In May of 2002, young Leonardo Diaz, a novice hiker from Colombia, was completing the adventure of his life. He and a group of his friends were hiking to the summit of the Nevada del Ruiz, a volcano in the Andes Mountains.
On the second day out the group encountered a massive and intense blizzard and when the snow had cleared, Diaz discovered that he had become separated from, and had completely lost sight of, the others in the group. After thrashing about trying to see them, yelling down the mountain trying to arouse them, and generally trying anything and everything he could think of to get some help, this young man settled in the snow, realizing he had some rations and waited for them to come back to get him. He then realized that he had carried his cell phone with him in his back pack. But upon further examination his phone, one of those with prepaid minutes on it, had run out of those minutes and was virtually useless. So Diaz, running out of rations as well as options giving any hope for rescue, began to prepare to die.
As he settled into the snow, all of a sudden his cell phone began to ring. The caller was a phone solicitor, calling from the telephone company to inform him that his prepaid minutes were expired and asking him if he was interested in purchasing more time for the phone. Diaz informed the telemarketer that he was alone and lost on the side of the mountain. Describing his location to the best of his ability, he asked the telemarketer to call his family and ask them to send help.
The telephone operator did more than that. She could tell from the sound of his voice that Diaz was beginning to suffer the effects of hypothermia, so she called him back every 30 minutes to make sure that he stayed awake. Also, those calls continued to give the young man hope that some progress was being made to rescue him. Seven hours later, the rescue team arrived to take him down the mountain.
Now, I would say that was a phone call from heaven, wouldn’t you? And it came at just the right time. Most of the time we would consider such calls a nuisance call, wouldn’t we? In fact, I have received two such calls just in the process of writing these words. But what would normally be considered a nuisance call in this case was a life-saver.
I can say that if you are a follower of Jesus, you have received such a call. A life-saving call. A call that plucked you out of the throes of death at just the right time.
The Bible tells us that “you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 4:1-5) In other words, the blizzard of sin has obliterated our sight, wiped out the path to eternity, and caused us to lose hope and despair of ever getting through it on our own strength and capability. But God, through the life and death and life again of His Son Jesus Christ, has called us to continue living. He has given us new life in Christ. He has breathed a breath of fresh air into our time-worn and life-weary lungs.
The Bible also warns us not to ignore the phone call. If you are like me, getting a telephone call from a number that neither you nor your phone recognize is simply an opportunity to just ignore the call. But God tell us to answer the call, to live up to what He has called us to do. Ephesians 4:1 challenges us to “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called…” That means we should answer the phone, and follow His directions.
Two young canoe enthusiasts were in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota enjoying their wilderness canoeing and camping experience, when they came upon a long portage between two lakes, just before nightfall. They wanted to hurry and portage over to the next lake, so they began to carry the canoe over the mile-long portage path. About halfway through, they discovered a “blow-down.” This was a spot in the portage path where the wind and storms had blown a pile of trees and rubble down over the path where they had intended to cross. These two fellows then decided to forage around the blow-down and get back on the path, except they never did get back to the path – at least not until they were hopelessly lost in the pitch black of the forest at night, and one of them said to the other, “I guess it’s time to pull out the compass.”
For the Christian, it is time to pull out the compass. God’s call and God’s Word are the compass that we need to guide us in the way which we should go. The next time you feel hopelessly lost and undone, unsure of which way to go, and calling out desperately for help … answer the phone, and pull out the compass. Call out to Him in prayer and open His Word.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former local pastor.