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No One Enters Heaven via the Side Door!

This post is a tribute to my friend, Bill, who died a few days ago. Bill had been a leader in the church where I am serving and in the community for many years. A successful business man and family man, he had the respect of almost everyone. No one really knows how and when the wheels ran off, but after contracting a chronic disease, his life spiraled and the wily and treacherous old enemy of our souls used it to get his hooks into Bill. He wound up divorced, estranged from his family and church, and all alone. Lots of people loved him and owed their spiritual maturity to his ministry, but no one really knew what to do to help him.

Thankfully, the church I am serving has a heart of grace and when Bill hit bottom in December of last year and reached out, the church and his family reached back. The next eight months were not easy but Bill was again walking with God, taking care of himself physically, and being restored to his family. In that season, Bill became more than a parishioner to me; he became a friend. We were all taken by surprise when the phone call came that his son had found him dead in his bed one Saturday morning.

Over the next few days, I had the privilege to love and comfort his family and friends with the gentle reminder that we serve a great God who never gives up on us. The greatest joy of a very difficult time was helping those who loved him remember the incredible accomplishments of his life. It is so easy for us to forget when someone struggles all the good they accomplished in earlier times. At the funeral, 75 people stood indicating they had been taught in Sunday School by Bill; we read letters from mission outposts around the world where Bill had led teams; and heard stories of how he had mentored young ministers.

Though I did not plan it, the statement most often mentioned from the eulogy were these words. “Remember, no one enters heaven via the side door.” Not Bill. Not anyone. We all enter heaven by the grace of God through His son, Jesus. Just because Bill struggled did not mean he was not greeted warmly as the wounded warrior he was and welcomed into his reward. The Bible teaches that our good works do follow us there and Bill was no exception.

Perhaps you have a Bill in your life. If so, there are two takeaways from this little rambling blog post.

  1. Don’t give up on them. I am so grateful for 8 months of walking in restoration with my friend Bill.
  2. Even what we see as failure doesn’t negate what God has done through them. No one gets demoted to the side door because of failures.

4 Responses

  1. Have gone over and over the service you gave for Bill in my mind. It was an awesome celebration of his life. So glad you put it in writing. It was such a unique and inspirational and awesome “sermon”.
    God gifted you so well to present such a service. Thank you, Pete

  2. Pete, I have been to your site several times and always enjoy hearing what you ahve to say. It reminds me of the Prodigal Son. I believe you and your church had an opportunity to put feet to Luke 15 in your walk. I am glad i can still benefit from your wisdom. And yes, you can still teach an old dog like me new tricks. Keep walking the path your footsteps are easy to follow. Your friend in Christ. John Goodloe

  3. I read this often but tonight I just had to reply. I am so glad you gave this tribute to Bill. He was a wonderful Christian man who was concerned about the salvation of others. I need to be reminded of this often because sometimes I only remember the rough times. However, I know that the good outweighed the bad by far. I need to remember the man Bill really was. I miss him so much but know he is in Heaven where he longed to be.

    Thank you for all you have done for our family. As I sit here in tears, I cannot express in words what you and Lori mean to us! The only thing that comes to mind is that we love you and thank God for you and your ministry.

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