Stay Behind

Stay Behind

By Kirk Cameron<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
I was recently listening to a song by one of my favorite songwriters. She was writing about how she longed to be taken away from all the problems here on earth and brought home to heaven with God. She describes feeling so weary, tired, and wanting to go home. The song speaks of her desire for the Lord to hurry up and wrap up history, snatch her away, and bring this sin-soaked world to a close so the saints can get on with seeing the Lord face to face.
Do you ever feel this way? Do you sometimes wish that God would quietly bring those of us who love Him into heaven with Him, put an end to all the evil in the world, and cause every knee to bow to Jesus? I understand. Life is hard sometimes. Even for songwriters and actors. We have ups and downs. Good days and bad days. Sometimes things don't go the way we want. People at work make fun of our faith in Jesus. They mock us when we say we believe in the Bible. Most people in the world are not Christians and their ungodly lifestyles can wear on us day after day. The influence of the secular media is polluting the morals of our children and that really concerns us. Let's all pray the Lord comes quickly to save us and our children from any more of this evil and then pray no one gets left behind-right?
How can we be so blind and selfish to even think such thoughts? We're tired? We're weary? We want God to hurry up so we can go home?
Come on an imaginary trip with me back in time. It's late in 2003, during the most horrific wildfires <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Southern California has experienced in recorded history. The flames are well over 500 degrees. The spinning red towers of fire dwarf the tallest trees, shroud the mountains with black smoke, burn over a half-million acres, consume thousands of homes, and kill hundreds of unsuspecting people. You are a firefighter. You have been a member of the department for as long as you can recall and have been faithful to always show up at the station on time. Today, you get an urgent call from the captain to abandon the station, load the rescue equipment, and go into the mountains to save men, women, and children from the flames. Your captain is counting on you! He needs you to drop everything and join in the rescue mission immediately. Time is of the essence. Human beings are being turned into white ash. You decide you'll pray about it. You think to yourself, "I care about those poor people, but I'm tired. I'm weary from cleaning the engines all these years. I've put in my time here at the station. I think I've already proven my loyalty to the captain, and besides, I'm not doing my family any favors by breathing in all that smoke and risking my own health. I just wish the captain would relieve me and let me go home."
 Do you remember when the news featured two brave Southern California firefighters who were fulfilling their call to duty, courageously saving their neighbors' homes while they watched their own homes go up in flames? They could have given in to weariness and abandoned their duty. They could have thought of themselves instead of the fate of others. But we're so glad they didn't. They are true and faithful firefighters. They heard the call of the captain and joined the rescue mission, pulling people from the flames, saving lives.
 What kind of Christians are we? Let's take another quick trip in time. This time you're in hell, interviewing those who have been in the Lake of Fire for 10,000 years. Tormented, they're waiting for the flames to be quenched and the worms to die, but they won't. Jesus warned that anything would be better this place. You suddenly see your next-door neighbor, members of your church, and a relative weeping, gnashing their teeth, and staring at you. Your neighbor approaches and asks why you are there. You tell him you are wondering why he chose to reject Christ. He says, "Because I was proud. I was arrogant. I was so, so, wrong. And now I and many of your loved ones are in this place of torment, agony, and endless misery."
He then asks you a question: "If you knew I was going to this place, why didn't you tell me? If you knew this was real, why didn't you warn me? Were you afraid I would laugh at you? Did you think you were being my friend by not bringing up the subject? Were you too tired to bother to help me understand? I know I didn't make it easy for you to share your faith, but why didn't you find a way to get through to me? You didn't even try! Why didn't you show me the way of escape? Why didn't you tell me about the cross that could have saved me? Why? I don't understand how you could have known about this and not told me. Why?"
As I write this, I am feeling convicted myself. We as the Church have become so complacent about the lost. Bill Bright said only 2 percent of Christians share their faith regularly with others. Do we really believe what Jesus said about hell? How does God view our self-centered complaints disguised as prayers about feeling tired, weary, and worn out, in light of the endless, agonizing, torturous days of those in the Lake of Fire? Have we really done all we can to save those around us who are in danger of being consumed by the wrath that is to come? Have you personally labored so hard for the lost that you have experienced what other Christians have endured-sweat great drops of blood, lived without food, without shelter, been stoned, whipped, left for dead, nailed to a cross, beheaded, burned at the stake, and been viewed as the garbage of society, all to save someone else's soul? I personally have not labored that hard. And so I cannot join in the prayer to be relieved of my duty and taken home to heaven. My Captain has called me to abandon my thoughts of weariness and save souls. "Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:12,13). Instead of daydreaming about the wedding feast in heaven with all the saints back at headquarters, I'm shifting my thoughts to my Lord's commands to "go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15) and to "have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire . . ." (Jude 22,23), so that sinners might "turn to [God] and be saved" (Isaiah 45:22).
I wonder if Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye would ever consider writing a book called Stay Behind, about a group of Christians who would rather stay and reach the lost than depart and be with the Lord? I wonder if it would sell? I'm sure they could get the apostle Paul to endorse it: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh [stay behind] is more necessary for your sake. And convinced of this, I know that I will remain . . ." (Philippians 1:21–25a).

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