 she was taken to the hospital and went into coma. At that time something happened to her. A prolonged dream perhaps? Or was it a vision? Or was she, like Paul and John, actually taken to Heaven and back, where she often got to see and talk with our Lord Jesus Christ? She described Heaven as a luminous place with many undescribable beautiful colors that we do not see on earth. She saw born-again people she had known before, all dressed in those magnificent shiny colors. Finally the Lord told her, “I am sending you back. After you have finished the work I am giving you to do, I will recall you. You will be always with me.”
Then she woke up in the intensive care room. A physician came and said, “You have been very sick and you need lots of rest. You probably will not be able to walk again. Once you have improved enough, we will start you on physical therapy.” -“But I can walk now!” she blurted. The doctor smiled benevolently and said, “You have been in bed in a coma for so long, that you will need to learn to walk again!” She asked the doctor how long she had been there and was startled to find out that she had been comatose for three months
Since she returned to her house, she began to witness to everybody. Consequently, her own children are at last realizing that Christ is for real. Many pastors have come to see her, amazed at her testimony. By the Lord’s grace she faithfully exercises her frail legs and now is slowly walking again.
I asked her what was the work which the Lord told her to do for Him prior to His sending her back to earth. She did not know, so she simply tells everybody how only Jesus can save them and to pray until they are really sure.
Recently as her physician, Dr. William G. Jones was giving her a checkup, they had the following lively conversation:
Doctor: “I hear you had an unusual experience when you were in coma. Tell me about it.”
Lena: “I don’t know if it was a dream, or a vision or whatever! The best way I can describe it is that I died and went to Heaven where I had a wonderful time with the Lord! Then He sent me back! Before that, as the ambulance crew was taking me to the hospital, I prayed aloud and said, Lord, if it is Your Will, let me come back, but if it is not Your Will, take me to Heaven to be with You.’ One of the crew who heard my prayer smiled and said, Well, God bless you!”
Doctor: “Well, God did exactly what you asked Him to! He took you to Heaven and He also brought you back!
Lena:”He sure did!
Doctor: “Are you afraid of death?”
Lena: “Not at all, I will be delighted to go to be always with the Lord!”
Doctor: (with tears in his eyes) “Most of my patients fear death. I wish they had faith like yours!”
Lena: “I am sorry I made you cry!”
Doctor: “Please don’t be sorry. These are tears of joy!”
Ann and I often telephone and occasionally visit this widow. Humanly speaking she does not have an easy life. She always receives us joyfully, never complaining about her lot, although she has had emphysema for years. It is so bad now that she lives permanently tubed to a heavy oxygen tank, which is quite uncomfortable to say the least. Reminds me of a prisoner permanently chained to a heavy iron ball.
The apostle Paul had his thorn in the flesh and yet, he was always rejoicing in the abiding presence of the Lord.
In a world where many are often depressed, I have found it always so refreshing to visit Lena.
I wonder how many Christians spend their entire life locked in the up and down elevator of their changeable emotions, one moment in penthouse happiness, the next in the basement of rock-bottom depression.
Yet Jesus offers a better option. It is one of His own commandments: “Abide in me and I in you.” Lena is one that traded her emotional roller coaster for simply abiding in the Lord -continuously! Consequently, not even once have we found Lena depressed. Recently I asked her how she coped with stress, discomfort and suffering. Here is her answer:
“Ah, when such burdens roll upon me, I just roll them on the Lord!”
A dream? A vision? A true trip to Heaven and back?
In Lena’s estimation, to die or not to die was merely secondary to the more important fact of God’s Will! Is God’s Will that important to you?
Our prayers must be submitted to God’s will, otherwise, some of the things we pray for, might be harmful to us, should God grant us our request. For example, in the desert the children of Israel got tired of eating manna and demanded meat. God answered that prayer but it was not His will. Consequently, the savory meat that the children of Israel thought was great gain, turned out to be a great loss for them.
“They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106 13-15.
I remember Olga, a very likeable Christian girl I knew years ago. She fell in love with Georgy, a very likeable Christian boy. At a campfire meeting when we were all testifying one by one what we most desired, she said, “My greatest desire is to marry Georgy and to serve the Lord.” In that order, Georgy first, serving the Lord second! She got what she asked for first. She got Georgy, she married him. But she did not get to serve the Lord. In fact, she eventually even lost Georgy too, for they divorced. God will never take second place in your life. It is better to pray like Lena did, “Lord, if it is Your Will…”
“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” James 4:15.
If the Lord will, we shall live. If the Lord will not, we shall die. It is that simple!
There are several cases in the Old Testament when God would tell those He loved when their time to die had come, so they simply set their house in order and peaceably died. It is an act of love for God to thus give them time to set their affairs in order and get ready. But we also read of one outstanding exception, King Hezekiah.
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.” 2 Kings 20:1.
Instead of simply obeying God, setting his house in order and be ready to exit gracefully, Hezekiah, turned his face to the wall, prayed and wept sore. God heard his prayer, saw his tears, and granted him a 15-year extension of life. “Wow, what a blessing!” some might say. But, was it really a blessing? Not really. Foreign ambassadors came and Hezekiah ostentatiously showed them all his treasures. The king’s foolish pride triggered the greed of the foreign king, when his ambassadors described to him those priceless treasures. God was displeased at Hezekiah’s bragging pride and severe judgment resulted. The foreign monarch invaded the land, slaughtered many Israelites and took all those treasures away. It would have been better for Hezekiah to have peaceably died when God told him to. What he did during his 15-year life extension grieved God and caused great suffering and privation to his entire nation.
Better put a label on your prayer list: “The Surgeon General has determined that prayer, if it is not honestly submitted to God’s sovereign will, may be detrimental to your spiritual welfare!”
A wealthy lady hired a nanny to take care of her two year old girl. Playing outside, the little girl tried to grab a wasp. “No!” the nanny said. So the little girl wept sorely. The mother was inside and heard the weeping. Without knowing what the problem was, she yelled, “Give her whatever she wants!” There was a moment of silence and then… suddenly… the little girl yelled and wept more than ever! The exasperated lady came out and demanded, “I told you to let her have whatever she wanted!” The nanny replied, “Yes Ma’am. She got the wasp she wanted!”
Don’t insist that God gives you the wasp you want. It might be detrimental to your welfare! It is much better to pray, “Lord, if it be Thy will…”
Our Lord Himself, knowing that He was about to be arrested and executed for our sins, prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” Luke 22:42.
This does not mean that we should assume a passive attitude whenever someone is sick and fatalistically say, “What will be will be!” No! Remember that God’s Word commands us, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:14-16. Oh, that Christians would simply believe and obey God’s Word!
Prayer: Father, please remind me always not to force my will above Your will. Remind me to always pray, Lord, if it be Your will. Deliver me from grabbing stinging wasps. May I always submit my prayers to Your Will, like Your Son did, when He prayed, “Not my will, but Thine…” Cause me always to find out what Your Will is every time I face a decision. Then cause me to love Your Will, because I love You, Father. I realize that if I do not love Your Will, I don’t really love You. But I do love You, so no matter what happens, by Your Grace and with Your help, I honestly decide to take Your will to be my will. To stay in this attitude, I trust myself totally on the fact that You, Lord Jesus, are abiding in me. I take You, Lord Jesus, to be the One that from now on is to be my will as well as the One who in me, through me and with me can always do the Father’s will! In the Name of the One Who always did the Father’s Will, in that Name – in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
From Conversing With God – Chapter 21
Updates from Cuba
Starting in the 1990’s Fred was significantly involved with Cuba. The Lord has continued to move strongly in Cuba through many brothers and sisters in Christ including some key workers who Fred helped to disciple. Since 2009, a project to evangelize the whole country has reached many Cubans with many new believers added to the house of God. The work is ongoing to evangelize the entire island country.