I was on ER surgical call the weekend Fred was admitted to the hospital for second and third degree burns to about 40% of his body. Although the burns were severe we were confident in our ability to treat Fred in our hospital and not have to transfer him to a larger hospital with a special burn unit. His major problems were fluid loss and pain relief, and we could handle those very well in our regional hospital.
Fred’s life over the previous six months was a continuing series of reversals and poor choices. Although he was thirty-five years old he had not married and had chosen to live out of wedlock with a number of different women over the past ten years. Understanding his current lifestyle was not conducive to any long term relationship he had chosen the friendship of several like-minded men and confined his heterosexual relationships to multiple one-night stands. Fred was not very good husband material to say the least. The friends whose company he enjoyed all loved drinking alcohol to excess and partying until early morning hours, and this was the source of many of Fred’s problems. If he made it to work at all he was usually sleepy and shaky, and he was fired from at least three good jobs over the previous six months because of his unreliability. With his savings depleted he was able to afford only the bare necessities, but this didn’t prevent him from spending what he wanted purchasing alcohol and cigarettes. He had a dilapidated car but seldom drove because he couldn’t afford the gasoline.
On the fateful Saturday afternoon of the accident Fred and two of his buddies were in the oil-field at a producing well site “just drinking and having fun,” according to them. They were also stealing casing-head gasoline from the oil company, so that they could each fill their cars tanks, along with four additional five gallon tanks they had brought along. In the course of their fun Fred was accidentally sprayed with the gasoline and was soaked from the waist up. One of his buddies jokingly said, “I think I’ll just set you on fire,” and pulled out his Zippo lighter. With the lighter in his hand his thumb instinctively pushed the wheel, and a spark accidentally ignited the gasoline. With Fred running and screaming it took longer than necessary to extinguish the flames, and Fred was severely burned.
Following hospital admission he was given the necessary burn treatment which included heavy sedation with IV morphine, so for about forty-eight hours he was incoherent in his thoughts and speech. When I believed he could understand what I was about to say I pulled my chair up to his bed and asked his permission to ask him a few questions. “Fred, you know you could have been burned to death out there in the oil field two days ago,” I said. He replied, “I know that is true,” without even hesitating. “Where do you think you would be right now if you had died out there?” Without the slightest hesitation, he said, “In hell!.” “Is that where you would want to be? I continued. The Bible describes hell as a lake of fire, and the fire is never quenched.” Without waiting for the sentence to be complete Fred said, “I never want fire on me again!”
I told Fred if he would allow me the privilege I would show him from the Bible how he could receive Christ’s free gift of eternal life, and he would never have to fear being cast into the lake of fire. After showing him several passages from the Bible regarding personal salvation and assurances of those promises Fred quietly and humbly bowed his head, confessed his sins to the Lord and asked Him to save him. I believe Fred’s eternal future in heaven was secured that morning in the hospital room which for him was transformed into a delivery room! Several months later when Fred’s body had healed from the burns he was baptized in a local church as a new believer in Christ. To the best of my knowledge he remains a faithful follower, and started making changes in his life and life style.
Some might say I took advantage of a helpless patient, and he couldn’t refuse to do what I said because he was scared he might die. My response is he certainly was in danger of death, but his greatest danger was not his physical death but his spiritual death. By his own belief and admission he was headed for an eternity in hell. Second I didn’t take advantage of a helpless patient. I believe God allowed the accident to happen to Fred in order to show him the reality of his fragile mortality and his ultimate future. I was simply the agent to tell Fred the good news that Jesus saves, and to show him from the Bible how to receive His free gift of salvation. When one is saved by God’s grace he will never have to worry about the fire which Fred feared! Have you considered your future in the same way Fred did that morning? My prayer is you will, and you will make the same wise decision he made. Your future depends on it.