He was a good man, but unsaved. He did not have any bad habits or vices as far as any of us knew. He worked hard and had a good reputation in the rural community where he had lived all his life. I think my estimate of his life was accurate. In such a small community each life was an open book.
His wife and only child, a daughter, were devout Christians and attended regularly. In the last two decades of his life he began attending church services with them and found the services to his liking. He would not miss services, even if his wife and daughter were not able to attend. But he had never accepted the invitation to give his life to Christ and seriously work in His vineyard. The local minister had urged him often, as had I several times when I held gospel meetings in his community. The last such time was on a hot August afternoon while he was working in his cotton field. As he pulled a red bandana from his overall’s pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow he said, “Preacher, I’m not going to promise that I will come forward tonight, but I will promise that I’ll become a Christian sometime soon. I know it’s something I have to do. I’ll see you at the meeting!” We parted amiably. I liked him and I considered him a friend, but I was saddened by his answer. He was waiting for a sign. What sign? None of us ever knew. It was especially sad because his life would have required so few changes. A Bible student would have been reminded of Cornelius in Acts 10. We are told he was a devout man, who prayed and gave much alms to the people. Cornelius was given a sign when the angel appeared to him and told him to send for Simon Peter who would tell him words whereby he could be saved. He eagerly followed the instructions and became a Christian leaving an example for all of us who were to come later.
Certain of the scribes and Pharisees came to Christ saying, “Master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:38-40
God has placed a living power to convert us within His word; therefore the gospel is called the “Power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16) In II Corinthians 3:5,6, the apostle tells us that he and other apostles were sufficient as ministers of the New Testament. God expects us to respond to that sufficient covenant. Waiting for some other sign could be everlastingly fatal.