by Eric Elder
For the last two weeks I’ve been telling you, “Payday’s Coming! Payday’s Coming!” But today, I can tell you “Payday’s HERE!” There are times when you have to wait and wait and wait for the promise of some kind of payday to come in your life. But I’m here to tell you that the day WILL come when YOUR payday will arrive, too!
Yesterday I officiated at the wedding of a family friend who I’ve known for over 15 years and for whom I’ve prayed many times like I’ve prayed for my own kids. After all those years of praying and waiting for a man who will be the perfect match for her, her payday finally came! As I watched these two come together during the wedding ceremony, I was reminded that for all those years of waiting and praying, payday does eventually come.
Easter holds the same promise for all of us who believe in Jesus. We can wait and wait and wait for God to move in our lives, sometimes going through the hardest of times along the way, only to see God work in ways that go beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus went through betrayal, beatings and death, only to rise again from the dead in the greatest payday story of all time: paying for the sins of all humanity, and rising from the dead to give assurance to each of us who believe in Him that we will be raised from the dead one day, too. As Christian painter Ron DeCianni has said:
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single act in history that separates Christianity from every other religion, every other philosophy and every other belief system.”
It’s true. While other spiritual leaders may have had good teachings, it’s what Jesus did for me by His death and resurrection that makes me want to follow Him for the rest of my life and on into heaven forever. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest payday story of all time.
My hope today is that you will KNOW that paydays do come. God does not give us hope just to string us along for the rest of our lives, never fulfilling our dreams along the way. Yes, we may go through hard times. Yes, we may have to wait and wait and wait until what we’re praying for comes true. Yes, we may have some stretching and learning and growing to do along the way. But the day WILL finally come when our waiting will all be over and we’ll see our dreams come true, both here on earth and in heaven forever.
I’ve told you 2 of the 3 stories I promised to tell you for Easter from my trip to Dallas a few weeks ago. I’ve told you about how God spoke to me through a romance novel, how God spoke through me to deliver a powerful sermon, and today I want to tell you about how God reached down and touched me through a white handkerchief. Believe me, I’ve saved the best story for last, for this Easter Sunday.
As I mentioned last week, I went to Dallas for a 20-year reunion of the church where I was ordained. I was just planning to hang out with friends from many years ago. But on Saturday night, the senior pastor texted to ask me if I’d be willing to share my testimony at the 4th service at their church the following day, the service I told him I would be attending. I texted back saying, “I’m willing,” but I really wasn’t prepared or ready to speak for the whole service.
The senior pastor then texted back and said not to worry, that it was their least attended service, and I could just share from my heart. I was relieved and said I’d be glad to do it. So I wrote down 3 things I wanted to share with them from my heart, just 3 simple lines of a few words each:
- Affirm them in their love
- Remind them of the truth
- Identify with their struggle
That’s it! Just so you know, I usually write out my entire messages in full, preparing my thoughts as fully as possible. But with no time to prepare, that’s all I was able to write down before I drove off to the church. By the time I arrived, I was already getting texts from my friends who had attended the earlier services saying they couldn’t wait to hear me speak at the 4th service.
I walked in a little early and heard part of the 3rd service. The senior pastor was giving an impassioned plug for everyone to attend the 4th service, telling them about his friend who was coming to share his powerful testimony, and to stay if they possibly could! I looked down at my 3 short lines of notes in my journal in my hands and started to panic! And when I walked back in to attend the 4th service where I was supposed to share (the service that was supposed to be the “least attended” service of the day) the church was packed from front to back, with people waiting to hear what I had to share!
Now I was more nervous than ever. As I stood in the front row, singing worship songs, I knew I just had to trust God, but I was still pretty nervous. Let me add that I’m also a pretty emotional speaker. When I speak, I often get so passionate about what God has put on my heart that I usually end up in tears at some point. My wife, Lana, would often hand me a Kleenex just before I got up to speak, because I usually forget and then I would have to ask someone to bring one to me during the message. But Lana wasn’t there anymore, having died a little more than a year earlier, so I was standing there without her in the front row. Of course, I had forgotten to bring a Kleenex again, too, and I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was just panicking about the message I was supposed to give in just a few minutes.
In those final moments of panic, I raised my right hand during worship and called out to heaven, “Lana, help me!” Just at that moment, a friend of mine from 17 years ago tapped me on the shoulder and put a white handkerchief in my outstretched hand. I looked at him and looked at the handkerchief, then looked back up to heaven and said, “Thank you!” God had answered my prayer for help within moments of asking Him! My panicky heart was instantly calmed, and the panic was replaced with confidence, confidence that God was with me and would walk me through this difficult time, too.
The senior pastor introduced me and I stepped up onto the stage, white handkerchief in hand, and delivered perhaps the most powerful message I’ve ever shared in my life (you can still listen to it here). Those 3 short notes on my page turned into a full-length message of life and healing and power for all who heard it, including me, and for those who stayed an additional 2 hours after the service for prayer and ministry.
But the story wasn’t over yet. I took the handkerchief home with me, as my friend who had given it to me had left the church by the time I was ready to go. I offered to mail it back to him, but after telling him the story of how God had touched me through it, he told me to definitely keep it.
One week later, on a Saturday morning, my 21-year old son woke up and said he wanted to go see Lana’s mom. She had been sick and was staying at a hospital 2 hours away in Chicago, but he really felt he should go to see her, so I gave him directions and sent him on his way.
The rest of the kids and I thought we’d try to run up there a few days later. But when my son arrived at the hospital, he found out that the family had called for someone to pray a final prayer with their mom, as they knew she couldn’t hold on to her life here much longer.
Lana’s mom had prayed throughout her life, but like many people, she was still afraid of dying. Lana tried various times to reassure her mom that by faith in Christ, we can have confidence that God will take us home to be with Him in heaven when we die, as Christ had promised:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
After Lana’s death, her mom had asked me from time to time if I’d had any signs from Lana in heaven, and I had shared several stories with her about times when I sensed very clearly that Lana was fully alive in heaven as Jesus had promised for all who believe in Him. I had also sent the white handkerchief with my son as he headed to the hospital that day so he could share the story with Lana’s mom if the chance arose.
When my son arrived at the hospital and realized there might not be much more time, he called us to see if the kids and I wanted to talk on video with Lana’s mom directly. We called a few minutes later and after saying our hello’s, I began to tell Lana’s mom the story of the white handkerchief, and how my friend had put it in my hand just after I reached up to heaven and called out, “Lana, help me!”
I told her that my son had the handkerchief there with him at the hospital. He pulled it out of his pocket and touched it to her face. Instantly her face seemed to totally change, as she looked like she had been touched by the hand of God Himself. She looked at us through the phone and was truly touched. I reminded Lana’s mom that Jesus is real, heaven is real, and even though we didn’t want her to go anytime soon, if this was her time, that she could know that by faith in Jesus, she could be assured of joining Jesus and Lana in heaven, too.
All of Lana’s 8 brothers and sisters were in the room with their mom, and were also touched by the story, and were thankful for this reminder that their sister was in heaven with Jesus, too. We said our goodbyes and our final “I love you’s.” The following day, we got the call that Lana’s mom had passed peacefully from this life to the next.
I felt like God was still answering our prayers after all these years, even sending a white handkerchief to Lana’s mom to relieve her from her fears of death, just as He had used it to relieve me from my fears of speaking the week before.
While the circumstances were different, I couldn’t help but think of the story in the Bible where God used a handkerchief to display His power through the Apostle Paul:
“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:11-12).
I’m amazed that God is so eager to get His message of love to people that He’ll even use things like handkerchiefs to deliver it!
If you’re worried about life, worried about your future, worried about how things will turn out in the end, take confidence from this: God really will work all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. As the great evangelist Billy Graham has said:
“I try not to worry about life too much because I read the last page of THE book and it all turns out all right.”
Keep putting your faith and trust in Jesus, both for your life here on earth, and for your life with Him forever in heaven. You won’t have to wait for payday forever. Whether it’s a long-awaited wedding, or preaching a powerful message at a church after 17 years of being away, or getting a message from God at just the right time, even in the form of a white handkerchief.
Payday WILL come for all of us, as Easter so powerfully reminds us. Keep putting your faith in Jesus! He’ll work all things out for you in the end, as He does for all who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
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