It was a company of Christians―plus Joe. Joe was not a Christian. Joe, in his own country, was wanted for murder. It was not safe for him to stay in his own neighborhood, so meeting up with the Christians, he asked to be hired as a driver of one of their wagons.
However, being in the company of Christians did not make Joe a saint! He hated religion. When the wagons stopped rolling for the Lord’s Day (Sunday), Joe didn’t have to drive, so he would go off with his gun and spend the hours hunting. He would keep well out of the way of hearing the Word of God preached.
As the party went on their way, in the middle of July there came a Sunday so hot that Joe didn’t care to hunt. He laid himself down in the shadow of one of the wagons, carefully selecting the wagon of one of the group who would not be expected to conduct the service.
But Joe had made a mistake. The one whose turn it was to preach was so overcome by the heat that he asked to be excused, and the owner of the wagon under whose shade Joe was sheltering offered to take his place. So the little company gathered around his wagon, and the meeting began.
Joe was lying in the long grass, half asleep, and was furious at being disturbed. To lie still while hymns were sung and to see the hated Bible opened was too much for him. He would move. He stood up to go, but the heat was too great and he threw himself back down on the grass. There he lay on his back in front of the preacher, his angry eyes glaring up at him.
“Lord, help me to preach to Joe,” prayed the speaker as he saw the opportunity before him. Forgetting everybody else, he began to tell of the love of God to all His creatures. He told his hearers that, though God gave them rain and sunshine, food and drink, even life itself, yet they didn’t love Him in return. Instead of loving Him, they hated Him and His servants and His Book. But did He send the lightning and strike them down for their enmity? No, He had given His Son to die to put away their sins. He had shown His love to them, to the worst of them, even to the murderers, and if they would only believe in His Son He would forgive them and make them His dear children.
Joe’s eyes were fixed on the speaker who, as he went on, watched the anger slowly fading out.
Joe didn’t forget that sermon. One day, walking beside another of the men, he said, “Didn’t the preacher tell awful lies that hot Sunday?”
“Lies, Joe? I didn’t hear any.”
“He said that God loved wicked men. Wasn’t that a lie?”
“Not at all, Joe; it’s in the Book. ‘God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins.’”
“But wasn’t that an awful lie, that the Great Father gave His Son?”
“No, Joe, it’s in the Book. ‘In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’”
Then Joe said, “But it must be a lie, that He was preparing the beautiful place for them.”
“No,” was the answer. “That’s true too. It’s in the Book. Jesus, the Son of God, said to sinful men whom He loved and had saved, I go to prepare a place for you.”
Then Joe said, “If all this is true, I want this way of peace; I want this new life!”
That sermon, and the talk that followed, turned Joe from being Joe-the-wicked to Joe-the-Christian. He believed that God loved him and gave His Son to die for him, and joyfully he received Christ Jesus as his Lord.
Adapted from Living Waters.