Nine steps and 45 minutes to salvation

By Johnny O. Trail — Mickey and Linda were married for around 60 years./1 Linda was immersed into Christ from an early age, but Mickey was not a member of the church.  For many, many years she and others patiently prayed for him and engaged him in various Bible studies.

When I started at the congregation where Mickey and Linda attended, I was blessed to become friends with them early in the work.  Since my grandmother’s maiden name was “Jacobs” and Linda’s was too, I always called her “Cousin” when she came into the building.  As I watched them over the 10 years that I was a part of their congregation, their love for one another was very apparent.  There was always a twinkle in his eyes and in hers when they were together.  Still, she had a persistent fear—”would Mickey obey the gospel before his life was over?”

There were some real worries about Mickey’s physical health throughout the years that I worked for the congregation where Linda attended.  Before my arrival, Mickey had been “at death’s door” on at least one occasion.  While I was working with their church, he was at “death’s door” at least twice.  There were physical problems that required a prolonged stay at the hospital, and I would make visits to encourage Linda and Mickey as he recovered from various infirmities.  On some of these visits I can remember thinking, “Mickey will be lucky to leave the hospital alive,” due to the serious nature of his problems.

Still he managed to recover and come home.  His various physical problems required him to use a cane, then a walker, and finally an electric wheelchair to get around.  I remember after one prolonged hospital stay that he and Linda purchased a convertible, so they could enjoy riding around with the “top down” on their PT Cruiser.  They were a sight—deeply in love and enjoying their precious time together.  The fear remained— “Would these two people, so in love, be able to enjoy each other’s company in the eternal abode that God has for His people or would they be separated after death forever?”

One day Linda called me and asked if we could visit in her home for a while.  She was scheduled to have a rather serious heart procedure, and she was interested in being re-baptized.  I informed her that all she probably needed to do was have prayer, but she wanted to make sure that she was ready to be with the Lord if things did not work out in the surgical procedure.  That same day, I re-baptized her, with her daughters, relatives, and Mickey as witnesses.

As we waited on Linda to dry off and change out of the baptismal garments, Mickey’s oldest daughter and I spoke with him about being baptized.  After some discussion, he said, “I believe I want to do this.”  We were thrilled!  Since Mickey was wheelchair bound and unable to get around unassisted, this would be a challenge.  I was determined to do this no matter what it took to accomplish the task.

I immediately called my oldest son, Matthew, who happens to be a lifeguard.  He is an impressive physical specimen—even if I do say so myself.  He is six foot five inches tall and very athletic.  My call was short and to the point, “Get your swim trunks on, I need you to help me baptize Mickey.”  He came over immediately and I explained the situation.  He was instantly onboard with whatever needed to be done in assisting this man to obey the gospel.

It was nine steps from the ground floor to the top of the platform where the baptismal steps began. It would take about forty-five minutes for Matthew and me to get Mickey from the ground floor and into the baptismal pool.  It would take another forty-five minutes to get him back on the surface of the floor that led out of the building.  It was worth every ounce of sweat and every labored step that we took with this man to baptize him into Christ!  In reality, this was a very small part of everything that was done—brethren working in concert—to get this man into Christ.

Sadly, Mickey would pass on to his eternal reward just a few weeks later.  I preached his funeral with a message that gave hope and promise to the family of one who was in the bosom of Abraham.  This greatly varied from the message I had originally feared that I might have to present if he had not obeyed the gospel.

The conversion of this man brought several biblical thoughts to mind.  First and foremost, Mickey was the poster child for God’s longsuffering.  2 Peter 3:9 says,

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

I am convinced that God allowed Mickey to remain so that he might have ample opportunity to obey the gospel.  This might also be the case with many people you have known over the years.

Thank heaven that he died “in Christ,” but if he had not, no person could possibly blame God.  He had heard the gospel proclaimed and had personal Bible studies presented in his home.  He was more consistent in his attendance with Linda than people who were “regular” members.  He knew what the word of God taught.

Mickey was an example of the powerful workings of prayer.  The prayers offered for Mickey were generally twofold in nature.

  • First, many prayers were offered for his recovery — oftentimes in the gravest of circumstances.
  • Next, many prayers were offered that he might be persuaded to obey the gospel before it was too late.

James 5:16 says, “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.”   While this passage is most likely written in the context of miraculous healing, prayer still has power and value.

Please understand this—God still works in the lives of his people.  We are no longer living in a miraculous age (I Cor. 13. 8ff), but he answers prayer in a very real way.  I have absolutely no doubt that God heard all the prayers of the saints who loved Linda and Mickey.  Hebrews 4:15-16 says,

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Mickey was an example of how a godly wife can influence her husband. While I Corinthians seven primarily deals with believers being married to unbelievers, it underscores one of the reasons why one should stay married in such situations.

“For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” 1 Corinthians 7:16.

Linda was able to secure her beloved husband’s salvation through patient endurance.

As far as I know, Linda never “nagged” at Mickey to obey the gospel.  Her example, patience, godliness, and love spoke louder than any words she might utter.  1Peter 3:1 says,

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without a [“a” is a better translation here than “the”—JOT] word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”

This is the biblical pattern that wives can use to convert their husbands to Christ.

Mickey’s death shortly after obeying the gospel is an example of the brevity and unexpected events of life.  James 4:13-14 says,

“Go to now, ye that say, To day or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

One needs to obey the gospel while there is time.

Finally, Mickey is an example of what we all should do.  I would hasten to say that we should do it much sooner than he did, but ultimately, he became a child of God. The Bible teaches that people obeyed the gospel as soon as they understood what it was that they need to do. Acts 16:33 says, “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.”  One obeys the gospel in an immediate fashion rather than waiting, and they do so to be saved (I Corinthians 15.1-4; cf. II Thessalonians 1.7-9).

Nine steps up and three steps down into the watery grave of baptism to the promise of eternal life.  Romans 6:3-5 says,

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”

1/ With the permission of Linda, actual names were used in this biographical representation.  Special thanks are offered to her for allowing me to share this story.

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