The story is told of a young foreign immigrant who enlisted in the United States Army during the hectic times of World War II. The one drawback to his service for his new-found country was that he had great difficulty with the English language. One day, his squadron leader announced in advance that the general was coming to their base and to their barracks soon for an inspection. This fellow’s buddies realized that if they didn’t help him with the language, he would flunk the inspection. So they began to tutor him in what to say when the general came.
They told him, “The general always asks only three questions. He will ask you first how long you have been in the army. You say, ‘Two years.’ He will then ask you how old you are. You will say, ‘Twenty-two years.’ And finally, he will ask you, ‘Are you getting good food and good treatment in the army?’ You will simply say, ‘Both!’ All you have to remember when the general comes are those three responses: ‘Two years, Twenty-two years and both!’ and you will be fine.”
The young fellow was doing fine and reviewed those answers daily until the time for the general to come to inspect the base actually arrived. And when he came up to this soldier he congratulated him for his service to his new country, then proceeded to ask him three questions. The only problem is, he didn’t ask the questions in the same order that the young soldier expected. He first said to him, “Son, how old are you?”
The young fellow, as he had been trained, replied enthusiastically, “Two years!”
The general thought that was funny, but then asked him the second question, “Well, sir, how long have you been in the army?”
The new recruit replied, “Twenty-two years!”
The general was thoroughly confused and getting a bit perturbed with this brash young soldier, so he asked him one more question, “What do you take me for, an idiot or a fool?”, to which this young fellow replied, again as he had been prompted to respond, “Both!”
I don’t know about you, but I would not have wanted to be in that young soldier’s boots after those responses to that general. And yet there is a far more significant inspection coming up for each and every one of us, and our answers to the questions asked us then will be critical. The Bible tells us, in Hebrews 9:27, that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
For my whole lifetime (and that has been a good many years), someone has always been in the news about their predictions or prophetic sense that we are in the end times. From a scriptural perspective, it seems that these days, months and years do indeed point in that direction. But anyone who is attempting to say exactly when that day may be is misunderstanding the direct teaching of the Bible, if they are reading it at all. Whenever that day may come, most people will face God with a sense of dread, if not downright fear.
The important thing for each one of us is to be ready. When that day comes (and its arrival is called a “mystery” in the Bible), we will stand before God for a very significant question-and-answer time. I am here to tell you today that there are some questions that God will NOT be asking you to answer. Those questions are implied in Romans 4:5, where we read, “…to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” This verse makes it clear that God will not ask us (1.) How many good works have you done?, (2.) How well have you behaved? or (3.) How long can you last?
But there is one question that God will ask you and me on that day, and it is the most important question you should ever be thinking about. The question is, simply, “What do you think about Jesus Christ?” The issues for each of us on that “inspection day” will not be related to our behavior on earth, but to our believing in Christ and in Him alone for our eternal destiny.
I don’t know about you, but that causes me to be able to sit back, let out a sigh of relief and relax a bit, because the issue is not me, but the issue is Christ! Christ died for me (and you) and wants you to trust Him today. How will you face that Great Inspection Day?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.