PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I have personally experienced the **(Proverbs (Prov. 1:23-29 esp. V.28 keywords: “but I will not answer”)** event as it happened to a dear friend and it was the most saddening, sickening, frightening, gloomy darkness I have ever experienced; worse even than the time I was staggering around, wounded and bloody and filled with that awful, numb sickness of being trapped in a surrealistic world.

The rest of them had left by med-evac and I was gathering my dead friend’s blown apart body, with its parts here and there, on a ripped, torn, stinking, unbelievably dirty, smoking, bloody, early morning dawning Vietnam battlefield. You might say; “How in the world can anything be worse than that?” There are worse things than that, there really are!

Hershel lived up the same “holler” (a hillbilly colloquialism, slang, for the ‘hollow’, the valley between two ridges or points) where we lived. Though he was three or four years older, he and my Dad had grown up together, served in WW2 together and he was Daddy’s good friend. As far back as I can remember Hershel was always around. He and his wife, Audrey, never had any children and they lived about 1&1/2 miles on up the road from us. She was my 1st & 2nd grade school teacher in the old, 1 room school up Lick Fork Holler.

Hershel was always good humored and loved to fox hunt with dogs and with his buddies; not the kill the fox kind of hunting, they liked to go to the top of a ridge someplace, build a campfire, listen to the dogs run, eat and tell yarns. Hershel always had an amusing story or anecdote and he would joke and pick at me. He was a good feller and he always seemed to be bursting with life.

Time went on; I went on my yondering with the Marines, got out, got married, went to trade school, went to work, fathered three sons and accepted Jesus into my life (got saved, born again) when I was thirty-three years old. I’d been a Christian four or five years and I heard Hershel was in the hospital. The first night I visited him there were three or four fox hunters visiting him and between their yarning and laughing I didn’t get to say much.

To say the least, they had some colorful language. There, there at the beginning of it, when I asked Hershel what was wrong, he said when he tried to get up from a sitting position he’d fall backwards; “It’s like my hips ‘n legs give out on me. No I don’t hurt none.” He looked and sounded like the same old Hershel and none of us could see that death had spread his black cowl over him and death was already sucking the life from Hershel’s body.

When I got ready to leave I asked Hershel if he wanted to pray. With that smiling, kindly, affectionate, condescending attitude he had toward talking about Christianity he told me to go ahead if I wanted to. “Hershel, you know it don’t work that way, you’ve got to want it.” “Aww, I know it Jimmie.” That went on almost every night for two or three weeks, He was getting skinny, he didn’t feel good and his buddies, the fox hunters, quit coming to see him.

Daddy wasn’t much for visiting hospitals; the only time I ever remember him visiting a hospital patient was when he came to see me the time I had a pretty tough surgery when I was around forty years old; and no, he didn’t visit Hershel, not even once. Daddy had been a medic and a bronze star for valor winner when he was in the war and he was rather fatalistic.

From then on I was the only company Hershel ever had, I’d stay three or four hours every night so Audrey could go home, wash-up, rest, eat, just whatever. We, no I, talked about the Bible and salvation during those precious hours, a little bit. I’d start and Hershel would interrupt and tell a yarn, an anecdote, or change the subject. I’d eventually veer back to Jesus and he’d veer right back off the Jesus subject.

He didn’t take offence and we had a pretty good time considering the fact Hershel was getting more and more sick as time went on. On weekend days that I didn’t have to go to work I could stay longer. One night Hershel showed me a place on his right side. “Jimmie, they put the awfulest needle ye ever seen right there in my side and it hurt like h—! They stuck it in deep enough t’ go plumb through me!” He was getting skinnier and weaker all the time. Liver biopsy.

All we had, at that time, was a small local hospital with no lab. A few evenings later Audrey said she wanted to talk to me out in the hall “right now.” I hadn’t even had a chance to say “howdy” to Hershel. We went out in the hall; “Jimmie, those lab reports are back from Lexington; Hershel’s filled up with cancer; bones, every organ and there isn’t anything they can do for him. It’s the fast kind and that’s why he’s losing weight so fast. Don’t you dare tell him what’s wrong with him.” “But Audrey, I—.”

“You heard me; I said don’t tell him! If you can’t keep your mouth shut go home!” I promised I wouldn’t tell Hershel so I kept my mouth shut about the cancer but I felt like, in my heart, he ought to know he was dying and maybe he’d get serious about getting saved.

By that time, even though he didn’t know what it was, Hershel knew he was in bad trouble, he was scared and a few nights later he asked me to pray. I got down by his bed but the most eerie, darkening thing happened; it felt like my prayer was a big, black balloon that filled the room, went empty, then collapsed down on me and left me in cold, cold darkness.

My prayer never left the room and I knew it! I was used to getting through to heaven and that prayer backfire terrified me. What was wrong with me? What had I done wrong? Had I in some way offended God and was I too stupid to know what I’d done? I mumbled a few words to Hershel but he didn’t seem to notice; he was drifting off to sleep. I left in a hurry, went home and called my Pastor.

The next night Pastor and I met in the parking lot, went up to visit Hershel, he’d taken a turn for the worse and he was worse off than I’d ever seen him. I introduced them and let Pastor do the talking. After a while He asked Pastor to pray. My Pastor is a mightily blessed man of God and I knew we’d get results this time but the same thing happened to Pastor’s prayer that had happened to mine; that great, depressing, sinking darkness. We visited a few more minutes and left because Hershel was very weak and tired.

In the parking lot I asked Pastor what was wrong. “Why Brother Jimmie, Hershel’s been cut off. He can’t get saved because he’s turned God down sometime in the past. Read the first Proverb when you get home.” That night I read the first Proverb.

(Prov. 1:23-29) (V.23) Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. (V.24) Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; (V.25) But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:” (V.26) “I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;” (V.27) “When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.” (V.28) “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:” (V.29) “For they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

I’d heard about people being cut off from God and I simply had not paid much attention. On the surface of my soul I didn’t believe it but deep, deep down where I’m most tender, inside my soul I knew; I guess I just didn’t want to accept it about my friend. I hurt for me, I hurt for Hershel and I prayed for him. Nothing!

The next day I called Daddy and asked if Hershel had ever gone to church. “He sure did Son; when we was young men Hershel went to church a whole lot, he even sung with the choir but he never did get saved and I don’t reckon he ever went to church much, if any, after that. Why do you want to know that?” “I was just a wondering Daddy.” I changed the subject.

Sheer terror! What about Daddy, what had he done in the past? Had he also rejected God? We all physically die but was my Daddy a walking “forever” dead man?

Hershel lasted a couple more weeks or so after that. I went every night; we prayed every night and I watched Hershel melt away until his skin hung down and I could see the outline of his teeth through the skin of his shrunken cheeks. He was afraid and it showed through his sickness and pain but he never mentioned his growing worry and fear and neither did I. My prayers went no place and I knew it; it was an exercise in futility but I couldn’t let Hershel think I had given up on him. I couldn’t desert my friend.

That last night, the last time I saw Hershel alive, I was helping him to the bathroom. I held his IV high with my right hand and he had a death grip on my left arm with both his hands and he was bent far over my left arm so I could support his weight. It was a torturous, painfully slow trip. He was a bag of bones covered with sagging, brownish, mottled skin.

He could only scoot his feet three or four inches at a time and that was the length of his slow steps; like I said, Hershel was all bent over my left arm as he clutched it; a big, long string of sticky snot dangled straight down from his nose six or eight inches and it wouldn’t fall off. He was crying and his huge tears hit the floor tiles and burst into droplets. I felt so sorry for my friend I could have died; I wanted to scream!

This was my friend, he’d given me advice when I was child, teenager and man, he’d played and joked with my children like he had with me when I was a child, he had played and joked with my only brother, sixteen years younger than me, he’d watched me grow up, he was closer to me than my uncles and, as a boy and as a man, I’d always admired him!

With a wild, clutching desperation I gritted out; “Hershel! Hershel, can’t you pray?” He swung his thin, wasted, saggy, grotesque head up; that string of snot swung back across his thinned down lips and beard stubbled chin, great tears poured down his face. He looked at me out of his sunken, rheumy, dying eyes and he softly and clearly said, with absolute certainty, in a gasping, miserable, hopeless, forlorn, far away voice; “Jimmie, Buddy, God’s right here and He won’t hear me! I’ve missed it!”

Yes, I helped Hershel do his business in the bathroom, we slowly tortured tears tracked back to the bed, I lifted and helped my nearly fleshless friend back into bed, lifted his yellowish, skinny, stick-like feet and legs up and I helped him get adjusted and covered him up. While he gasped and cried I got down on my knees by his bed and petted on him and tried to comfort him with some kind and tender words like I did my boys when they were hurt, or sick, or scared.

He shortly drifted off into a shallow, just breathin’ now and then, I’m somewhere else kind of sleep and he lay there so still, busy with his dying. Hershel was no longer aware of me; I stood there looking at him for a while, silently crying; I knew what was coming and I crept silently away; my tears were still pouring as I softly shut the door and that was the last time I saw my friend Hershel alive.

Even now, even after all these years, I can’t help but wonder what great things God would have accomplished through Hershel’s testimony and works for God if Hershel had just gotten saved when he had his chance. He had a lot of natural gifts like his gift of gab, his magnetic personality, humor, wry outlook on life, and, well, I don’t guess there’s any use of talking about it; it’s like Hershel said; “I’ve missed it.”

I can still see Hershel, smiling there in my memory, his pickup truck pulled up in front of our house on a summer evening, his door opened, one foot out on the running board, sitting in his seat, smoking his cigarette, one elbow on his knee, the other arm on the steering wheel and joshing with Daddy and me there on our front porch.

It will be good to get to heaven so I won’t have those sad, bittersweet memories ever again. No, I don’t hold it against God. God gave Hershel a fair chance to settle his sin account here and get saved through the spiritual rebirth process and that’s all Hershel got, no more and no less of a chance than the rest of us, even you.

God could have forced Hershel to love Him or He could have created Hershel to love Him but neither way would have been Hershel’s free will giving of love. A forced, arm twisted “I love you” would have caused Hershel to hate God and created love would have made Hershel robotic, just another pop up toaster with no real feeling to it.

God wants us to love Him for who He is and what He is; just like we want someone to love us for who we are and what we are. When they don’t love us like that, even though we love them, sooner or later, we simply go our way and they go theirs.

That’s the way God is too (Gen. 1:27) because we’re made in His image. (Matt. 26:37-38 keyword: exceeding sorrowful→to be intensely sad; John 11:35 keyword: wept→to shed tears and Eph. 4:30 keyword: grieve→to be sad) God can get His feelings hurt too and it makes Him sad. (Rom. 8:6-17 & Rev. 22:1-6) God is building a loving family for Himself and God gave His beautiful Son, Jesus, to die on a bloody cross at a place called Calvary so Hershel could get saved and be a part of that family.

Hershel refused God when God drew him and, in reality, by his decision, Hershel told God he didn’t want to be part of God’s family and to go away and leave him alone. God is infinitely loving, fair, merciful and just; God is a gentleman too and that is exactly what God did; He left Hershel alone and Hershel died lost and alone.

I know two other men like that. One looked into my eyes at least three different times, his eyes were filled with a knowledge of what had happened when he refused God’s drawing several years before, his dark brown eyes were filled with a dark horror and dread when he said; “I can’t get saved ’cause I turned God down right when I had the chance to get saved and that drawing just faded away.” He died a few months ago.

The other looked into my eyes, held out one spread hand and said; “I turned God down more than twenty years ago. Two or three years later I started going back to church. In the last twenty years I ain’t missed church more Sundays than the fingers on this hand but I can’t get that feelin’ back that I had when I turned God down!”

NO! I am not trying to force you to do something you do not want to do. I’m just trying to make you aware of the reality of God’s Word.